Conservative party delegates from across the country begin a three-day virtual political congress today – likely their last before the next general election. But some of the most controversial societal issues are not up for debate.
A more extensive list of policy proposals was reduced by the constituency associations (EDAs) to a relatively concise 23-page brochure earlier this month.
The more than 3,500 elected delegates will vote on party politics, from national standards for service dogs to small nuclear reactors and the CBC.
But the efforts of the Campaign Life Coalition – a well-organized anti-abortion group that supported social conservatives like Derek Sloan and Leslyn Lewis in the final race for leadership – failed to give delegates at least one proposal for anti-abortion policy.
Notably, an attempt to abandon an established conservative political promise – that a future Tory-led government “will not endorse legislation to regulate abortion” – did not get the final cut.
Socially conservative activists have made their way into many EDAs in recent months. The boards of directors for some of the equestrian centers in the Toronto area that were dormant after the last election defeat are now dominated by such activists, sources told CBC News.
As the Hill Times reported, some senior Conservatives – 2015 Campaign Manager, Jenni Byrne, Ontario PC Party President, Brian Patterson, former Senator Irving Gerstein, and investment banker Mark Mulroney – lost their applications to be Congress delegates due to the high socially conservative turnout at equestrian-level delegate selection meetings, which are normally sparsely attended.
Groups like RightNow, an anti-abortion advocacy group, also briefed supporters on how to develop guidelines and bring them to the congressional level.
Despite these efforts, the individual presidents of the equestrian federation – who voted on behalf of their local members and sifted through the list of guidelines that will go to Congress – avoided some of the more controversial social policy proposals.
A political plank re-obliging the party to oppose medical aid in dying made the final cut.
Conservative sources familiar with the process said some equestrian association presidents friend of Conservative leader Erin O’Toole were concerned about voting for divisive policies that could dominate press coverage of the primary event and hurt the party’s election prospects . O’Toole said he was Pro-Choice.
CBC News received a letter from Darrell Fowlie, a prominent Conservative organizer in the region, to the Atlantic-Canadian delegates in the run-up to Congress.
“Many stakeholders across Canada have organized support for various policy and constitutional changes for the National Convention of the Conservative Party of Canada,” Fowlie wrote.
“To be a national party that can win in any part of the country, our party must be governed and have policies that respect every part of the country. A detailed guide follows with recommendations to vote either for, against, or according to your own personal conscience. “
Jack Fonseca, a project manager with the Campaign Life Coalition, said he believed the party developed the political process to deter social conservatives from putting their proposals to Congress for a vote.
In past meetings like this one, almost 100 policy proposals have been discussed. This year only 34 will be considered by the delegates.
“The party has reduced the number of policies that were allowed to go forward. We believe this was done with the purpose of getting rid of socially conservative policies,” Fonseca told CBC News.
“I think our voice is being suppressed. That has happened at previous congresses and is happening now. The party establishment obviously does not want socially conservative politics to be included in the political declaration. They have done dirty tricks in the past and we believe that” that is another. “
The party denies this version of events.
In a media statement, Conservative spokesman Cory Hann said there had been smaller “breakout meetings” at previous personal political conventions where delegates could discuss and vote on the guidelines themselves in order to narrow the list of guidelines that conform to the larger “guideline “Should be sent plenary” for the final vote of all delegates.
This lengthy process is simply not possible when the convention is conducted through Zoom, said Hann.
“It’s a virtual congress. We couldn’t get people together. Instead, it was completed online, where the EDAs voted on their preferred policy, ”said Hann. “The Ideas Lab had over 6,400 votes for politics, and the top 34 went on, with politics ranked 34th receiving 88 votes. A little less than 88 votes just didn’t have the support of our members.” (Ideas Lab is the website where EDA review policy proposals from party members.)
According to Hann, the delegates debated over 30 guidelines in plenary at the 2013, 2016 and 2018 congresses – four fewer than this year.
Tensions in the ranks of the conservatives
There have been reports of conservative tension and dissatisfaction among the social conservatives. Many social conservatives voted O’Toole as their third choice after Sloan and Lewis in the 2020 leadership vote.
The Toronto Star has reported that there was “a lot of anger” in the caucus after Sloan was expelled from the faction in January after accepting a donation from a white nationalist.
The MPs publicly wiped off reports of problems in the ranks.
“We see a lot of interest in our conservative movement and it’s always good to have a solid exchange of ideas. We are very much looking forward to this virtual meeting, “said Conservative MP Michael Barrett on Wednesday.
“We have a united parliamentary group and a united party.”
“Progressive Social Policy”
The policy under discussion at this year’s Congress is relatively moderate.
While previous conventions have debated abolishing the birthright to abolish citizenship to stop so-called “passport babies”, make pornography a “public health risk”, limit marriage to a man and woman, and foreign aid for Stopping reproduction services is this year’s political portfolio is likely to be less contentious.
Indeed, at least one equestrian federation – Vancouver-Granville – is proposing to rewrite the party’s constitution so that the party stands for “financial responsibility” and “progressive social policy”, replacing the current phrase calling for “compassionate social policy”. “
A proposal supported by the Portneuf-Jacques-Cartier Equestrian Club in Quebec would add environmentally friendly language to the party’s policy book. The supporter asked delegates to confirm that the party “recognizes that climate change is real” and that “the Conservative Party is ready to act”.
“We believe that Canadian companies that are classified as highly polluting must take more responsibility in implementing measures to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and be accountable for the results,” the proposal said.
Another proposal, supported by the South Shore – St. Margarets, which rides in Nova Scotia, would oblige the party to support “the protection of marine biodiversity through the creation of marine reserves”.
A plan supported by St. John’s East Riding in Newfoundland and Labrador says “Clean drinking water is a prerequisite for human life” and states that a Conservative-led government must work with First Nations communities “to gain access to safe and affordable drinking water for all Canadian communities. “