© Guardian photo by Teresa Wright
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau answers media questions as the party's caucus meetings in P.E.I. wrapped up in this Guardian file photo.
Liberal leader offers candidates no choice but be pro-choice in morally divisive debate
A week after federal Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau’s stunning announcement that only pro-choice candidates will be allowed to represent the party in the 2015 federal election, Canadians are still grappling with the fallout. Mr. Trudeau was elected leader on the promise of listening, consensus, local autonomy and welcoming all to the
‘Big Tent’ party because various viewpoints are welcome.
But Mr. Trudeau has done everything but follow that policy. His brash announcement on legalization of marijuana caught many unawares. Booting Liberal senators to the curb came as a complete surprise. The Liberals adopted a pro-abortion plank at its 2012 platform meeting but there was no suggestion he would whip candidates to be pro-choice.
Mr. Trudeau is pro-choice on the abortion issue but offers his candidates no choice or personal belief or the option to vote their conscience. Isn’t this hypocritical? He has allowed sitting MPs to re-offer no matter their abortion stand, but former Liberal MPs who lost in the last election face a dilemma as they seek to offer again in 2015.
It seems like a poor time to drive away soft Liberal and soft Conservative voters looking for an excuse not to vote for Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
A recent national poll shows 49 per cent of Canadians support abortion whenever a woman wants one.
Of the other 51 per cent, only six per cent support banning abortion in any circumstance while 60 per cent would support abortion with some limits. The same Ipsos data suggest the federal Tories, with its formidable socially conservative wing, have drawn large numbers of conservative Roman Catholics away from the Liberals in the past decade. Mr. Trudeau’s announcement last week would likely leave them there for the next election. They fear that assisted suicide and euthanasia are the next steps on a slippery slope.
On the abortion issue, the federal Conservatives have the same stand as P.E.I.’s Liberals — support the status quo. Neither party wants to reopen the debate. Not so Mr. Trudeau who is creating the Liberal party in his own image. Shouldn’t party policy come from conventions and by consensus which the leader enforces?
In 1988 the Supreme Court ruled the section of the Criminal Code dealing with abortion was unconstitutional. Challenges to the ruling were rejected under the Charter of Rights of Freedoms. It can be argued that Mr. Trudeau is simply following the law of the land because women have a legal and constitutional right to an abortion. Would Mr. Trudeau or Canadians accept Liberal candidates who are opposed to bilingualism, the Charter of Rights, Medicare or old age pensions?
Under Mr. Trudeau, years of Liberal waffling are over on the issue of abortion. Now it’s the Conservatives who appear to be waffling on key issues, falling into the same trap which ensnared the Liberals under Jean Chretien and Paul Martin.
The Liberals saw the NDP become the official Opposition because it has a clear stand on key issues. It was obviously attractive in Quebec. Is Mr. Trudeau so devious or so smart that he wants to force voters on the centre-left to choose his Liberals over the NDP next year as the best way to defeat Mr. Harper — that the only way to turf the Tories is to vote Liberal? Or where Mr. Harper united the right wing parties of Reform and Progressive Conservatives to win power, is Mr. Trudeau positioning for a merger of Liberals and NDP as the only way to defeat the Conservatives?
On a ballot box issue of abortion, the Conservatives will win. The question is, how many Canadians will vote solely on this issue. Mr. Trudeau is gambling that a majority will not.