How a backbench revolt turned into a debate over the power of all MPs -

How a backbench revolt turned into a debate over the power of all MPs

The issue isn’t abortion — it’s democratic reform


Tory MPs (left to right) Rathgeber, Warawa, Benoit, Williamson and Woodworth are challenging their own party

Brent Rathgeber, the Conservative MP for Edmonton-St.Albert, has a blog. And on that blog, on Feb. 6, Rathgeber wrote something simultaneously remarkable and mundane. “I understand that members of Parliament, who are not members of the executive, sometimes think of themselves as part of the government; we are not,” he wrote. “Under our system of responsible government, the executive is responsible and accountable to the legislature. The latter holds the former to account. A disservice is provided to both when Parliament forgets to hold the Cabinet to account.”

Here was a simple, if generally forgotten and regularly ignored, principle: MPs, even those who run under the same party banner as the prime minister and his cabinet, sit in the House of Commons for the purposes of holding the government to account.

Two months later, the basic place and principle of the MP is a point of open debate in the House of Commons. What began, with a motion from another Conservative backbencher, as a discussion about abortion—specifically, “sex-selective pregnancy termination”—has become an even more profound debate about the way in which our representative democracy functions. At its essence is the question of what we elect MPs, and send them off to Parliament Hill, to do.

It might feel, in many ways, that this was a long time coming. The power and purpose of the backbencher seem to have been subject to question and mockery for nearly as long as there have been backbenchers—and, in the current era of the talking point, partisan scripting and message control have made it even easier to mock those MPs who seem to be reduced to messengers for their party leaders. Three years ago, Conservative MP Michael Chong proposed changes to question period that would have, in part, made it easier for backbenchers to ask questions of their own volition. Last month, Conservative MP Brad Trost tabled a motion that would give the House the power to elect committee chairs—another small move that would empower the legislature. According to two Conservative sources, a nebulous group of 20 or so Conservative backbenchers—no cabinet ministers or parliamentary secretaries included—have been gathering periodically over the past year to discuss the power dynamic between backbenchers and party leaders and possible parliamentary reforms (Rathgeber says he has participated in some of those meetings).

Parties are integral to our system of government and a certain tension between party and person is natural—a certain discipline and consistency of message is to be expected—but the events of the last few weeks would seem to have compelled a debate about the basic purpose of the MP. And that might lead to a wider discussion about what kind of House of Commons we should aim for. “I think we have to look at questions, statements, speeches, all of it, and say, ‘is this the best that Parliament can do, that we all can do?’ That’s a huge fundamental issue,” says Conservative MP James Rajotte, who has not been part of those backbench meetings. “That’s not a Conservative debate. It’s, frankly, a debate with all parliamentarians and all parties.”

Conservative MP Mark Warawa tabled motion 408 in September. It read, in full, “That the House condemn discrimination against females occurring through sex-selective pregnancy termination.” This new motion arrived a day after one from Conservative Stephen Woodworth—which sought to launch a study of the legal definition of a human being—was defeated. Both motions followed the suggestion that MPs in the Conservative caucus opposed to abortion were going to be more aggressive in their efforts to deal with the issue, a vow that came in the wake of the government’s decision to provide funding for Planned Parenthood.

What might have remained another story about Stephen Harper and the social conservatives in his midst became something else for two reasons. First, the subcommittee on private members’ business, which vets the bills and motions proposed by MPs to ensure they are in order, deemed Warawa’s motion non-votable, despite comments from an analyst with the Library of Parliament that suggested the motion was in order. The same day, Warawa was told by his party whip that he would not be allowed to stand during the 15 minutes reserved each day for statements by members—time nominally set aside for MPs to speak to any matter of international, national or local concern—to deliver a 60-second statement on his motion. A few days later, Warawa stood in the House and testified to the Speaker that, in not being allowed to speak, his privileges as an MP had been violated. Conservative MP Leon Benoit, also known for his opposition to abortion, stood and said he too had been prevented in the past from speaking during that time. In the ensuing days, four other Conservative backbenchers added their concerns.

