Liberal leadership hopefuls avoid moral issues
Nearly nine months into an interminably long Liberal leadership campaign, moral issues have made nary a mark. Looking at the numerous speeches, major media interviews, policy platforms and candidates’ debates, abortion has been mentioned by just one leadership candidate, while a few have praised the Martin government for adopting same-sex “marriage.” Otherwise, there has been very little talk about moral issues.
Michael Ignatieff, the Canadian-born Harvard professor often touted (by champions and critics alike) as the next Pierre Trudeau, was invited to write about his vision for Canada in Maclean’s. In the fourth paragraph of a four-page article in the Sept. 4 edition, Ignatieff congratulated Canada for “creat(ing) a distinctly progressive society” in which “we believe in the equality of all citizens, regardless of sexual orientation, including rights to marriage.” He also claimed that “majorities of Canadians believe that while abortion should be rare, it should be a protected right for all women.”
How Clintonian! “Rare but protected” must be the Canadian version of “safe, legal and rare.”
As Jim Hughes notes in the October CLC National News, “Ignatieff has identified his essential values, which he says are Canadian values.”
Ignatieff, an internationally recognized expert on human rights, has repeatedly congratulated the Liberal party for its embrace of same-sex “marriage.” During the March 2005 Liberal policy convention, he told the assembled that the country is in the vanguard of new conceptions of human rights. One shudders, considering the as-yet-unexplored implications of what that means. What is clear, however, is that Ignatieff is quick to assume liberal social values – his own policy preferences – are synonymous with Canadian values.
The conventional wisdom is that Ignatieff is the odds-on favourite to become the next Liberal leader, but recent polls indicate he might have an uphill battle to win the party’s crown.
It is hard to believe that former Ontario NDP premier Bob Rae is the most serious challenger. His stewardship of the provincial economy was abysmal, with unemployment and budget deficits going through the roof. It seems strange that the average Ontarian would forget the economic hardship the province experienced under his reign.
Pro-life and pro-family voters, however, do not forget his radical legacy. From 1990 through 1995, Rae aggressively pushed a pro-abortion, pro-gay agenda. In 1994, he introduced an ambitious gay rights bill that included adoption rights for homosexuals, despite opposition to it from half his own caucus. The bill was ultimately defeated, but it softened the public and politicians for future expansion of special rights for homosexuals.
Of special concern to pro-lifers was the “temporary” injunction prohibiting pro-life witnessing near abortion facilities. In 1994, Rae’s minister of justice, radical feminist Marion Boyd, sought and obtained a temporary injunction to prevent pro-life witnessing within 60 feet of locations where abortions were committed, claiming it was needed for the safety of both staff and clients. The “temporary” injunction is still in force 12 years later.
While Rae appears to have moderated his economic stances, as he no longer embraces socialism, he has not repudiated his extreme socialist views on moral issues.
Most of the rest of the field is not much better.
As Paul Martin’s minister of social development, Ken Dryden was primarily responsible for the creation of a national daycare scheme. Unable to obtain an agreement from the premiers for a national program, he worked out deals with each province. He indicated that not only does he favour a universal daycare program but, more alarmingly, that such childcare arrangements are superior in terms of child development compared to having a parent stay at home to raise a child or for children to be taken care of by family or close friends. The natural conclusion of such thinking is that daycare should be mandatory. Many pro-family groups are extremely concerned about the Liberals instituting such a plan.
In 2005, Dryden voted for same-sex “marriage” and is believed to support abortion, although he has refused to answer a CLC questionnaire.
Scott Brison is an openly homosexual MP from Kings-Hants (Nova Scotia) who left the Progressive Conservative party when it merged with the Canadian Alliance due to what he called the “extreme” social conservatism of some of his new colleagues. As late as Dec. 10, 2003, he was still a Tory and supported the merger, but two days later crossed the floor and was promptly named parliamentary secretary in Paul Martin’s new government and to the cabinet after the 2004 election. According to his voting record, he supports same-sex “marriage,” the inclusion of homosexuals under special hate crimes protections, universal daycare and embryonic stem cell research. He has publicly stated he supports abortion and even voted against M-83, a motion that would have forced the government to examine whether abortion is medically necessary. He has also stated he supports euthanasia.
Stephan Dion, MP from Saint-Laurent-Cartierville, is the only Quebecker in the race. He has never responded to a CLC questionnaire, but is known to have supported the Liberal government’s bills legalizing embryonic stem cell research and same sex “marriage.” He seems to support the Martin-Dryden universal daycare initiative. If anything, he seems less strident about such issues than some of his leadership rivals.
Hedy Fry is a radical feminist from Vancouver Centre, a long-time advocate of abortion, same-sex “marriage” and other anti-life/anti-family policies. On the seven life and family votes since 2002, Fry has voted the wrong way every time. She has made the legalization of prostitution a centerpiece of her leadership bid. Fry is considered a fringe candidate, but is no doubt softening opposition to legal prostitution as she tours the country.
