Ontario shaping up as a key battleground
More than 40 pro-life MPs may be elected
By Paul Tuns
The InterimCanadians will go to the polls on June 28 and pro-life leaders are excited about the opportunities to increase the number of MPs who will defend the sanctity of human life in the political arena.
According to the Campaign Life Coalition Voter’s Guide – which we have obtained the rights to publish and include within this edition of The Interim to provide as comprehensive coverage of the candidates and issues as possible – demonstrates, there are nearly 100 candidates who are pro-life or pro-life with exceptions; furthermore, there are numerous ridings in which voters will have a choice among pro-life candidates. CLC national president Jim Hughes told The Interim that it is likely there will be more pro-lifers in the next Parliament than there were in the last.
The CLC Voter’s Guide rates candidates pro-life or pro-life with exceptions, pro-abortion or not pro-life, and other (unknown, refused to answer questionnaires or no information available). CLC based its ratings on MP’s voting records, candidates’ responses to the CLC questionnaire and other information that may be available.
What the Voter’s Guide clearly demonstrates is that abortion is not a partisan issue with pro-lifers running for five parties – the Christian Heritage Party, Conservatives, Liberals, NDP and Progressive Canadian Party – or as independents, and in all regions of the country.
It has long been noted by pro-life leaders that the pro-life position crosses party lines. Despite the media’s attempt to paint the Conservative Party of Canada as socially conservative and the Liberals and NDP as “pro-choice,” the reality is that party labels are inadequate indices of a candidate’s position on abortion. Likewise, none of the party leaders except the CHP’s Ron Gray oppose abortion – the mainstream media’s portrayal of Conservative leader Stephen Harper as a socially conservative extremist notwithstanding; in fact, Harper is rated not pro-life.
Jim Hughes, national president of Campaign Life Coalition, the political arm of the Canadian pro-life movement, told The Interim that voters must get past and put aside party labels and support the local pro-life candidate regardless of partisan affiliation. “Vote for the best candidate and that means the pro-life candidate,” at the riding level. CLC suggests that in ridings without pro-life candidates that voters write in blue ballpoint pen in the black field “no pro-life candidate.” It is important to be vote even if there is no pro-life candidate.
Hughes noted that the CLC Voter’s Guide does not endorse or support individual candidates. Instead, it provides information on life issues so voters can make informed decisions on election day.
For several reasons, most of the media and political attention will be in Ontario: it has the most number of seats and the most closely contested seats.
If the polls hold up, Quebec will likely see the Bloc Quebecois win the vast majority of seats in that province. Campaigne Quebec Vie president Luc Gagnon told The Interim that “unfortunately there are few pro-life BQ or Liberals in Quebec,” although he said there were several pro-life Conservatives. He said that although the polls have the Conservatives with just half the support of the Liberals in la belle province, pro-life Quebeckers should support pro-life candidates, noting that they will have no chance to win if pro-life voters abandon them.
Just as the Bloc is expected to dominate in Quebec, the Conservatives are expected to win the lion’s share of western seats with pockets of support for the Liberals in Winnipeg, Vancouver and Vancouver Island, and the NDP in Saskatchewan and parts of B.C.
In the East, some pundits are predicting a number of close contests in Atlantic Canada, but its small size means it will send roughly the same number of people to Parliament as the Greater Toronto Area. However, there are three Conservative pro-life incumbents in the region: in Newfoundland, Loyala Hearn (St. John’s South) and Norman Doyle (St. John’s North), and in New Brunswick, Greg Thompson (St. Croix-Bellisle). Notably, Prince Edward Island, the only province that does not have legal abortion, has no declared pro-life candidates.
That leaves most of the action happening in Ontario. With the political right united, a revitalized NDP and a scandal-troubled Liberal Party, there are at least 35 seats in play in Ontario. Perhaps as many as half of the Ontario riding will have at least one pro-life candidate.
Pro-lifers running in southwestern Ontario include: Jeff Watson (CPC, Essex), John Deardon (CPC, Guelph), MP and co-chair of the Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus Paul Steckle (Lib, Huron-Bruce), Dean Allison (CPC, Niagara West-Glanbrook), Tim Gatten (CPC, London North Centre), Michael Menear (CPC, London West), MP Pat O’Brien (Lib, London Fanshawe), Marcel Beaubien (CPC, Sarnia-Lambton) and Leo Bonomi (CPC, St. Catharines). All have a good chance to win – if pro-life voters show up at the polls and support them.
There are several high profile pro-life candidates running for the Conservatives. In Niagara Falls, former MP and Kim Campbell era cabinet minister Rob Nicholson won the party’s nomination. Former Promise Keeper Canada head David Sweet is taking up the Conservative mantle in the incumbent-less riding of Ancaster-Flamborough-Dundas-Westdale.