While the issue of abortion has complicated the ensuing discussion, the primary question put before the Speaker remains to be answered: should the party whip be in charge of determining who is able to stand and speak during the time allotted for statements by members? Conservative MP John Williamson, in his intervention, pushed the Speaker to go further and consider whether party whips should have control over who asks questions during question period. At present, the Speaker defers, on both counts, to lists provided by the whips. “There have been backroom grumblings and concerns and little meetings from time to time, but I think the Warawa incident caused those [concerns] to go from the backburner to the frontburner for some of us,” Rathgeber says. “I’ve been asked a number of times, ‘Why now? Why this one? This is just a pro-life cause in disguise of democratic reform.’ It’s not. The reason that people have become vocal now is because you can’t challenge a practice in a vacuum. You needed a test case.” If the Speaker sides with Warawa, it will set in motion a process that could lead to small, but substantive change in the way the House operates.

Warawa has pledged his full support for the Prime Minister and if what has ensued in the wake of his motion is a revolt, it seems, for now, to be a revolt against the system. One Conservative suggests more backbenchers will speak to Warawa’s question of privilege when the House returns next week. If Warawa chooses to do so, he can also appeal the ruling against his motion to the House, where a secret ballot vote of all members would determine whether it is votable.

Meanwhile, Rathgeber continues to blog. He has commented on private members’ bills and contentious issues like the future of Via Rail and supply management. A fiscal conservative, in a post last year he questioned the government’s policies on ministerial limos. He says he is loyal to his party and party leader, but that loyalty means a willingness to constructively criticize. “I started the blog with the view that I was going to write things that were important to me and that were important to my constituents and it was not simply going to be a reposting of communication products that had been provided to me,” he says. “That I was actually going to personally sit down and write these things.”

The question now is to what extent MPs might apply the same empowerment to their contributions in the House of Commons.


How a backbench revolt turned into a debate over the power of all MPs

  1. I call bs on your assertion that the “issue is not about abortion but about parliamentary reform”. If these same MPs were relentlessly trying to change the gay marriage laws, everyone would right them off as bigots and there would be no crowing over freedom of speech. Because they are only trying to suppress women’s reproductive rights, everyone believes they should have countless opportunities to keep banging the drum no matter that they joined a party that said it wouldn’t address the issue and that they have already introduced several motions on the issue that have been soundly defeated.
    It is like Chantel Hebert says every time the government charges a citizen with an infraction related to the language law. Substitute it with the Alberta government and see how palatable it is.

    • Nope! Waaay wrong on this one, HI. The abortion issue is undoubtedly the catalyst for the long-overdue discussion on the rights and responsibilities of MPs, but – to anyone who cares about democracy – this discussion of MP rights is of paramount importance and makes the abortion part essentially moot.
      Oh, and BTW – in a democracy, all things are open to being revisited, debated and – possibly – changed, if society deems the change desirable. If we followed your logic, we would still have Prohibition.
      I’m on your side, more or less, on the issues you raised [I happen to think we would be better off with a law that clearly sets out the right of a woman to choose, rather than having the current limbo – though I don’t think there’s a party in the country with the gumption to try] but I don’t think I have any more right to tell those on the other side of the debate to shut up and sit down than I think they have the right to say the same to me.

      • MPs do have the right to speak out but do they have the right to go against the party they pretend to represent? Why did the NDP MPs leave and become independents? By your assertion, they should have just stood up and contradicted Mulclair and the rest of the party on Quebec separation. They did not. They became independent and had every opportunity to speak their hearts.

        • If the party doesn’t like what they say, then they have the option of disciplining them – up to kicking them out of the party. But they should not be able to keep them from speaking in the first place.

          No one has the right to prevent free speech; on the other hand, speaking your mind may have a price – it is not consequence free. As long as you are willing to pay the price, though, then you should be free to speak.

