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Conservatives must do more to be seen as more accepting: political scientist

Former prime minister Stephen Harper, left, and his wife Laureen Harper walk on stage for his address to delegates during the 2016 Conservative Party Convention, in Vancouver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

The Conservative Party of Canada is getting with the times, according to one Calgary political scientist.

This comes after a historic vote by party members on Saturday, which ended in the removal of a policy against same-sex marriage, which stated that marriage was between a man and a woman.

Mount Royal University political scientist Keith Brownsey says, it’s about time.

“I think they’ve brought the party up to at least 1968, in terms of their attitude towards the LQBTQ community,” he said. “Same-sex marriage has been a right in this country since the early 2000s, and the party is just now getting there. I mean, it’s a bit silly, but at least they’ve come on to mainstream.”

While the policy change was voted by a majority of party members, some more social Conservatives were unhappy with the decision.

Brownsey says those members have a few options.

“Where else have they got to go? They can go to another fringe party, or they can simply stay in the Conservatives and work for some sort of reversal on this, and accept the fact that the world has changed for them,” he said.

Overall, it was an emotional convention in Vancouver, but not all of it was positive.

On Friday, one of the party’s Muslim members broke down in tears after discussing the party’s last election campaign, which she said unfairly targetted her faith.

She cited the Conservative’s Barbaric Cultural Practices hotline, and the party’s stance on banning face veils during citizenship ceremonies as two examples of how the party worked against Muslims.

Brownsey says, if the Conservatives really want to change the way they are viewed, they need to do more, and they need to focus on one thing in particular.

“Outreach to various communities in this country,” he said. “Remember, we’re a very diverse place now. It’s not the Canada that I grew up in, in the 1950s and 1960s. It’s Canada, as Justin Trudeau has so emphatically stated, it’s Canada 2016. It’s a very different place, and I think the Conservatives have to understand that.”

He adds, Calgary Midnapore MP Jason Kenney has done a lot of outreach in the past, and will most likely continue to do so.