In a recent article in the Toronto Sun titled “The looming schism in Canadian conservatism, Anthony Furey discussed a number of topics threatening party unity, including carbon taxes, the recent increase in refugees crossing the US border into Canada, and Parliament’s anti Islamophobia motion M-103. Though these issues are definitely hotly debated within the party, there are other “hot button” issues important to young millennial voters that could cause not only a schism in the party but could cost the Conservatives the next election.
Recently I was at a meeting where a discussion about the Conservative Party of Canada’s leadership candidates took place. One person at the meeting mentioned not supporting a candidates strictly because they weren’t pro-life. It’s been almost 30 years since the Supreme Court of Canada removed any criminal laws governing abortion; here we are in 2017 and some Conservatives are still making leadership decisions based solely on the candidate’s stance on abortion.
I have heard people say that millennials don’t vote in large numbers and therefore are not a significant electoral demographic, but a 2016 survey from Abacus Data suggests that young Canadians were pivotal to the Liberals winning a majority. This group will continue to vote this way if they feel basic human rights are being threatened, including women’s reproductive rights and the rights of Muslims and the LGBTQ community.
As for the refugee issue, try telling young voters that we should turn away people like Seidu Mohammed who ran across the US border in freezing cold temperatures which resulted in all his fingers being amputated. Seidu fled Ghana over fears of being persecuted for being gay and Muslim. Should we be concerned with the number of people fleeing the US into Canada? Of course. Can we state those concerns factually and still show compassion? Absolutely, and Conservatives must do so to appeal to millennials and others who are sympathetic to the plight of legitimate refugees.
Most members of the Conservative Party will claim they believe the government should not intrude into the private lives of Canadians, yet don’t “traditional” conservative values on social issues do just that? Currently a bill in Parliament that addresses the rights of those that identify as transgender is working its way through the Senate, encountering stiff opposition from some Conservative Senators. Bill C-16 would add prohibitions on discrimination based on “gender identity or expression” to the Canadian Human Rights Code. It will also add the term “gender identity or expression” as a protected distinguishing characteristic to different sections of the Criminal Code, joining colour, race, religion, national or ethnic origin, age, sex, sexual orientation or mental or physical disability to section 318(4) of the Code, which defines an identifiable group for the purposes of “advocating genocide” and “the public incitement of hatred”. C-16 would also add “gender identity and expression” to section 718.2(a)(i) of the Criminal Code which covers sentencing of hate crimes. (Read our statement on C16 here)
It’s not just millennials who support issues like those raised by C-16. I was at an LGBTQ community meeting where physician and transgender advocate Dr. Carys Massarella was speaking. She spoke of when the Quest Community Health Centre, a transgender care clinic in St. Catharines, Ontario, first opened. Parents would bring their transgender children to her and would hope that she could help them change and make them ‘normal’. Many years later parents now bring their children to her because they want to ensure their children are happy and grow up to be who they want to be, not what society wants them to be. Should that not also be the role of our government?
In order to win over millennial voters, Conservatives need to build a platform that resonates with them on these hot-button social issues. Can the party win the next election with a leader that identifies with values from 1955 and not 2017? Not likely.