How are gay rights and climate action not conservative values? -

How are gay rights and climate action not conservative values?

Scott Gilmore is launching a national tour to talk about a renewed conservative party. He may be coming to a city near you.

Conservative leadership candidates acknowledge members and supporters at a meet and greet in Burlington, Ont., on Sunday, March 5, 2017. (Christopher Katsarov/CP)

Conservative leadership candidates acknowledge members and supporters at a meet and greet in Burlington, Ont., on Sunday, March 5, 2017. (Christopher Katsarov/CP)

Despite a few accusations to the contrary, I’m a conservative. I don’t think government is the solution to every challenge; I believe in the importance of individual freedom; I value our traditions and institutions; and I think the best judge of how to spend my money is me. In Canada, this makes me a Tory, at least notionally.

But here’s the problem: I also support gay rights. I believe immigration makes this country strong. I think climate change is real and needs to be addressed. And I don’t care if you want to smoke weed. You would think these would be natural conservative values—if you believe in personal freedom, shouldn’t that include who you can love and what you can smoke? And surely prudently protecting our environment is the essence of being “conservative”? Unfortunately, several candidates for the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada don’t just disagree—they actively oppose these values.

This reflects a central tension in conservative movements around the world. In the least nuanced way, this is described as being a struggle between social conservatives and libertarians. In Canada we use labels lifted from two now dead parties, one side of this ideological battle are called “Reformers”, and the others are “Progressive Conservatives”. It’s not quite so clean cut, of course; and in truth, many of the leadership candidates have taken a little from Column A, and a little from Column B. But, overall, there is no question the CPC skidded out of the last election, swerved right, and crashed into the socon ditch.

My last column, entitled “Confessions of a self-loathing Tory”, complained that the Conservatives had grown so acute I was beginning to wonder if we needed a new party, one that accurately reflected the values of all those Canadians who, like me, describe themselves as “fiscally conservative and socially moderate”.

Apparently, I am not the only one asking this question. Over the last few days I have received over a thousand emails, phone calls and messages from Canadians in every province and territory who share my dismay with the direction the party is taking, and wonder what they can do about it.

COUNTERPOINT: Chuck Strahl on why a divided Conservative Party cannot stand

Their responses are remarkably similar: these are voters utterly disenchanted with the direction of the Conservative Party. They want a smaller government, but they aren’t willing to abandon facts or compassion to get there. And they are tired of supporting a party that tolerates racism, climate change deniers and populist clowns. As one person wrote me: “Every day, it gets harder and harder to defend the party to my friends and family.”

In my column I proposed organizing three dinners, in Calgary, Toronto, and Montreal, to spark a conversation about the current values of the party. I’ll be honest—I wasn’t optimistic that anyone would be interested in joining me. But the response was immediate and overwhelming. In fact, we had to quickly set up a website ( to handle them all. So far over 1,200 people have signed up, and we have expanded the dinners to include Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Ottawa, and Halifax.

Not everyone is supportive, however. Some party members, pundits, and even one of the leadership contenders dismissed my criticisms as those of a crypto-Liberal. What they strangely don’t understand is that you don’t have to be a big-government, social-engineering Liberal to believe in climate change, gay rights, or immigration. And, if these Conservatives still insist on labeling these values as “Liberal”, they are committing political suicide. Just ask all the people who are joining us for dinner.

Other conservatives have called me “disloyal”, suggesting debates like this should not be held in the open. This criticism is the hardest to fathom, but suffice to say, I will never support a party that is too frightened, or too controlling, to allow transparent debate.

More reasonably, there have also been concerns that if the political right splits, it would take us back to 2003 and keep the Liberals in power indefinitely. Perhaps it is too soon to be talking about starting a new political party. Regardless, the first question should be, “Does the CPC still reflect the values of moderate conservatives, and if not, can it change?” But if the party can’t move back to the centre, that will also ensure the Liberals stay in office for a very long time.

