The first question I was asked after losing my 2018 bid for a seat in the Ontario legislature was whether I would give it another go in 2022.

I answered the question honestly.

“I have no idea. I didn’t even know I was going to be running this time,” I said.

The stars had aligned in my life and in Ontario politics, making the decision to stand for office a surprisingly easy one.

Having covered, as a broadcaster, Ontario’s economic decline, I was honoured to have the opportunity to champion the conservative vision the province needed at thousands of London West doorsteps, even if my journey ended there and not at Queen’s Park.

This experience seems like only yesterday, although next year, Ontarians will go to the polls once again. This means ridings across the province are gearing up, and it also means I’ve started to field a great many questions like that one I got on that evening of June 7, 2018.

To prove I’m no longer a politician, I’ll answer it directly: I will not be running in the next election.

I am in a different place in my life now than I was when I made the decision to run nearly three years ago. My long-time radio show had just been cancelled, and I hadn’t yet answered the question of “What next?”. Since losing, I have groomed a path that is both personally and professionally enriching, and one from which I am not interested in walking away.

I remain grateful to the people to voted, donated and volunteered for me in 2018, though I am also immensely grateful I was unsuccessful in my bid.

I will still fight for the freedoms and values that drove me to politics, but from my keyboard and microphone.

On a side note, does anyone know what I can do with 1,500 Andrew Lawton lawn signs?

Don’t fear the Islamic Party of Ontario

A curious entry on Elections Ontario’s list of reserved political party names has galvanized Ontarians concerned about creeping Sharia.

As first noted by Toronto Sun columnist Tarek Fatah, the provincial elections agency has granted a hold on the name Islamic Party of Ontario, generally the first step towards formally registering a party to field candidates in the province’s elections.

As a preamble to its policies and principles, a page on the would-be party’s website touts the opening line of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms avowing “Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law” to justify its desire to make all laws in “obedience and according to the will of God.”

After several bullet points about Islamic history and apologetics, the Islamic Party of Ontario unequivocally says its stances on all issues are rooted in the Qur’an and Sunnah.

This means an Islamic government would abandon capitalism in favour of “interest-free capital and worker partnership economy,” enshrine the right to food and shelter, and guarantee equality of opportunity for immigrants and native-born Canadians alike.

Utopic as this may sound to some, the party would also ban gay marriage, abortion, alcohol and gambling, as well as any sexual relations outside of marriage. The party also says “obscenity, vulgarity, nudity and perversion must be checked,” though it doesn’t specify an all-out ban. (Yay?)

While the Islamic party says it upholds freedom of speech, it also commits to a “strict law to ban blasphemy.” I don’t envy the judges who have to balance those rights.

Canadians may find areas of agreement with the Islamic party platform. Several of the social positions would be supported by evangelical Christians, while the economics are on par with those you’d expect from many left-wing parties.

Of course, some interpretations of the Qur’an prescribe the death penalty for apostasy. I couldn’t even manage to get elected while championing tax cuts, which strikes me as an easier sell than this.

Most Canadians will find the Islamic Party of Ontario’s values to be unpalatable even for private belief let alone state enforcement. The party is no more relevant than the Communist Party of Ontario or Go Vegan, which both ran candidates in last year’s Ontario election.

Setting aside the religious fervor most vegans have, the Islamic Party of Ontario would, if registered, be Ontario’s only faith-based party.

In response to backlash from conservatives, I’ve seen some on the left try to compare the Islamic party to the federal Christian Heritage Party. Unlike the IPO, which wants a full-throated Muslim theocracy, the CHP seeks only to make Judeo-Christian values the basis of law. Even so, both parties have about as much a chance at winning a seat, which is to say zero.

Some Muslim voters may support the party based on name alone. It may even find a bit of support in Don Valley West, the riding encompassing the Thorncliffe Park neighbourhood nicknamed “Halal heaven.”

Either way, it will remain a fringe party with no power or credibility in Canada, not worth the fear or scorn so many are affording it.

People should be concerned about the Islamist influences targeting mainstream, electable political parties.

There are suit-wearing apologists for Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood wandering the corridors of power in Canada who believe the same things as the Islamic Party of Ontario but are far less brazen about expressing them.

It’s quite common to see a couple of notable organizations touted as mainstream and moderate voices for Islam and Muslims, when their values and funding tell a different story.

The anti-Islamophobia motion passed by the Liberals is the by-product of a push from one such group.

The real danger to Canadian institutions and values comes in the subtle and subversive way this influence has come about.

The Islamic Party of Ontario is about as subtle as Madonna twerking in downtown Riyadh.

We must actually watch those who try to overhaul Canadian democracy through legitimate—or seemingly legitimate—organizations. These groups have found audiences with pandering politicians of all stripes because of the political class’s eagerness to shore up support from specific ethnic and religious communities.

These groups also have a war chest that’s allowed them to successfully sue numerous Canadian media companies into silence, meaning they’re rarely, if ever, exposed.

These battles are taking place in the shadows of Canada. We should be grateful the Islamic Party of Ontario is at least being honest about its goals.

Putting a year of curveballs to bed

I got fired, made national headlines and lost an election in the same year.

I’m not typically one for New Year’s observances, but if there was a year worthy of reflection it’s 2018.

