While little progress has been made on life issues since the last election, a few MPPs have stood out
Just one day after presenting a good news budget May 4, Ontario Premier Mike Harris called an election for June 3.
The timing of the call is symbolically important. It indicates that economic issues, taxation and spending will be the focus during the campaign.
The election promises to be heated, considering the tumult of the past four years. Those four years saw teachers’ strikes, hospital closings, anti-Harris protests and changes to all sorts of programs and the way government does business. Yet, despite all the changes, abortion remains not only unrestricted, but heavily subsidized in Canada’s largest province.
For the past several months, The Interim has published stories outlining the life and family records of the three major parties. Overall, the picture is not good: all three leaders are pro-abortion, all three party platforms are silent on life issues, the government has stood in the way of measures which would have given health care workers conscience protection, Liberal leader Dalton McGuinty has promised to expand gay rights to include everything except the right to marry, and the NDP is, to put it mildly, not at all life- or family-friendly.
There are, however, several notable MPPs (all Tories) who have demonstrated a commitment to respect the sanctity of life and the institution of the traditional family. Among them are Jim Brown (Scarborough Agincourt), Tim Hudak (Erie-Lincoln), Frank Klees (Oak Ridges), John O’Toole (Durham), Frank Sheehan (Niagara Centre), Wayne Wettlaufer (Kitchener Centre), and Bob Wood (London West). These pro-life MPPs have submitted numerous petitions to the legislature, thus bringing attention to important issues such as the need for conscience legislation, calls to eliminate taxpayer funding of abortion, the need to protect the rights of parents in areas such as health care and education, and opposition to the expansion of gambling. Without the commitment of these pro-life MPPs, these issues might not have been brought up on the floor of the legislature.
In response to the 1995 Campaign Life Coalition candidate’s questionnaire, these seven MPPs generally supported measures that would protect the unborn and regulate abortion, including ending taxpayer funding of abortuaries, consent to treatment changes and measures to provide for informed consent.
Hudak, who didn’t respond to the specific questions, wrote, “I believe that it is the government’s role to promote the choice of life in childbearing decisions, to encourage women to carry the babies to term and, if the child is unwanted, to (place it) for adoption.”
They have put their votes where their rhetoric is. Each of the MPPs voted for Bill 91, an act to provide for parental consultation under the Health Care Consent Act of 1996.
The are all also members of the PC family issues caucus, which seeks protection for the rights of parents and consideration of how legislation can impact families. In early 1998, Frank Klees began raising to public attention the concerns of pro-life and pro-family voters.
He said that since Ontario’s fiscal house is in order, it is now time to address social issues. He said “quality of life” is dependent not only on economic considerations but requires a moral component also.
Bob Wood, who is running in the new riding of London West, has been a stalwart protector of the sanctity of human life, and readily submits to the Legislature the pro-life petitions of his constituents.
He has also taken the initiative in proposing measures to build palliative care. He told the Conservative Times recently that palliative care should be near the top of a pro-life agenda. With quality care for those who are dying or in pain, he said, “There’s no need for any form of euthanasia.”
He has said a 24-hour waiting period for abortions should be considered and, in his reply to the 1995 CLC questionnaire, he said, “I believe that the Criminal Code of Canada should protect the unborn.” Wood has also introduced a marriage counselling bill that would require a 45-day waiting period for couples applying for a marriage licence unless they have completed at least eight hours of counselling.
He also has fought for community rights regarding gambling. He says if a community doesn’t want it, it shouldn’t have gambling forced upon it.
Two of the notable pro-life incumbents, Jim Brown and Frank Sheehan, are facing tough challenges, having to run against other sitting MPPs because of the amalgamation of ridings.
In Scarborough-Agincourt, Brown faces pro-abortion Liberal MPP Gerry Phillips. Phillips supports taxpayer funding of abortion and opposes measures to scale back the ease with which abortions can be had. The contrast between the two candidates could hardly be greater.
Another such contrast exists in Niagara Centre, where Sheehan will face another veteran of provincial politics, pro-abortion NDP MPP Peter Kormos.
Christina Blizzard, the Toronto Sun’s Queen’s Park columnist, wrote prior to the 1998 throne speech that one thing Ontarians should not expect “is any mention of abortion or any other controversial social or quasi-religious issue.”
Blizzard was only half right. Not only would Ontarians not hear a peep about moral issues, especially abortion, in the April 1998 throne speech, they would never hear about them during the entire tenure of Harris’s government. Politically, the three parties consider abortion a non-issue.
With MPPs like Brown, Hudak, Klees, O’Toole, Sheehan, Wettlaufer, and Wood, however, there is a small but important group seeking protection for the sanctity of life and the integrity of the family.