Canadian Conservative policy convention follows leader, votes to not ‘reopen’ abortion debate
HALIFAX, Nova Scotia, August 27, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) — Pro-life advocates won big at the Conservative Party of Canada policy convention, but Tory leader Andrew Scheer’s “meddling” cost them their top prize, says Campaign Life Coalition.
That was a resolution to delete Article 65, which states “a Conservative Government will not support any legislation to regulate abortion,” from the party’s policy handbook.
Canada’s national pro-life political lobbying group, CLC reported Sunday that some 2,000 delegates passed eight pro-life, pro-family, and pro-free speech policy resolutions at the Halifax convention last weekend.
“Overall, the pro-life-and-family movement had a hugely successful convention,” said CLC vice president Jeff Gunnarson.
“We’re very pleased. We’ve got a lot more pro-life policies in the Conservative Party policy book than when we started,” he told LifeSiteNews.
Those include supporting a born-alive infant protection law; excluding abortion funding from foreign aid programs; opposing the extension of euthanasia to minors or for psychological illness only; and supporting a national palliative care strategy that excludes euthanasia.
Moreover, a general policy condemning compelled speech, such as that imposed by Liberal government’s gender ideology Bill C-16, and another condemning “values tests,” such as the Liberal summer jobs abortion attestation, also passed unanimously.
But in Saturday’s plenary, delegates narrowly defeated a resolution to nix Article 65 by 53 to 47 percent.
Earlier in the day, Scheer told several media outlets that regardless of the vote’s outcome, his government would keep abortion and other social divisive issues off limits.
“I’ve made it very clear that, as prime minister, I will not reopen that debate. I will not introduce legislation to reopen divisive issues or to reopen issues that have already been settled by previous governments,” he told Canadian Press.
“A leader’s job is to find common ground,” he added. “I’m not going to bring in legislation, bring in proposals that would divide our own caucus, divide our own party and divide Canadians.”
Commentators had noted that Quebec MP Maxime Bernier’s high-profile exit from the party Thursday to start his own -- after accusing the Tories of being “too intellectually and morally corrupt to reform” -- left Scheer doubling down on the need for unity.
According to one delegate, MPs were emailed two “talking points” on the resolution to delete Article 65: “Conservatives are focused on the many issues that unite us,” and “Andrew Scheer has made it clear that a future Conservative government will not re-open the abortion debate.”
But if Article 65 “is so divisive, why don’t you just get rid of it, so it doesn’t divide it any more?” Gunnarson countered.
He believes the resolution would have passed had Scheer “not interfered in and manipulated the policy process by telling the Canadian Press hours before the vote, and sending a memo to MPs mere minutes before the plenary started that he would not re-open the abortion debate even if delegates voted to delete [Article] 65.”
Scheer’s “meddling intimidated enough delegates and MPs to cause the resolution’s defeat,” Gunnarson said.
The battle over Article 65 also underscored differences between Campaign Life Coalition’s approach to policy and that of other pro-life groups and even some pro-life MPs.
Of the two resolutions to nix Article 65, one went much further, replacing it with a policy recognizing that “it is a perfectly valid legislative objective to protect the life of the unborn child.”
However, this pro-life motion didn’t pass Friday’s breakout session because “some pro-life organizations and pro-life MPs decided to defeat it, and said as much,” Gunnarson told LifeSiteNews.
That included Saskatchewan MP Cathay Wagantall and Alberta MP Garnett Genuis, who supported the weaker motion to delete Article 65, but advised delegates to vote against the pro-life policy, as they did themselves, he said.
“Think about that for a moment,” added Gunnarson.
“Basically, we had two resolutions to defeat Article 65. One was to delete it and that’s the end of it, another was to delete it and add a pro-life policy. If you’re pro-life, you vote for the pro-life policy,” he said.
“It’s really disheartening,”
On the positive side, Campaign Life Coalition “made fantastic connections, people were really pleased with our organized efforts, and our voters' guide went over well,” said Gunnarson.
Moreover, “there’s massive support in the party’s base for the pro-life position,” pointed out Jack Fonseca, Campaign Life Coalition’s senior political strategist.
“Come next convention – wherever that is — we’re confident Article 65 will finally be removed, and we’ll accumulate even more policy wins on life, family, faith and freedom,” he said.
“In the meantime, we’ll be working to nominate and elect many more pro-life, Conservative MPs for 2019.”
Write to Lianne Laurence at [email protected]