Last week’s announcement of a $400,000 grant to Toronto’s Gay Pride Week is the latest indication of how detached the Harper Conservatives have become from their key supporters and how incoherent their evolving electoral strategy is as a result. That the government has not triggered a grassroots revolt by now is remarkable, a testament to the discipline of party members more than their loyalty. A few more announcements like this, however, and it won’t be able to count on that either.

Anyone who has attended Gay Pride Week knows that it has nothing whatsoever to do with being gay and everything to do with being as lewd and offensive as possible. It’s Marti Gras run amok. Public nudity is de rigueur at a gay pride parade, as are simulated sex acts of all kind, and some not so simulated. I’m not gay, but I suspect that such shockingly bawdy behaviour is embarrassing to many who are.

But this isn’t about Gay Pride Week and its climactic parade through the streets of downtown Toronto – it’s about what the Harper Conservatives stand for… if anything.

A few months ago the Prime Minister himself gave a keynote address to grassroots conservatives attending a major conference in Ottawa in which he extolled the importance of faith, family and community to the country in general and his government in particular. One wonders how he can reconcile those words with the decision of his Secretary of State for Small Business and Tourism to authorize this grant. After all, there isn’t much faith, family or community in evidence in the weeklong event – unless you count Toronto’s BDSM community that is. (For those of you who don’t know what BDSM stands for – trust me, you probably don’t really want to.)

Even from a purely electoral point of view, the grant makes no sense. It’s been said that the only things certain in life are death and taxes. I’m pretty confident that you can add to that list that fact that nobody – I repeat, nobody – will vote conservative simply because the Harper government suddenly decided to celebrate and promote a radical version of gay “culture”. On the contrary, if anything the conservatives will lose votes, and not just amongst social conservatives either. Fiscal conservatives, already unnerved by the growing debt and ballooning deficit, are sure to be turned off by this grant as well, especially since it is being justified, in part, as part of the government’s economic stimulus package.

But it is among social conservatives that the government risks hemorrhaging its most critical support. These are mainly sensible, middle-class Canadians who agree with Pierre Trudeau’s observation that the state has no place in the bedrooms of the nation, but who also believe – not unreasonably – that what goes on in the bedrooms of the nation has no business playing a central role in the affairs of state. This is the backbone of the Conservative Party, not the naked marchers of Toronto’s Gay Pride Parade who take particular pleasure in displaying their genital piercings, or their spectators who revel in the display.

How the Harper Conservatives think they can secure a majority in the near future – or ever – without their support mystifies me. Yet they seem to be intent on trying. From income splitting to protecting unborn victims of crime, this government has ignored, obstructed or jettisoned virtually every prudent policy initiative that social conservatives have championed, all the while bending over backwards to appease its political and ideological opponents. It reminds me of something Margret Thatcher wrote about Ted Heath, her predecessor as leader of Britain’s Conservative Party: “He was always talking about reaching out to win over the support of people from other parties, but he had no willingness to listen to the Conservative Party.”

Under Thatcher’s leadership it should be noted, conservatives formed three successive majority governments in Great Britain.

Now more than ever, Canada needs sensible conservative government; unfortunately we’re not getting it from the Conservative Party. Instead what we’re getting is a patchwork of confused and often contradictory policies aimed at preserving power for its own sake rather than as a means for putting the country on the right track. The time has come, therefore, for rank and file members of the party to let their leaders and elected representatives know that they’re mad as hell and they’re not going to take it any more.

An additional $400,000 in federal debt to fund Toronto’s Gay Pride Week is just a stimulant too far.

Editor’s note — Also see:
“Talk about ‘stimulus’:  Gay group in Toronto gets extra 400,000 taxpayer bucks from Conservatives”