The Interim has learned that a last minute intervention by interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose will prevent any debate on the party’s abortion policy at the upcoming convention in Vancouver May 26-28.
This past Thursday, at Ambrose’s request, the National Policy Committee of the CPC voted to block a resolution that would have allowed for a discussion on the party’s “no abortion legislation” policy.
Since 2005, the CPC has had on its books this policy: “A Conservative Government will not support any legislation to regulate abortion.” The CPC’s 11-year-old abortion policy, Article 64, was often trumpeted by then-leader Stephen Harper as representing “the will of the grassroots of the Conservative Party” and was used to justify heavy-handed measures to stifle the parliamentary rights of Conservative MPs who tried to introduce their own private member’s bills and motions that were independent of the government.
Over the past few months, a resolution to revisit this policy, Motion 530, received strong support at the local riding level and many CPC regional policy meetings.
Sources inform The Interim that the CPC’s National Policy Committee had, on April 22, Motion 530 was given the green light to be among the 60 resolutions to be brought forward for debate to the Vancouver convention.
But, in a highly unusual and last-minute move, interim leader Rona Ambrose made a direct, personal request to the National Policy Committee to reconvene the committee for an emergency meeting in order to delete one resolution: Motion 530.
Ambrose is reported to have expressed grave concern that the delegates at the upcoming convention might repeal the 11-year-old “no Conservative action on abortion” policy.
In a move to try to regulate debate in the upcoming Conservative leadership race, Ambrose told the committee that she wanted the party to maintain its current abortion policy in order to thwart a “free-for-all” discussion on the abortion issue by the possible candidates for CPC leader.
In other words, Ambrose does not want a pro-life candidate – or, conceivably, any candidate – to be able to speak freely about the abortion issue in the next year.
On April 28, the National Policy Committee honoured Ambrose’s request and held a special meeting by conference call to consider Ambrose’s “special request.”After some debate, the National Policy Committee agreed to her plea, and, in a stunning reversal of their earlier decision, voted by a margin of 10 to 3 to delete Motion 530. This issue was the only item on the agenda.
The effect of this decision will be to stifle the will of grassroots Conservatives who wish to see a review the party’s stance on abortion.
Conservative MP Michelle Rempel (Calgary Nose Hill) was also present for part of the discussion at the April 22 meeting in Ottawa. According to Interim sources, Rempel, when faced with the news that the committee might allow the review of the abortion policy to advance to Vancouver, told the policy committee that there was “no place for me in a Conservative Party that opposed abortion.”
It has been suggested to The Interim that Rempel was the driving force and influence behind Ambrose’s intervention to stifle the efforts to change the abortion policy.
Rempel, in previous years, was Harper’s representative on the Policy Committee, and there are numerous reports from those earlier policy meetings that Rempel would regularly claim to speak “on behalf of the Prime Minister” or “on behalf of Conservative MPs” as she attempted to direct the Policy Committee in their deliberations.