Roseanne Skoke’s failure to win re-nomination in a newly created federal constituency in Nova Scotia is a hard lesson in the realities of Liberal politics in the late 1990s, say pro-life leaders.

Skoke, one of the leading pro-life, pro-family voices in federal politics, lost by 147 votes to fellow Liberal Francis LeBlanc in the March 22 nomination contest. The two incumbents were forced to contest the Pictou-Antigonish-Guysborough riding after redistribution merged the ridings they represented in the 1993 federal election.

The re-nomination was seen as a battle between Skoke’s grassroots appeal to pro-life, pro-family voices, versus LeBlanc’s middle-of-the-road opportunism.

Skoke however, faced an uphill battle from the start. Her strong pro-life, pro-family views put her at odds not only with the Liberal party hierarchy, but with feminists and homosexual rights activists. Skoke’s opposition to special human rights guarantees for homosexuals made her the target of vehement attacks in the mainstream media.

Prior to the nomination, a contingent of Nova Scotia New Democrats purchased Liberal party memberships with the express purpose of voting against Skoke.

Skoke put on a brave front in the wake of the vote results. In a March 24 interview with The Interim, Skoke said it wasn’t so much a personal rejection, but an effort by the establishment to oust a pro-life, pro-family voice. She criticized Liberal party officials who changed the nomination rules to prevent younger people from taking part in the voting. “Families were the essential part of my campaign,” she said.

She also expressed disappointment that local pro-life and church groups could not offer greater support in her re-nomination bid. “The homosexual activists and the feminists know how to work the system, but Christians, pro-life people and family groups aren’t as active.”

Skoke voiced some appreciation for those who offered support, but said more people must come forward if pro-life politicians are to enjoy any success. She said the results are a reminder for pro-family forces to take a more active role in support of pro-life candidates.

Her views were echoed by Canadian pro-life leaders who are disappointed that such a strong pro-family voice will be lost in Parliament.

Jim Hughes, national president of Campaign Life Coalition, said the Skoke defeat is a wake up call for pro-lifers to become more active in supporting sympathetic candidates. He suggested the Liberals’ favoring of LeBlanc over Skoke reveals how pro-life views are not welcome in the party. “Despite their claims of openness and toleration a strong pro-family candidate, but it has plenty of room for single-issue pro-choice people.”

Hughes called for the emergence of a strong religious or civic leader who could be a rallying point for pro-life supporters. “We really need someone like Cardinal John O’Connor (of the New York archdiocese) to arouse people from their inactivity,” he said. “Unfortunately these kinds of people seem to be in short supply.”

In the meantime, Skoke is considering a plan to run for the leadership of the Nova Scotia Liberal party. The present leader John Savage announced his resignation in March and a leadership convention is expected in September.

Skoke said many Nova Scotia residents have confidence in her leadership potential. She added however that any hope of mounting a leadership campaign will again depend on the support of pro-life people.

“It takes a lot of money to run for the party leadership. I would need a tremendous financial backing if I were to have any serious chance at a leadership campaign.”