There is a pretty lame article on Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Chief of Staff Guy Giorno in the current Maclean’s but this paragraph is worth noting:
Perhaps more than any issue that’s arisen in Giorno’s nearly two years as Harper’s top adviser, outlawing overseas abortion funding threatens to drag him unwillingly toward the centre of media attention. (Giorno declined to be interviewed for this story.) Montreal’s Le Devoir reported a few days ago that an unhappy Harper wants the matter defused before world leaders, many of whom disagree with his stance, arrive in Ontario for the summits. But Giorno is reportedly worried about how Conservative supporters would react to any retreat and is urging Harper to “protect the base.”
I know plenty of Conservative strategists, campaign workers, donors, MPs and candidates who say that it doesn’t matter if Harper crosses and double crosses social conservatives, which make up a large portion of the Conservative base, because, after all, who else are they going to vote for. Giorno is probably not one of those Conservatives; he’s too smart to make that mistake. If socially conservative voters become upset with the Tories because they capitulate on overseas abortion funding, they can vote for third parties like the Christian Heritage Party, support pro-life Liberals (in the few ridings where this is a possibility), spoil or refuse their ballot in protest, or stay home. Giorno does not need to think any of these alternatives are wise to understand that enough Conservative voters might consider them to hurt the party’s in a future election.
Of the four alternatives to voting for the Conservatives, the most popular will be to stay home on election day, turned off of politics and the lack of authentic choice in the political arena. On many social issues there does not appear to be much space between the moral issue-phobic Harper and the socially left-wing Ignatieff. If Harper decides to do a 180 and make abortion part of his signature maternal health program, a significant number of pro-lifers will likely abandon him in the same way the prime minister abandoned his pledge to not fund abortion in the developing world as part of his maternal health initiative. I hope that doesn’t happen and I think if Giorno can win the argument that funding abortion overseas in not just bad policy but bad politics, Harper will hold strong. The prime minister can afford the criticism of crabby liberals and even disagreement with foreign leaders over what does and does not constitute maternal health, but he cannot afford to alienate his base.