VANCOUVER — The Conservative party wiped a policy opposing same sex marriage off its books Saturday, proof many said that the party is truly setting a new course on the road to the next federal election.
A motion to delete sections of the party handbook supporting legislation to define marriage as being between a man and a woman was adopted by a vote of 1036 to 462 delegates at the party convention on Saturday afternoon.
Delegates raise their yes vote cards to change the wording of the traditional definition of marriage in the conservative policies at the Conservative Party of Canada convention in Vancouver on Saturday. (Photo: Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)
"To see those results come in, to see the party so overwhelmingly agree that two consenting adults should have the right to marry is incredible,'' said Joseph Heap, one of the sponsors of the resolution.
The vote followed an intense debate both in policy workshops Friday and on the floor Saturday with some social conservatives arguing that any leadership candidate who supported it would automatically lose their vote.
"It's about freedom and respect."
That didn't phase candidate and MP Maxime Bernier, who spoke in favour of the motion from the convention floor.
"It's about freedom and respect. It's about us and telling Canadians that you can love who you want and that you can be in love,'' he said.
The resolution is not consistent with Conservative principles of faith, family and community, argued Manitoba MP Ted Falk.
Delegates Michelle Rebel and Natalie Pon celebrate the yes vote to change the wording of the traditional definition of marriage in the conservative policies at the Conservative Party of Canada convention in Vancouver on Saturday. (Photo: Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)
"This motion is an attack on our values and principles,'' he said.
Others argued it will drive away the party's socially conservative base, though one self-proclaimed social conservative from a B.C. riding disagreed, telling the convention floor he saw it as a workable compromise.
The motion also adds to the policy book support for religious organizations to refuse to perform unions or allow the use of their facilities for events that are incompatible with their faith and belief.
"This motion is an attack on our values and principles.''
"The most important thing we need to remember is we're not redefining marriage here,'' said Natalie Pon, one of the resolution's sponsors.
"We're just taking out a definition that is out of date and out of touch.''
The vote was a culmination of 2 1/2 days of introspection and intense debate among Conservatives at a policy convention that was aimed at healing some of the wounds festering since last fall's election defeat and figure out what's next.
"It's a demonstration of the maturation of our party,'' former Tory cabinet minister Peter MacKay said of the vote.
"We're clearly recognizing the law, the realities of people's lives and I'm heartened by the very open transparent way in which we dealt with this issue.''