Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre’s advisers are divided over the position the party should take on issues of gender identity and diversity, multiple Conservative sources told Radio-Canada.
While some conservatives see issues of gender and identity as issues of principle or as opportunities to make political gains, others fear that the polarizing issue could turn some voters against them in the upcoming election campaign and distract from issues of pocket that have been the center of attention. of Poilievre’s messages.
Radio-Canada spoke to a dozen conservatives anonymously to allow them to express themselves freely.
“We have not yet adopted a clear position on this,” said a conservative source. “I expected us to go further and faster.”
Other party advisers say the leader intends to remain vague on the issue for now.
“It will be clearer when it is beneficial for him,” said one conservative strategist.
Among those with Poilievre’s support, “there are those who believe they can use this issue to gain ground among the base, and those who consider the gamble too dangerous because it could lose moderate voters,” said a third source.
When asked to comment on internal discussions within his party on the issue, Poilievre’s office responded by referring to his previous comments in the media.
In June, Poilievre said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had no say in New Brunswick’s policy on LGBTQ students and asked him to “step in and let the provinces run the schools and let the parents raise their kids.” .
Conservative MPs stayed away from the issue when asked on Wednesday. following a party directive not to speak publicly on the issue.
“I’m staying out of it,” said Manitoba MP James Bezan.
Alberta MP Glen Motz simply said “thank you” and walked away when asked.
The provincial governments of Saskatchewan and New Brunswick have moved to require parental consent before students under 16 can have schools use their preferred pronouns and names, a move critics say could put risk to LGBTQ children.
Poilievre stated that parental rights must be respected and that it is up to the provinces to decide how to manage the issue in the education system.
There is no position on the care of minors with a gender perspective
Last month, at a Conservative Party of Canada convention in Quebec City, Party delegates voted in favor of prohibiting “surgical or chemical interventions” for gender transition in minors.
Poilievre has not yet said whether he supports this idea.
It also has not commented on Saskatchewan’s proposed use of the notwithstanding clause to try to protect its pronoun policy from a legal challenge.
Some conservative advisers argue that Poilievre is missing an opportunity by not endorsing the policy approved by conservatives at the convention.
“These stories really affect people and it’s good for us,” said a party strategist. “The vote of our members is in line with that of the silent majority of Canadians. If Pierre Poilievre openly supported him, he would quickly get many votes.”
Several sources told Radio-Canada that the issue of protecting children against “transgender ideology” is popular among women and some cultural communities, particularly in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal, demographic groups Poilievre is actively courting before the next elections.
But the consensus among conservatives is that the economy should be their main focus heading into the next election campaign.
“It’s our daily bread,” said a source.
Still, the issue of gender diversity worries conservatives because they see it as a double-edged sword: an opportunity to make political advances that would also expose them to attacks from liberals.
Sources told Radio-Canada that some of Poilievre’s advisers are warning the party against trying to make quick political gains on a volatile and polarizing issue.
“We have to be careful to prevent this issue from becoming an Achilles’ heel,” one source said.
Recent demonstrations such as 1 Million March 4 Kids, aimed at protesting sexual orientation and gender identity education in schools, It attracted some protesters carrying signs with homophobic and transphobic messages.
“We remember what happened with (former Conservative leader) Andrew Scheer and abortion, which undermined his campaign. We definitely don’t want to play that movie,” another conservative source said.
During the 2019 campaign, Scheer said he was not going to reopen the abortion issue. During the first debate in French, he repeatedly refused to say whether he was pro-choice. Soon after, his poll numbers fell.
“If this issue turns against us, especially in big cities and more progressive regions, we risk being distracted from the economic message,” said another conservative.
The issue of transgender rights in schools “is a political sideshow,” a party source said.
“It’s a tactic of liberals who want to trip us up on social issues,” said another. “If we put too much emphasis on this issue, we will give them a stick to beat us with.”
Despite growing pressure from different factions within the party, the leader has been slow to adopt a clear position.
“Pierre is very cerebral,” said one adviser. “He wants to take the time to form an idea and take a position without having to change his mind.”