Conservatives have ended a national convention in Quebec City by voting to support a package of policies that includes the right to refuse vaccines and creating more single-sex spaces for women, including in prisons and shelters.
Members of the party voted for the policies and others on the final day of their three-day convention in the Quebec capital. On Saturday, hundreds of delegates focused on social issues, including a policy of prohibiting medicinal or surgical interventions for minors to treat gender confusion or dysphoria.
Amid the debates, some members of the party said delegates’ support for some of the policies could backfire as they distract Canadians from Leader Pierre Poilievre’s affordability agenda, which has focused on such issues as inflation and housing. There were a total 28 policy points up for debate.
Mr. Poilievre, the Conservative Leader, has been largely focusing on affordability issues during a drive to engage with Canadian voters in which Conservatives have surged ahead in the polls, with increasing support for his leadership as well.
Mr. Poilievre did not hold any news conference after the convention ended on Saturday afternoon. Sebastian Skamski, the director of media relations in Mr. Poilievre’s Official Opposition office, did not respond to requests for comment on the leaders’ views on the policies supported by Conservative delegates.
“It’s cowardice that he’s not prepared to come out and let people know exactly where he stands,” said Helen Kennedy, the executive director of Egale, an organization that works to improve the lives of LGBTQ people in Canada, referring to the gender resolution.
Of the resolution, Ms. Kennedy said it is picking on the most marginalized group in society for political opportunities.
“It’s a challenge from within his own party that he has to ponder: the alt-right movement that has found a home.”
The Conservative Leader has previously said, ahead of the convention, that he would not comment on the resolutions in detail, and also noted he is not bound to include them in any party platform he would take into the next national election.
Among the votes, 68 per cent of delegates voted for a policy that: “We affirm Canadians have the freedom and right to refuse vaccines for moral, religious, medical or other reasons.”
Delegates also gave 66-per-cent support to a resolution declaring: “Every Canadian is entitled to informed consent and bodily autonomy,” and that health professionals must disclose an uncensored risk-benefit analysis for any treatment, including vaccines, while protecting patient privacy.
Eighty-seven per cent of delegates voted that “women are entitled to the safety, dignity, and privacy of single-sex spaces (e.g. prisons, shelters, locker rooms, washrooms) and the benefits of women-only categories (e.g. sports, awards, grants, scholarships.)”
Pollster Nik Nanos said Sunday that although some may see risk on the social-policy front, the reality is that the Conservatives only need about 36-per-cent support to win an election.
“A majority could oppose their social conservative agenda and they can still win an election,” the chief data scientist of Nanos Research said in a statement.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, responding on Sunday to the Conservative policy debates, noted that not a single resolution to build more housing was passed. “But they took plenty of time to debate who’s using which public bathroom,” Mr. Singh said in a statement.
A former manager of the British Columbia wing of Mr. Poilievre’s leadership campaign defended the debates, referring to the discussions on protecting women’s spaces and ensuring the health and safety of children.
Katy Merrifield, who ran Mr. Poilievre’s campaign in B.C., said in a statement that “these are reasonable and necessary conversations that are occurring around the world.”
Among other issues, Conservatives committed to adopt an “assertive foreign policy” toward such authoritarian dictatorships as China’s Communist Party, develop and implement a strategic plan for NORAD modernization, and work toward meeting NATO’s recommended threshold of spending 2 per cent of Canada’s GDP on national defence.