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Canadian pro-lifers weigh in on Tory MP’s new democratic reform bill

The private members bill would allow caucuses to replace the party leader, and remove the leader's veto power over candidates.
Wed Dec 4, 2013 - 4:39 pm EST

OTTAWA, December 4, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A Conservative backbencher has introduced a private member’s bill that he says will “strengthen Canada’s democratic institutions by restoring the role of elected Members of Parliament in the House of Commons.”

Michael Chong, MP for Wellington-Halton Hills, On, introduced the Reform Act 2013 to Parliament yesterday.

The act proposes to amend the Canada Elections Act to give more power to party caucuses, including the power to replace a party leader through a simply majority vote. Initiating a review of the leader would require only 15 percent of caucus members. The act will also remove power from the party leader to determine who runs under the party banner in a particular riding, giving that power to local riding associations.

Jim Hughes, National President of Campaign Life Coalition, said that while he saw positive aspects of the bill, it could hamstring a good leader from working towards pro-life-and-family legislation.

“There’s a flip side to this that could make it pretty ugly,” he told LifeSiteNews.com. “I’m all for restoring as much of the responsibility to the voters, the local riding associations, et cetera, but I’m just concerned about the flip side.”

Hughes said that he supports measures that return democracy to the people and hopes the bill has this effect. “Certainly in any healthy democracy, the wishes of the majority of the constituents should be voiced in parliament by their representatives,” he said.

Chong’s bill comes nine months after turmoil within the Conservative party over the balance of power.

Tory MPs in March raised a clamor over Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s party discipline in what pundits at the time called a “backbench revolt.” It came after British Columbia MP Mark Warawa was barred from speaking about his proposed motion to condemn sex-selective abortions in the House of Commons. Pro-life MPs such as Conservative Brad Trost have long protested Harper’s “ironclad” control over the party, accusing him of shutting down debate.

Since taking the government’s reigns in 2006, Harper has adamantly opposed every attempt to discuss abortion, with the result that pro-life MPs have seemingly had to defy their leader in order to bring forward abortion-related legislation, all of which has failed. No one knows this better than MP Stephen Woodworth whose Motion 312 — to review the legal definition of a human being — was openly opposed in the vote by Harper.

Chong’s bill would effectively pressure a party’s leader to tune-in to the concerns of MPs, and consequently to tune-in to the concerns of constituents.

Chong’s efforts for a stronger democracy have bi-partisan appeal. Liberal leader Justin Trudeau said on Twitter Tuesday that he “share[s] the goals” of the reform act, and announced that Chong had been invited to make a presentation to the Liberal caucus’s legislative committee. Trudeau, along with NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair, have indicated their intention to allow MPs a free vote on the matter.

Though Chong is deemed “not supportable” by Campaign Life Coalition because of his support for abortion up to 20 weeks gestation, the bill could come as a boon to pro-life-and-family advocates seeking to run as candidates.

Outspoken pro-life advocates have a history of being rejected from the top as candidates for a riding.

In 2007 Conservative party brass in Ottawa cut off Heather Stilwell’s run for the Conservative nomination in a B.C. riding. Stilwell had launched her campaign prior despite warnings that the Conservative Party would not allow her to run due to her history as a prominent advocate for the right-to-life and the traditional family. The party’s decision was reversed days after LifeSiteNews.com broke the story.

Harper rejected the candidacy of outspoken social conservative John Pacheco, organizer of the 15,000-strong March for Marriage on Parliament Hill in 2005, during the Ottawa West nomination that same year in a move to protect the party’s preferred candidate John Baird, a staunch proponent of homosexual ‘marriage’.

Pacheco, an unflinching pro-life advocate who runs the blog Socon or Bust, welcomed the news of Chong’s bill.

“Since the political culture in Ottawa is firmly rooted in the culture of death, any structural change that lessens its grip and gives more influence and leverage to the pro-life movement and pro-life MPs is a good thing,” he told LifeSiteNews.com.

“Time and time again, whether it's abortion, gay ‘marriage’, or euthanasia, we see that the people are against these totalitarian and destructive ideologies, yet the political class and the power-brokers behind the scenes ram it through anyway.”

Pacheco sees the bill as benefiting the political effort to protect unborn life.

“It stands to reason that anything we can do to saturate government's power is a good thing for the pro-life movement. This measure and any others like it should be strongly backed by people who value family and life,” he said.

Chong’s bill, if successful, would not come into effect until after the next general election. 


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