In Simcoe North, former Canadian Family Action Coalition national affairs director and frequent Interim contributor Peter Stock is the Conservative challenger to Liberal MP Paul DeVillers. DeVillers supports abortion and redefining marriage to include homosexuals. In fact, last summer, DeVillers argued that the Catholic Church has never had a teaching on homosexual “marriage” thus insinuating that it must not be against same-sex “marriage.” Stock told The Interim that he not only opposes same-sex “marriage” and same-sex civil unions but that he supports the use of the notwithstanding clause and a constitutional amendment to maintain the traditional definition of marriage as between one man and one woman.
Stock said he is running because he wants to “make Canada better for his children and (future) grandchildren.” He said when he thinks about what is happening in Canada he said, “I can’t allow this type of moral corruption to rule in our land.”
If Nicholson, Stock or Sweet wins, the seat would be a pro-life pickup.
There are a number of pro-life Liberal MPs, especially in the Toronto area: Judi Longfield (Whitby Oshawa), Dan McTeague (Pickering-Scarborough East), Joe Volpe (Eglinton-Lawrence), Tom Wappel (Scarborough Southwest), Jim Karygiannis (Scarborough Agincourt), Paul Szabo (Mississauga South), Albina Guarnieri (Mississauga East-Cooksville). Hughes said pro-lifers must get beyond the pro-abortion position of the current and former Liberal leaders to help elect pro-life MPs to Parliament. He noted that Szabo and Wappel are both past recipients of CLC’s Joseph P. Borowski Award given each year to the elected official who, according to the votes of CLC’s supporters, best exemplifies Borowski’s commitment to protecting the rights of the unborn in the political arena.
There are several ridings with more than one pro-life candidate. In Chatham-Kent-Essex, the NDP’s Kevany will face the pro-life Conservative candidate David Van Kesteren and Liberal MP Jerry Pickard, who was rated not pro-life because of his vote in favour C-13 and his absence from M-83 – two pro-life items before the House of Commons in late 2003.
In Cambridge, Liberal MP Janko Peric faces Conservative challenger Gary Goodyear. Both are rated pro-life. Likewise in Middlesex-Kent-Lambton, both the Liberal MP (Rose-Marie Ur) and Conservative challenger Bev Shipley are pro-life.
CLC’s Hughes said that the voters will be the winners because the pro-life candidates are all exemplary.
While the focus will be on Ontario, there are pro-life candidates all across the country. In Atlantic Canada and the West, there are numerous pro-life incumbents seeking re-election from Dr. James Lunney (Conservative) in Nanaimo-Cowichan on Vancouver Island to Norman Doyle (Conservative) in St. John’s North in Newfoundland.
There are also numerous CHP candidates running across the country and in many ridings they are the only pro-life candidate, although CLC urges voters to consult its Voter’s Guide to identify other pro-lifers. Notable CHP candidates include leader Ron Gray (Abbotsford) and long-time pro-life activist Frank Wagner, who faces radically pro-abortion former B.C. premier Ujjaal Dosanjh in Vancouver South, a Paul Martin appointee.
It appears that the CHP may have the 50 candidates necessary to qualify as an official party, which will allow the party’s name to appear on ballots on June 28.
The CHP is not the only so-called third-party that has pro-life candidates worth considering. In Newmarket-Aurora where pro-abortion former Conservative Party leadership hopeful Belinda Stronach is running, local Anglican minister and community activist Dorian Baxter is running under the Progressive Canadian Party banner.
There are three extremely notable pro-life independents, coincidentally all running in Saskatchewan and all because they were either expelled from the Conservative Party caucus or denied the right to run for the party. Larry Spencer is the incumbent in Regina-Lumsden-Lake Centre. The former Canadian Alliance MP was not allowed back into caucus after being suspended following a newspaper interview that was reported to misrepresent Spencer’s views on homosexuality. Spencer told The Interim that party label does not matter. He told The Interim that he is pro-life and pro-family and that he will represent those views in Parliament, as he always has, if re-elected. When asked if Spencer was concerned that running as independent might help the NDP get elected in Regina-Lumsden-Lake Centre, he said that the Conservatives, by running a candidate against the incumbent and their own former colleague, are the ones who would be responsible for dividing the conservative vote in the riding.
In Souris-Moose Mountain, former Saskatchewan premier Grant Devine is the only pro-life candidate in the riding. The Conservative Party did not allow Devine to run for them allegedly because of the scandal that tainted his government but never him, in the early 1990s. Hughes said Devine “makes an excellent addition to the field of pro-life candidates.
In Saskatoon-Humboldt, former Canadian Alliance MP Jim Pankiw is running as an independent. Riding-level polling data obtained by The Interim shows that Pankiw is likely to win the riding. Pankiw told The Interim that he hopes the pro-life and pro-family community support his candidacy because he has consistently brought their issues to the fore in Parliament, including a private member’s bill to maintain the traditional definition of marriage.
Overall, pro-life leaders think they can pick-up seats. Hughes explains that it is important to get as many pro-life MPs to Parliament as possible because only once there is a majority of elected representatives willing to defend the sanctity of human life will there be the opportunity to get pro-life legislation.