By Paul Tuns and Steve Jalsevac

Every Canadian federal election, all candidates are faced with the decision of whether or not to complete and sign the Campaign Life Coalition (CLC) questionnaire on “controversial” life and marriage issues. (See the 2005-6 CLC Federal Election Questionnaire online at

It is a recurring struggle pitting candidates’ consciences and commitment to democratic openness against political advisers that often have no respect for their candidates’ personal principles. It is also something that CLC national leader Jim Hughes believes grassroots pro-life Canadians can greatly influence when they pursue the candidates about it.


The Canadian national pro-life organization sends its questionnaire to every candidate in every party all across the country during federal elections. Unfortunately, say CLC leaders, many candidates usually completely underestimate the importance of responding to it. As well, says CLC, many pro-life leaning candidates sadly accept, without any real proof, advice or pressure to avoid the questionnaire because, they are always told, it would harm their election chances.

CLC National President Jim Hughes“To put it a lot milder than I really feel like saying, nothing could be further from the truth”, says Jim Hughes, the national president of CLC. “I can’t believe that this goes on election after election and that so many naëve candidates, including some incumbent MPs from every party, are taken in every time by the party hacks or the media propaganda on this”, says Hughes.

Hughes says, “openly pro-life candidates get elected and re-elected all across the country every time and often by wide margins, sometimes near the highest margins for their party.”“In the last federal election”, he says, “not a single pro-life MP lost.”“And when some of them have lost in the past”, he emphasizes,“those lossesÂhad absolutely nothing to do with their views on the life issues.”

“So, please,” Hughes asks, “someone tell me why anyone continues to believe this complete nonsense; that being openly pro-life, pro-family is an election handicap.”“Responding to the questionnaire always helps those candidates”, he states. “Anyone who tells them otherwise has certain agendas, is misguided or is just plain not to be trusted.”

Recently in Toronto, leading Republican strategist, Ralph Reed, emphasized the folly of candidates believing they have to hide from social conservatism. Reed said, “The reason why we won was … we ran unapologetically and boldly on a conservative, pro-family platform.” He added that when a politician runs on a social conservative platform, he is not simply “preaching to the choir,” but appealing to every constituency, because such values are held commonly by people of every background. “It’s a mainstream, common sense set of values”, he said.


“First of all” says Hughes, “answering the questionnaire provides Canada’s so-called social conservative voters with crucial information about who they might vote for and perhaps donate to and work on their campaign.”

“Second”, Hughes says, “if the responses are straightforward pro-life, it tells voters in a riding, whether they are concerned about the life and family issues or not, that this candidate is up front, honest and believes in some serious principles. Principled candidates are seen to be a rarity and are naturally attractive to all voters. The public instinctively knows such a person can be trusted.”

He also explains that candidates have the option of responding in their own wordsÂor adding comments to the quesionnaire if they prefer. CLC just wants to know where the candidates stand on the questions.

CLC’s final published ratings do not include endorsements of candidates but it does rate the candidates, as “pro-life”, “pro-life with exceptions”, “not pro-life” or “pro-abortion”. The organization’s Voters’ Guide in The Interim newspaper or on its website simply provides information so that Campaign Life Coalition supporters can make informed decisions on election day.

As well, the information obtained is vital because it puts into motion the national organization’s other machinery to assist a candidate. It gives CLC the hard evidence it must have to motivate its large grassroots membership in individual ridings to support and vote for pro-life, pro-marriage leaning candidates.

Mary Ellen Douglas, national coordinator for CLC, also stresses the importance of getting the completed questionnaires back to the national pro-life organization as quickly as possible. “Too often”, she states, “we have had supportable candidates send in their responses too late for us to do anything for them. We need time to get the word out in a riding and give our local supporters the opportunity to do something for the candidate.”


Hughes laments, “a lot of pro-life candidates say ‘I’m pro-life, the voters know I’m pro-life and so I don’t need to complete the questionnaire’. If a candidate, even an incumbent, can’t take the time to sign our questionnaire then that tells many of our supporters, and especially many new people who also look up our results, that the life and family issues are likely not important to that candidate. Then, especially for new candidates without a solid voting record, we are left helpless because we have nothing to give the folks to prove the candidate is worth considering.”

“Our supporters,” says Hughes, “don’t act and vote for candidates just because we tell them to. Anyone who thinks that is sadly mistaken. The grassroots wants hard evidence that a candidate has made some significant commitments to do something. No commitment – no action, no vote. And there’s nothing I can do about that”


Some incumbent Members of Parliament have asked why CLC does not rely on parliamentary votes alone. Hughes says that usually won’t cut it since there simply aren’t enough bills on life issues to provide a clear indication of every MPs positions. However, this election there is a more extensive voting record than usual and lots of information from the 2004 election. Still, to be fair to all candidates, CLC strongly encourages all incumbent pro-life MPs to complete the questionnaire again.
  Whereas in the United States Congress and Senate there are often several abortion and other life issue bills voted on each session, in Canada there can be years between votes on these issues. Our government’s political parties do everything possible to avoid ‘controversial’ issues, to avoid recorded votes and to prohibit their MPs from speaking and voting freely on them.