Perhaps last year I tempted fate with my column eviscerating the pomp and pretence of New Year’s Eve.

This year is a bit different.

I started 2018 as a radio broadcaster covering an unexpected PC leadership race and ended it without a radio show and having been a PC candidate in an election. I didn’t see any of that coming.

While this year’s zigs and zags were unforeseen, they weren’t unforeseeable.

I’d been contemplating running in Ontario’s provincial election as far back as the summer of 2017, but opted against it. By the time this past March came around, things had changed.

I was happy with Doug Ford’s election as the new PC leader, and my preferred riding, London West, still didn’t have a PC candidate.

On March 26, Ford was in London for a victory rally. As was the custom with conservative politicians coming to town, Ford did an in-studio interview on my show. I attended the rally that evening, encouraged by the energy in the room.

On the drive home, I once again questioned whether to bite the bullet and run for office. The challenge was whether something so uncertain could justify walking away from a secure job.

The next morning, I was fired. I smiled all the way home.

Within a few hours I had lined up meetings in Toronto and Montreal with players in the media industry as I plotted my next move. In parallel, I started exploring a political run.

(Spoiler alert: the political run didn’t end up precluding me from doing other things).

My wife and I were a true team through this. In true foodie fashion, we made the final decision over a five-course tasting menu at a restaurant’s closing night. (Because what newly unemployed person doesn’t patronize such boîtes?)

My eight weeks as a politician formed one of the most difficult chapters of my life. Anyone who opened a computer in May knows why. Beyond the political implications of my candidacy, there was a personal toll to being in the media’s crosshairs that I wrote about not long after the election.

It’s taken me some time to truly grasp what I took away from this time, however.

A number of people I thought were friends seemed to have only a relationship with my status when I hosted a daily radio show and had a national column. When it became trendy to hate me, a few of these fair-weather “friends” jumped on the bandwagon.

Some did it openly. Others were more duplicitous.

But these people are dwarfed in number (and in character) by those in the opposite camp – people whose friendship I didn’t fully appreciate or understand who were there for me in ways for which I will be forever grateful.

Friends from across the political spectrum chose to see my heart instead of headlines. That was the spirit that got me through this time.

My family supported me every step of the way. My church community shrouded me in prayer.

My wife gave me the ability to understand what it means to say someone is your rock. She was. From a handwritten letter on my nightstand every day of the campaign to tending to my blistered feet (you try knocking on 20,000 doors in six weeks!), she was there in ways I never knew possible. As she was every day before and every day since.

Tumultuous as the experience was, it strengthened our bond. That’s true of my relationships with most of those closest to me.

My father was out from the wee hours of morning until late at night installing and repairing signs.

My mother put in countless hours staffing my campaign office.

My in-laws were just as dedicated.

Friends old and new donated, volunteered, and most importantly let me know they supported me, even if they weren’t going to vote for me.

Though a special thank you to the 17,133 people who did vote for me.

By the time I lost on June 7, I had a legion of people around me to ask “What’s next?” on June 8.

The last six months have been among the most fruitful and joyous in my career as I’ve been able to pursue opportunities I wouldn’t have been able to had the year shaped up differently.

From my fellowship at the True North Initiative to columns at The Interim and Loonie Politics to producing events for Mark Steyn, 2018 has ended on a high note.

I look forward to whatever 2019 brings. The stats of abandoned New Year’s resolutions alone suggest making one is a fool’s errand. Though I endeavor to continue what I’ve tried to do throughout the latter half of 2018 – appreciate those who have been there for me, and be there for others in the same way.

Even so, perhaps 2019 can be a tad less eventful.

Voters in Canada must be citizens. So why don’t they need to prove it?

If you live in the province of Ontario, you had the chance to go to the polls a few days ago in your municipality’s civic election. For eligible voters, it’s a great chance to participate in democracy. Unfortunately, it also is for ineligible voters, as I was reminded of by numerous firsthand accounts from people who cast ballots despite not being lawfully able to do so.

I extrapolate on it in my latest Loonie Politics column, which you can read here if you’re a subscriber. If you aren’t a subscriber, consider joining using the promo code Lawton, which gives you a discount. Here’s a little teaser:

No citizenship?  No problem.

Such was the reality for voters across Ontario in the province’s municipal elections this week.  With a slight amendment.  You need to be a citizen to vote — you just don’t need to prove it.  It’s a glaring oversight that everyone knows about, but no one in power seems to care about.

I saw it firsthand in an election in 2011, when I had to add myself to the voter’s list at the polling station for some reason and was surprised I didn’t have to prove that I was actually eligible to vote.  (I was and still am, for what it’s worth.)

Despite changes to the voting systems at various levels of government, this loophole hasn’t been closed in the last seven years.  It’s time to fix that.

While it’s never sat right with me, I didn’t realize how widespread the issue was until I was asked about voting eligibility last week by an acquaintance of mine active in the Chinese community.  She is a Canadian citizen, as are many of the people in her networks.  But many of them are permanent residents, who are not allowed to vote in even municipal elections.

Like many ethnic communities, the Chinese community is becoming more politically engaged and connected.  Several of these permanent residents were eager to vote, and were reportedly getting conflicting information about whether or not they could.  At least one such person, my contact said, voted after being told by a poll clerk that citizenship wasn’t required.