BC Liberal MLA for Chilliwack-Kent Laurie Throness has tested his party.
Whether they win or lose the provincial election, the BC Liberals’ protection of Throness has undermined their moral credibility.
After PressProgress’ discovery in June that the BC Liberals advertised in The Light magazine, which promotes anti-LGBTQ views in its editorial pages, BC Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson rightly made an unequivocal declaration: “There is no room in the BC Liberal Party for homophobia, transphobia, or any other form of discrimination.”
It should’ve been the definitive end to this controversy.
But in July, Throness broke caucus discipline, disobeyed his party leader, and defended an article advocating for conversion therapy in a response to CTV News Vancouver.
A partisan or a cynic may blame political gamesmanship. But it’s hard to sympathize with someone, like Throness, for brandishing a reprehensible opinion, such as one that defends conversion therapy.
Nevertheless, Throness has yet to apologize for — let alone, retract — his statements.
Now Throness is a testament, contrary to Wilkinson’s declaration, to there being some room for homophobia and transphobia within the BC Liberal Party.
In fairness, Andrew Wilkinson is burdened to preserve a big tent party of pragmatists and ideologues alike, ranging from liberal centrists to social conservatives.
Wilkinson is not a bigot.
When Wilkinson says that he loves his family, which includes LGBTQ folks, there is no reason to doubt him. When he says homophobia and transphobia are morally wrong, he speaks to his own principles.
Unfortunately, Laurie Throness compromises those principles.
There must be other BC Liberals, like MLA Jane Thornthwaite, whose genuine support for the LGBTQ community is also compromised due to their affiliation with Throness.
In harbouring him, the BC Liberals choose politics over their own moral credibility.
After all, the BC Liberal bogeyman isn’t the NDP. It’s the BC Conservative candidate or the socially conservative independent who carries just enough local support in a battleground riding to splinter off the minimum load of necessary votes to beat the NDP.
Throness’ existence as a BC Liberal is a consequence of this bogeyman.
For a party that champions LGBTQ rights — Premier Christy Clark’s government enshrined transgender protections into the B.C. Human Rights Code — Throness personifies how his party’s ambition to win exceeds its own advertised principles.
It’s easy to be an ally if that means wearing colourful clothing to dance in a summer parade and wave to joyous crowds.
True allyship requires courage to act pursuant to your declared values, consequences be damned.
That’s moral leadership.
Will any BC Liberals be courageous?
Will they admit that if there is no room in the party for bigoted views, then Laurie Throness should no longer represent them for his unrepentant defence of homophobia?
If the BC Liberals lose the election, Throness will become the party’s missed opportunity to demonstrate moral leadership.
But, if they win, Throness will validate the cynicism that plagues our politics, where just saying the right thing is enough and doing the morally consistent — and logically consistent — thing is contingent upon strategic convenience.
That’s markedly scarier than just one man’s gross opinions.
Mo Amir is the host of This is VANCOLOUR, a politics and culture podcast available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, and www.thisisvancolour.com