OTTAWA, October 27, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – Although much about the future election of a federal Conservative leader remains unsettled at this time, vice-president of Campaign Life Coaltion Jeff Gunnarson says that one thing is absolutely crucial: pro-life and pro-family advocates must get involved.
“We have to be at the ready. We can’t just throw up our hands and retreat into our caves,” he told LifeSiteNews. “It’s not a time to retreat, it’s a time to advance.”
After 11 years as leader, and some 100 days shy of 10 years as prime minister, Stephen Harper resigned as leader of the Conservative Party when the Liberals sailed to a majority victory on October 19. He remains the MP for Calgary Southwest.
Because Liberal leader and Prime Minister-elect Justin Trudeau has unilaterally imposed an intolerant and exclusionary policy that pro-lifers need not apply, and because the NDP has a longstanding similar intolerance of pro-lifers, “we have to work with the Conservative Party,” Gunnarson said.
“And to get anywhere on life and family issues, we’re going to have to dig in, double up our efforts, and engage like we’ve never engaged before.”
Moreover, a leadership race is “an opportune time for pro-lifers to get involved,” he said. “It’s like a nomination campaign, in a way, where only a small number of people can determine who will lead the party.”
It’s unclear at this time when the reduced caucus of 99 Conservative MPs will, along with the 47 sitting Conservative senators, vote for an interim leader. According to the Canadian Press, the Conservative caucus will meet November 5.
There are three declared MPs in the running for interim leader at this time: Diane Finley, veteran MP for Haldimand-Norfolk and former minister of public works; Rob Nicholson, elected for his fifth term as MP for Niagara Falls and outgoing Minister of Foreign Affairs; and Erin O’Toole, MP for Durham and outgoing Veteran Affairs Minister.
Michelle Rempel, the 35-year-old MP for Calgary Nose Hill who last week released a barrage of tweets mulling about her leadership qualities and the opposition she might face because of her sex and inexperience, is also considering running for interim leader, the Canadian Press reported.
Following Rempel’s much publicized tweet-fest, pundits speculated she was considering the top job, and at this point, Rempel hasn’t definitively ruled that out.
The CPC Constitution makes clear that the interim leader is barred from a leadership bid.
Also unclear at this time are the precise rules that will govern the leadership selection and timeline, although a leadership election organizing committee was formed the day after the election to decide these issues.
According to the Conservative Party of Canada’s constitution, the contest must use the “one-person, one-vote” system similar to that the Ontario Progressive Conservatives used in the spring of 2015 to select leader Patrick Brown.
But regardless of how, or when the election will take place, or who declares for the race, Gunnarson urged pro-lifers not to wait and see, but to get involved immediately.
“We do not have to jump into this leadership contest based on the candidates that are running,” he said. “That’s not the incentive. The incentive is to find a good candidate to run.”
Pro-life and pro-family advocates should buy memberships now in the Conservative Party, he said. “It’s a $15 insurance policy that you’re going to be able to vote for a pro-life candidate if one should materialize.”
And they shouldn’t stop there, he asserted, but join the local Conservative riding association and “get on the board of their local executive” to be in a position to be a convention delegate – if the Conservatives decide to go that route – and to take part in next fall’s policy convention.
They should also actively seek to draft pro-life candidates. “It’s incumbent upon these people to find these good people to lead the party as well,” Gunnarson said. “They can’t just buy a membership and go home, they have to be on the look out.”
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He included in the pool of potential pro-life candidates the 24 pro-life MPs who retired before this federal election.
There are also the 23 pro-life MPs who were defeated October 19, and the 41 identified pro-life MPs heading back to Parliament, including outgoing minister of defense Jason Kenney, long considered a strong contender for Tory top job but who has yet to declare his intentions.
Indeed, scarcely had Harper stepped down than media floated several names as potential leaders, of whom at least three – former PC Premier of Quebec Jean Charest, current Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, and current BC Premier Christy Clark – have since publicly declared they aren’t candidates.
According to the Canadian Press, Wall will be seeking his third mandate in the April 2016 Saskatchewan election.
The remaining roster of rumored candidates who have, at this time, neither confirmed nor denied their intentions include outgoing cabinet ministers Rona Ambrose, Maxime Bernier, Tony Clement, Michelle Rempel, Lisa Raitt, Kellie Leitch, and Jason Kenney, and backbencher Michael Chong.
Rumored candidates who are not sitting MPs include former minister Peter MacKay, who did not seek re-election; Doug Ford, brother of former Toronto mayor Rob Ford; and Mark Mulroney, son of former Conservative Prime Minister Brian, brother to broadcaster Ben Mulroney, and National Bank’s Toronto-based head of capital equity markets.
Pro-life endorsements for potential candidates
Many of these rumored contenders are not supportable according to Campaign Life Coalition, which rates candidates based on their voting record, a questionnaire, public statements and statements to constituents.
The only name bandied about for leader whom CLC has endorsed with its “green light” rating is Jason Kenney, 47, MP for Calgary Southeast and outgoing minister of defense. He has a perfect pro-life voting record and is open about his pro-life views.
CLC has red-lighted the following as pro-abortion:
- Maxime Bernier, 52, MP for Beauce, QP and outgoing minister of small business and tourism, and agriculture;
- Michael Chong, 43, MP for Wellington-Halton Hills;
- Tony Clement, 54, MP for Parry Sound-Muskoka and outgoing president of the Treasury Board;
- Lisa Raitt, 47, MP Milton and outgoing Minister of Transport;
- Michelle Rempel, 35, MP for Calgary Nose Hill and outgoing Minister of State responsible for Western Economic Diversification Canada;
- and Peter MacKay, 50, former MP for Central Nova and perennial Harper cabinet minister.
CLC granted “yellow light” status, which means caution because of insufficient data or mixed record, to:
- Kellie Leitch, 45, MP for Simcoe-Grey, ON and outgoing minister of labour and for status of women. CLC updated Leitch from “red light” to “yellow light” after she told an all candidates’ meeting she was pro-life and that “a big part of that” was because of her work as a paediatric surgeon, as LifeSiteNews reported. CLC’s recent data, however, suggests otherwise: Leitch voted against the Stephen Woodworth’s motion M 312, which proposed a committee study scientific evidence of when human life begins in the womb. She also voted for the now–defunct transgendered “rights” bill, and marched in Toronto’s Pride Parade.
- Rona Ambrose, 46-year-old MP for Alberta riding of Sturgeon River Parkland and outgoing health minister. As minister for the status of women, Ambrose voted in favor of Stephen Woodsworth’s M-312, for which she was fiercely criticized and petitioned by thousands to resign. Ambrose tweeted in her defense: “I have repeatedly raised concerns about discrimination of girls by sex selection abortion: no law needed, but we need awareness!” Andrea Mrozek, executive director director of the Institute of Marriage and Family Canada told the National Post that she didn’t have “a sweet clue as to whether or not Ambrose is actually pro-life or not…I’d be pretty thrilled if she were, but I never thought she was and I still don’t.” Also, under Ambrose’s watch as Health Minister, the abortion pill RU-486 was legalized earlier this year.
Data on the pro-life convictions of Doug Ford and Mark Mulroney are not available at this time.