Conservative leadership contender Peter MacKay said today he wants to march in Toronto’s Pride parade.
MacKay said he’s applied to the parade organizers for permission to participate. If he gets it, and if he wins the leadership contest — to be held the day before the parade, on June 27 — he’ll be the first permanent federal Conservative leader to participate in this sort of LGBTQ rights celebration.
“Pride parades are important,” MacKay said in a statement.
“We live in a world where sexual orientation and gender identity are still used by tyrants and bigots to belittle and oppress. In Canada we are lucky to have a society that has grown more tolerant, more accepting and more understanding, but there is still more work to be done.”
MacKay has been more accepting of same-sex marriage rights than other Conservative politicians. In 2006, for example, he was one of only a handful of cabinet ministers to vote against his own government’s resolution to restore the traditional definition of marriage.
MacKay anticipated criticism of his decision to march in Pride from some social conservatives in the party’s ranks.
“The fact that some will condemn this statement speaks louder than any argument I could make about the importance for the next leader of the Conservative Party of Canada to follow in the footsteps of Rona Ambrose, and march in support of pride,” MacKay said in his statement.
Outgoing Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, a social conservative, did not participate in any of the country’s many Pride parades during his time at the helm of the party. Scheer’s decision to stay away from these events was a source of criticism during the last campaign, with some viewing his refusal as a sign that he did not fully embrace equal rights for sexual minorities in Canada.
Former prime minister Stephen Harper also stayed away from the marches.
Some provincial conservative leaders have been more willing to participate. Ontario Premier Doug Ford marched in York Region Pride last year. His predecessor, Patrick Brown, also led a Progressive Conservative delegation at Toronto Pride in years past.