Conservative Party leader Erin O'Toole.

Social conservatives plan to make their voices heard at Conservative Party convention

By 
  • March 10, 2021

OTTAWA -- Social conservatives, whose support helped Erin O’Toole get elected Conservative Party leader, are looking to flex their muscle at the party’s policy convention March 18-20.

They are trying to make sure they have a voice in the federal party as they see it as the only one welcoming to a socially conservative message.

Campaign Life Coalition, the national pro-life organization, said it is imperative that pro-life Canadians continue to speak out against abortion and organize in support of pro-life policies within the Conservative party even if its leadership wants to focus on other issues.

“I am floored by the response we got from pro-lifers to our outreach regarding the Conservative Party of Canada convention,” said CLC president Jeff Gunnarson in a March 2021 letter to members. “Hundreds of CLC supporters jumped into the fray without hesitation,” he said, adding “providing there are no shenanigans, we are hoping to see some advances with respect to pro-life and traditional family” issues during the online convention.

Social conservative groups are trying to make sure they have a voice in the Conservative party because they know the other parties want nothing to do with them.

“The Liberals and NDP do not allow pro-lifers to run for their parties, nor MPs to vote their consciences; they have been taken over by pro-abortion advocates who consider pro-lifers beyond the pale,” the CLC said in a message to supporters. “We are fighting to ensure the Conservative Party of Canada remains a home for pro-lifers, and that pro-life CPC MPs have support within the party in terms of grassroots members and official policy they can fall back on.”

The fight within the party over issues such as abortion and gay rights has became a bitter battle.

O’Toole courted social conservative support during his leadership campaign last year but has since expelled prominent social conservative MP Derek Sloan from the party and has tried to steer the party away from re-opening policy debates on issues important to social conservatives.

Gunnarson and others warned O’Toole upon his election not to take their support for granted.

“Contrary to the red Tory and media narrative that dismisses socially-conservative candidates, these results prove that pro-life and pro-family candidates like (Leslyn) Lewis and Sloan, who are unafraid to champion life and family issues, can draw strong support and be contenders,” Gunnarson told Canadian Catholic News at the time. “We expect that Erin O’Toole will ensure that social conservatives are respected and their values represented within the party going forward.”

If O’Toole doesn’t, then “he will definitely lose the next general election. Everybody knows you can’t win a general election without your base.”

Campaign Life, which slammed former Conservative leader Andrew Scheer after the last federal election for trying to be “too liberal,” expects O’Toole to heed the views of social conservatives or face dire electoral consequences.

“We will hold the new leader to account on his promises,” Gunnarson said.

Two candidates strongly supported by social conservative organizations — Sloan and Toronto-based lawyer Lewis — attracted more than 35 per cent of the vote on the first ballot of last summer’s leadership race.

The pro-life organization We Need A Law also expects O’Toole to honour his commitment to allow sitting Conservative MPs to vote as they wish on matters of conscience.

“Mr. O’Toole needs to ensure that the Conservative Party makes room for and respects the pro-lifers that assisted in getting him elected as leader,” said Tabitha Ewert.

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