Friday, May 12, 2006

Liberal MPs attend anti-abortion rally: What do we stand for?

I'm all for the idea of the Liberal Party being a big tent party welcoming of people from the left and the right with different views on different policy issues, but on some issues of fundamental importance I believe we should draw the line and say THIS is what we believe in, and if you're a Liberal so do you. Abortion is one of those issues for me.

Yes, we need to be a big tent, and we can have different views on any number of issues, from tax reform and military funding (I wasn't happy with the cuts we made in the 1990s) to foreign affairs. But despite minor differences, what should bind us together are certain core beliefs and principles. On the Liberal web site there's a page on philosophy that spells it out well. Here's an excerpt:

The prime principles remain a belief in:

* individual freedom, responsibility and human dignity in the framework of a just society;

* political freedom in the framework of meaningful participation by all interested persons;

* the Constitution and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms as the framework for both Canada's democratic society and the interaction of members within the Liberal party.

The Liberal Party of Canada is committed to:

* the pursuit of equality of opportunity for all persons;

* the enhancement of our unique and diverse multicultural community;

* the recognition that English and French are the official languages of Canada;

* the promotion of the Canadian identity in a global society.

I believe there are certain fundamental policy issues that flow from these principles that are so core to what it means to be a Liberal that if you want to sit in the Liberal caucus, you need to vote with the party and defend them. Otherwise, I'm sorry, but while I respect your opinion and your right to it, the Liberal Party probably isn't the party for you.

Abortion is very much one of those issues for me, and so is same-sex marriage. That's why I was quite saddened to see Liberal MPs Paul Steckle, Paul Szabo and Tom Wappel attended the recent anti-abortion rally on Parliament Hill. To do so goes against everything I believe the Liberal Party stands for.

Not to mention make us look completely moronic when we try to demonize the Conservatives on this issue, as Paul Martin did in the last election. While there are obviously more anti-abortion MPs in the Conservative camp and something is more likely (not any time soon, certainly not until a majority) to happen on the abortion front under a Conservative government, still, it was laughable.

I recognize these are divisive issues, and public opinion is split. I recognize some Liberal MPs may hold strong personal beliefs, or feel the need to bend to what they perceive as the will of their constituents if they want to keep their jobs. I recognize seats may/will be lost. I understand that.

Nonetheless, being a Liberal should mean believing in certain things. If you don't, as I said, maybe you're in the wrong party. I'd encourage those MPs to think about that between now and the next election, and I'd encourage our next leader to think about it before he signs their nomination papers.

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BW said...

I agree wholeheartedly Jeff. I can only attribute the appearance of these three MPs to their personal beliefs taking precedence over the party line. We must, however, ensure that we never close the door to different viewpoints.

Anonymous said...

I belive we definitely should close the door to different viewpoints on certain issues, if we do not then we are going to look like we are dithering on an issue which would divide the party. These three individuals that showed up to the rally should be told that this is not what the party stands for and if thats the viewpoint you hold then by all means run as an independent or a conservative next time. Principlas within the party must be upheld otherwise the liberal party is just a grouping of misfits from all political parties that no other party wanted.

BW said...

There is a difference between closing the door and adopting a policy after some debate. It's that to which I was referring.

ottlib said...

Most MPs do not always agree completely with the party line.

That is especially true when the issues strike to the very core of ones beliefs, such as abortion or SSM.

Although I fundementally disagree with those who are against both I respect their beliefs and I do not think that they should be excluded from the party based on those beliefs.

BCer in TO asks "What do we stand for?" Well I would submit that one of the things Liberals stand for is tolerance, including tolerance of views that are fundementally different from our own.

So accepting these folks into the party has nothing to do with being a big tent party. It has everything to do with being understanding and tolerant of other points of view.

Of course, it any member of the party has serious differences of opinions with everything Liberals stood for then I would question their membership in the party. However, in most cases when those individuals come to that conclusion they usually leave on their own.

Anonymous said...

So, it seems the Cons have let Vella-racist-cott loose to appease the nutbars, then. Calculated, I'm sure, to move towards that majority they so desperately want. May it never come to fruition.

As for the Liberal MPs and Senators, well, what do you expect? They're wishy-washy Liberals.

Zac said...

These are 3 men who represent constituencies which will never go Conservative, ie Toronto, Mississauga etc.

They belong in the CPC but can't get elected.

Szabo and Wappel have both been around for a long time, they'll be gone soon enough.

S.K. said...

Zac, I'm afraid Mr. Steckle is Huron Bruce one of our only rural ridings. He is SW ONtario and I will bring this up with him from a policy perspective within the Liberal Party at this weekends forum in London, if he is there.

Hindus are free to believe that eating beef is sacriligious and prohibited and still be MP's right? Eventough the Liberal Party supports Canada's Beef producers and rendering plants.

So is a Christian or a Catholic or anyone else free to have a religious belief and still be a member of the Liberal Party? I believe the answer to that question is yes.

Can they present it as a Liberal Policy? No!!

Wappell is an embarassment for other reasons and should be nudged.

Anonymous said...

Stephen Harper's Conservatives have a policy about these kinds of social issues:

-there will ALWAYS be free votes by ALL MPs
- they have NO policy on abortion or SSM - if they are ever brought up there will ALWAYS be a free vote- there is NO party line.

I think that it a big enough tent to encompass ALL Canadians who have many diffeent views and opinions on these kinds of social issues.

The reason they are divisive - is because so many people are divided on these issues.

That would eliminate about 50% of all Canadians from being members of the Liberal Party, the NDP or the BLOC who have made these issues of personal choice and concience whipped policy.

Those 50% only have a home with the Conservatives. Is that what you want? To make the party into a pup tent instead of a big tent?

Jeff said...

I'm not saying people that oppose SSM or abortion should be kicked out of the party, obviously the rank and file can believe whatever they want.

But, if you're an MP elected under the Liberal banner, sitting in the Liberal caucus, I think on such core charter issues, you should tow the party line and the vote should be whipped.

On Harper's free votes, yes, that's true. I find it interesting and not coincidental though that 98 per cent (give or take) of the caucus voted the same way. How welcome do you think an openly gay abortion doctor would be in their caucus, think he'd win a nomination? Ask any of the red tory refugees that have fled since the merger.