Analysis by Paul Tuns
The Canadian Alliance leadership race features three candidates – former Reform leader Preston Manning, former Alberta Treasurer Stockwell Day and Ontario Tory strategist Tom Long – who all claim to be “pro-life” but who take three distinct approaches to the issue. Also running is British Columbia MP Dr. Keith Martin, who describes himself as “pro-choice”.
from Canadian Alliance Policy Declaration: “Our social policies will build upon Canadians’ traditional characteristics of strength and compassion, and on the recognition that all human beings possess the fundamental human rights of life, freedom, and the right to own and enjoy property.”
Stockwell Day has a distinguished pro-life and pro-family record as an MLA and cabinet minister. He led fights over abortion funding in Alberta and advocated using the notwithstanding clause in the Vriend gay rights case.
While Day began the current leadership campaign defending his pro-life views, he has since appeared to shy away from the issue.
Even so, Campaign Life Coalition national president Jim Hughes said that Day has been “the most accessible candidate during this leadership race,” and that he holds great promise. “He’s an experienced pro-life politician who has fought for the rights of the unborn in Alberta for years.” Hughes concluded that “he would make an excellent Canadian Alliance leader and prime minister for Canada.”
Stockwell Day’s campaign manager Jason Kenney (a pro-life MP from Alberta) told The Interim that Day is “the most consistent and outspoken pro-life politician in Canada.” Kenney points to Day’s “risking his cabinet post in his unrelenting defence of life and the family” in Alberta. According to Kenney, Day’s record shows “he is trustworthy and reliable.”
In contrast to Day, there is Tom Long. Long was chairman and top strategist of Ontario Premier Mike Harris’ successful 1995 and 1999 campaigns. As a young PC, Long demanded that former Ontario Premier William Davis include a pro-life plank in the PC Party platform. But those days are long gone. As an architect of the Common Sense Revolution, he steered the Tories away from addressing moral issues. Indeed, both the number of abortions and the scope of same-sex rights have increased in Harris’ Ontario. The May issue of CLC National News suggests that Harris’s inner circle has thwarted morally conservative Tory MPPs from supporting pro-life or pro-family initiatives.
CLC’s Jim Hughes has known Long for twenty years and remembers when he was a solid pro-lifer. “But his attitudes have changed,” Hughes lamented, adding that he “cannot support Long’s leadership bid because we would end up with a fiscal conservative who is morally neutral.”
Former Reform Party leader Preston Manning recently reaffirmed that he is pro-life and that “the current situation” – by which he means “the complete absence of any legal protection for the unborn…is unacceptable.” Manning said he favours a constitutional amendment to protect the unborn.
CLC’s Jim Hughes told The Interim that he has great personal respect for Preston Manning and recognizes that he is a committed pro-lifer who has often spoken out in defence of the unborn.
from Article 68, Canadian Alliance Policy Declaration: “MPs must ensure major issues receive a full and fair public airing so that an informed democratic decision can be made. Where an MP finds that a clear consensus has been reached on an issue, his or her responsibility is to represent that consensus over party or personal views.”
Manning explained that MPs should inform their constituents where they stand on moral issues, but “should endeavor to determine whether there is a consensus on the issue” in their ridings. He said he has no problem with MPs advocating for a particular side on moral issues, but, if there is a consensus, MPs should vote according to the wishes of their constituents.
Accordingly, Manning has indicated that he would vote for euthanasia, even though he is opposed to it, if his constituents were in favour. This sets him apart from Stockwell Day. Jason Kenney confirmed that Day would not continue to represent his riding if the consensus of constituents was strongly at odds with his moral position. “He would definitely step down rather than betray his conscience,” Kenney said.
Tom Long has recently had his personal views on abortion dragged out of him by a curious press. The April 28 Toronto Star quoted him as saying, “I do have a very strong personal view, I am pro-life.” But, as a matter of public policy, Long concludes that, considering the lack of consensus on regulating abortion, the government’s focus should be on encouraging adoption. On April 27 in the National Post: “I live in the real world and I know there are issues upon which we do have common ground and we can make an urgent, real difference.” Reading between the lines, it seems that, at best, abortion is not a priority for Long.
Keith Martin has been very honest and direct about where he stands – he is definitely pro-abortion, and will vote that way as an individual MP.
from Article 72, Canadian Alliance Policy Declaration: The Canadian Alliance “… will introduce measures that allow citizens to initiate binding referenda. In addition, we will also seek the consensus of all Canadians through judicious use of national referenda, both on issues having significant implications for Canadian society and on proposed changes to the country’s Constitution.”
Manning prefers to have moral issues decided by referenda. He concedes that “the party’s position [on referenda] is not particularly acceptable to individuals who hold a pro-life position, but I am prepared to argue that there is a much better chance of getting public support for legal protection for the unborn if the decision is ‘democratized’ than if it is left up to the current political leadership or the courts and the special interest groups which have the most influence with those in power now.”
Pro-life Canadian Alliance MP Dr. Grant Hill told The Interim that Manning offers the most to pro-life Canadians. He said that he is clear about his opposition to abortion and the need to let the Canadian people and not a party-line vote in the House or the unelected Supreme Court decide this issue. Hill said Manning would “vigorously fight for the pro-life side” if a referendum were held.
Campaign Life Coalition has repeatedly stated that a crucial human rights issue like abortion should not be decided simply by majority vote. CLC’s Jim Hughes disagrees with the emphasis on referenda. “Moral issues cannot be dealt with by mob rule,” Hughes said. Still, he said, Manning is someone pro-lifers could live with as Canadian Alliance leader.
Jason Kenney says that while Day also supports the Alliance’s referendum policy, he believes “it is the most prudential thing to do” if we want to end abortion. “Pro-lifers haven’t had any victories in Ottawa,” said Kenney, “but when abortion defunding was put before the voters of Saskatchewan in 1991, 61 per cent voted [in favour].” Day has also committed to campaign on the pro-life side of such a vote.
Keith Martin also promises to hold a referendum on abortion “only if Canadians demand it,” as he told the Toronto Sun. “Canadians don’t want to drag this (abortion) onto the floor of the House. They recognize we have larger issues to deal with.”
Tom Long has also expressed his support for the use of referenda for “moral” issues like abortion. As to which side Long would support, he has sent confusing signals. While claiming to be personally pro-life, “but only one voice in the debate”, Long has also described his philosophy as “mind your own business and keep your hands to yourself, I don’t think we need government intruding very much into our lives.” This is a standard libertarian line, a lot like the old line about being “personally opposed to abortion, but not wanting to impose on others.”
Hughes says that pro-lifers could accept the leadership of Manning or Day but that a Long-led Canadian Alliance would be inhospitable to pro-life voters.