During an election everyone has their strategies, their bases, their places for growth and the people they are trying to attract. Those competing priorities can create some very awkward and uncomfortable situations and decisions for parties to make, or to try to avoid making at all costs. When it comes to the social conservative movement and the issues that motivate them, this has been an ongoing problem for the Conservative Party. They depend on them for money and volunteers, and in turn allow their MPs to push for greater restriction on abortions and push against measures to support the LGBTQ+ community. But at the same time, they try to distance themselves from that, saying they are tolerant and aren’t out to limit the rights of those. Heck, here was Erin O’Toole trying to walk this tight rope publicly last night in Quebec:

That’s quite the statement, but not for the reasons why Mr. O’Toole would hope. First, he admits that his party has a problem with “not always being clear about its position on social issues”, which is true. For as much as Conservatives complain loudly about being tarred with the old “hidden agenda” attacks, those exist because they aren’t clear on these matters and try to have their cake and eat it too. His apparent response to this was to be “clear” now with everyone; he’s pro-choice. And he’s always been pro-choice. Sure, that’s fine. I don’t deny that Mr. O’Toole himself may be pro-choice, but is that personal belief trickling down to the party in which he leads? Well more clarity on that story started to come out last night and, shockingly, there seems to be a fair bit he’s not being clear about again:

Source: https://www.conservative.ca/plan

Oh no, HIDDEN AGENDA!!! So well hidden that it’s right in the party’s platform, behind the glossy cover and Mike Holmes mimicking cover. The CTV story on this covers it well, including the history behind the issue of “Conscience Protection”, as the Conservative platform puts it. Simply put, the Conservatives suggest that medical professionals should be able to deny any service that they are not morally okay with. And by that, it’s not just a matter of having to do the procedure. Those who have been pushing for this take this so far as even to refuse to refer patients from seeking these procedures from any medical professional. What “Conscience Protection” means to those social conservatives is the right to use their morals and beliefs to dictate the medical care that you should get. Doesn’t sound very “pro-choice” does it? What exactly would this apply to? Well here’s a list of procedures that CTV News cited in their reporting, of things that those pushing for this kind of measure have wanted to apply this to:

  • Abortion
  • Contraception
  • Tubal ligations
  • Vasectomies
  • Infertility treatment
  • Prescription of erectile dysfunction medication and
  • Gender re-assignment surgery
  • Medically assisted dying

Yep, that’s a pretty long list of procedures and medical treatment that they want to not just perform themselves, but actually prevent their patients for accessing, period. I guess for these “medical professionals”, the beliefs, wishes or views of their patients don’t count into anything here. So what the O’Toole Conservatives platform appears to be suggesting is choice for the medical professionals, but less choice and more bureaucratic barriers to access for patients.

What about any of that is a “pro-choice” position exactly? That’s exactly the kind of thing that progressive parties have warned against when it comes to the Conservatives. You know, that “hidden agenda” that many conservative supporters sneer about. You’d think that if we were getting this all wrong, that the Conservatives would jump at the chance to correct the record and set us all straight, tell us how we’ve got it all wrong. Well CTV News gave the O’Toole Conservatives that chance and here is how that played out, in one concise line:

A party spokesman refused to “speculate” about the change in wording, saying only that “our platform language stands.”

Source: CTV news, August 19, 2021

“Our platform language stands.” Yep, no clarification, no explanations, no attempt to distance itself from the implications of what this policy would mean or even to suggest that CTV’s assessment is wrong. Nope, just a statement that basically says “we mean it”. You see, when trying to have your cake and eat it too, you can’t turn on the cake when the hypocrisy gets pointed out. O’Toole is doing everything he can to try to keep social conservatives in his tent. If he actually pointed out what “Conscience Protection” actually meant in real life practice, he would be forced to either defend allowing doctors to deny their patients the care they want, by hook or by crook, or he would be forced to denounce it and risk losing that part of their base. Welcome to Erin O’Toole’s world.

The Conservatives suggest that “the last thing Canada can afford to do is drive any of these professionals out of their profession” but I disagree. If COVID has taught us anything, if you’re a medical professional who’s more concerned about  your beliefs than allowing your patients full access to legal and safe medical care, then you are in the wrong, not them.

In the end this is how you end up in a place where you start the day openly admitting that your party “not always been clear about its position on social issues” in an attempt to turn the page, only to be caught doing exactly that before the day is out. Hypocrisy, thy name is Erin. Erin O’Toole may be pro-choice himself, but his party is clearly not, and he clearly does not have the convictions of his own beliefs to push for his own beliefs in the platform that bears his name and chiseled frame. In the end, the Conservative “hidden agenda” continues because it’s still there. It’s hiding in plain sight, and just because they don’t like it being pointed out doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be there.