Toronto Sun

May 4, 2000

An odd sort of family values

Sun Media
Toronto Sun

They must be the most exploited two words in North American politics: family values. Everybody claims to stand for them and approve of them. Particularly on the political right.

For that reason all of the men running for leadership of the Canadian Alliance are declaring themselves to be the family values candidate. Of Preston Manning and Stockwell Day there are no doubts. But what of Tom Long?

He has already fudged issues, refusing to say very much about very much. More revealing is the composition of his campaign team. There are a surprisingly large number of social liberals, even militants, in key positions in his inner circle of advisers and policy-makers.

At the centre of the team is Jaime Watt. He became briefly infamous when he was asked to resign from the Harris government's backroom team after it was revealed he had pleaded guilty to various fraud charges in the 1980s, apparently supporting his clothing business with $16,000 worth of forged cheques. Harris reportedly tried his best to keep young Jaime. It was not to be.

But Watt is better known for his politics than his criminal record. He was co-chair of the Canadian Human Rights Campaign, a group that lobbies for special homosexual rights. Under Watt's leadership the CHRC hosted a "post-dyke-march BBQ" during Gay Pride festivities, brought in Newt Gingrich's lesbian sister to give a speech and urged homosexuals to "get involved and to remember who supported us when it counted."

Watt himself travelled to Ottawa to meet the leaders of the political parties.

"We had very fruitful meetings with four of the five." announced the CHRC Spring '97 newsletter. "The Reform party refused our request for a meeting."

One suspects that if Tom Long is elected leader of the Canadian Alliance, the new version of the Reform party will not turn down any more chats with representatives of radical special interest groups.

The newsletter continued: "The meetings we did have, however, were a very useful avenue for CHRC to talk about equality rights issues facing the gay and lesbian community, that will most certainly be dealt with by the next government."

The CHRC was right. And the only party to oppose the government was Reform, almost all of whose MPs and most of whose members are now in the Canadian Alliance. What, then, is Jaime Watt doing as a key player in the campaign of the man who wants to lead them?

In overall control of Long's campaign is Leslie Noble, who has been working for right-wing candidates for years. She is not fondly remembered by some social conservatives for having caused a stir in Calgary at the Winds of Change conference, the gathering that got this big blue ball rolling. At that meeting she got into a heated argument with two delegates over the issues of abortion and homosexuality.

"I don't want the state in my bedroom, thank you very much," she shouted. She also raised her voice at another Reformer, insisting he had "no feelings for what it's like to be a gay teenager" and that he was callous and uncaring. In a bar conversation that same evening, Noble explained that "these people have no place in a modern conservative party."

In fact, she made it clear then and has made it clear since that she is a social liberal. Fair enough in Mike Harris' party of low taxes/low morals, but surely not acceptable within the Canadian Alliance. The roots of Reform, and thus the roots of the Canadian Alliance, are western, Christian and granite-solid on abortion, sexuality and family.

What is so noticeable about the campaign team of alleged family values candidate Tom Long is how few of its members are involved in traditional families and how many are in favour of extending homosexual privileges and support abortion on demand. We must ask why a man who claims to be conservative on both issues would fill his inner circle with people who are so hostile to the views of so many of the people who will do the work and pay the bills if Tom Long gets elected.

Surely, it's not a lot to ask from someone who wants to lead a new, open and honest political party and intends to be our next prime minister.

Michael Coren is a Toronto-based writer and broadcaster
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