As pro-life people in Ontario go about deciding how they should vote in the up-coming provincial election, there is one name they should bear in mind. That is Tom Wappel. Since being elected to the federal parliament in 1988, Tom has been a tireless advocate for the unborn. A crucial question for pro-life voters in Ontario is why wasn’t there a Tom Wappel in the last provincial legislature?
Even before Tom appeared in Ottawa, pro-life people have been blessed by a string of outspoken federal MPs who, at considerable risk to their own political careers, have used their position to argue in defence of the unborn. Dr. Stan Hudecki from Hamilton was not afraid to make it known that his position on abortion differed from that of his party and he urged his party to take a different stand. He paid a price for his courage.
The party establishment bullied him and attempted to make his life in Ottawa as unpleasant as can be. This harassment included such things as arriving at committee meetings to discover that everyone else had been delivered briefing notes while his package never showed up on his desk.
Nor has it been Liberals alone who have taken a bold position. Robin Richardson elected as a Tory to represent the Toronto riding of Beaches-Woodbine in the Joe Clark government was equally courageous in his defence of the unborn.
The reason this is relevant during an Ontario provincial election is that the Ontario legislature for as long as I can remember has been without such voices. Year after year and government after government, during Tory, Liberal and NDP regimes one thing has remained true.
The unborn have been without an advocate. In every case, including the present NDP regime, the government benches have included men and women who have strong convictions against abortion. But in every case, without exception, these voices have not dared to seriously challenge their government or party.
As a consequence, abortion has failed to make it as a provincial issue. There is no denying that abortion is the hottest of political topics which parties are anxiously to shy away from. There emerges a conspiracy of silence. Unless the party ranks include MPPs who are willing to buck the system and speak up for the unborn, abortion simply does not get raised as an issue.
It would be interesting to know what is the cause of this difference. Year after year in the Ontario legislature they are silenced – or they allow themselves to be silenced. I think the answer is the number of people elected to each body. In Parliament there are over 290 seats. The governing party usually has in excess of 150 members. It is difficult to keep such a large group under one’s thumb.
There aren’t enough cabinet positions and other plums to keep everybody in line. In the Ontario legislature however, there are less than half as many seats. A majority government can consist of only 66 members. Among such a small group it is easy to impose discipline.
There is nothing happening in the three leading parties to suggest that this pattern in Ontario is going to be broken. With this election, abortion will remain a neglected issue unless a more courageous group is elected.
That brings us to the Family Coalition Party. The FCP represents Ontario’s very best hope that abortion and other pro-family issues will be raised. Their candidates have a commitment to those issues which far exceed the commitment of any candidate in any other party.
The election of one or two courageous members who are willing to take a pro-life stand will not of course change whatever consensus exists in the Legislature on issues such as abortion. It will however keep the issue alive and provide pro-life voters with a rallying point and that is a fundamental first step in bringing about the change.