On economic issues the Reform Party totally adheres to the doctrine of responsible democracy whereby the party and the candidates make known their positions before they are elected and citizens can vote for whom they can trust to act in their best interests.
On moral issues, on the other hand, the party has bound itself to a rigid-interpretation of the doctrine of representative democracy. In seeking to make politicians directly accountable to their constituents, the Reform “Blue Book” policy requires Reform MPs to adhere to and support the views of the majority in their ridings on moral issues that come before Parliament. The policy is highly favoured by Reform strategists as it permits the party to advance conservative fiscal resolutions while at the same time enabling candidates to avoid taking positions on controversial and often divisive issues like abortion. However, for many others Reform policy carries the doctrine of representative democracy to the ridiculous extreme of moral neutralism, and problems abound for pro-lifers and party alike.
In situations where the Reform representative follows the majority consensus on a particular issue in his riding, it is entirely possible that the views of the majority of constituents will differ from views of the majority of Reform supporters in the riding. This problem is apparent in ridings where the Reform support is not a majority. For instance, the Reform Party may have a chance of winning a riding in a three –way race: or even with no chance of winning, the Reform may run a candidate to maintain a presence and to build the Reform vote. In such situations, if the consensus in the riding is pro-abortion for example, there is no point in pro-life people supporting much less joining the Reform Party. Using another example, in 1995 before the vote in the House of Commons on the gun-control bill, Reform MP Ted White took a poll in his riding of North Vancouver. Then following the majority consensus, he voted in the House in support of the legislation. The net result for him was a significant loss of the Reform support in his own riding.
Preston Manning’s recent statements in Chilliwack that he would actively support the pro-life side in a national referendum on the abortion issue has completely undermined the Reform Blue Book neutral policy on moral issues. Pro-life people regard this as a significant step in the right direction and they invite the party to follow Mr. Manning’s example and abandon its neutralist policy altogether. Many Reform MPs appear to ignore their own party policy. Many declare their positions on various controversial issues without first taking a poll, and in Parliament when voting on such matters, they often appear to use common sense, consult their own consciences and vote based upon their own strongly held convictions. The recent Reform opposition to Liberal gun-control and homosexual rights legislation are two examples in point.
By taking active positions on controversial moral issues regardless of majority view, the Reform Party has not only undermined its policy of moral neutrality, but also by implication, it has effectively made its policy of determining issues such as abortion by referenda redundant.
First, it must be remembered that Mr. Manning’s recent departure from Reform Party neutralism also entrails that pro-abortion Reform MP’s are equally free and active to influence the outcome of a referendum. With respect to the control that elected representatives may have in formulating the referendum question and their possible influence in the referendum campaign itself, the bottom line for pro-life political activity remains the same. Political candidates must be screened at election time; supported if they are pro-life; and defeated if they are not.
Secondly, if there was any chance of the Reform Party actually winning an election with a commitment to have a referendum which the pro-life side was likely to win, it is a certain that during the election campaign, the feminist media-government complex would do everything in its power to defeat the Reform Party in that election. If the Reform Party was nevertheless successful in the midst of such opposition to elect a majority, it would be politically redundant to square off against the same foes in a referendum.
Thirdly, if the majority of Reform MP’s elected were in favor of legalized abortion and the Reform Party formed the government, it is most likely that the referendum question formulated would be carefully worded relative to pro-abortion interests and then vigorously advanced with the assistance of the abortion establishment to the detriment of pro-life interests.
The most likely election scenario, however, is that the Reform Party will not form that next government. They are still trying to break ground in Ontario and the Maritimes. If pro-life people conceded that the only pro-life election issue was whether or not candidates agreed to having a referendum, it would be unlikely that the Liberals or the party forming the next government would feel bound in any way to hold such a referendum. Pro-lifers would have succeeded only in identifying candidates’ positions relative to a possible referendum, and they would have foregone any opportunity to elect strong and reliable pro-life individuals like Roseanne Skoke who are willing to take a public stand for life and commit themselves to work in Parliament for real change.
Pro-life people from coast to coast have other reservations about determining major moral issues by referendum. If for instance, the Reform policy of referenda was the correct standard to resolve major world issues, then historically we would say that the United States prior to the Civil War should have or could have determined the matter of slavery by way of a referendum. If the majority upheld slavery then the matter would have been decided once and for all. The nation could then have happily gone on to deal with its more pressing, or “major” issues, such as national unity, the economy, and taxes. Or perhaps the problem of anti-Semitism and the persecution of the Jews in Nazi Germany should have resolves democratically by referendum. The present Reform premise is that a referendum would have resolved the problem. If a majority endorses the persecution of a minority, then according to the Blue Book it is justified. Reformers in good conscience can impose their views on a minority but never on a majority. Politicians are supposed to just hold their noses as they dutifully carry out the dictates of the majority. In Canada some would like to think that the Charter of Rights would prevent such evils. Well, if so, then let them demonstrate that the Charter has in any way been effective in safeguarding the lives of over 100,000 helping, human beings killed each year in the wombs of their mothers by physicians.
The common thread running through most of our country’s problems is that of individuals and institutions avoiding responsibility for their actions. This shrinking of consequences is the hallmark of modern liberalism, whether it be the national debt or abortion.
To remedy the destructive impulses of our times, political leaders must focus on the vision of how Canada should be. Most Canadians want a Canada based no on self-centeredness and past cultural differences or origins, but rather on principles where their children will be able to communicate on their origins; where the family unit is integral and protected; and where human life is sacred and protected from beginning until end.
Without legal protection for all human beings, individual human life by definition becomes subject to discrimination and exploitation, and there can be not real basis or vision for the country we all want Canada to be.
If the Reform Party will not adopt a pro-life plank in its platform, the best and most democratic solution to remedy the problems created by their policy, is for the party to allow their MPs a free vote in Parliament on all issues of conscience, thus making them directly accountable to constituents for their views, commitment, and actions, before and after elections.