Of more than 55 MPs who are not running again in the October 19 federal election, 25 are rated as pro-life and pro-family by Campaign Life Coalition. The two-dozen pro-life MPs who have chosen to retire, seek other office, or did not win their nomination were either Conservatives or independents who were formerly sitting Tory MPs, and they make up fully two-thirds of the Conservatives who are not seeking to return to Parliament.
CLC’s Jim Hughes told The Interim he is “saddened to see so many pro-life MPs leaving the federal stage” and is “concerned” many could be replaced with pro-abortion MPs, even if the Conservative Party holds many of the seats. He said polls suggest the pro-abortion NDP could win several seats in British Columbia and Saskatchewan currently held by pro-life Conservatives.
Hughes urged pro-lifers work “extra hard to hold the seats currently held by pro-lifers” so the current contingent does not become smaller in the next Parliament. “Over the past decade there has been slow but consistent growth in the number of MPs we identify as pro-life,” Hughes explained. “It would be a tragedy if the combination of a surging NDP, Justin Trudeau’s dictates for the Liberal Party, and Stephen Harper’s political cowardice on the issue conspire to keep pro-lifers out of Parliament.”
Most MPs chose to retire, but two MPs sought re-election and lost their nomination.
Last year, Rob Anders was defeated in two Calgary-area ridings. A concerted effort by Red Tories and non-Tories backing Ron Liepert helped defeat Anders, an outspoken pro-life and pro-family MP, in the new electoral district of Calgary Signal Hill. He later ran and lost the nomination in Bow River.
In his June 9 farewell address to the House of Commons, Anders recognized all those who supported him through the years, including social conservatives: “I thank those in the Family Life Centre, like Elizabeth Shaw and Trassa Van Ommen Kloeke; those involved with My Canada, who were making sure that young people got active in politics, evangelical youth Faytene Grusechl and Valerie Josephine Trudel; those with the Canada Family Action Coalition, Curt Storring and Richard Dur, and those with Campaign Life Coalition, Jack Fonseca, Johanne Brownrigg, and Sharon Rose.”
Lynne Yelich lost her nomination last month in the new riding of Saskatoon-Grasswood to sportscaster Kevin Waugh, whose views on life issues are not yet known.
Patrick Brown stepped down as MP in May after winning the Ontario Progressive Conservative leadership. According to CLC Brown had a perfect record on 13 life and family items evaluated by the pro-life group during his 11 years in Ottawa.
Most MPs who are leaving chose to retire from public life. CLC’s Jim Hughes said he is thankful for their service to the cause of life and family. “We are losing some very good people in Ottawa,” he lamented.
While all the 25 men and women had perfect or solid voting records, some were vocal and active pro-life and pro-family MPs.
Rod Bruinooge resigned as chair of the Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus earlier this year after announcing he would not run again in Winnipeg South. Bruinooge is also one of the handful of MPs who have introduced pro-life legislation since the Stephen Harper-led Conservatives first formed government in 2006. In 2010 Bruinooge introduced C-510, a private member’s bill to protect pregnant women from coercive abortions. The bill was defeated that year by a 97-178 vote.
Garry Breitkreuz has the most pro-life/pro-family record of any sitting MP, voting the right way on 24 items rated by CLC since Breitkreuz was first elected as a Reform MP in 1993. He introduced numerous motions in the 1990s and early 2000s on abortion including on a woman’s right to know, seeking protection for the preborn through the United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of the Child, and calling for a national referendum on abortion funding. Many times these motions were considered non-votable, but in 2002 M-83, which sought to have the Department of Health clarify if abortion was ever medically necessary, was defeated 66-139.
In his farewell speech to Parliament on June 10, Breitkreuz said his efforts on abortion were meant to “scratch below the surface” of the issue to help Parliament explore the issue more deeply.
Leon Benoit introduced private member’s bill C-291 in 2006. Formally titled, “An Act to amend the Criminal Code (injuring or causing the death of a child before or during its birth while committing an offence),” it was an early effort to get an unborn victim’s law passed in Canada but it was deemed non-votable by the sub-committee of the standing committee on procedural and House affairs.
Maurice Vellacott introduced C-461 in 1998, a private member’s bill that would have recognized the conscience rights of health care workers. It passed first reading but was later deemed non-votable. He introduced a version of the bill three times between 1999 and 2001. Vellacott also regularly issued press releases and penned columns on abortion, euthanasia, and family issues.
Some MPs were leaders on other issues affecting family and faith.
Brian Storseth led the fight against the Canadian Human Rights Commission’s censorship provisions by shepherding C-304 through Parliament which deleted Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, a provision that was used against Christians to punish politically incorrect views.
Joy Smith was a leading activist against human trafficking, which led to changes not only in immigration law but stiffened the resolve of the government to protect women from prostitution. Smith was a forceful voice against legalization of prostitution following the 2013 Supreme Court decision throwing out the old restrictions.
Russ Hiebert, James Lunney, and LaVar Payne were regular speakers at the National March for Life in Ottawa.
Other notable members of Parliament not returning include Justice Minister Peter MacKay who is pro-abortion but led the government’s efforts to recriminalize prostitution after the Supreme Court overturned the criminal law in 2013. Also retiring is Government Whip Gordon O’Connor, who delivered a scathingly pro-abortion speech in 2012 in response to Stephen Woodworth’s Motion 312.