HALIFAX—A Conservative government should get out of climate change policy, crack down on irregular migration, and exclude funding for abortion in foreign aid for maternal and newborn health, the party’s grassroots members say.
Conservative partisans wrapped up a three-day policy convention in Halifax on Saturday. While there’s no requirement for Leader Andrew Scheer to adopt the policy resolutions into the 2019 election platform, they did send a message to the party brass about their activists’ priorities.
Opposition to the Liberals’ carbon pricing plans was front and centre, as it was for much of the weekend. Delegates approved a motion stating the federal government should not interfere, either through penalties or incentives, in provincial climate change policy.
Scheer blasts carbon tax, ‘political correctness’ at Conservative policy convention
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“We believe that there should be no federally imposed carbon taxes or cap-and-trade systems on either the provinces or on the citizens of Canada,” the motion, proposed by Conservatives from Calgary Centre, reads.
In effect, the policy would largely remove the federal government’s role in combating climate change, and will likely raise more questions about how Scheer and the Conservatives will address the climate crisis. One delegate worried it was too strongly worried, telling the convention the Conservatives need to put forward a “positive environmental policy” rather than saying “we’re not going to do anything.”
But Ed Fast, Conservative “shadow minister” for environment, came out strongly for the motion and against any carbon pricing scheme.
“Carbon taxes are toxic to our economy, to our competitiveness as a nation,” Fast said.
“It’s critical that we leave this house united on the issue of carbon taxes, and encourage every single member present here today to vote in favour of this resolution.”
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The party rank-and-file also approved a motion calling for the renegotiation of the Safe Third Country Agreement, a deal with the United States governing asylum claims.
The Conservatives have argued the agreement should be extended to the entire border, not simply official ports of entry, so that Canada could turn away refugees trying to enter the country through the U.S.
The Liberal government has dismissed extending the agreement as unworkable: it would require immense resources, and would require the U.S. to take the asylum claimants back. But the issue of irregular migration — with elevated numbers of people entering the country outside regular border crossings since January 2017 — has clearly resonated with the Conservative base.
The party’s social conservative wing brought forward a motion to eliminate the Conservatives’ long-standing policy that they would not introduce new legislation governing abortion.
“We should not have a values test in our own party. By deleting (the policy) and voting yes, the grassroots is choosing to respect all members within our beautiful big-tent party,” said Saskatchewan MP Rosemarie Falk.
But Deputy Leader Lisa Raitt noted that Scheer promised not to reopen the abortion issue as Conservative leader.
“Andrew has always said that on matters of conscience, (MPs) can have (their) vote,” Raitt said.
The motion was narrowly defeated, 53 per cent to 47 per cent.
The anti-abortion crowd did win a slight victory, however. The grassroots voted to exclude funding for abortion in foreign aid for maternal and child health initiatives.
Alex Boutilier is an Ottawa-based reporter covering national politics. Follow him on Twitter: @alexboutilier