Pro-family advocates alienated until now by the antics of mainstream federal political parties may find hope I the Reform Party’s recently announced “Commitment to the Canadian Family.” However, the news for pro-life supporters may not be as encouraging.

Reform included a pledge to make family life a priority as part of its six-point platform in preparation for a federal election expected this spring or summer. The party said if it forms the next government, it will review all policies with an eye to how they affect families.

“We would like to say we’re the federal representative of the family,” said Reform family caucus chair Sharon Hayes, the MP for Port Moody-Coquitlam, B.C. “At the present time, I see the family as non-existent in the view of federal policy.”

Stay at home parents

Hayes said Reform would extend the current $3,000 to $5,000 child care tax deduction to all parents and increase the spousal tax deduction from $5,380 to $7,900, in both cases helping parents who choose to stay a home with their children.

“Families are treated unequally now in their choices,” said Hayes. “The dual wage-earning family is preferred in public policy. The family which tries to have one wage earner is at a definite disadvantage… The system is loaded against it.

“One of the things you hear in talking to individuals in your community is that the stresses and strains of our society are destroying families in real ways… I don’t know if people have linked it to federal politics as yet. But I will say unequivocally that much of the problem is there.”

Reform is also pledging to ensure that so-called deadbeat parents live up to their responsibilities while it enforces agreements concerning access to children. It says it will enact a zero-tolerance policy toward family violence and crack down on child prostitution and child pornography.

Those concerned about recent trends towards the redefinition of marriage and the family will be buoyed by Reform’s promise to maintain the current federal definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman, and a family as individuals related by blood, marriage or adoption.

“That is a basic of our society strong families mean a strong country,” said Hayes.

On the pro-life front, Reform is less supportive. Hayes repeated leader Preston Manning’s line that controversial issues such as abortion are best resolved by referendums.

“Of course, I am personally pro-life,” said Hayes. “The party encourages us to speak up for what we feel on those issues. I feel the freedom to do that… we need to bring these issues forward. The present system is stifling those issues – sometimes, I think, through coercion. If you bring them up, you’re belittled or made lesser of.”

She said Reform’s backing of citizen initiatives and referendums puts power back in the hands of the people, so they can bring forward issues such as abortion. “Reform opens the door for issues which people care about. With the present system, whoever has the loudest voice will dictate policy… I think the best way of doing it is to let issues be raised and let people decide… If a nation rejects a standard, it has to live with the consequences. Right now, we can’t say the nation has rejected (a standard).”

Reform’s stance is at odds with the view of Campaign Life Coalition, which rejects the use of a referendum to settle the abortion issues.

“Right and wrong are not determined by majority vote,” CLC said in a recent statement. “We think an extraordinary event such as a referendum might encourage the very thinking which brought about the legalization of abortion in the first place – moral subjectivism.”

CLC added that the passing of pro-life legislation is better achieved through normal democratic means. “There are many people who would vote for a pro-life constitutional amendment in a referendum.”

Christian Heritage Party leader Ron Gray favoured other methods of protecting the unborn. “I’m in favor of a constitutional amendment. I’m dead set against a referendum,” he said recently. “Things that are right are right. Things that are wrong are wrong. We don’t need a referendum. We need leadership and principle to put in place a law which will protect innocent life, regardless of what the herd says.”

Still, Hayes thinks there is merit for the pro-life lobby in pursing the referendum concept. “This is a difficult issue. We would all like to say, “This is how it’s going to be.” Personally, I think there is a right and wrong in all kinds of things, including the pro-life issue. Pro-Life groups shouldn’t be looking to politicians, but to a system which allows them to be a part of the system.