Cardigan MP ensnared by Trudeau error

Federal Liberal leader fumbles badly on a simple Charter of Rights ruling

Published on June 20, 2014

P.E.I. MP Lawrence MacAulay told The Guardian he expects to be permitted to vote pro-life in any future votes on abortion, but an official with leader Justin Trudeau’s office says that’s not the case.

Federal Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau didn’t do himself, his party or Cardigan MP Lawrence MacAulay any favours by fumbling his pro-choice ruling on the abortion issue. Mr. MacAulay hoped a grandfather clause would exempt him from supporting any abortion bill that might come before the House of Commons. Parliament has failed to pass replacement legislation after the Supreme Court of Canada’s 1988 ruling striking down the country’s abortion law as unconstitutional under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The country has been left with only the court’s ruling for over 25 years, without the guidance of a replacement law, since those same judges said the state should also have an interest in the protection of the unborn.

Mr. Trudeau ordered that all candidates must declare as pro-choice before being allowed to run for the party in the next election. Then he clarified that to say it wouldn’t apply to sitting MPs who are pro-life. Mr. MacAulay grasped at that straw since his pro-life stand is well known, believing he could vote his conscience on the matter.

The grandfather clause would respect, to a certain extent, their choices, the leader had said. Mr. MacAulay felt he was unaffected, that he could vote whatever way he chose. It took one day for Mr. Trudeau to say: “Sorry, Lawrence, you may have a personal opinion on the issue but you will be required to vote party lines.”

A thunderstruck Mr. MacAulay had to backtrack and say he would bow to his leader’s wishes, while Mr. Trudeau had to clarify his own comments for the benefit of other MPs or potential candidates. The confusion in Cardigan has helped spotlight Liberal waffling on the issue.

Mr. Trudeau could have simply said his party would follow the court’s ruling on the Charter issue and obey the law of the land. End of story. But like so many of his decisions, he waded into the abortion debate hornet’s nest without a clear plan and without the courtesy of informing his MPs. It turned out neither the leader nor his MPs were exactly sure what his initial comments actually meant.

Cardigan voters now face a confusing decision: “Do I vote for a pro-life candidate who will vote pro-choice?” Hmmm.

A reprieve for Cornwall

Public transit users in Cornwall got an 11th-hour reprieve this week as council reversed a plan to withdraw from a regional bus system. The relieved citizens in attendance who broke out into applause following the vote gave testament that council made the wise and correct decision. The highly controversial motion to pull out of a network involving Charlottetown and Stratford was passed last December and has been hotly debated ever since.

As a progressive, growing town, Cornwall has an obligation to provide some form of public transportation options for its citizens. Yes, there might have been disappointing numbers in ridership, and the costs might not have seemed worth the expense, but the town must look after residents who don’t have other means of transportation.

The challenge facing council is to work at growing those ridership numbers while citizens must utilize this valuable public transit option. Deputy Mayor Corey Frizzell, who voted both times to kill the bus service, softened his stance Wednesday night. He is concerned at the extra $40,000 cost for the rest of this year. Frizzell has suggested using vans or taxi sharing as some possible options to large, almost empty buses. He would be wise to develop a sound transit plan before the November elections when he is seeking the mayor’s chair.