Here is a rundown of the current Liberal leadership contenders in alphabetical order.
Jean Chretien, former MP and Trudeau Cabinet minister, 55, Roman Catholic. Long experience in government; populist appeal in English Canada but much less so in Quebec. Has accepted the obscene spending limit of $1.7 million for the leadership race thereby assuring big money control of party. Press has declared him to be the front runner.
As Justice Minister in 1981, he piloted the newly devised Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and personally prevented the inclusion of a pro-life clause seeking protection for the unborn from the moment of conception.
In 1983 Jean Chretien said he was satisfied with the way the rights of the unborn were covered under the Criminal Code. (Windsor Star, April 11, 1983)
In a 1984 interview with Toronto Star reporter Bob Hepburn, when Chretien was a Liberal leadership candidate, he was asked: “Do you favour abortion on demand?” Chretien’s answer: “No, I think the current system is good. The law is alright.” (April 16, 1984)
Sheila Copps, MP, Hamilton-East, 37, Roman Catholic. Has been in parliament since 1984 and was in the Ontario legislature before that. In 1982 she ran for the Ontario party leadership and lost to David Peterson. Copps, who sees herself as a feminist, hopes to make a similar appeal in Calgary as the only woman in the running.
Copps is divorced (her marriage was annulled by the Church), then remarried. Now she is also separated from her second husband, though she hopes for a reconciliation, an announcement stated on January 15, 1990. This was accompanied by a statement from Hamilton-West MP Stan Keyes’ that this should have little impact on her leadership bid. (The latter, of course, reflects the long-adhered-to but totally false view that a politician’s private life has no bearing on his or her public actions.
In 1984 Copps stated: “I am personally opposed to abortion” but then went on to say that she “upheld the present law.” In July 1988 she voted against the pro-life amendment, after first pointing out that she believes human life starts at the moment of conception, but couldn’t support a bill prohibiting abortion except where the life of the mother is in danger. (Hansard, July 1988)
In August 1989 she told Southam News she favors a woman’s freedom of choice for the first 12 weeks and allow abortions right up into the third trimester, if only for exceptional circumstances. (August 5, 1989)
Clifford Lincoln, 61, Roman Catholic, a former Bourrassa cabinet minister, who is trying first to get elected in the Chambly, Quebec federal by-election on February 12. Lincoln was one of three Anglo ministers who resigned from the Quebec cabinet on account of Bill 178 banning the use of English on outdoor commercial signs.
Lincoln was born in Mauritius in the Indian Ocean, where his brother-in-law is a Cardinal. (His wife died in a car accident in Rome in 1988 at the very time of the Cardinal’s installation).
Despite these connections, and his personal opposition to abortion, Lincoln opposes making abortion a criminal offence, he told a group at Ryerson Institute, Toronto, August 21, 1989, while on a summer cross-Canada tour. He added that he might be willing to go along with “something like the old law (1969). In other words, Lincoln accepts abortions.
Paul Martin, like Brian Mulroney, is a former chairman of Canada Steamship Lines, who since November 1988 is the MP for LaSalle-Emard (Montreal). He is 50, and a Roman Catholic. He, too, supported the $1.7 million spending limit, thus giving away the moneyed powers behind him.
Martin, too, doesn’t like abortion. However, he told Southam News in August 1989 that nothing will stop a woman from obtaining an abortion if she’s determined to have one. On this premise, he feels that politicians have only one duty: ensure that woman have access to safe abortions. He favors the approach of the Canadian Medical Association whereby abortion is a matter between a woman and her doctor.
Dennis Mills, 43, Roman Catholic, rookie MP – Like Wappel and Martin – for Toronto’s Broadview-Greenwood riding and a well-to-do business entrepreneur with widespread connections. He is a former Trudeau aide (in Prime Minister’s office) and a former Chretien organizer.
Mills identified himself as “pro-life” throughout his 1988 election campaign against the sitting member, NDP feminist Lynn MacDonald. He appears to be firm in this position, although he refused to sign a Campaign Life Coalition election questionnaire and he doesn’t advertise the fact, if he can avoid it. He accepts that life begins at conception and that the “rights of the fetus must be recognized and protected.” (September 18, 1989)
John Nunziata, 35, Roman Catholic, lawyer by profession, MP for York South-Weston (Toronto) since 1984, former member, together with Sheila Copps, of Liberal rat-pack who gave Conservatives a hard time during question periods in the 1984-1988 parliament.
Nunziata has expressed pro-life sentiments from 1984 onwards. On August 10, 1989, he told the Toronto Star, “I personally can’t compromise. My view is that life begins at conception…and I can’t see myself compromising on the very basic issue of life and protection from life.”
Like other MPs, he fears being considered a one-issue candidate because the pro-abortion media will readily accept one-issue candidates on any subject except the killing of the unborn.
Tom Wappel (emphasis on last syllable) 39, Roman Catholic, lawyer, MP for Scarborough West (Toronto), was the only declared candidate for the leadership race for almost six months.
Wappel was nominated in 1988 with pro-life support in direct opposition to the Turner leadership who had parachuted a former NDPer into the riding. He then won the election running against the PC sitting member who had been supported by pro-life in 1984 but who had lost that support by November 1988.
The Scarborough lawyer, of Hungarian descent, is the only leadership candidate who so far has made a halt to the killing of the unborn a major plank in his platform. This has led the Toronto media to describe him exclusively as “the anti-abortion candidate.” It is an honorable title.