On­tario PC leader sets lim­its

So­cial con­ser­va­tive poli­cies off lim­its at On­tario Tory con­ven­tion

The Sudbury Star - - ONTARIO NEWS - AL­LI­SON JONES THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

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.”

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