Hudak draws Liberal flack for supporting defunding petition

PC leader Tim Hudak has been criticized for expressing support for pro-life views in the 1990s.

On July 15, Liberal strategist Warren Kinsella, author of Kicking Ass in Canadian Politics, attacked Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak for allegedly being a socially conservative extremist. Kinsella wrote on his blog that “Hudak would defund abortion,” adding, “it hasn’t been particularly been a secret. It’s just some people hadn’t noticed.”


Kinsella wondered: “So will it become a campaign issue? I’d say it just did.” Indeed, after Kinsella’s remarks on his personal website which is widely read by other politicos and journalists, the Queen’s Park reporters and columnists promptly asked Hudak about his position on abortion.

In some ways, it is an old story. Kinsella linked to the Association for Reformed Political Action website which noted during the 2009 Ontario PC leadership race that Hudak said in an email to the organization that he “has signed petitions calling for abortion defunding and conscience legislation.”

On May 25, 1998, Hudak submitted a petition on the floor of provincial parliament signed by 600 voters from Niagara South calling on the province “to cease from providing any taxpayers’ dollars for the performance of abortion.” He signed his own name. On Sept. 29, 1998, Hudak submitted a petition from 80 constituents regarding the need for conscience protection for health care workers, to which he affixed his own signature.

Those petitions were submitted in the late 1990s when Hudak was a rookie MPP and as Campaign Life Coalition noted during the leadership contest, Hudak had not done much on the pro-life front after being re-elected in 1999. Based on his letter response to a questionnaire in 1995, and his actions as a legislator, CLC rated Hudak pro-life in his first two campaigns, but during the leadership contest said that he was no longer supportable because of his methodical downplaying of the abortion issue and connections to pro-abortion political operatives including his feminist wife, Deb Hutton.

Kinsella’s criticism of Hudak as an extremist is based on Hudak’s actions more than a decade ago and on issues – defunding, conscience protection – that consistently garners plurality or majority support in public opinion polls.

The Queen’s Park press gallery questioned Hudak during a press conference on July 18: did he sign pro-life petitions and submit them to the provincial legislature, and was he going to re-open the abortion issue. Hudak was unclear answering the first question and Harperesque answering the second. No, Hudak insisted, he would not re-open the abortion issue because his campaign was going to focus on pocketbook issues. Whether or not he supported petitions calling for defunding abortion, he initially said he could not recall. “I may have signed a petition from my riding in that respect but listen, I’ve been clear – we would not reopen this debate,” he said, adding: “I said that throughout our leadership campaign.” Hudak explained, “There’s been a law on this since 1988. Prime Minister Harper has said he’s not reopening the issue, nor are we.”

Hudak also refused to answer questions about whether he considered himself pro-life.

Campaign Life Coalition Ontario president Mary Ellen Douglas told Hudak’s capitulation was a “disappointment” because pro-life and pro-family Ontario voters are looking for an alternative to the pro-abortion and pro-gay rights agenda pushed by the Liberal government under Premier Dalton McGuinty. “With Liberal leader McGuinty you really have nothing to go on to save the lives of unborn children,” she explained. “And now the Conservative leader, who can’t appear to stand on his own two feet and make a moral statement to save the lives of the babies in Ontario.”

In the 1990s, McGuinty voted against a parental notification law and reiterated his support for taxpayer funding of abortion. During the 1999 campaign, he said he would not sign the nomination papers of any Liberal who did not affirm the party’s (unofficial) pro-abortion position. As premier, McGuinty has not touched the abortion issue, but he has pushed the envelope on gay rights by pushing a so-called equity policy that would give special rights to homosexuals and invite gay activists to use the education system to propagandize in favour of the gay lifestyle.

CLC will stick to its long-time policy of supporting pro-life candidates in all parties that are pro-life and unafraid to say so. The Toronto office is coordinating with dozens of local activists to get questionnaires to all candidates to determine if they are pro-life. They are also using social media such as Facebook to reach out to candidates in order to begin discussions about life issues.

Jeff Gunnarson, a CLC election coordinator, told The Interim it is important to have local riding contacts and other supporters “obtain this critical information and relay it to the pro-life community so they can ascertain where candidates stand on pro-life and pro-family issues.” CLC distributes the information online and in some cases through telephone and mail communications. “It is very important,” Gunnarson said, “to get this information out there so pro-life voters can make an informed decision on election day.”

Gunnarson said that only by electing pro-life members of provincial parliament, would provinces be able to enact legislation that restricts abortion. “This is not a partisan thing,” he said. “It can’t be a partisan issue. We need pro-life politicians in all the parties to get pro-life legislation passed.”

Indeed, the provincial wings of Campaign Life Coalition are working on elections in Prince Edward Island, Manitoba, Ontario, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Saskatchewan, all of which hold elections in October or November. Jim Hughes, national president of Campaign Life Coalition, told The Interim, “the message is the same in all: ignore the party label, ignore the party leader, and vote for the local candidate who is pro-life regardless of political affiliation.”