The key contenders in the Conservative leadership race all say they will march in Pride parades, making it likely that one of the controversies that dogged Andrew Scheer won’t be a problem for the next leader.
Former cabinet minister Peter MacKay said Tuesday he has submitted his application to march in Toronto’s Pride parade, while his main challenger, Ontario MP Erin O’Toole, says he will also march in parades, although not in Toronto as long as it bans uniformed police officers from participating.
The refusal of Mr. Scheer, who is staying on as leader until the party elects a new one, to march in Pride parades became a point of contention in the fall election. Some Conservatives believe his position, coupled with his statements on same-sex marriage, hurt the party’s electoral chances.
In an opinion piece, written in The Globe and Mail after the election, Conservative strategists Melissa Lantsman and Jamie Ellerton said Mr. Scheer’s statements raised questions about the party’s position on LGTBQ rights.
“The fundamental problem is the Conservative Party’s lack of clarity on LGBTQ rights,” they wrote.
Mr. MacKay, Mr. O’Toole and fellow candidate Ontario MP Marilyn Gladu – none of whom have previously walked in Pride parades – are now trying to put the issue to bed.
“The LGBTQ community has been clear that in order to believe that the leader, and the prime minister, is going to stand up for their rights and freedoms, it’s important to march," Ms. Gladu said in Ottawa on Tuesday.
With the Conservative leadership convention in Toronto falling on the same June weekend as Pride, Ms. Gladu said the timing of the events marks a "great opportunity to reset the relationship with the Conservative Party.”
Mr. MacKay issued a statement Tuesday saying he’ll march in Toronto’s parade, either as the next leader or a private citizen, and encouraged other Conservatives to do the same. “The fact that some will condemn this statement speaks louder than any argument I could make about the importance for the next leader of the Conservative Party to ... march in support of Pride,” Mr. MacKay said.
Mr. O’Toole, meantime, is taking the same position as Ontario Premier Doug Ford and won’t march in parades that exclude uniformed police officers.
“When Toronto Pride becomes a truly inclusive event, I will march in that with my uniformed friends,” Mr. O’Toole said in a statement.
His position misses the mark, according to Mr. Ellerton, who told The Globe on Tuesday, “Pride is fundamentally not about politicians telling the LGBTQ community how to behave," but rather about showing support for the community.
Over all though, Mr. Ellerton said the decisions taken by the leadership candidates are a “step in the right direction and should be welcomed.”
Two prospective social conservative candidates, though, have both said they would not walk in Pride parades. Ontario Conservative MP Derek Sloan and party organizer Richard Décarie both ruled it out in interviews last week.
“I don’t like the fact that it’s kind of become a political litmus test," Mr. Sloan said last week. He added that the parades sometimes include anti-Israel or anti-police sentiments and that “a lot of these parades are hypersexualized.”
Mr. Ellerton said the message from voters in the last election was clear and that “they are not looking to continue to debate the existence of LGBTQ people in society and begrudgingly tolerate them.”