So here is the plan. Because of the huge response from you, the readers, I’m going on a national tour this month. There are several people now helping me to find some great venues, and organize these dinners. We’ll be joined by a few of Canada’s smartest writers and political researchers. Odds are, we are going to be coming to your town—so join us. Go to the New Conservatives website, sign up, and we’ll be sending your invitation shortly.

This is a great country. It got that way because every once in a while people just like you cleared their throats and asked, “Can’t we do better?” These dinners will give us an opportunity to do just that. Some interesting things might happen, and I look forward to hearing what you have to say.

Scott Gilmore is a member of the Conservative Party, and married to a Liberal Cabinet member.


How are gay rights and climate action not conservative values?

  1. First off, Gilmore, the current concept of “gay rights” as promoted by gay and liberal activists is specifically anti-conservative, as it erodes the concept of natural rights. As free-born people, we would be assumed to be allowed to carry out our lives as we see fit, according to our conscience. The legal concept of equality only extends to “before the law”. We free citizens are all equal before the Crown, regardless of certain aspects of our humanity. That is the only proper frame of reference regarding equality.
    In that vein, any citizen should be free to discriminate against any other citizen for whatever reason their conscience allows. I, for example, would not do business with a known New Democrat or Liberal party member. That’s me exercising my rights. Now, if you can show me the articles of the constitution that specifically grant the Crown the right to discriminate against gays, I’ll wholeheartedly support the removal of said clause. But, that’s as far as it goes. Removing the rights of citizens to freely exercise their consciences, however, is the exact opposite of conservatism.
    Same with the climate issue. I’m constantly amazed that people such as yourself fail to see that the current climate activism resembles nothing as much as it resembles a statist cult. Again, that’s the opposite of conservatism. Since when is the active attempt at eliminating certain segments of the economy, and engaging in massive transfers of wealth, and attempting to build wholly new and unsustainable segments of the economy using the power of the state deemed conservative?
    Why don’t you just quit calling yourself a conservative, and join up with the New Democrats with whom you so evidently agree on so much? Your positions on almost everything are so far removed from those of Locke or Smith or Jefferson or Madison as to be wholly contrarian.

    • Define Social Conservatism:The holding of views that favor enterprise, private ownership, and socially conservative ideas…From Conservapedia: Social Conservatism refers to conservative values on non fiscal matters, such as promoting defense of marriage, opposition to abortion, opposition to homosexuality, promoting common sense christian values. The views of social conservatives, and religious conservatives usually overlap…Just want to clarify the Conservative values from the Conservative Scripture. I guess your a Liberal Scott.

      • Just to add. Definition of a conservative in politics: to maintain the existing or traditional order. A political philosophy or attitude that emphasizes respect for traditional institutions and opposes the attempt to achieve social change through legislation or publicly funded programs. You take that to the bank.

    • As far as I’ve seen, Bill, “Gay rights” means the right to be treated as an equal. Period. No one is claiming more rights for gays than for others. There are CPC candidates, though, who are (still) opposed to gay marriage. If you aren’t gay, how in Hell does a gay couple getting married impact you? But no, they want to keep ’em from getting hitched…

      As to your “do business” bit: If you choose not to take your business to them, then fine. But if you are operating a commercial enterprise and refuse to do business with someone on the basis of skin colour, religion or sexual bent, then that’s wrong. Period.

      I’ll leave your climate change rant alone. If you think the planet isn’t worth saving, there’s nothing I can say here that’s likely to sway such a dunderhead.

