Interim Staff

Voters’ guides and questionnaires are gaining new prominence as a way to determine candidates’ positions on a variety of issues.

A number of organizations, led by Campaign Life Coalition, have turned to questionnaires to help voters make a more informed choice at election time. Despite candidates’ reluctance to deal with questionnaires, the experience of the recent federal election reveals their importance in addressing voters’ priorities.

For years, Campaign Life Coalition has published voters’ guides to provide additional information about individual candidates’ position on pro-life and pro-family issues. The voters’ guide, consisting of candidates’ responses to seven key questions, is the prime component of Campaign Life’s election time strategy.

Other groups, ranging from the Alberta-based Family Action Coalition, to organizations promoting the homosexual agenda, have pressed our would-be representatives to show their hand on social and moral issues.

Questionnaire supporters, including Mary Ellen Douglas of Campaign Life Coalition, say the surveys help voters gauge candidates’ positions on issues other than the economy or national unity. She said the CLC questionnaire emphasizes issues that the voters, rather than party executives, find important.

“In many cases, the questionnaires can bring new details to light about individual candidates,” she said, referring to the case of Leeds-Grenville, where a candidate generally regarded as pro-life, was found to waver in crucial areas.

“The CLC questions have been fine-tuned to really qualify these candidates,” Douglas said. “Their answers also become useful after the election. We’ve got their responses on paper and we can compare them with their voting record over the next few years.”

The Canadian Family Action Coalition (CFAC), a grassroots organization defending the family through the promotion of Judeo-Christian values, also distributed a questionnaire during the recent election. CFAC used a point system to evaluate nearly 800 candidates in five provinces. Candidates were rated on a scale of one to ten on a range of life and family issues.

Although Campaign Life Coalition officials supported the thrust of the CFAC survey, they believe the point system gives a less precise picture of a candidate’s real stand.

Nonetheless Brian Rushfeldt, executive director of CFAC, says questionnaires are becoming a more prominent part of Canada’s political environment.

“There seems to be a new breed of politician that doesn’t want to answer social and moral questions,” he said. “We think it’s unfair of candidates to ask for our support when they aren’t fully forthcoming with answers to the questions that are important to the majority of Canadians.”

Rushfeldt likened the questionnaires to a job-interview process for would-be Parliamentarians.

“We have to know who we are hiring for the job,” he said, adding that the CFAC observed a clear resistance on the part of politicians to complete the survey.

“We believe these questionnaires and voters’ guides are a very good election time service, and I would like to see our politicians take them more seriously.”

Some candidates, particularly in the Liberal Party, cited a memo circulated by a party official, urging candidates not to sign any written pledges. Still others cited a section of the Canada Elections Act as grounds for refusing to respond to questionnaires.

However legal advice obtained by Campaign Life Coalition prior to the election held that the section in question does not apply to the information sought in the pro-life voters’ guide.