How conservative do you have to get before you’re asked to step down from British Columbia’s provincial Liberal party?
Liberal MLA Laurie Throness has finally found the answer to that question.
Earlier this week, Throness was involved in an online all-candidates forum in which he commented on NDP candidate Katrina Chen‘s proposal to include prescription-based contraceptives (like birth control pills and IUDs) in provincial medical coverage.
Throness responded by invoking the specter of eugenics:
It contains a whiff of the old eugenics thing where, you know, poor people shouldn’t have babies. And so we can’t force them to have contraception so we’ll give it to them for free. And maybe they’ll have fewer babies. So there will be fewer poor people in the future.
And to me, that contains an odour that I don’t like. And so I don’t really support what the NDP is doing there.
It’s a strange bit of rhetorical hand-waving that contraception opponents sometimes use in an attempt to sound progressive while espousing deeply conservative positions — in this case, the idea that birth control should be accessible only to those who can pay for it out of pocket.
But “deeply conservative positions” are Throness’ signature move, and this is far from the first time people have objected to his political machinations. Yet it’s only now that party leader Andrew Wilkinson has opted to remove him from the party spotlight, announcing his resignation at a campaign stop in Coquitlam.
Yesterday, Mr. Laurie Throness made statements that are not in keeping with values of the B.C. Liberal party or my own values. Those statements about contraception were completely wrong. I have therefore accepted Laurie Throness’ resignation as a candidate for the B.C. Liberal party in the upcoming election. We will move forward without him.
A statement from the BC Liberal party added:
Laurie Throness has accepted that his comments were wrong and inappropriate. It was clear that he couldn’t continue to be part of the BC Liberal team. The BC Liberal party is dedicated to a diversity of perspectives, but all party members are dedicated to inclusiveness and equality — that is not up for debate.
Yet in the past, when Throness has come for other forms of inclusiveness and equality, the party has continued to count him among their ranks. That strikes a sour note in Wilkinson’s statement. It highlights who the party counted as acceptable losses for the sake of party unity.
Throness was slated to continue as the candidate for Chilliwack-Kent after advertising (alongside several other MLAs) in a conservative religious publication that advocates for conversion therapy, abortion bans, and other regressive policy options that would codify conservative Christian morality as secular law. He was even allowed to continue after his vocal support for the magazine became a factor in the BC Liberals’ removal from the Vancouver Pride Parade.
He wasn’t asked to leave after participating in an anti-abortion rally on the steps of the Legislature in 2018, nor after participating in a “God and Government” conference aiming to blend religion and politics.
Nor was he asked to leave after opposing the inclusion of trans people as a protected category in human rights law. He abstained from voting on the bill itself, but strongly voiced his objections, calling the LGBTQ community “a powerful lobby group intolerant of himself and others who disagree that the law would add necessary protection.”
Coming after birth control was a bridge too far, but everything up to that line got treated as a boutique issue upon which reasonable people could disagree, even when it involved the human rights of entire swaths of BC’s population.
With that in mind, is Throness’ ouster better late than never?
It may not matter. Vancouver Sun reporter Vaughn Palmer speculates that, with the election just over a week away, it’s too little, too late — and it’s likely to cost Wilkinson dearly:
Though Throness has officially resigned as Liberal candidate in Chilliwack-Kent, it comes too late to change the ballots. Those were finalized after nomination day, Oct. 2. He will be listed as a Liberal.
The resignation leaves the Liberals one candidate short of a full slate. But Wilkinson could have forestalled that prospect had he acted over the summer when the Throness stance on conversion therapy got the Liberals banned from this year’s Pride Parade.
… Chalk it up as one more reason why Liberals are despairing about the election and already speculating about possible successors to Wilkinson.
Let’s hope they learn from Wilkinson’s mistakes. This level of commitment to enshrining religious values, prejudices, and beliefs in law has no place in the legislature.
(Screenshot via YouTube)