BC Liberals need to jettison their social-conservative fringe and clean up

A problem with building your political movement’s coalition around the demands of deeply social-conservative single-issue groups is that they can be intransigent and unrepresentative of the values your party really stands for.

Rich Coleman told rallying anti-abortionists he was praying for them. His leader Andrew Wilkinson retorted: ‘Our position as a party has not changed in that we support a woman’s right to choose.’

thetyee.ca: Rich Coleman told rallying anti-abortionists he was praying for them. His leader Andrew Wilkinson retorted: ‘Our position as a party has not changed in that we support a woman’s right to choose.’ Photo:The Tyee

When it comes to sexual orientation and gender identity, or the rights to make our own reproductive choices, the BC Liberals are on shaky grounds because of a handful of profoundly conservative MLAs brought in to assemble a pragmatic Coalition that leaned on British Columbia’s socially-conservative power brokers.

The Liberals are far from splitting. But the decision by MLAs Rich Coleman and Laurie Throness to jump into the abortion debate — and make trouble for Wilkinson — shows there are cracks in the coalition.

Paul Willcocks , The Tyee, First Cracks in BC Liberal Coalition

The Conservative Party of Canada used to have to carry this problem alone until Maxime Bernier left in a huff after losing the leadership to Andrew Scheer, creating his own populist extreme-right party the Peoples Party of Canada. Bernier’s party is attracting white nationalist groups and the likes of transgender-kids-are-contagious Laura-Lynn Thompson and while freeing the federal Conservatives to end their decades-long assault on the LGBTQ2+ community the socially-conservative fringe demands.

Related image
Maxime Bernier and Laura-Lynn Thompson pose for a photo. Source: Vancouver Sun

There is a real breath of fresh air around Tories these days. They acknowledge gay marriage and even decided at their last national convention to not seek the removal of my human rights. Angels, rejoice. It is a real contrast to Maxime Bernier’s white-supremacist-courting party.

They may be late to the inclusion festivities, but with the Peoples Party of Canada comfortably taking over the extreme-right populist fringe, the blue party finds itself free to let its members act like decent human beings and channel decency. This shift makes them palatable again to a number of fiscally conservative folks who sought refuge with the beige-red of the Liberal party.

Much like their fiscally-conservative federal peers, BC liberals should jettison the socially-conservative crust that has been keeping them firmly anchored to the social policy of the 1950s, poodle skirts and all. Because name association can be misleading I’d love them to re-brand too, but shedding this toxic fringe would be a positive start.

Why did this change take so long? Is it because a powerful minority of caucus answers to an intolerant, deeply socially conservative mindset? Members of the BC Liberal caucus have shown their own harmful intolerance on these issues in the past. Mr. Throness described trans people as not being natural in 2014. He was not publicly challenged by the Premier and he kept his job. The [then BC Liberal] Premier has also not publicly disavowed the comments of MLA Marc Dalton, who in 2009 compared homosexuality to pedophilia, pornography and abortion and, in 2011, used time in the legislature to promote a church whose leader believes homosexuality can be cured. Along with Simon Gibson, Marvin Hunt and Laurie Throness, Marc Dalton voted against allowing self-identification of gender identity in 2014.

Morgane Oger, Globe and Mail (July 28, 2016)

The BC Liberals need to clean up their act. They gave up so many opportunities for public policy innovation over the last 20 years because of their ties to groups demanding they not cross social-conservative boundaries.

It is disheartening to see what pandering to the extremist fringe does to any Party, even a party I worked hard to help dislodge from government in 2017.

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