Bev Desjarlais quit the NDP and chose to sit as an independent MP after being ousted from the party for being the only member of her caucus to vote against same-sex “marriage.” In the nomination contest in her riding of Churchill (Manitoba), NDP leader Jack Layton supported Niki Ashton, a recent university graduate, who subsquently defeated Desjarlais.
Most political observers believe Layton’s support for an inexperienced youth over a veteran MP was punishment for Desjarlais’ opposition to same-sex “marriage.” Desjarlais said, “I’m comfortable with where it has ended up … I don’t believe that you have to believe in every single little thing that a party might have as their policy.”
So, is the party a write-off for socially conservative Canadians? Not entirely. Indeed, the NDP was Desjarlais’ party for eight years. Roughly one-third of the caucus voted for raising the age of consent. And, in almost every election, at least one NDP candidate returns Campaign Life Coalition’s questionnaire indicating that he or she is pro-life.
There may not be many pro-life and pro-family NDP candidates, and fewer actual MPs, but Desjarlais’ opposition to the redefinition of marriage (although she supports abortion) reinforces the wisdom of choosing MPs on the basis of their individual positions on value-based issues, not merely on partisan considerations. It is vital that we elect MPs who will support traditional values, so that they will be able to make a stand during votes on these issues — even if Jack Layton can’t countenance such principled men and women as caucus mates.