Andrew Scheer has pulled a Patrick Brown, instructing his MPs to shoot down grassroots policy resolutions in Halifax
Marginalized. Manipulated. Lied to.
That’s how a lot of socially and fiscally conservative members of the Ontario PC Party felt in October 2017 when then Leader Patrick Brown announced that anti-carbon tax and social conservative policy resolutions would be “off limits” at the PC’s upcoming policy convention.
Repealing Kathleen Wynne’s sex curriculum and axing the Liberal carbon tax were, respectively, the two most popular policy resolutions that had been submitted through the party’s online policy submission portal, and in the few physical policy meetings that actually took place.
Brown violated the party constitution by banning member-submitted policies he personally didn’t like and holding a sham policy “convention” in which the voice of grassroots members was denied.
Manipulated and marginalized is also how a lot of CPC members will feel after reading to the end of this blog.
As much as I hate doing this publicly, I have to blow the whistle about the fact that Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has also taken steps to manipulate the policy process such that socially conservative policy resolutions do not survive the initial vote at the Policy Breakout sessions in Halifax.
We have learned through reliable party sources that Scheer, personally – not through a proxy - instructed Conservative MPs to go out in the Convention and “speak against any policy that might embarrass the party in the [next] election."
He did not use the terms “pro-life” or “social conservative” in describing the policies to be targeted. However, I guarantee that progressive MPs in the caucus, like Michelle Rempel, understood loud and clear what Scheer meant.
That is, go out and use the tremendous influence that you carry as an MP to sway the room against socon policies that the liberal media might attack us for adopting.
If Scheer wants to kill pro-life and pro-family policies, this was a smart move. When an MP takes the mic and fear mongers with statements like, “If you pass this policy, we’ll lose the next election”, a lot of socon and libertarian delegates might instinctively recoil and do what the “expert” is telling them. (Of course, we believe that tired old line could not be more erroneous. Passing socially conservative policies will attract new voters from the huge swathe of immigrants and other Canadians who are socially conservative, but stay home on Election Day because they perceive no moral difference between the Conservative and Liberal Parties.)
To make matters worse, there is evidence of possible collusion between Scheer and the National Policy Committee on the strategy to have MPs poison the room against grassroots, member-driven policies.
Party sources revealed to us that shortly after Scheer gave MPs their slash n’ burn marching orders, the Chair of the CPC National Policy Committee, Wayne Benson, announced to the rest of the committee that a Member of Parliament would be allowed one minute to speak to every single policy resolution. Coincidence?
Here’s a screenshot from the Convention Rules published on the Conservatives’ convention website:
So, a Conservative MP will be given a full minute to speak to every single policy. Can you guess what they’re going to say after each socon policy?
“Vote NO or we’ll lose the election," or
“Vote NO because the courts would say it’s unconstitutional," or
“Vote NO because it violates human rights, and our commitment to inclusion and diversity.”
Expect all the usual excuses that cowardly, Conservative politicians use to avoid doing what their grassroots base demand, and to continue accommodating the liberal narrative.
Fiscal and libertarian CPC delegates should be alarmed by this manoeuver too. Scheer didn’t name the type of policies to be targeted. Therefore, even fiscal, economic, energy or foreign policies deemed by the Leader’s office to be “embarrassing” could get the hammer.
This odd, special platform for MPs has never existed at past conventions. Nor is it appropriate to have such influence from the caucus on what is supposed to be a member-owned, grassroots policy process.
What Andrew Scheer has done is not as blunt as Brown’s outright banning of grassroots policies, but it nonetheless violates the spirit, if not the letter, of the CPC constitution which states in Sect 13.1.1 that: “the policy process is at all times accountable to the members.”
When the Leader, and it appears reasonable to conclude, the Chair of the National Policy Committee, collude to defeat policies that were passed with broad support from grassroots members, the policy process is being made less accountable to members.
It is an attempt by the Leader’s office to manipulate the policy discussions and the actual vote result. That’s wrong.
The reason we’re blowing the whistle is not to embarrass Andrew Scheer. It’s to defend the rights of grassroots members and EDAs to have their voice and democratic rights fully respected in this policy process, as the constitution demands.
Our objective is to force the National Policy Committee to cancel the one-minute platform it is giving automatically to Members of Parliament so that the debate on policies can take place amongst grassroots members, without undue influence from the Party establishment or MPs.
We are still stinging from the 2016 Vancouver Convention where MP Michelle Rempel and Interim Leader Rona Ambrose interfered in the policy process, and asked Wayne Benson to scuttle social conservative policies, which he kindly obliged. The party suffered a black eye then, and we had hoped it learned its lesson.
We are not saying that MPs shouldn’t be allowed to speak to resolutions at all. Like at the Vancouver convention, they should be allowed to line up with all the other delegates for their turn at the mic. But not given a special platform.
Let’s help the CPC be better than the Liberals, and maintain the transparency and accountability to grassroots members that the Party constitution demands!