      • Keith- I didn’t say that it’s not wrong. But, it’s also nothing the government needs to stick its nose into. If I choose to refuse to make a wedding cake for a gay wedding, and that couple turns out to have a large circle of influence and all their friends boycott me, and I find that my business drops off substantially and distressingly, that is most specifically my problem. It is of no concern of any level of the state. If someone is asked to enter into a voluntary contract- the sale of a good or service- and chooses not to enter into the contract, for whatever reason, what crime has been committed.
        Now, if I am in a public space such as a city street or a park, and am angered by the sight of a gay couple holding hands, and choose to commence verbally harassing said couple, then I am guilty of a misdemeanour under the law. That falls under the realm of common assault, and is punishable by a fine. Again, I have no qualms about the state’s intervention. Both positions are valid if the aggrieved are discriminated against because of race or religion as well.
        Private citizens should be free to discriminate according to their own conscience on almost anything. That is the essential essence of being a free people. Another essential essence is knowing that all are equal before the Crown (in our dominion). What many fail to grasp is that by inviting government to enter into the arena of private discrimination, we have dramatically weakened that guarantee that we are equal before the Crown, and imperiled the freedoms of all of us.
        If I can’t tell someone that I won’t do business with them because I don’t like their religion or skin color or sexuality, who else can I be obligated to enter into “voluntary” contracts with? What services or goods can I be obligated to provide? Something can be reprehensible without being illegal. Those kinds of things are up to the community at large to judge, and act upon accordingly. If a car dealership wants make it known that they won’t sell to Muslims (or Catholics or Mormons or Baptists, you pick) the community at large can decide if they want to buy cars there, or not. The state has no right to intervene. But, we’re in an era where many want the state to have rights of intervention in that arena, and the right to punish reprehensible behavior without the leavening role of the courts.
        That’s a bad situation.

        • You’ve been reading American guff again, havncha……..

  2. It’s all a good concept, but the only problem if the party ever gets off the ground, is, it will only split votes on the right, like the NDP splits votes on the left, and possibly always end up with a minority governments. And with the Green, Block, why would we want electoral reform. This all sounds great for the NDP, now that a second party is about to try and poach seats from the grits on the center right, it may weaken the left flank on the grits side, while its trying to cater to center right votes that are being poached by the New Progressives. Maybe by that time, the Conservative might find themselves out of that ‘Maze’ they seem stuck in, and come around to the new way of thinking of the 21st century, and also, stay out of them caves. Personally, i think this is a Dead Crusade for Mr. Gilmore, but who knows, it may shake up the Conservative Party and it’s members, that you mean business, if your not going to steer clear of social and values ideology, than your not getting the Red Tory vote, it’s going to Trudeau, supposing we have to hold our noses again. I want to live in a country of Ideas and Ideals, not Ideology, let people make their own choices on Ideology, stop forcing it on us.

  3. “More reasonably, there have also been concerns that if the political right splits, it would take us back to 2003 and keep the Liberals in power indefinitely. Perhaps it is too soon to be talking about starting a new political party.”

    That is exactly what would happen if a new party emerged. It’s what gave Chretien 3 back to back majorities with about 40% of the vote each time. The one opportunity that could have made a difference to “fiscally conservative and socially moderate” folks (and I consider myself one) was electoral reform, and we know what happened there. As such, it’s unclear to me what FCSMs could do that would make a positive difference.

    • It was thought that it was the split on the right that let Chrétien win majorities with 40% but since the right united both the CPC and Liberals have formed majorities with the same % of the vote.

      40% is now the number for majority government, no vote splitting on the right required.

    • Why couldn’t it bring over some more fiscally conservative liberals to the party? Do you actually think that every person who voted liberal is gung ho for more and bigger deficits? For more liberal money wasting and bad decisions?
      I guarantee some who voted liberal in the last election would be swayed by the concept of a fiscally conservative but socially progressive party. Sort of like a conservative progressive …. nah, that doesn’t sound right. Maybe a progressive conservative …. yeah, like that

  4. Your effort, I would argue, is somewhat premature. The first succession of a new party is typically always messy, as various factions within the Harper coalition fight it out with a couple of insurgent factions.

