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The paranoid stylings of Leslyn Lewis
Conservative leadership candidate comes to Calgary
A surprisingly large number of people came to hear Leslyn Lewis’s pitch to be the leader of the Conservative Party at the Blackfoot Trail Holiday Inn in southeast Calgary on Thursday evening, suggesting she’s drumming up a fair amount of enthusiasm for her bizarre brand of politics.
While Red Tory standard bearer Jean Charest’s March campaign kickoff in Calgary attracted around 50 attendees — a vastly disproportionate number of them media — this one stop on Lewis’s tour across the country saw about 120 people, according to my not-so-scientific estimate, with the only media in attendance being myself, Chris Brown of the Cross Border Interviews podcast and some Rebel Media goofball.
There were about 10 people wearing masks at the Lewis event, including myself and Brown. One person I attempted to interview turned me down because of the mask on my face. It’s bad for your health, she said.
So what’s Lewis’s pitch?
Much of her speech consisted of the usual buffet of conservative grievances — cancel culture, the carbon tax, pipelines, debt, western alienation, the liberal media, etc.
She spoke glowingly of the far-right anti-vaxx convoy which took over Ottawa for a few weeks, said vaccine mandates have no scientific basis because you can’t see whether a person is or isn’t vaccinated by looking at them, and that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is giving Canadian sovereignty away to the World Health Organization. To top that off, Lewis said Trudeau is trying to normalize suicide through his support for medical assistance in dying.
Those interested in hearing Lewis expound on the glories of Christ would have had to attend her event the previous night at the charismatic evangelical C3 Church on the outskirts of town.
I planned to attend the earlier event, but alas I no longer have a car, so I’m left pondering the difference between what she told the church audience versus what she said at the Holiday Inn.
There were however, glimpses into Lewis’s more theocratic tendencies on display Thursday:
I’ve … heard from parents who are tired of our education system, so while it’s provincial jurisdiction we can’t run away from it federally. We need to do something about it, because our children are being indoctrinated. They’re not learning reading, writing and arithmetic, like when we were in school. They are learning ideology and most likely the ideology of the dominant political group. What we need … is a parental rights legislation that will support parents raising their children in accordance with their values and not values imposed upon them by their government.
This might sound harmless until you think about it for a couple of seconds and realize it paves the way for an all-out assault on the public school system, in which parents can simply pull their children out of the public system and place them in a publicly-funded parochial school where they can be indoctrinated in whatever ideology the parents desire — all under the guise of choice, naturally.
This is essentially the approach Alberta’s United Conservative government has taken through expanding publicly-subsidized private, or charter, schools.
After a lengthy Q&A session, supporters lined up to take a photo with her. There was no such buzz at Charest’s event in March.
I used this as an opportunity to ask Lewis, who is avowedly anti-abortion, what role she thinks faith should play in the public sphere before getting our photo taken.
Her response was as evasive as it was brief — “I think it’s important that people be able to practice their faith without government interference.”
Speaking to some of her supporters, it was quite clear what the religious right expects from a Prime Minister Leslyn Lewis.
Russell Harrison, an evangelical who supported Lewis when she placed third in the 2020 Conservative leadership race, said with so many candidates entering the race he’s unsure whether Lewis will be his first pick on the ranked ballot this time around. But one issue that doesn’t give him pause is her anti-abortion position.
“I don’t think we have a right to end a life because we were careless. We should live up to our responsibilities in our activities. Yes, I know there are rapes and incestuous conceptions, but I believe that God can make good out of every circumstance,” said Harrison.
He added that he wants to see abortion defunded, rather than banned outright. “I don’t like to see my tax dollars go to murder,” he said.
But if it’s murder, shouldn’t it be criminalized?
“That’s a question for another day,” Harrison replied.
Liz Salomons also sees Lewis’s anti-choice views as an asset. When I asked what she thinks the consequences for providing an abortion should be, her husband — who said his name was David but wouldn’t provide a surname because he’s seen too much “funky business” from media — jumped in with a response.
“There shouldn’t be abortion offered in our country,” he said. “It’s God’s territory, but if we do things that are abominable to God, we’re not going to get his blessing on our country.”
Kirstin Morrell, who is decidedly not on the religious right, said she doesn’t share Lewis’s positions on abortion or assisted suicide but nevertheless considers her a unifying figure in Conservative politics.
“[Lewis] has views, and a lot of them are very different from my own, but she makes me feel included and she makes me feel listened to,” Morrell said.
In that one respect, some segments of the Left could learn a lesson from Lewis.
Edited by Scott Schmidt
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