By John-Henry Westen

Conservative logoOTTAWA, January 13, 2006 ( – Across the country Conservative candidates have been telling the pro-life group Campaign Life Coalition that they are being forbidden to answer the group’s pro-life questionnaire. Several candidates even sent in an unsigned memo claiming it came from party headquarters saying that answering questionnaires was not allowed. While Party officials denied the charges in comments to, new information has shown that the directives did indeed come from Party headquarters. was informed by the Conservative press office earlier this week, that there is no policy or directive from headquarters telling candidates not to answer questionnaires. The spokesman added that since pro-life groups “have already received questionnaire responses from MPs and other candidates . . . so (a policy against responses) is obviously not the case.” (see the original coverage: )

Conservative Candidate for Wetaskiwin Alberta, Blaine Calkins, had earlier sent an email to CLC indicating that “Conservative Party policy is that we do not respond to surveys or questionnaires of any kind.” However, after the publication of the story on the suppression by Party headquarters, Calkins called to suggest that the policy was not that of the Conservative Party as a whole but only that of his particular Conservative Party campaign.

However, has since acquired a copy of a signed email from Conservative Party headquarters specifically telling a Conservative candidate not to answer the questionnaire. The email is signed by Jerra Byrne, the Conservative Party’s Political Operations Officer for Western and Northern Canada. contacted Byrne but she refused comment saying, “I can’t speak to the media”.

It seems the scheme to shut down information on candidates is a family trait for the Byrne’s who are movers and shakers in the Conservative apparatus. Campaign Life notes that Jenni Byrne, Jerra’s sister, and the Political Operations Manager of the Conservative Party for Ontario was responsible for pressuring candidates not to sign questionnaires in the last federal election.

CLC National President Jim Hughes told, that by refusing to let candidates candidly reveal their views on life and family issues, “they’re leaving themselves open to charges of a hidden agenda again.”

Hughes also added that candidates who go along with such directives from campaign managers and partyÂbureaucratsÂare “revealing a rather weak commitment to their constituents and to principles.” HughesÂcontinued, “they may not realize it, but they are setting themselves up to become mere party functionaries rather than servants of the people when they won’t even tell voters their views onÂthe lifeÂor marriageÂissues”. “Candidates whoÂhaveÂanswered all our questions,Âeven when they disagree with us, deserve more respect for theirÂopenness and confidence in their personal beliefs”, he added.

The directives telling candidates not to respond to pro-life and pro-family questionnaires – now known to be coming from Party headquarters – go against the spirit of the Conservative Party which at its foundation made a commitment to openness and freedom for its elected members to vote according to their consciences on moral issues.