The support shown for pro-life physician Andre Lafrance in the federal Progressive Conservative nomination race in the new Ottawa riding of Carleton-Gloucester has forced politicians and the media to reassess the positive power of the pro-life movement.  Lafrance came in second, winning 688 votes at the nomination meeting held at the Ottawa Civic Centre on May 9.

Maureen McTeer, wife of former Prime Minister Joe Clark and an Honorary Director of the Canadian Abortion Rights Action League, was expected to have a little difficulty contesting the nomination against her rival, long-time Tory organizer Philip Brazeau.  Lafrance was seen as a one-issue fringe candidate.

McTeer, backed by all the Tory workers that Parliament Hill and the Ottawa area could muster, won the nomination on the first ballot.  However, the strong second place showing by Lafrance was obviously disconcerting to the media and party insiders.  Brazeau, touted by the media to be McTeer’s only real opponent, suffered the true loss in the race, receiving only 180 votes.

Lafrance’s campaign was run from his home.  With no money in the bank, and less than three weeks left in the race, a dozen pro-lifers worked to sell memberships in the newly formed riding association.  Neither the media nor the party took Lafrance seriously.

Then Campaign Life Coalition began to publish the views of all three candidates showing clearly the pro0-abortion views of both Mcteer and Brazeau, the pro-life stand of Andre Lafrance.  As the enthusiastic but admittedly inexperienced pro-life campaign team continued relentlessly to sell memberships, thousands of ballot-like cards were distributed throughout the urban-rural riding endorsing Lafrance as the candidate who held pro-life views.

The other candidates began to pay attention.  Both tried to back away from their pro-abortion positions.  McTeer went so far as to assert that at some point in the pregnancy the rights of the unborn child “supercede” those of the mother, a statement to which her colleagues in CARAL would presumably take exception.

Rumours and paranoia marked the last 10 days of the campaign.  The prevailing view was that “those pro-lifers” would disrupt the nomination meeting in a violent confrontation with McTeer.

The wildest speculation was that Lafrance would enter the arena surrounded by 200 pregnant women with signs pinned to their protruding bellies proclaiming “Don’t abort me!”  The media also had cameras assigned to cover the pro-life pickets with “bloodied pictures of aborted fetuses” who were reportedly planning to demonstrate outside the meeting.  It did not occur to anyone in charge that pro-lifers would rather give positive support to a pro-life candidate than picket a pro-abortion one.

The soothsayers from the party and the media were both shocked and dismayed by the combination of the strength shown by Lafrance and the absence of confrontation with pro-lifers.

Over one thousand people were in the Ottawa Civic Centre that night to support Lafrance, and 688 were able to vote.  The party hierarchy was forced to witness the enthusiasm of a large group of people thrilled to be taking part in the established political process, and playing by the rules.

In most ridings across the country 688 votes is more than enough to win the nomination in any party.  That fact has not been lost on those who make it their business to access these things.  Moreover, Lafrance’s support was achieved on the strength of his credible candidacy and pro-life views, without recourse to the direct confrontation so easily manipulated by the popular press.

In Carleton-Gloucester, pro-lifers defied every expectation, and in doing so forced the arbiters of power to think again