In it’s Dec. 5 edition, the Ottawa Citizen reported that Campaign Life Coalition is involved in the political process, trying to help get pro-life candidates elected to Parliament. Under the headline, “Anti-abortion group looking to run candidates as Conservatives in Ottawa ridings,” Glen McGregor reported that CLC is calling its supporters in the nation’s capital to encourage them to purchase $15 memberships in the Conservative Party in order to participate in future candidate nomination meetings.
CLC Toronto chairman Jeff Gunnarson confirmed with the paper that the organization is actively signing up members for two pro-life candidates who may seek the nomination later this year, but would not give their names nor indicate in which riding in the capital-area they might run.
Gunnarson told the Citizen, “our mandate is about electing or trying to elect pro-life or pro-family candidates into office.” He described CLC’s activities as “priming the pump so if and when (the pro-life candidates) do register … at least we’ll have people at the ready to help them out.”
The Citizen article, which was reprinted in other PostMedia outlets in an shortened version, focused on CLC’s involvement in the Conservative nominating process in the Ottawa area, but Gunnarson told The Interim that the grassroots pro-life political group is active in getting supporters to sign memberships in the party of their choice all across the country so they can be ready to support pro-life candidates “at a moment’s notice.” He said there was nothing controversial about their involvement, saying “citizen engagement is a good thing” and “any group can take part in the political process yet the media wants to single-out pro-lifers.”
Gunnarson said it is at the nomination meeting that pro-lifers can have the most impact on an election, noting that a general election typically has tens of thousands of voters whereas a nomination meeting might have as few as a hundred or so, and therefore a single voter or small group of voters can have more impact on the outcome.
CLC national president Jim Hughes told The Interim that CLC has been involved in nomination contests since Campaign Life was founded in 1978. He said it has helped elect numerous candidates in several parties including the Canadian Alliance, Conservative, Liberal, Progressive Conservative, and Reform parties. (It has also supported Christian Heritage Party (federal) and Family Coalition Party (provincial) candidates.)
CLC frequently makes pitches to its supporters to get involved. The November 2013 CLC National News encouraged supporters to ensure they had current, paid-up memberships, and “regardless of the party you support, we encourage all of you to become involved in your local riding association.”
Hughes told The Interim the strident pro-abortion position of the NDP makes it difficult to get pro-lifers to sign up with the party and get pro-life candidates elected. He noted that last March Jordan Grondin sought the NDP nomination for the provincial riding of Albert, New Brunswick, but was told by the party leader that he had to renounce his pro-life views or withdraw as the candidate for the NDP; Grondin quit the party.
Hughes is worried that the strident pro-abortion views of Justin Trudeau might make the Liberal Party of Canada equally anathema to pro-lifers.
A CLC fact sheet makes the case for getting involved in the Liberal Party. “A hostile take-over of a former pro-abortion Liberal riding, or of a pro-abortion Conservative riding for that matter, is entirely possible,” CLC explains. “All pro-lifers have to do is buy party memberships and show up to vote for ‘our guy or gal’.” CLC also reminded supporters that the organization is non-partisan as it focuses on individual candidates and their pro-life values, and not the party.
That position will be put to the test. While former prime minister Jean Chretien had numerous pro-life MPs in his caucus, including outspoken ones such as Tom Wappel and Paul Szabo, Justin Trudeau has sent mixed signals as to how welcome pro-life candidates will be in the Liberal Party today. Trudeau has said that he will have open nominations and that incumbents will not have their seats protected, but he has also said candidates must get the “green light” from the party’s newly formed National Election Readiness Committee. It is not clear if the committee will green light pro-life candidates.
Trudeau has also stated Liberal MPs would be required to vote with the leader on bills, “that speak to the shared values embodied in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.” Hughes said considering Trudeau’s past equating abortion and same-sex “marriage” with Canadian values, it appears he would whip votes on moral issues. Since Trudeau became leader in April 2013, no pro-life or pro-family votes have come before the House of Commons.
Gunnarson told The Interim that the way to get pro-life legislation introduced and passed in Parliament is for pro-life Canadians to “elect people who share their values, and for those MPs to stand up and be counted in defense of unborn children.” He reiterated that protection for the unborn is a non-partisan issue and that “ideally there would be bipartisan support for enacting legal protection for all human life from the time of conception/fertilization to natural death to help unify the country when the day comes when passing such legislation becomes possible.”