Conservative Party of Canada Refusing to Permit Candidates to Answer Abortion Questionnaires

By John-Henry Westen and Steve Jalsevac

LONDON, ON, November 22, 2006 ( - has learned that the Conservative Party of Canada is once again enforcing a policy barring its candidates from responding to questionnaires that would allow voters to cast an informed vote on issues of importance to them.  The party policy is especially targeted at the controversial abortion issue. Despite denials by Conservative Party officials, the policy was in place during the last federal election in January and obtained a memo from party headquarters forbidding candidates to answer a pro-life questionnaire.

In the last federal election many Tory candidates answered the abortion questions despite the party’s pressure tactics and regarded their obligation to be open with the voters a higher priority than the party’s paranoia over the abortion issue. Of the pro-life Tory candidates who did answer the Campaign Life Coalition questionnaire, CLC is not aware of the campaign of any of them being harmed by this. In fact, the pro-life organization says, most of these campaigns were helped to some degree by the public exposure of their candidate’s principled position.

The Conservative candidate in the London, Ontario riding where a federal bi-election is currently underway is unexpectedly refusing to answer questionnaires from life and family groups which could be among her strongest supporters.  Dianne Haskett is the only one of seven candidates refusing to answer questionnaires from Citizen Impact London which focussed on family issues and from Campaign Life Coalition which focussed on life issues.

Alex Schadenberg of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition told that in conversation with Haskett, considered to be strongly pro-life and pro-family, the candidate clearly stated the Conservative Party forbade her from answering questionnaires. 

The pro-life and pro-family movements in Canada are very concerned with the policy as it greatly hampers the opportunity for those concerned with life and family issues to access the true stance of candidates on these crucial issues.  The policy also impedes life and family groups from promoting pro-life and pro-family candidates among their supporters.

“People of faith are encouraged, in fact even obliged to vote based on these essential criteria,” Mary Ellen Douglas of Campaign Life Coalition told 

Douglas suggested that questionnaires represent the best way of getting truthful answers out of candidates.  “We’ve found ‘I’m pro-life’ can mean a lot of different things to different people. Questionnaires provide us with an objective standard on where candidates stand.”

Douglas noted that without these informal but signed intentions of commitment to specific principles the national pro-life organization is unable to mobilize support for candidates.  CLC’s supporters, says Douglas, want clear information before making any commitment to support or vote for supposedly pro-life candidates. 

Douglas noted that the Conservative policy is detrimental politically and stems from the “Red-Tory” wing of the party.  “When the Reformers joined the Conservatives, they vowed to bring a new openness and desire to reflect the wishes of the grassroots of the Party,” she said. 

“No wonder the media can accuse the Tories of a ‘hidden agenda’ when this sort of thing goes on.”

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