Pro-lifers hold their own politically

Stephen Harper has said he would not re-open the abortion issue, but about half his caucus is pro-life.

When the five-week campaign was done and all the votes were counted, the Conservative Party defied the pundits and won their elusive majority. After a campaign in which the three major parties courted the “family vote” and some opponents of the Tories, including a coalition of abortion advocates, attempted to paint Stephen Harper and the Conservatives as reactionary zealots bent on recriminalizing abortion and reversing same-sex “marriage,” 5.8 million Canadians voted Conservative, pushing them above the threshold for the first elected majority since Jean Chretien’s last victory in 2000. It is unclear what this portends for life and family issues, but pro-life leaders remain hopeful.

A Campaign Life Coalition analysis found that the pro-life contingency in the House of Commons is larger than that of the 40th (previous) Parliament, with more than 60 pro-life MPs. That number does not include the sizable contingent of newly elected MPs, about which the organization does not have sufficient information to rate one way or the other, nor incumbent MPs that have supported pro-life initiatives but otherwise have not committed themselves to the pro-life cause.

The Conservatives won their majority, taking 166 of 308 seats after the recounts were complete. Most of their pickups were in Toronto, Mississauga, and Brampton, and now there are more Ontario Tory MPs (73) than MPs from western Canada (72). The Conservatives knocked off Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff in Etobicoke-Lakeshore, who had continued to move his party further left on moral issues.

The Liberals fell from 77 seats and Official Opposition to 33 seats and third party status. The NDP increased their seat total 178 per cent, from 37 to 103, mostly on the strength of picking up 59 seats in Quebec were the Bloc Quebecois, which has won at least a plurality of seats in the province since 1993, was relegated to a mere four seats. BQ leader Gilles Duceppe lost his re-election bid and, like Ignatieff, promptly resigned. From a life and family perspective, trading the BQ for the NDP is a matter of exchanging one group pro-abortion and pro-gay rights radicals for another. (If there is a plus, it is that while the former BQ contingent supported euthanasia en masse, the incumbent NDP were evenly split, at least according to the vote on C-384 in 2010. It is expected that the new Quebec NDP will be more sympathetic to the cause of legalizing euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide.)

Campaign Life Coalition national president Jim Hughes expressed concern that Jack Layton’s pro-abortion NDP received more than 4.5 million votes and worried that with the decline of the Liberal Party, a two-party system in which power swings back and forth between the Conservatives and NDP, that the socialists would do serious damage to the country’s moral fabric if it were ever elected to federal power. He pointed to the severe restrictions placed on pro-life activism in British Columbia and Ontario in the 1990s when the NDP held power in those provinces.

The pro-abortion Green Party garnered 576,000 fewer votes nationally than in 2008, but won their first seat when Elizabeth May beat pro-life cabinet minister Gary Lunn in Saanich-Gulf Islands as the Liberal and NDP effectively did not campaign in the riding.

Stalwart pro-life Liberal MP Dan McTeague was defeated on May 2nd.

Hughes said perhaps the most significant change the election augers is the virtual elimination of the pro-life Liberal. He noted that combined with retirements, the defeat of Dan McTeague (Pickering-Scarborough East), Gurbax Mahli (Bramalea-Gore-Malton), Paul Szabo (Mississauga South), Alan Tonks (York-South Weston), and Borys Wrzensnewskyj (Etobicoke Centre), the party is left with only a handful of pro-lifers within caucus.

Jim Hughes said that the Liberal Party’s lurch to the left on a host of social issues alienated the party’s largely traditional Catholic and immigrant base; according to Ipsos Reid exit polling data, visible minorities and immigrants were highly competitive demographics and an Angus Reid poll conducted two weeks before the election showed that the majority of church-going Catholics and Protestants outside Quebec supported the Conservatives.

As for the Conservative majority, Hughes told The Interim that he is not holding his breath, but he remains hopeful. At the very least, the pro-life contingent “held its own,” but because there are about 60 new MPs about which CLC has insufficient information, he guesses that the number of pro-life MPs has grown significantly. Assuming one in three is pro-life or educable, CLC is hopeful that pro-life legislation has a “fighting chance to pass the House of Commons” during the 41st Parliament. The CLC analysis, published on their website, said the “large swathe of brand new MPs” probably contains a large group of “individuals with pro-life leanings, or others who can be brought around with education and lobbying by their pro-life constituents.”

Hughes stressed that constituents must meet with their MPs. “We used to have an adopt-an-MP program,” Hughes said, “in which supporters played an important role in meeting, educating and holding MPs to account.”’s Steve Jalsevac provided the same message for readers of the pro-life internet news service: “the perhaps uncomfortable reality is that is it up to you to contact your MP very soon and attempt to strike up a genuine, respectful relationship and begin the dialogue.”

Hughes said that pro-lifers never give up hope, but that their expectations must be realistic. Pointing to Stephen Harper’s history in which he has been adamant he is not pro-life and has not supported pro-life legislation put forward in the House of Commons, Hughes said he did not expect the government to take action on the issue any time in the next four years. “The real test,” explained Hughes, “is what Mr. Harper does when one of his MPs introduces a pro-life private member’s bill.” Hughes said that the prime minister has indicated he would stand in the way of such bills, but that Harper will have a hard time maintaining the respect and control of his caucus, in which as many as half could be pro-life.

Hughes said many pro-life supporters harbour the hope that Harper does indeed have a hidden agenda to act to restrict abortion or roll back same-sex “marriage,” but that CLC does not expect Harper to stray from his script. Hughes called upon the prime minister to loosen the reins placed on MPs so that they could work to correct the injustice of abortion and address society’s moral problems. Hughes noted that with their majority secured, there is no excuse to be as controlling of the caucus. In the May issue of the CLC National News, Hughes reminded MPs that they are controlled by the Prime Minister’s Office to the degree that they allow themselves to be.

REAL Women stated in their May REALITY e-newsletter, that with the Conservative majority, “the number of opposition ‘gotcha’ moments will be reduced.” REAL Women said that private members bills such as adding transgender and transsexual to Canada’s hate crimes and human rights laws are unlikely to succeed. The election stopped the Senate from considering C-389 which would have extended special rights on the basis of “gender identity” and “gender expression.” REAL Women said, “better for these private members bills to be stopped in the House of Commons.”

Now that the Tories have a majority, they can use their numbers to prevent social-engineering bills from being approved in committee.

In the post-election analysis provided by media pundits, it was widely noted that moral issues were not at the forefront of the election campaign and therefore Harper did not have a mandate to act on them even if he wanted to.

Charles McVety of Canada Christian College told 640 AM on the day after the election, that although most people voted on pocketbook issues, many voters, especially immigrants, were also attracted to the Conservative Party’s relative social conservatism, especially their family friendly tax policies. He said the Liberals and NDP had strayed so far left on family values, that the Conservatives benefited by being closer to the values of many voters who had not previously voted Conservative.

Bruce Clemenger, president of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, wrote on the organization’s website, that Canadians have voted for change, although it is unclear what that change might entail. He reminded political leaders: “The Apostle Paul tells us that those who rule, who are in authority, are God’s servants for our good. May our elected representatives know wisdom and have courage to do what is right and just.”