How Canada's growing anti-abortion movement plans to swing the next federal election - 2018-09-12
When Doug Ford, newly minted as leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario, took the stage at the party's leadership convention last March, he conspicuously thanked one person standing behind him: Tanya Granic Allen, an outspoken social conservative and leadership hopeful. Ford spoke of his intent "to return our province to where it belongs" before making a show of shaking Granic Allen's hand. It was a small gesture with big import that would have been missed by many: Ford's debt to "socons" and, speciﬁcally, the anti-abortion lobby that enabled his win.
Granic Allen was the top choice of Campaign Life Coalition (CLC), a national group that works to nominate and elect candidates who oppose abortion at all levels of government, CLC vice-president Jeff Gunnarson tells Maclean's. It sold more than 9,000 PC party memberships to support her. (Granic Allen did not respond to Maclean's interview request.) Ford was the CLC's second choice. There were initial doubts, Gunnarson says: "We knew he'd lean to our side of things but not with any strong conviction." (Ford identiﬁes as "pro-life" but condones abortion in cases of incest or rape.) The group was reassured by a February conference call with Ford and his people, in which the coalition laid out its demands: defund abortion; require parental consent before a minor receives an abortion; uphold "conscience rights" that allow medical professionals not to refer a patient needing abortion or assisted suicide; scrap the sex-ed curriculum of Kathleen Wynne's government. "Those were our big asks," Gunnarson says. "Ford and his team assured us they'd all be supported." (The premier's ofﬁce declined Maclean's request for conﬁrmation or details of the conversation: "I'm not going to be commenting on this," Laryssa Waler Hetmanczuk, executive director of communications wrote via email.)
Scott Hayward, co-founder of two-year-old RightNow, which bills itself as "Canada's newest political pro-life organization," also worked the convention floor. He calculates that anti-abortion operatives put Ford over the top. RightNow got at least 800 supporters out to vote, he says: "Ford beat Christine Elliott by 153 points, or roughly 768 votes on the ﬁnal ballot."