Candidate questionnaires help identify social conservatives
and pro-lifers in new legislature
On March 12, Premier Ralph Klein’s Tories streamrolled the NDP and Liberal opposition taking 74 of 83 seats in the Alberta provincial election.
While social issues were not a factor in the election pro-life and social conservative groups were involved in the campaign, and active informing voters about the candidates.
Campaign Life Coalition Alberta distributed a nine-question survey in order to qualify candidates as pro-life, pro-life with exceptions or not pro-life. The Alberta Liberal Party provided an official response for all its candidates by offering a variation of what CLC has called “the Liberal Party Abortion Myth” which was propagated by Jean Chretien during the federal campaign in 2000. The Alberta Liberals claim, “The Supreme Court of Canada ruled in 1989 that all abortions are medically necessary and must be fully funded by provincial health plans; otherwise the province would be in contravention of the Canada Health Act.”
Susan McNeely, spokesman for CLC Alberta, said the Liberal claim “is simply not true.
“The Supreme Court of Canada has never ruled that abortion is a medically necessary procedure that must be funded by provincial health plans. While that court did strike down Section 251 of the Criminal Code in 1988, inviting federal politicians to pass a new law to replace it, the Supreme Court of Canada has never required provinces to fund abortions.”
She added, “At best, the Alberta Liberals seemed very confused. At worst, this seems to be a cowardly attempt on their part to avoid taking a stand on this important issue.”
Many Progressive Conservative candidates contacted by CLC Alberta replied with variations of a form letter that indicated they would meet with individual constituents to discuss issues but would not answer the questionnaire. The NDP supports taxpayer-funded abortion.
Alex Vernon, who worked with CLC Alberta during the campaign, told The Interim they had qualified 27 candidates as pro-life or pro-life with exceptions, and that 11 of those candidates won, including three members of the previous Klein cabinet.
McNeely told The Interim that although abortion was not debated by the party leaders, the questionnaire at least “forced individual candidates to think about the issue.”
She also said the voters’ guide allowed Albertans concerned about abortion to make an informed choice so they could elect “candidates that share their moral values.”
Four social conservative groups – Alberta Pro-Life, the Alberta Federation of Women United for Families, the Canada Family Action Coalition (CFAC) and the Catholic Women’s League – formed an ad hoc committee called the Family Life Coalition (FLC) to distribute their voters guide.
The FLC guide asked candidates about a wider range of issues from the use of citizen-initiated legislation and invoking the notwithstanding clause to protect Alberta’s Marriage Amendment Act to conscience legislation for health care workers and defunding abortion.
Judging the FLC guide, social conservatives didn’t do too badly on election day. Roy Beyer, FLC co-chair and president of CFAC, told The Interim that the new Tory caucus has “about an even split between social conservatives and Red Tories.” He also said no social conservatives were defeated on March 12.
Some social conservatives were upset with Klein for failing to live up to his promise to erect “fences” protecting the family after the Supreme Court’s pro-homosexual Vriend decision. For instance, he voted against the ultimately successful Bill 202 which requires the province to use the notwithstanding clause if a future court ruling overturns the traditional, opposite-sex definition of marriage.
Because of the dominance of the Tories in Alberta, Beyer said many social conservatives try to work within that party, although there were pro-life candidates for the other parties. “We hope the social conservatives that were elected will be a voice within the caucus.”
While noting that Klein does not seem inclined to advance pro-life, pro-family initiatives, Beyer said the sizeable social conservative contingent within the Tory caucus “should push the government in the right direction.”
CLC Alberta’s McNeely said another area in which social conservatives might push the government in the right direction is in the area of conscience protection for health care workers. Julius Yankowsky’s (PC, Edmonton Beverly-Clareview) private member’s bill died when the election was called and social conservatives are optimistic they can get it on the agenda again.