Stephanie Levitz, The Canadian Press
Saturday, Apr. 30, 2016
Two brides hands as they arrive for the Grand Pride Wedding, a mass gay wedding at Casa Loma in Toronto in 2014. The Conservative party will soon debate its current policy against same-sex marriage. Geoff Robins/AFP/Getty Images
OTTAWA — A social policy showdown could be in the works for next month’s Conservative party policy convention.
On one side: a bid to further entrench the party’s stand against same sex marriage with a resolution to protect “the rights of Canadian workers who believe in the traditional definition of marriage from employment discrimination on the basis of their deeply held religious beliefs.”
On the other: efforts to get the existing policy banning same sex marriage dropped altogether.
LGBTory / FacebookLGBTory supporters marching in the Toronto Pride Parade.
Supporters of both sides say the stakes are high as the party seeks to reinvigorate itself after last fall’s election defeat.
The party can’t afford to lose its base of social conservatives, said Jack Fonseca, program manger with Campaign Life Coalition, which recently published a list of six pro-life, pro-family resolutions it says will be debated at the convention in May including the same sex marriage one.
“It would be disastrous for the CPC to alienate its large social conservative base and tell them they don’t want them, don’t care about them and don’t care about their values,” Fonseca said.
But those values should extend to, at very least, having no party policy on same sex marriage, others argue.
Last year, a group calling itself LGBTory began to campaign to change current policy, arguing it offended not just LGBT Conservatives but all those who side with the Tories on fiscal or foreign policy issues but oppose their social ideas.
The party policy, as it stands, is that Parliament and not the courts should determine the definition of marriage and that the party supports legislation defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
But it also allows for free votes on matters of conscience, including same sex marriage, so there’s no sense having a specific policy prohibition against it, the group says.
A resolution to delete the same-sex marriage provisions was backed by a policy congress of Alberta Conservatives earlier this year, as well as regional policy meetings in Quebec and Toronto, although that one was a close vote.
“There’s opposition, I’m not going to deny it,” said Eric Lorenzen, a member of LGBTory.
“But we do think we have broad support. I think the party wants this to happen.”
Whether the resolution makes it to the convention is currently in the hands of the party’s policy committee and they’ve not yet publicized their decision on that or any other resolutions.
Interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose says she supports the move, though she adds that the ultimate decision rests with party members. But she does wield some clout over party executives.
Last Friday, she hosted them at the Opposition leader’s residence in Ottawa. The next day, the party announced it was reducing its yearly membership fee to $15 from $25 after an outcry from its grassroots.
Fonseca said the six resolutions his group has identified were approved through a mechanism in the policy process that allows members to directly select a third of the resolutions for the convention.
He said he expects the policy committee to honour the results of that vote and if they don’t, party members should “raise hell.”