Martha Hall Findlay is also considered a fringe candidate. A Toronto lawyer who lost as a Liberal candidate to Belinda Stronach when the millionairess ran as a Conservative in Newmarket-Aurora in 2004, Hall Findlay refused to answer a CLC questionnaire in 2004, but sent a letter stating that she was pro-abortion. Hall Findlay was slated to be the Liberal candidate in the last election, but was pushed aside when Stronach crossed the floor and joined Martin’s cabinet. It is assumed that her leadership bid is an attempt to create a greater profile for herself if she decides to dip her toe back into political waters.
When Gerard Kennedy ran for the Ontario Liberal leadership in 1996, CLC rated him “opposed to abortion” but supportive of abortion funding through OHIP. During that same race, The Interim reported he preferred to tackle the “root causes” of abortion, namely poverty. In responses to pro-life constituents, he said he was open to conscience protection for healthcare workers and informed consent for women seeking abortions, but never pressed the Harris Tories on these issues when he was Liberal health critic. In 1996, he voted against Bill 91, which would have provided parental consultation for minors seeking medical treatment (including abortions).
On the gay agenda, his record is much more straightforward – he’s a champion of the gay rights movement. In 1996, he was praised by the homosexualist newspaper Xtra! for his support of common-law “marriage” and adoption rights for homosexual couples, long before such issues entered the mainstream of political discussion.
Two candidates have already dropped out of the race. Carolyn Bennett, an MP from St. Paul’s (Toronto), is a feminist, abortion advocate and supporter of the gay rights movement. In May of this year, she co-hosted a press conference announcing the creation of a pro-abortion outreach program in conjunction with the American group, the National Abortion Federation. When she dropped out of the race, she backed Rae. Another Toronto-area MP (Vaughan), Maurizio Bevilacqua, who touted himself as a business Liberal with “socially progressive views” on abortion and marriage, dropped out of the race in August and threw his support behind Rae.
Only candidate to vote pro-life
The only leadership hopeful who is not solidly pro-abortion and pro same-sex “marriage” is MP Joe Volpe (Eglinton-Lawrence) who has indicated in the past that he was pro-life and pro-marriage. During the debate over Bill C-43 in 1989 and 1990, he indicated pro-life sentiments and voted against Brian Mulroney’s flawed abortion bill, but added he was “uncomfortable” being associated with the pro-life cause. In a 1998 vote on euthanasia, he was conspicuously absent. In 1999, he voted against using the notwithstanding clause to make the possession of child porn illegal. In 2003 and again during the 2004 election, Volpe spoke against same-sex “marriage,” but as a cabinet minister under Paul Martin, voted for redefining marriage in 2005. On the plus side, he voted against C-13 (embryonic stem cell research and cloning) and C-250 (Svend Robinson’s hate crimes bill) but was absent on M-83, which would have forced the government to explore the medical necessity of abortion. Although he indicated he was pro-life (with exceptions) in the 2004 CLC questionnaire, in 2006 he refused to respond.
Still, as CLC’s Jim Hughes notes, “Joe Volpe is the only Liberal leadership candidate who has voted pro-life and pro-family on some issues.”
It is pathetic that of the 10 current or former leadership hopefuls, not one has unambiguously pro-life credentials and nearly all of them are identifiably pro-abortion and anti-family. Oblivious to the wide variety of views within the Conservative party, critics often urge the Tories to become a “big tent” inclusive of different views, especially on moral issues. It is curious that this criticism is never levelled against the Liberals, considering the growing pro-abortion and pro-gay rights orthodoxy of the party. Those views, however, are not clearly Liberal values. Nearly a quarter of the Liberal caucus express at least some pro-life and pro-family sentiments. Furthermore, the sizeable Catholic and ethnic base of the Liberal party surely does not embrace the social liberalism pushed by the party’s leadership.
Considering these realities, there was certainly an excellent opportunity for a pro-life, pro-family leadership contender.
Until such a leader emerges, the best pro-life Liberals might hope for is that the party abandon its increasingly strident advocacy of anti-life and anti-family policies. Under Jean Chretien and Paul Martin, the number of socially conservative MPs within caucus slowly but steadily eroded. The party and the country will be poorer if there is no room within the Liberal family for the likes of Dan McTeague, Paul Steckle, Paul Szabo and Tom Wappel. As Jim Hughes says, “Their voices are needed more than ever as the Liberals, whether they are in government or opposition, need a moral compass.”
But the party elite is out of touch with some of its own caucus and its base. If the Liberals continue to foist a pro-abortion and pro-gay agenda upon the party and the country, they may find that fewer longtime supporters are as amenable to them as before and their road back to power may be longer than they hoped.