Pro-lifers are expressing disappointment following the recent federal by-election to replace staunchly pro-life and pro-family MP Sharon Hayes in the riding of Port Moody-Coquitlam, B.C. Hayes, a member of the Reform party, was forced to resign because of her husband’s severely ill health.

Liberal Lou Sekora won the riding over seven other candidates in the by-election March 30, winning 39 per cent of the popular vote and outdistancing his nearest competitor – Reform candidate Jim Cunningham – by almost 1,100 votes. According to Christian Heritage Party leader Ron Gray, none of the candidates in the by-election was pro-life and so his party encouraged voters to spoil their ballots by writing in the name “Baby Doe.”

The measure came following Cunningham’s confirmation that, although he was personally pro-life, he had agreed to sign Reform’s so-called anti-conscience pledge, which binds an MP to follow his or her constituents’ wishes on issues such as abortion and euthanasia regardless of personal moral convictions.

Gray said the CHP decided not to field a candidate based on Cunningham’s initial refusal to sign the pledge. If Cunningham had followed through, he would have joined Alberta Reform MP Jason Kenney, who also refused to sign the pledge prior to the 1997 federal election but was nominated and elected nonetheless.

However, Gray later reported that Cunningham gave in and signed.

“There were three things that determined the outcome of the by-election,” Gray told The Interim. “The first is that Lou Sekora is a political powerhouse in the riding, with long roots. The second is the fact that Jim (Cunningham) was from outside the riding. And the third is the fact that he signed the anti-conscience pledge.

“If Jim had taken a strong stand and refused to sign it, he would have drawn a lot of Sharon Hayes’s old supporters to vote for him. But the moral ambiguity of the Reform party left Sharon’s supporters confused, so they just stayed home.”

Gray said Sekora cannot be considered pro-life. “I have never heard Lou Sekora defend the cause of life. I was born and grew up here in British Columbia, where his political life has been. If he has said anything, he has said it so quietly and in such a corner that it doesn’t appear to be an issue for him.”

He added that Sekora is currently enmeshed in legal complications acquired in the course of 15 years’ service as mayor of Coquitlam. “There are suits pending against him. It is alleged that he received campaign contributions from developers, yet continued to sit in on council decisions that affected developers.”

Sekora, a widower with one grown daughter, was first elected as an alderman to the Coquitlam municipal council in 1972, and became mayor in 1983. During his first term as mayor, he also served as potentate of the Burnaby-based headquarters of the B.C. Shriners.

He has a long background in the hospitality industry, and spent many years working in hotels, restaurants, catering and food processing. He currently owns and operates a Burnaby deli.

“Canadians are looking for those who can make this country work, and those who can bring us together,” Sekora said following his by-election win. “Canadians are rejecting people that try to split Canadians, or work Canadians against Canadians.”

Sekora’s win led some observers to posit that it was a harbinger of the Canadian public’s swing toward leftist politics.

“Right-wing agenda fading from scene,” read the headline to a column by Carol Goar in the liberal Toronto Star. “Here at home, there are numerous signs that the pendulum is shifting away from the right,” she wrote. “There is a gap, waiting to be filled, on the political spectrum. But it’s not on the far right.”

National affairs columnist Rosemary Speirs, also writing in the Toronto Star, claimed proponents of family values have “generally been in the minority,” compared to those who favor individual rights. “Reform is the only political party officially espousing the traditional family unit,” she said.