Life issues ignored in 2015 campaign but election will still have impact
On August 2, Stephen Harper asked the Governor General to call the 42nd election campaign for Oct. 19, an 11-week campaign that is the country’s longest since the time John A. Macdonald ran for prime minister. After the Conservatives have been nearly a decade in government, the opposition leaders are making this election about change. The Liberal campaign slogan is “Real Change” while the NDP are running under the banner of “Ready for change.” The Conservatives are offering experience and stability with their theme “Proven leadership for a strong Canada.”
Jim Hughes, national president of Campaign Life Coalition, told The Interim that “real change and real leadership would find the leaders and party candidates across the country speaking out against the injustice of abortion.” Instead, he said, “we have a political class largely dedicated to pretending that abortion does not exist.”
Conceding that economics and national security are important issues, Hughes said that all other matters pale in comparison to life issues. “There is nothing more consequential to an individual or society than whether we protect innocent human life,” Hughes explained.
Hughes said politicians have long pretended abortion is “settled,” pointing to prime minister Jean Chretien claiming during the 2000 federal election that on abortion Canada had “social peace.” Hughes said hundreds of thousands of pro-life voters who ask candidates about their position on abortion prove this is not the case.
Hughes said that after the Supreme Court struck down the euthanasia and assisted suicide law in February, he hoped candidates would be forced to face questions about how to protect the elderly, disabled, sick and other vulnerable individuals. “It’s only the first month of a three-month campaign, but it is disappointing that neither the media nor the candidates are raising this life and death issue.”
The Supreme Court gave Parliament a year to come up with a new law, so the new government will only have four months to draft a new law, debate it, and enact it unless it invokes the notwithstanding clause to set aside the Carter decision for five years as it comes up with a new law or it chooses to do nothing so that euthanasia and assisted-suicide would, like abortion, be tolerated in a legal vacuum in Canada.
In the Spring, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau called on the government to act swiftly to enact a pro-euthanasia law. In 2013, the Liberal Party policy convention endorsed doctor-assisted suicide. Neither Trudeau nor Liberal candidates for MP have raised the issue of euthanasia on the campaign trail.
While life issues are ignored, issues affecting the family are not.
Bill C-279, a private member’s bill that would add transgender to the list of groups receiving special human rights protection in federal law, died in the Senate when the election was called. Both the NDP and Liberals are committed to enacting similar legislation if they form government. While more than a dozen Conservatives voted for C-279, most MPs and senators do not seem interested in revisiting the issue in the next parliament.
The parties are flogging policies designed to win over the votes of families with children.
The NDP is vowing to help provinces inaugurate a Quebec-style daycare scheme with parents being charged only $15 per day for care. NDP leader Thomas Mulcair, a former Quebec environment minister in Liberal premier Jean Charest’s government, said he will work with provinces to create 370,000 new daycare spaces by 2018. Ottawa would pay for 60 per cent of the program, with provinces covering 40 per cent of the costs, which will cost federal taxpayers about $1.9 billion per year (and presumably provincial taxpayers another $1.2 billion).
While the Liberal Party policy convention endorsed a national daycare scheme and Justin Trudeau has talked about child care in the past, the Liberals are running on the creation of a new Canada Child Tax Benefit that would be tied to parental income. The maximum benefit for families would be $5,400 annually for children under six but that would be scaled back for parents that collectively earn more than $40,000 a year and the benefit is reduced to zero for families earning $150,000. Trudeau says the CCTB would help middle class families.
The Liberal child tax benefit would replace the Conservative Universal Child Care Benefit, which pays all families $160 per month for every child under six and $60 per month for each child six to 17. The UCCB is a taxable benefit, so it effectively pays less to families that are taxed at higher income tax rates.
Stephen Harper says the UCCB is an alternative to universal daycare that is truly universal in that it goes to all families. Harper says it shifts money from bureaucrats “to the real experts: mom and dad.”
Families are a coveted demographic for politicians. According to Maclean’s, while just 36 per cent of single parents with children under five voted in the 2011 federal election, 60 per cent of couples with young kids voted. In total, that are 3.8 million Canadian families with children under 14, and each party is trying to win their votes.
The Conservatives are counting on parents eschewing the Liberals over the leader’s radical plan to legalize marijuana. For three years, Justin Trudeau offered scant hints at what he would do if he became prime minister on economic and foreign policy files, but he has emphasized that he supports legalizing pot and promoting abortion.
Polls suggest a three-way race, although a more nuanced look at the demographics and regional strengths indicate, as of late August, that only the NDP or Conservatives were likely to form government. In the spring, the Globe and Mail reported that Liberal prospects for gains in Toronto and the surrounding area were being hampered by the unpopular provincial sex-ed curriculum being foisted upon the province by Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne.
Hughes explains that in Canada’s electoral system, we do not vote for prime ministers or parties, but local candidates for parliament. He urged pro-life supporters to look beyond party labels and the personalities of the leaders wherever there is a pro-life candidate in which case he or she deserves their vote.
Asked about the majority of ridings in which there is no pro-life candidate, Hughes explained that there are any number of strategies, none of them completely satisfactory: defeat the pro-abortion incumbent, vote for the least objectionable candidate, or spoil or reject the ballot.