How Pierre Lemieux brought truly conservative ideas to the Party – and inspired a nation
I will never forget the time when I met former Member of Parliament and CPC Leadership Candidate, Pierre Lemieux. After weeks of planning between his campaign manager and myself, he arrived alone at the University of Waterloo carrying nothing other than some campaign literature and his deeply-held principles. One must ask themselves: how did this man inspire a generation of Canadians and go from being completely unknown to finishing sixth place in the CPC Leadership Vote? To answer that question, all one must do is to listen to the man speak his values.
The story of Pierre Lemieux is one of how social conservatives can succeed in the 21st Century. I have always been turned off by the authoritarian and what I would call “toxic” aspects of social conservatism: things that I felt were embodied by Brad Trost in the leadership race. But many Canadians share three important values with social conservatives: protecting life from conception to natural death, being able to speak freely without repression, and ensuring the government does not hinder one from living a socially conservative lifestyle (as legislation like Bill 89 in Ontario has done). Young Canadians in particular are not fans of restricting gay marriage or ending Canada’s contribution to preserve the environment, as many felt that Brad Trost would do. A key demographic in the 7.37% of Conservatives who voted for Pierre Lemieux was young people, who tend to be much more conservative than their parent’s generation (although considering how long Generation X voted in Trudeau Sr, that is not saying much.)
After a decade under Harper, many social conservatives (and even fusionists like myself, to a certain degree) felt that their ideas were being suppressed in Parliament by the former Prime Minister with strict party discipline. A pro-life motion by MP Woodworth was voted down in 2012, although in 2013 conservatives did cheer the repeal of the “hate speech exception” in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. All of this led to dissatisfaction among social conservatives and, eventually, votes for Pierre Lemieux.
You may be asking, why did I vote for Pierre Lemieux? Well, first of all, I voted for him because he was an inspiring leader and a charismatic speaker who spoke directly to my deeply-held values. At the outset of his campaign, Lemieux was clear that he wanted to ban gender-selective abortion, an abhorrent, murderous practice that is disapproved of by 90% of Canadians. He was the first candidate to oppose the anti-free speech Motion-103 (he also opposed C-16). Lemieux’s plan to change the Safe Third Country Agreement to promote legal, rather than illegal, migration into Canada was later adopted by Kevin O’Leary. And in the aftermath of Saudi Arabia being voted onto the UN Human Rights Commission, most conservatives supported his plan to audit the United Nations. Finally, Lemieux’s plan to cut the carbon tax, increase the economic freedom of Canadians, and balance the budget was liked by almost all conservatives.
On May 28th, my second choice for leader, Andrew Scheer, won the election after 13 tumultuous rounds of voting. But Pierre Lemieux’s influence did not end there. Because of the ranked ballot system of the Conservative Party, Scheer required voters to not only place him first, but also second on their ballot. When Lemieux was dropped from contention on the ninth round, his voters went to either Scheer or Trost as their second choice (and almost all of Trost’s voters eventually went for Scheer over Bernier.) Because of the minuscule margin of victory, Scheer owes his position as leader to Lemieux supporters that put him second on their ballot. He is not going to forget that, I hope.
And further, in the closing weeks of the campaign, Scheer recognized that social conservatives would support him due to his pro-life views, and took a few ideas from Lemieux. In the weeks before the election, Scheer unveiled his plan to protect free speech, specifically on campuses – an issue that had continually been brought up by Lemieux. Scheer also followed Lemieux’s lead in opposing M-103 shortly after it was announced due to its potential to restrict free speech.
Ultimately, if Pierre Lemieux had not joined the race, issues that many conservatives care about would likely not have been brought up. Lemieux has lost the election, but his ideas, and more importantly the Canadians he has inspired, live on to fight another day.