It wasn’t so long ago that you could depend on Reform cum Alliance cum Conservative party candidates to blow their chances with middle-ground voters if you just gave them enough air time. Inevitably some bigoted comment would slip out, turning off financially conservative but socially liberal Canadians.
But throughout this election campaign Conservative party leader Stephen Harper and his more extremist colleagues have stuck fast to their newly minted image of the Tory party, one that is noticeably more moderate and, apparently, more appealing than the one we experienced last time around.
One notable exception is the video footage of Ajax-Pickering candidate Rondo Thomas, taken at an anti-same-sex marriage rally last February. Thomas, a pastor at the Toronto Christian Centre, has been connected to rightwing Christian groups including the Defend Marriage Campaign and the Campaign Life Coalition.
“This is war and we need every soldier showing up for duty,” Rondo declares in the video. “We’re asking you to bring your chequebook because to wage a war like this costs money. A lot of money. And we’re looking for your financial support as well as your physical support and your presence at the time that the election is called to defeat members of parliament who will vote for this bill.
“They need to know that we are committed to this war, to winning. And we’re committed to win it for righteousness and morality in our society…. It doesn’t matter what the media says. It doesn’t matter what the government says. The facts don’t count. We are going to win this conflict.”
Thomas isn’t the only good Christian soldier hiding behind Harper’s new good guy image, just the one careless enough to be caught on film lately. Here’s a look back at some of the comments made by current Tory candidates in the not too distant past.
Vic Toews (incumbent) Provencher, Manitoba
In 2003, Vic Toews described gay MP Svend Robinson as having put “the jackboot of fascism on the necks of our people with Bill C-250.” The private member’s bill, introduced by Robinson, added sexual orientation to the list of groups protected from hate speech. During the 2004 election, Toews called for the law to be repealed.
As a member of Parliament’s Standing Committee On Justice And Human Rights, Toews has learned a few tricks on how to appear less rabid and more reasonable.
“If what you’re doing is not working, consider other strategies and tactics,” Toews told a Campaign Life Coalition crowd in 2002 when invited to address the topic of criminalizing abortion. He went on to explain that the key to getting your own way is to avoid morality-based arguments and talk about rights instead.
Peter Stock (candidate) Simcoe North
“I’m not saying we need to criminalize sodomy,” Peter Stock told Vision TV in 2003. “That’s not necessarily the way to deal with this, but we don’t need to endorse it as a society either.”
Cheryl Gallant (incumbent) Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke
Cheryl Gallant railed against the inclusion of queers in hate speech law during the 2004 election. “The danger in having sex-ual orientation just listed, that encompasses, for example, paedophiles.” Around the same time, Gallant compared the beheading in Iraq of US citizen Nick Berg to abortion in Canada, telling protestors at a 2004 antichoice rally the two were “absolutely no different.”
Last year she sent a pamphlet to constituents warning that “Christiano-phobia” was taking hold of the country. “Hostility in Canada to Christian teachings about the sanctity of the family and life has resulted in persecution here at home,” stated the pamphlet.
Monte Solberg (incumbent) Medicine Hat, Alberta
Monte Solberg has been held up as the perfect example of why politicians shouldn’t blog: they might actually say what they mean.
“The new Canada. You can have it,” wrote Solberg after the same-sex marriage bill passed third reading last summer.
Jason Kenney (incumbent)Calgary East
“The fact is that homosexuals aren’t barred from marrying under Canadian law,” Jason Kenney explained last January. “Marriage is open to everybody as long as they’re a man and a woman.”
Garry Breitkreuz (incumbent) Yorkton-Melville
“In the 1950s, buggery was a criminal offence, now it’s a requirement to receive benefits from the federal government,” said Garry Breitkreuz in 2000 in response to same-sex benefits Bill C-23.
Frank Luella (candidate) Kitchener-Conestoga
In 2004 Frank Luella told the Kitchener Record that homosexuality is “unnatural behaviour” and proposed the government provide counselling for queers.
Myron Thompson(incumbent) Wild Rose, Alberta
“I’m sick and tired of hearing people on that side of the house talking about rights,” Myron Thompson said last summer in connection to same-sex marriage legislation.
Look a little further back and Thompson sums up his feelings on queers quite succinctly. “I want the whole world to know that I do not condone homosexuals,” he said in 1995. “I do not condone their activity…. I think it is unnatural and I think it is totally immoral. I will object to it forever.”