Pro-life supporters can take small consolation from the results of the June 2 federal election, which saw the Jean Chrétien Liberals returned to power with a reduced majority. The election also saw the Reform Party replace the Bloc Quebecois as the official opposition, while the Conservative and New Democrat parties rebounded from the 1993 catastrophe to regain official party status.
Canada’s pro-life community will monitor the impact of the New Democrats who climbed to 20 seats in the latest Parliament. With its aggressive anti-life, pro-abortion policy, a revitalized NDP poses problems for anyone concerned with right to life questions.
Jim Hughes, national president of Campaign Life Coalition, said records indicate that the new Parliament features 120 MPs who oppose abortion and 130 who reject doctor-assisted suicide and euthanasia. He also said up to 90 members of the new Parliament have not stated a position on these issues and that they could be educated to the right to life position.
“These are promising numbers,” Hughes said June 5. “There’s certainly a lot for pro-lifers to work with in the next Parliament. The election results give us confidence that we can resist the current push for doctor-assisted suicide, and to start to roll back the culture of death in other ways.”
CLC Ontario president Mary Ellen Douglas was pleased to note the election of several solid pro-life MPs. “We can’t rest until we have a law protecting the unborn,” she said.
The lack of real choice was a concern for many pro-life voters throughout the 1997 campaign. The Christian Heritage Party (CHP), represented in 53 ridings, failed to poll any significant numbers. CHP leader Ron Gray for example, attracted only 257 votes in the Quebec riding of Hull-Alymer. In total, the CHP garnered only 17,068 votes across Canada.
Right to life issues failed to make a significant impression in a campaign dominated by the economy, national unity and health care. This view prevailed despite major news events in 1996 which underscored the lack of legal protection afforded unborn children. Efforts by Canada’s Catholic bishops and other groups to make abortion, euthanasia and family life high profile issues, similarly failed to generate much debate among candidates.
Despite these difficulties, John Hof of Campaign Life Coalition British Columbia sounded an optimistic note in the wake of the election.
“Unborn children now hold the balance of power in Parliament,” Hof told The Interim. “The pro-life Liberals who won seats can and must now pressure Mr. Chrétien to bring forward legislation that will protect the smallest of Canada’s citizens.”
Hof said the Liberals’ slim majority, coupled with the party’s fear of seeking another mandate in four years provides “fertile ground” to promote a pro-life platform.
Hof is also encouraged by the Reform Party’s status as official opposition. He said Reform should be able to bring new urgency to right to life issues in the House of Commons.
Meanwhile, Herm Wills of Campaign Life Coalition Nova Scotia was more restrained in his interpretation of the election. Wills expressed concern that the election of 20 New Democrat MPs could indicate a growing popularity for the anti-life party, especially in eastern Canada. “This would be disastrous for the pro-family, pro-life citizens,” he said. “Same-sex marriages would escalate, and it would be open season on unborn children.”
Wills took some comfort in the election of Conservatives Bill Casey and Mark Muise, two MPs he considers solidly pro-life. He also suggested that some first-time MPs, including Peter McKay, could be educated to a pro-life outlook. He called for greater lobbying by moral leaders to keep the right to life voice alive in the latest Parliament.
Although the significance of a reduced majority has not been lost on the Chrétien Liberals, pro-lifers must now concern themselves with the more extreme elements of the government agenda. Canadians can now expect continuing protection and funding for abortion, and the introduction of new legislation allowing euthanasia and doctor-assisted suicide.
As well, Canadians should also be prepared for continued advancement of radical feminism, efforts to redefine the family, and support for the gay/lesbian agenda.