Analysis by Paul Tuns
Editor, The Interim newspaper
TORONTO, September 30, 2008 (LifeSiteNews.com) – On Sept. 8, Prime Minister Stephen Harper went to the Governor General and asked that an election be called for Oct. 14. The opposition criticized the move considering that by law an election was scheduled for October 2009. Pundits said the Tories were taking advantage of the Liberals poor polling numbers.
Pro-life leaders were among those who criticized the election call. In an interview with LifeSiteNews.com, Campaign Life Coalition national president Jim Hughes said, “There doesn’t seem to be any clear cut issues facing the Canadian electorate,” then adding that the most important issues are routinely ignored: “The issues that are important to us have been carefully concealed and the parties are still fighting like crazy to ensure that the topics don’t even come up.”
Days before the election call, the Conservatives sought to remove abortion from the public debate by effectively killing C-484, a private member’s bill that would recognize the unborn victims of crime. The government said it would introduce an alternative bill that would make pregnancy as an aggravating factor in sentencing but not recognize the unborn wanted child as a second victim of a crime.
During a pre-campaign rally for his Green Shift plan, Liberal leader Stephane Dion answered a question about his position on C-484 by saying he opposed the bill because he claimed it threatened legal abortion. Dion reiterated his support for “women’s rights to choose” (sic) and then demanded to know where Stephen Harper stood on the abortion issue. “I think all Canadians have the right to know what the party leader thinks,” Dion told his Oakville, Ont., audience. “I gave my opinion. I want to hear the opinion of Stephen Harper.” Many newspapers put the challenge on their front-page and television news led off their programs with the story.
The move is reminiscent of past desperate moves by Liberal leaders to scare voters over some mythical Conservative hidden agenda. Harper might have nixed C-484 to quell a debate over fetal rights before it even started.
But as cynical as Dion was in trying to bait Harper into discussing abortion, the Liberal leader has a point: Canadians have the right to know where the leaders stand on the abortion issue. More importantly, the parties and their leaders should be clear about such an important issue.
The Christian Heritage Party is the only party that has an official, consistent pro-life policy.
Dion is pro-abortion, although the Liberal Party has no official position on the issue; for the past few decades, the caucus has had a sizable pro-life contingent although over time it has shrunk significantly. The NDP has an officially pro-abortion platform and its leader Jack Layton and almost all its MPs share those views. Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe is pro-abortion, as are nearly all of his colleagues.
Harper and the Conservative Party have skillfully sidestepped the issue for years.
In 1993 when running for the Reform Party in Calgary, Harper told CLC he would represent the views of his constituents and noted that having already polled their views on the issue, would vote to keep abortion legal. CLC consequently rated him pro-abortion. Since then he has mostly dodged the issue.
During the 2006 election Harper stated that a Conservative government would not introduce abortion legislation and that he would do everything in his power to prevent any of his MPs from doing so, either. During an interview that same year, he told Global News that his “views on the abortion issue are complex” and “I don’t fall into either of the polar extremes on this issue.” This led National Post columnist Fr. Raymond de Souza to observe that by refusing to do anything, he has endorsed the status quo of abortion-on-demand. By default, Fr. de Souza said Harper has fallen on the pro-abortion extreme of abortion through nine months, for any reason, at taxpayers’ expense.
The Conservative Party has no official position on abortion although it has a large number of pro-life MPs. That number, however, is falling, as a growing number of socially liberal MPs are elected from Quebec.
Hughes laments the number of former Reform MPs, many of whom were pro-life, that are retiring from politics. “They were like a breath of fresh air on Parliament Hill,” said Hughes, but suggested many became jaded by central control of the PMO. He said their outspokenness on pro-life issues will be missed and wonders who will step up to ensure that the unborn have a voice around the Tory caucus table.
Campaign Life Coalition is the only organization fighting for the primacy of life issues during the election. Other groups consider a wide variety of socially conservative issues such as abortion or euthanasia, but also the homosexual agenda, legalization of prostitution and marijuana, the status of the human rights commissions and other matters; only CLC rates the protection of innocent human life as the paramount issue.
CLC’s direction to supporters is to consider the position of the individual candidates before the views of the leaders or the party platforms. This is counter-intuitive considering the amount of media coverage that the leaders get. Most voters are inundated with information about the leaders and parties but there is very little information about local candidates. That is why Hughes urges all pro-lifers to raise the issue with candidates and their supporters at the doorstep, when campaign headquarters call, and at public debates.
Hughes explained to LifeSiteNews.com how to do that: “Ask, ‘where do you stand on the killing of children before birth?’ … ‘Do you support the concept of killing people at the other end of life?’ … Just make it hot and don’t let them get away with avoiding the issue, giving just the party position or fudging their answers. They have an obligation to be up front with you. Be persistent, but also always be respectful.”
Hughes told The Interim that it never makes sense to vote against a pro-life candidate simply because of the party label he or she may run under. “We need a pro-life majority in Parliament,” he explained. “It doesn’t matter what party the MP belongs to, we just need men and women who are willing to stand up for life.”
This article was originally published in the October 2008 edition of the Interim.