REALity   Volume XXXV  Issue No. 9  September 2016

By: Cecilia Forsyth

The 2016 national Conservative Party Convention held at the end of May is now history, but it is useful to assess the results to plan for the future.

According to a news report, the 2016 Conservative Convention was the largest since the formation of the merged party (2004) with almost 2,500 voting delegates. A large contingent of the delegates, some say up to 400, were organized by the LGBTories.  This Convention, also, had the largest number of youth (age 23 or younger) delegates ever.  This may have been due to a last minute reduction of registration fees to zero dollars for youth delegates.

Policy Resolutions

These resolutions must first be approved at an Electoral District Association (EDA) (formerly called Ridings Association), provincial or regional meeting prior to final vetting by the respective national committees to determine which items will proceed to the Convention.

The National Policy Committee received a total of 378 policy resolutions. Subject to the discretion of the Policy Committee, 60 of the highest ranking proposals would go to the Convention.  Six of the seven pro-life submitted policy resolutions were in the top ranking and should have moved forward.  However, that did not happen. The guidelines for ranking kept changing, and the Committee meeting had visitors.

According to “The Interim” newspaper (May, 2016), Calgary MP Michelle Rempel and Party Leader Rona Ambrose advised the National Committee to nix the proposal to remove the article on abortion, which states, “A Conservative government will not support any legislation to regulate abortion.” Deleting the article would have meant ‘no policy on abortion’ making the party neutral on the matter.  Consequently, the majority of the Policy Committee agreed to nix this proposal to delete the article on abortion.

The other three resolutions that were dropped by the National Policy Committee would have:

  1. protected the privacy and security of women and girls by opposing legislation on gender identity or gender expression which would allow biological males to enter female only facilities.
  2. protected the rights of workers who believe in traditional marriage from employment discrimination.
  3. protected preborn children by supporting the Born Alive Infant Protection Act.

Of the 66 policy resolutions discussed in the three breakout sessions, 32 passed to go to the Convention plenary. The proposal to delete the existing policy defining marriage passed 279 to143 at the breakout session which was packed with delegates, mostly young men, standing along the walls and moving in and out of the room.  Later in that session, we handily defeated by a vote of 213 to 94 a resolution to delete the existing policy opposing the legalization of euthanasia or assisted suicide.  Note the difference in total vote numbers – 422 on the marriage policy down to 307 on the euthanasia proposal.  Delegates do move around depending on the issues they want to win or defeat.

At the policy plenary, we won the vote on the following resolutions:

  1. To support conscience rights for doctors, nurses, and others to refuse to participate in or refer their patients for abortion, assisted suicide, or euthanasia.
  2. To condemn discrimination against girls through gender selection abortions.
  3. To support maternal and child health care initiatives designed to improve and protect women’s and children’s health and to reduce maternal death during pregnancy and delivery.

There were a couple of significant plenary losses. In a vote of 1,036 to 462, delegates voted to take a neutral position on the definition of marriage by deleting the long-standing definition as “the union of one man and one woman”.  This also deleted the statement, “Parliament, through a free vote, and not the courts should determine the definition of marriage”.  MP Brad Trost, Saskatoon-University, was a strong voice against the proposal.  After the vote, Trost noted, the Conservative Party has “not endorsed same-sex marriage”.  “It just has not endorsed traditional marriage”, either.

The debate on decriminalization of marijuana was another hot-button issue. The majority of delegates agreed that possession of small quantities of marijuana should be treated as a misdemeanour, as a ticketable offence rather than as a criminal offence.  It was accepted that law enforcement resources should be focussed on drug dealers and organized crime rather than the occasional pot smoker.

Constitution Amendments

The Constitution breakout session was poorly managed with numerous interruptions, a coffee break and people coming and going, so it barely discussed even half of it’s 88 amendment submissions. This may have been intentional as many of the proposals left untouched would have moved some responsibilities from the Party Leader to National Council.

We supported the “Free Your Policy” campaign headed by Jim Karahalios of Ontario to amend the Constitution to allow signatures of 100 delegates from 100 different EDAs to advance a policy proposal that had been turned down by the national policy committee to be considered at plenary of a national convention. It was defeated by 50 votes when a flood of delegates suddenly entered the room to vote against that particular amendment.  This crucial amendment would have allowed pro-life delegates to bring policies directly to convention, bypassing the problematic National Policy Committee which has been filtering social conservative policies which passed with broad, grassroots support in regional meetings and on the Ideas Lab.  Hopefully, this battle can be fought again in 2018, with stronger mobilization by our side.

Only six Constitution amendments were forwarded to the plenary session. Two were of particular interest to us and did pass.

A strong pro-life statement was added to the founding ‘Principles” of the Constitution. Calgary MP Michelle Rempel spoke in favour of this amendment which states: “A belief in the value and dignity of all human life.”

Another positive amendment appoints the National Policy Committee instead of the Parliamentary caucus to clean up the Policy Declaration after every 4th convention, subject to the approval of delegates at the next convention. This gives members the last word in removing a policy from the document, not the Parliamentary caucus.

Final Analysis

The final analysis of the 2016 Convention indicates the Conservative Party Policy Declaration is more pro-life than previously. It recognizes the value and dignity of all human life.  It condemns sex-selection abortion.  It upholds conscience rights for doctors and other health care workers.  It does not support euthanasia or assisted suicide.  It does not endorse same-sex marriage (or the traditional marriage of a man and a woman).  It is the only federal party with these policies.  As MP Brad Trost said, “it is the most conservative of the three major parties”.

This convention should give us a target for 2018 in terms of the number of delegates we need to recruit over the next 2 years, leading up to the next policy convention, rumoured to be set for Halifax. The LGBTory resolution was passed 1036 Yays to 462 Nays.   What do these figures tell us? Well, it says we lost by 574 votes.  This means for the next convention, to ensure we have the necessary number to achieve a crushing socon victory, we need to ensure there are at least 1000 new, pro-life/family delegates at the convention, well beyond the 574 loss margin.  Is this achievable? It represents 3 new delegates in each of Canada’s 338 electoral district associations. This is no doubt an ambitious target, but certainly within the realm of feasibility.  Let’s start talking to people in our own EDAs, and allies in others, to begin delegate recruiting for 2018.