Former interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose is joining a chorus of Conservatives saying the party needs to take a clearer stand on LGBTQ rights after the federal election.
Ms. Ambrose, who led the party between 2015 and 2017, took to Twitter to say she was proud to have been the first Tory leader to march in a Pride parade while she shared a piece written by former senior staffers published in The Globe and Mail this week on the party’s lack of clarity on LGBTQ rights.
“It’s time to move forward together and show ALL families we have their backs!” Ms. Ambrose said on her social-media account late Wednesday. “Great advice here from two smart Tories.”
The opinion article was written by Conservative strategists Melissa Lantsman and Jamie Ellerton. Most recently, Mr. Ellerton managed media on the road during Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer’s election campaign.
Canadians expect political leaders to share their values, the two wrote, adding that Mr. Scheer struggled to "deviate from a script that reluctantly accepts marriage equality” as the law of the land.
“His visible discomfort in answering questions relating to LGBTQ people and their place in society only amplifies this reluctance,” they wrote.
“Yet the Conservative Party appears incapable of even offering table-stakes pleasantries to LGBTQ Canadians, while other cultural groups – be they religious, national or ethnic – command that respect without question."
Speaking on Parliament Hill earlier this month, Mr. Scheer said the party made it “very clear” during the election and over the past months and years that it is inclusive and it believes in equality of rights of all Canadians.
“My personal opinion is I respect the rights of every single Canadian,” he said. “That is my personal opinion and my personal commitment.”
Rachel Curran, a policy director for Stephen Harper and now a senior associate with an international consulting firm led by the former Conservative prime minister, said Thursday she believes the party needs to make it clear it supports the gay community unequivocally.
“We have been there in the past,” she said in an interview. “For whatever reason, at this stage, we seem to have gone a little bit backwards on this issue and I think it is a real problem electorally.”
Ms. Curran said she supports the party’s position on most other issues, but she said it is a hurdle she can’t get over.
“I suspect many other Conservatives can’t get over either,” she said. “They’re going to need to decide, I think, what the party wants to be going forward and what it wants to stand for going forward.”
The issue is not a particularly controversial or divisive either, she added.
“I think the vast majority of Canadians are on side with, not just accepting or tolerating but openly and actively supporting and celebrating a community that’s been historically marginalized and discriminated against,” Ms. Curran said.
Ontario Conservative MP Peter Kent said Thursday the opinion article is a “timely, eloquently argued and a must read."
“LGBTQ rights extend far beyond electoral relevance and are essentially, a matter of respect, understanding, acceptance and fundamental humanity," he said in an e-mail.
Alberta Conservative Michelle Rempel also praised Ms. Lantsman and Mr. Ellerton for “saying what needs to be said.”
“My best friends (/family) are gay,” she said on Twitter. “Embracing their rights doesn’t diminish my rights.”
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