There must be about ten days left in the campaign and the Tories must be ahead because the abortion card has been played with a vengeance. In short, a number of media outlets — Sun News’ David Akin, the Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star, CBC, Canadian Press, in total Google News lists more than 120 stories — have covered the story about Conservative MP Brad Trost (Saskatoon-Humboldt) telling the Saskatchewan Pro-Life Association that their support (via the signing of petitions) and his work behind the scenes helped get International Planned Parenthood defunded. This is apparently controversial to journalists and upsetting to Conservative strategists, spokesmen and its leader, Stephen Harper. It is not news that Ottawa has ceased funding IPPF — we covered it last March. The Conservatives are claiming that they haven’t made a decision to defund IPPF, but considering the request came in 2009 for 2010 and beyond, not making a decision to fund (or not) is pretty much a decision not to fund at this point. Good for them. There is nothing wrong with that position, and not only from a pro-life point of view (no need to fund every group just because it has received funding in the past). But the Conservatives are being a little too cute in explaining an indefinite delay as a non-decision. Anyway, the Tories were scared enough when reporters started sniffing an abortion story that CPC spokesman Dimitri Soudas called a midnight press conference to reiterate the G8 Muskoska initiative. Again, too cute and misses the point. It is admirable that Ottawa won’t fund abortion through its maternal health initiative, but there is more than one way to fund abortion abroad. The Conservative government 1) is not giving IPPF direct operational grants and 2) not funding abortion through the Muskoka initiative, but 3) it can (and does) fund individual IPPF projects and other abortion projects abroad directly on a case-by-case basis as approved by CIDA. Unfortunately, the Tories felt the need to do more damage control and this morning, Conservative leader Stephen Harper reiterated that a Conservative government will not re-open the abortion issue, but in doing so he has gone further than that: “The government will not bring forward any such legislation and any such legislation that is brought forward will be defeated as long as I am prime minister.” Will he whip his pro-life MPs? Will he whip just enough of the caucus to prevent pro-life measures from passing? These are questions that he should be asked and all Conservative candidates should be asked what they would do. Indeed, as David Akin said, it would be nice if voters knew where every candidate stood on such issues. (He also makes the point that it is not only the Conservative Party that has pr0-life members of Parliament.) Trost may have stirred up the hornets nest, but he should be congratulated for being clear on what his position is.
The Canadian Autoworkers have 50 targeted ridings and the gist of their campaign is to defeat Conservatives. As part of their campaign, they have fliers to be distributed and one of them is about women’s issues. The CAW is upset with “the Harper government’s assaults on equality” including “funding cuts to women’s programs,” “abolishing a national child care program,” and “refusing to fund health services including abortions in developing countries.” There is the standard boilerplate about “silencing women’s voices” and “turning back the clock” — never mind that women like Kelly Block are passionate and effective pro-life voices in the Conservative caucus and most of the youth in campus pro-life groups are young women. The CAW should worry about labour issues, not abortion.