The man many people look to as one of the great pro-life hopes in the new Liberal government admits he has his work cut out for him.

Tom Wappel, MP for Scarborough West, carries with him to Ottawa new pro-life legislation which he hopes to introduce after the government is sworn in and the new parliament assembles. It hasn’t been easy for him this election. The New Democrats singled Wappel out for his pro-life stance this election and hammered away at him every chance they got.

“It got me down in ’88 (his last campaign) but I’m used to it now,” he says. “It no longer bothers me. It just saddens me to see an audience applauding slogans.”

Wappel won by a huge margin, getting more than 54 per cent of the vote but his well-known pro-life stance was constantly being raised during all-candidates’ meetings. It was not a major issue during his door-to-door campaigning, he says. The NDP candidate, Steve Thomas, who was his most vociferous critic of his pro-life stance, won seven per cent of the vote.

Wappel’s victory represents the first time the fickle voters in Scarborough-West have returned an incumbent to Ottawa. Now he says it’s time to get moving for a law protecting the unborn. He says Jean Chrétien has promised to allow a free vote if the issue comes up. There are many pro-life Liberals but there will be huge opposition to any legislation which attempts to enshrine the rights of the unborn into law. Political organizers at Campaign Life Coalition estimate 67 solid English-speaking pro-life members were elected Oct. 25. There could be members from the Bloc Quebecois and an unknown number of Reform Party members who are open to the pro-life message.

“There is a pro-abortion mentality at the helm of the hierarchy (of the Liberal Party),” Wappel says. “Any challenge to the status quo will be met with fierce resistance.”

Pro-life organizers within the Liberal Party have already seen an indication of that resistance when Chrétien appointed Liberals over active pro-life candidates, mainly in the Metro Toronto area. David Smith, a Liberal operator and chairman of the Ontario campaign, engineered the appointments which shut out pro-life Liberals. Art Eggleton, Maria Minna and Jean Augustine, were all appointed over pro-life candidates.

Wappel says the only way to protect human life is through a change in the Criminal Code. His planned law indicates a radical departure from any previous attempt at pro-life legislation. The bill will be “different from any other approach in that it changes the definition of a human being. The first step, he says, is to change the law. The next is to implement the legislation. “It isn’t going to happen in the absence of a law,” he adds.

Wappel says Chrétien knows his view on abortion and respects them.

“I’m not in the inner circle but he (Chrétien) respects my point of view, He listens to what I’m saying.”

There likely won’t be a family caucus as there was during the Tory government but Wappel suggests Liberals might “form quietly a group of people” who would “vote the right way” when important legislation comes up. He says he has “absolutely no idea” about how pro-life the Liberal caucus will be. “There are a lot of ifs,” he says.