Pro-lifers probably have mixed feelings about the 2008 election. On the plus side, the pro-life contingent in Parliament is about the same. On the negative side, abortion was barely a topic in the election campaign and when it was brought up, the two major leaders said some disturbing things.
When the final ballots were counted, the Conservatives failed to increase their 127-seat to majority status, ending up with 143. The Liberals were reduced to 76 seats, the Bloc Quebecois won 50 and the NDP finished with 37. The Green Party had about 7 per cent of the vote but won no seats. The Christian Heritage Party ran 59 candidates and received 26,722 votes in total – its lowest total vote ever and almost 16,000 fewer than Jason Kenney received in his Calgary Southeast riding.
But for pro-lifers, the final party tally matters less than the number of pro-life Members of Parliament. Campaign Life Coalition qualified 63 winning candidates as pro-life or pro-life with exceptions. They found another 23 to be educable. The number of pro-life/pro-life with exception MPs is about the same but the number of MPs that pro-life groups might work with is a little bit higher than the 2006 election.
Going into the election, numerous pro-life MPs who won by narrow margins in 2006, looked vulnerable to defeat. On the Conservative side, Rod Bruinooge (Winnipeg South), Royal Galipeau (Ottawa Orleans), Dean Del Mastro (Peterborough), Pierre Lemieux (Glengarry-Prescott-Russell), and Jeff Watson (Essex) were all re-elected. Almost all of them increased the percentage of the vote they received.
Two Liberals that looked likely to lose but won include Toronto area MPs Albina Guarnieri (Mississauga East-Cookville) and Paul Szabo (Mississauga South).
New pro-life MPs include Kelly Block (Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar), Stephen Woodworth (Kitchener Center) and Kathy McLeod (Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo). Woodworth knocked off Liberal Party Whip and pro-abortion feminist Karen Redmen.
They rejoin dozens of pro-life MPs were re-elected by comfortable margins: Dan McTeague (L, Pickering Scarborough East), Cheryl Gallant (C, Renfew-Nippsing-Pembroke) and James Lunney (Nanaimo-Alberni).
CLC national president Jim Hughes noted that were it not for the retirements of pro-life MPs, there would have been gains in the number of pro-lifers in Parliament. The retiring pro-life MPs include: Ray Bonin (L, Nickel Belt), Norman Doyle (C, St. John’s East), Ken Epp (C, Edmonton Sherwood Park), Brian Fitzpatick (C, Prince Albert), Art Hanger (C, Calgary Northeast), Brian Pallister (C, Portage Lisgar), Carol Skelton (C, Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar), Monte Solberg (C, Medicine Hat), Paul Steckle (L, Huron-Bruce), Myron Thompson (C, Wild Rose), Tom Wappel (L, Scarborough Southwest), and John Williams (C, St. Albert).
CLC national president Jim Hughes said in his newsletter, “This Parliament will likely be as volatile as the previous two, which means that without pro-life leadership either at the top of the parties or from vocal MPs within them, life and family issues are likely to be kept on the sidelines.”
If the party leaders have their way, abortion will be kept on the sidelines. On Sept. 28, Conservative leader Stephen Harper told reporters in Quebec that his government would not re-open the abortion issue and would prevent anyone else from raising it. Harper said, “Our position in the future is that this government will not open the abortion debate and will not allow another opening of the abortion debate.” The Conservative Party Platform, released on Oct. 7, reiterated Harper’s position, stating: “A Conservative Government will not initiate or support any legislation to regulate abortion.”
The Liberals have taken the same tact. In a letter sent to CLC, Liberal Party of Canada president Doug Ferguson said the Liberals oppose “reopening of the debate concerning a woman’s right to choose” and that it “will not support any legislation that undermines a woman’s right to choose or that threatens a woman’s ability to access safe abortion services in Canada.”
All this means that pro-life MPs within all parties must speak out about abortion, euthanasia and other life issues and not let the party chieftains thwart democratic debate about vital moral issues
Pro-life MPs in each caucus must speak up. Hughes noted that in the past, numerous pro-life Liberals stood up to their pro-abortion leaders, including Steckle, Wappel, Szabo and McTeague. He lamented that there doesn’t seem to be the same willingness among Tories to openly question their leader.
Hughes said, “pro-life MPs must have the courage to publicly defend the sanctity of human life even when it seems politically difficult to do so ? and we will encourage them in this.”
CLC national organizer Mary Ellen Douglas said that grassroots pro-lifers must now encourage their MPs to support and promote pro-life legislation. “We want to remind pro-lifers to continue visiting their MPs,” said Douglas. “And let them know that life issues are important and must not be swept under the carpet.”