Last week, Saskatoon-Humboldt Conservative MP Brad Trost briefly escaped from invisibility on the backbenches of Stephen Harper’s government, where keeping a silent profile seems to be a requirement. On Jul 6, an anti-abortion website published Trost’s rant against $400,000 in federal funds given to Pride Toronto. “Canadian taxpayers, even non-social-conservative ones, don’t want their tax dollars to go to events that are polarizing or events that are more political that touristic in nature,” Trost claimed.
When the mainstream media picked up on his comments, Trost suddenly went silent again, and reporters were unable to reach him for an interview. However, a Saskatoon Star Phoenix reporter finally encountered Trost at a rural event in his riding and was able to convince the Tory MP to elaborate on his original comments.
Trost stood by his remarks and claimed he was aware of the $9,000 in funding provided by Heritage Canada to Saskatoon’s Pride festival, adding that he has been fighting for reductions “across the board.” Later in the interview he seemed to contradict himself when he said he hoped to see funding expanded to smaller events including local parades. He admitted that he hadn’t seen the full list of projects funded under the Conservatives’ Marquee Tourism Events Program, but so far the only one he thinks shouldn’t have received funding was Pride Toronto.
While the 35-year-old Trost has represented the Saskatoon-Humboldt riding since he was first elected in 2004, he has kept a low profile, especially in the city of Saskatoon, which constitutes half of the riding.
He was first elected by only 417 votes in 2004 but won by larger margins in the 2006 and 2008 elections. He was relegated to the backbenches of the Conservative government where he remains to this day. After his brief breakout over the Pride funding he is likely to remain there for the foreseeable future.
The only Parliamentary committee he sits on is the House of Commons Standing Committee on National Resources, and he also chairs the Conservative Party’s energy committee. However, he does keep himself busy fighting for socially conservative issues.
He is a member of the secretive parliamentary pro-life caucus that claims to have members from all parties, although their membership has never been made public. He addressed this year’s National March For life on May 14, and he is collecting signatures on a petition sponsored by 4myCanada calling on the government to halt all funding for Planned Parenthood. The group claims “Planned Parenthood is known for promoting destruction of innocent pre-born life and attacking family values; activities that a significant portion of Canadians oppose.”
On his website he regularly champions socially conservative causes in his letters to constituents. He claims to be “a believer in inalienable human rights” but goes on to attack human rights commissions, calling them “kangaroo courts that selectively oppress Canadians who hold small-c conservative political or religious views.”
He has also used his website to attack gay marriage, and he voted to reopen the debate after the Harper government was first elected and has pledged to “continue to work to preserve traditional marriage.” He supported raising the age of consent, and in one of his few comments from the backbench, he made a short speech in the Commons in support of the legislation.
In an Apr 2009 newsletter to his constituents, Trost defended the appointment of Doug Cryer to the Immigration and Refugee Board. Cryer, the former director of public policy for the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, previously suggested that homosexuality is a “sin” — which led activists to question whether he could fairly preside over queer refugee cases.
Trost also condemned the appointment of doctor Henry Morgentaler to the Order of Canada, calling on his constituents to speak out against the honour given to the pro-choice advocate. On his website he also called for the elimination of the long-gun registry, and he’s a vocal supporter of the Harper government’s tough-on-crime agenda.
Trost is part of a group of socially conservative politicians from Saskatchewan who sit on the backbenches of Harper’s government. This group includes Saskatoon-Wanuskewin MP Maurice Vellacott, who sent a letter to his constituents supporting Trost’s comments about funding for Pride Toronto; Yorkton-Melville MP Garry Breitkreuz, who has led the fight to eliminate the long-gun registry; and Regina-Lumsden-Lake Centre MP Tom Lukiwski, who was caught on tape speaking about “homosexual faggots with dirt on their fingernails that transmit diseases.”
Many wonder how the province that gave Canada our “greatest Canadian” — social democrat Tommy Douglas — and universal medicare could elect such a crop of dinosaurs to the Commons. Saskatchewan ridings are split in such a way as to give rural voters, who vote in great numbers for conservative parties, more clout. The two largest cities, Regina and Saskatoon, are split into four ridings that include large sections of rural Saskatchewan. By campaiging on social conservative issues, Tory candidates are able to win most of the 14 Saskatchewan ridings.
HOW MUCH DID PRIDE GET?
This year, several major festivals in Canada received funding from the same Marquee Tourism Events Program that funded Pride Toronto. But how did Pride’s funding stack up? Not very well, as it turns out.
Pride Toronto received the second-lowest per-capita funding of the 18 funded festivals to date where attendance figures were posted.
Per Capita – $10/per person
Attended – 300,000
Per Capita – $5.00/per person
Attended – 1,200,000
Per Capita – $1.60/per person
Attended – 2,100,000
Per Capita – $1.43/per person
Attended – 500,000
Attended – 1,000,000
Per Capita – $0.40/per person
Attended – 1,300,000
Per Capita – $0.32/per person