    And it looks like you want to create another outside insurgent faction. Like with the NDP, the insurgent factions are all elite central Canadian factions who dislike the grassroots nature of both the Conservative and NDP parties. Leitch, who represents the cynical side of the central Canadian establishment elite, preying upon the baser instincts of the grassroots. O’Leary, who represents the central Canadian establishment elite, preying upon the economically unsophisticated amongst the grassroots. O’Leary is the kind of fake conservatism and fake free enterprise that the CBC likes to promote as the real thing, and now we real conservatives have to deal with this CBC-created clown. And then there is you Scott Gilmore, the sophisticated urban conservatives who can’t stand being associated with us rural unsophisticated rubes.

    It will be interesting to see if the “centre” (represented by Scheer, O’Toole, and Raitt pretty much), who appreciate the coalition that Harper built, holds. All of these three realize that one has to bring social conservatives into the tent, and give them a place to articulate their viewpoints in a world that is probably changing to quickly for them. It doesn’t mean that they dictate, but one has to have a constructive engagement with them for the overall big tent of “conservativism” to succeed against the party of the Canadian elite, the Liberal Party.

  5. Never mind climate or the gay community, how are the Tories going to frme the attack on Trudeau’s big give-away the CCB?

    If there is ANYTHING that flies in the fce of all that ‘individual freedom’ they seem to think is driving Canada to greatness – it’s money for nothing to welfare moms.

  6. I have signed up. Reading about this new conservative movement instantly resonated with me. There is never a perfect time to take action – you can always find a reason to wait. I have been conservative all my life, but voted NDP last election, so please don’t think that the vote isn’t already split. Mind you, we had a superb NDP candidate in my riding, but back when conservatives were not racist, anti-gay, climate-change-denying, arrogant dunderheads, I would have voted for an octopus if it were the Tory candidate. Rock on, Scott Gilmore!

  7. I have signed up. Reading about this new conservative movement instantly resonated with me. There is never a perfect time to take action – you can always find a reason to wait. I have been conservative all my life, but voted NDP last election, so please don’t think that the vote isn’t already split. Mind you, we had a superb NDP candidate in my riding, but back when conservatives were not racist, anti-gay, climate-change-denying, arrogant dunderheads, I would have voted for an octopus if it were the Tory candidate. Rock on, Scott Gilmore!

  8. If you want to make change in Canada with social policy, Gilmour, you should form provincial party or join supreme court because that’s where power lies for making changes at societal level. Federal politicans, like your wife, are window dressing and dont do much of anything other than collect large salaries for handing out novelty cheques.

  9. Socially progressive and fiscally conservative? Well, you just described me and all my fellow members of the Liberal Party of Canada. We don’t trust the NDP to run the economy and we don’t trust the Conservatives with our social programs. Yes the Liberal party has moved a bit left and right over the years but is still planted firmly in the political middle, where most Canadians are. I agree though, that if the Conservative party continues to get captured by the Libertarians, Alt-right and Christian fundamentalists, they are doomed to opposition for a long, long time.

    • Exactly true.

      If moderate conservatives could let go of the right wing propaganda about the Liberals being Marxist etc then they would see the solution to their dilemma.

      And libertarians should take a look at how they shun the party that has consistently supported individual rights and freedoms, the Liberals, and instead embrace the party that restricts those rights.

    • if you and your fellow liberals are so fiscally conservative why have you made such a hash of Ontario? And why the massive deficits as Canada’s economy is heating up?

      • Don’t discuss apples and oranges at the same time

        And when Mulroney was elected the deficit was $30B.

        He’d have given his eyeteeth for our piffly one.

  10. I’m a Conservative and fully support gays to have the same rights I enjoy. But, I’m with the 32,000 scientists who believe that man has nothing to do with climate warming. We’ve experienced five cycles of heating and cooling long before man lit the first fire-they’re called The Ice Ages. As well, since CO2 has increased uniformly in the atmosphere, one would believe that any warming would be uniform as well. Not the case-ice cover is decreasing in The Arctic but increasing in The Antarctic.