The new president of the Conservative Party of Canada says it’s the leader who calls the shots, after party delegates voted down a resolution to acknowledge climate change is real.
Rob Batherson, leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Nova Scotia from 2009 to 2012, was elected federal Conservative Party president on Sunday.
In a morning interview with Global News, he said he’s looking forward to supporting party leader Erin O’Toole during the three-year term as president.
At a federal party meeting last weekend, 54 per cent of delegates voted against including “we recognize that climate change is real. The Conservative Party is willing to act” in its policy declaration.
Though the party’s policy declaration already contains a climate change section, the resolution would have modified the policy to stress the need for highly polluting Canadian businesses to take more responsibility in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and be accountable for impacts.
It also would have stated the party believes in supporting innovation in green technology.
The rejection marked a blow to O’Toole’s efforts to position his party as serious on environmental issues. In a speech on Friday, O’Toole said the debate on the reality of climate change must end, because climate change is real.
“I will not allow 338 candidates to defend against the lie from the Liberals that we are a party of climate change deniers,” O’Toole said on Friday.
“We will have a plan to address climate change. It will be comprehensive, and it will be serious.”
After voting results were tabled, O’Toole repeated his remarks the next day.
Batherson tells Global News that the leader’s stance matters more than what the delegates vote on.
“It’s the leader who’s going to bring forth our platform, it’s the leader who as prime minister is going to call the shots in a Conservative government,” he said.
“Erin O’Toole said… that the Conservative government is going to act on climate change – voters can have confidence in that.”
Batherson also said he wants to point out that the existing policy declaration references climate change.
“I think it’s important to look at where the party is on climate change and the direction that is being set by our leader.
“Our leader’s been very clear on climate change, our existing policy is clear on climate change, and the reality is that’s what Nova Scotians, that’s what Atlantic Canadians and all Canadians should judge the party on.”
Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Houston told reporters on Tuesday that the federal Conservative Party’s denial of climate change is not helpful to the party.
Batherson said he is supportive of Houston’s efforts in becoming premier in Nova Scotia and that his stance reflects that of Nova Scotians.
“Tim has a job to do, articulating views on behalf of Nova Scotians, and Tim has made his point.”
Although Batherson said it’s the leader that calls the shots, he also said that if people aren’t happy with the direction the Conservative Party is heading, they should join and vote on issues.
“For people who believe and want the Conservative Party of Canada to go into a particular direction: we’re a grassroots party, we are an open party,” he said.
“It’s very important to get involved and shape the change, rather than complain about it after the fact.”
Batherson said he feels there’s been inaction from all parties on climate change in Canada.
“I’m a father of a nine-year-old son, I would not be stepping up to be president of a party that wasn’t prepared to take action on climate change.
“I have to look in his eyes and justify what did I do … in my involvement in politics to make a better world and ensure we deal with the threat of climate change.”
— With files from The Canadian Press.