Furthermore, the questionnaire is crucial to evaluate candidates running for Parliament for the first time. By focusing on the questionnaire, CLC and grassroots pro-lifers are using a level playing field for a point of reference in comparing all candidates.


Hughes laments many candidates’ lack of understanding of the huge importance of the issues in the CLC questionnaire. He states, “the hardest thing to accept about all the lame excuses we get every time from candidates for not responding in some meaningful way is that these are the only election issues that deal with the very life and death of over 100,000 innocent, vulnerable Canadians per year by abortion and a number now growing with euthanasia. This is having a massive affect on our nation, on our society, on our future.”
  Hughes adds, “Our questions are the only ones that deal with the collapse of respect for all human life and with the destruction of marriage, the necessary foundation for any healthy culture and the nurturer of future generations. These are far more important issues than anything else these candidates will be dealing with.”“And yet,” he adds, “many don’t comprehend this or perhaps just don’t want to or haven’t the courage to face them.”


There are MPs across Canada who know the difference that pro-life Canadians have made at their nomination and general election victories. In a close race, just a few hundred pro-life votes can make the difference between winning a squeaker of a race or finishing a disappointing second. And such races can have a big impact.

Perhaps the best way to illustrate the importance of returning a questionnaire is the story of a questionnaire that wasn’t completed and which might have changed Canadian political history for good.


The socially conservative Lois Brown faced the pro-abortion Belinda Stronach for the Conservative nomination in Newmarket-Aurora in 2004. Her situation was one of many that illustrated a crucial loss experienced by a candidacy that refused to complete the CLC questionnaire.

Stronach had just been beaten in the leadership race by Stephen Harper so she had the benefit of not only her money but a high-profile, national campaign behind her.

Brown sought CLC’s assistance knowing that in such contests, the margin of victory can be quite small. However, for whatever reason, probably party advisors, she sadly refused to sign CLC’s questionnaire. The organization could not apply a double standard to her simply because she was facing Stronach and therefore was unable to rally that crucially needed extra support to put her nomination over the top.

Brown lost her nomination by 100 votes out of more than 1,000 cast. The number of people on CLC’s database in the riding far exceeded the 100-vote margin she lost by. They could have easily been activated for the nomination fight – if Brown had returned a questionnaire and gave CLC what it needed to motivate its supporters to get involved in the nomination battle.

Imagine, now, how the events of the last 18 months might have been different if Brown had defeated Stronach for the Conservative nomination in Newmarket-Aurora.

Brown might have won in the general election in June 2004. There would have been no Belinda Stronach to entice with a cabinet post, to cross the floor to save the Liberals in a close budget vote in May 2005, a budget that passed only after the Liberal Speaker of the House tipped the scales after a tie vote. The government survived for another six months, during which time the Martin Liberals passed the same-sex ‘marriage’ bill.

This is not to imply Brown is responsible for same-sex ‘marriage.’ She might not have won the election and Prime Minister Paul Martin might have persuaded another Conservative to join them. But history might have been very different if Brown completed the questionnaire and a hundred pro-lifers became involved in her nomination battle with Stronach.


Campaign Life Coalition stresses that although many candidates do not respond to the questionnaire or just send in canned party responses, enough candidates still have sufficient regard for democracy and openness to make the mammoth exercise worthwhile. The national pro-life organization has accumulated a large amount of information that will allow many voters to make informed voting decisions on these issues that are their top priority.

Jim Hughes urges supporters to view the extensive results on line via, after they are posted in the near future, or to call Campaign Life Coalition at 1-800-730-5358 or 416-204-9749.


He also urges every Canadian who understands the high priority of the defence of life and family to make an extra effort to seek out and ask every candidate in their riding if they completed the CLC questionnaire and answered each question. And if the candidate has not answered the questionnaire or only part of it, Hughes says to “insist that the candidates do so or you will not consider anything else they have to say and certainly will not vote for them.”

“That”, says, Hughes, “is one the most important things the grassroots supporters can do for us.” If the candidate says he or she does not have the questionnaire, Hughes urges supporters to call CLC and they will tell if and how many times it was sent to the particular candidate or will arrange a trained representative to immediately get one to the candidate. As well, Campaign Life Coalition will take responses directly from the candidate over the phone, if necessary.Â

See the 2005 CLC Federal Election Questionnaire online at