Ontario PC leader sets limits
Social conservative policies off limits at Ontario Tory convention
TORONTO — The leader of Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives, a largely unknown politician who polls suggest could be the province’s next premier, says social conservative issues will be off limits at his party’s much anticipated policy convention.
Patrick Brown, who as a former backbench MP in Stephen Harper’s government voted in favour of reopening the abortion debate, has been busy trying to fend off Liberal attacks that he is a thinly disguised social conservative. But Brown says he is pro-choice and more recently has led Pride parade delegations.
“Any policy that attempts to limit a woman’s right to choose or the ability of same-sex couples to marry are off limits, period,” Brown said in an interview with The Canadian Press.
“I’m not going to say it’s even up for consideration when I personally could not defend that or support it.”
The move says less about Brown himself and more about his sense of Ontario’s political climate and what will get him elected, said Ryerson University political science professor Myer Siemiatycki.
“This is Mr. Brown responding to, I think, where the lay of the land is and public opinion is predominantly settling in Ontario that he can’t win an election in Ontario by positioning himself as the candidate of social conservatism,” Siemiatycki said.
Since becoming party leader in 2015, Brown says he has boosted party membership — it’s now at 127,000 members, up from about 10,000 following the 2014 election loss — and believes the vast majority are on board with socially progressive policies.
“Frankly, I think I opened the party up to tens of thousands more who simply want a reasonable, thoughtful … modern, inclusive PC party,” he said. “So I’m not worried about a few leaving.”