Trudeau’s decision on abortion issue a hypocritical move

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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.

Organizations: Progressive Conservatives, Liberal MPs, NDP Charter Supreme Court

Geographic location: P.E.I., Quebec

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Recent comments

  • Owen
    May 16, 2014 - 09:26

    Makes me cry. Ask the child if he or she wants to live. The little one is fighting with every fiber of it's being to live. It is quiet obvious they have great hopes. Where is their voice where are their rights? How cold and icy can people be? To murder the most innocent. The very thought should not exist. That amount of nonchalant infant murders in Canada is going to further your vain political career is black hearted, wicked. Don't dare to cloud the "truth" with other issues and deceitful words. I am a person and want to live I have a lot to offer the world I don't have a name yet and am full of wonder and love I am a baby I'm just getting started please don't kill me.

    • Andy Bellerive
      May 18, 2014 - 12:03

      Let's just pretend I agreed with the sentiment... SO THEN let's do something about it: let's raise taxes with which to offer greater financial aid to single mothers, invest in sex-ed for our kids to make them sexually intelligent responsible earlier, as well as offer robust access to contraceptives for everybody who is sexually active. Let's also pay more for maternity leave so that the "wage gap" isn't justified by "mother has to stay home and raise the kid," to make the choice (especially for single mothers) between child and career less divisive. Are you on board for all of these? This is how you reduce the number of abortions. Are you prepared to do advocate for any of this? Abortion is like addiction. It reflects a very specific social ill. If you treat addicts like criminals, you are not addressing any problem, and on the contrary you often create environments where addiction flourishes. In the same way, the most harsh anti-abortion environments are the ones where they happen most often, in the most dangerous ways. Legal and safe access to abortion services, as well as the adoption of the practices I outlined above, are TRIED AND TRUE means to drastically lower the rates of both dangerous abortions (where the life of the mother is at risk) as well as LEGAL abortions. I get your moral outrage feels good and uncomplicated. It's too bad that it makes you directly contribute to the problem you say you care so much about. How cold and icy can people be, where they care more about an unborn baby but nothing about the struggling single mother? Your contribution so far was nothing except to call this woman a "murderer" and "poor babies." Do a better job convincing us you're a part of the solution.

  • Ryan Gallant
    May 15, 2014 - 08:19

    This decision by Mr. Trudeau may or may not be politically expedient, but insomuch as it stifles qualitative political discussion, it is irresponsible. Despite what the politicians of today may think (and I include Mr. Harper and Mr. Mulcair in that group), a discussion and legislation on abortion is needed in Parliament, as afraid as everyone on both sides is of that prospect. In R. v. Morgentaler, nearly 30 years ago, the Supreme Court lobbed the ball back into the legislative branch, asking it to legislate on the matter. Since then, no law has been in place in Canada to enunciate any parameters, guidelines, or otherwise on the issue. Many countries have had that discussion and set down clear law on abortion and on details such as trimester limits, selective sex abortion, etc.. For such a supposedly hot-button issue, it is absurd that there has been no legal framework delineating the matter for almost thirty years. As long as there is uncertainty and refusal to discuss on the political level in Canada, the fear and hatred on both sides will continue to fester.

  • @nitpicker
    May 15, 2014 - 07:38

    Nitpicker .. do the math. ----- 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. ----- SIX percent do not support abortion under any circumstances. Hardly a majority.

  • Hugh Marshall
    May 14, 2014 - 14:32

    If a constituent is in need of abortion services, what business is it of their MP? No elected official should be anti women's rights.

    • nitpicker
      May 14, 2014 - 16:02

      Here's the conundrum: Elected officials are elected to represent the population, and the reality is, a significant portion of the population does not favor abortion.

    • Andy Bellerive
      May 18, 2014 - 11:48

      Agreed. So long as the population is supporting their anti-choice position with ignorance ("think of the BABIES"), then people will argue that their backwards views needs representation. It's too bad - the anti-choice movement is directly responsible for all the dangerous abortions that brought this conversation up in the first place. Very PC - "abortion is a CRIME, we are TOUGH ON CRIME," ignoring any actual evidence or real-life consequences of their actions. It's so nice that racists and homophobes that wish they had better representation in government don't get humored anymore. We know that even though some voters may feel "that gay guy should bite a curb," we agree that they are bigots and have no right to infringe on the lives of others. Let's try to turn the script around though - elected officials are elected to represent the population, there are pro-life Conservatives, Harper explicitly says he welcomes all views in his party... Except he will not re-open the abortion debate. THAT'S hypocrisy. At least Trudeau is putting his political capital where his mouth is. Harper could just as easily have said "we would never turn racists away from our party" for all the "support" he's giving the movement. He knows his base likes words more than action though, so it may work for him.