          • They have more than the opportunity to speak, as MP’s. They have the opportunity to craft and vote for legislation that applies federally. I have no problem with free speech for citizens- as you say, as long as you realize you invite the same back and are prepared to defend your views. But MP’s are citizens with a difference- they’re representing others. As a result, their speech is already freighted with significantly more meaning, import and clout. It’s a bit like saying Lindsay Lohan and Michael Moore are simply “concerned citizens expressing their views”. There is something wrong with prohibiting discussion, but there is also something wrong with attempting, deviously and in bad faith, to introduce discussion about an issue via another, semi-related discussion (ie, abortion in general via the path of sex-selective abortion). Everyone knows that’s where Woodworth and Wawara want the debate to end up, including Harper. All Canadians want is for the spade to call it a spade and say what we know they want: to ban abortions in Canada because they feel it’s sinful according to their particular beliefs. Tolerance of minority beliefs in a liberal society doesn’t mean the minority gets to dictate national jurisprudence policy for the nation.

  2. What the media party wants and gets are two very different things.

  3. Thanks Aaron for a valiant effort to accurately portray the situation. Good luck with the rabble blinded by their respective passion for women’s rights & SH respectively.

    • How about the rabble blinded by their passion for crapping on women’s rights. They are out in full force here.

      • I honestly do not believe that to be true, in fact I am quite confident that access to abortion is not under threat in Canada.

        • Thank you for the reassuring pat on the head. Doubtless I should leave this to you men to sort out. I should just get back to the kitchen and bake some cookies. Let me know how this debate on my reproductive rights shakes out, that is if you think my mind can absorb it all. You men have always known what’s best for us poor women….I mean isn’t that why you all have opinion on what we should be doing with OUR pregnant bodies?

          • You know, HI, you are reading way more into SS’s comment than is there. Take a step back and have another look: the one making the sexist assumptions here… is you.

          • Yes your right Keith. I have an issue with a bunch of men making decisions about women’s reproductive rights. If that is sexist, than I am sexist. When we start discussing your reproductive rights, I will decline to comment because it is none of my business what choices men make.

          • Good to hear. Then you would agree that if a man doesn’t want the pregnancy carried to term but the woman does anyway, she nor the government should have no right to force child support on him. A woman should have no more right to make post-conception reproductive decisions for a man than he does for a woman. Forcing a man to support a child he never wanted is a vestige of the days when men were the breadwinners, women were housewives, and shotgun weddings were common. Any self-respecting feminist should be ashamed that men can, in this day and age, be forced to be wage slaves

          • Quite often women are paying men child support in this day as women make more money. I wouldn’t equate a female undergoing a surgical intervention with a man paying money at any rate. Let’s compare my having an abortion with you having one of your testicles removed. Can I have a say in that?

          • I have no problem with you having your uterus removed before you become pregnant but when you become pregnant you have another human to consider. You no longer have only you to be responsible too.

          • We are discussing whether my decision to have an abortion or not is the business of the men of this country.

          • Seems I missed out on a lively discussion while I was offline! Anyway…

            First, back to my original assertion. You lambasted Stewart for the idiots on here who did as he predicted would happen – they took an article that clearly set out how the real issue is not abortion but the freedom of MPs to speak their minds – and accused him of being sexist when he said nothing remotely sexist. So you still owe him an apology.

            Second, regardless of how much a woman makes, she will only be paying child support if the child is living with the father. I know this first hand; my ex makes almost 50% more than me but because my daughter lives with her I pay support. (That’s not a complaint BTW, just a bare statement of fact; don’t read more into this than is meant. I pay it willingly.)

            But as for choice: The Charter says we cannot discriminate on the basis of sex. That means, where post-conception reproductive rights are concerned, if a woman has the right to choose, then so should the man.

            Clearly, for biological reasons, the man can’t carry the child – and no, I am in no way advocating that a putative father who wants to keep the child be able to force the woman to see the pregnancy through. Clearly, then, any equality under law will require some balancing that takes biology into consideration.

            I can’t think of an equitable solution where the woman decides to terminate against the father’s wishes. But where the mother decides to go through with the pregnancy against the man’s wishes, he should be able to surrender all parental rights and obligations. i.e. he will have no access to the child whatsoever, but also will not have to pay support; he becomes, in effect, the equivalent of an anonymous sperm donor.

            Current laws give all the power to the woman. She gets to decide whether or not to keep the child – and she effectively gets to choose whether or not the father pays support (if she doesn’t want him in her life she tells him the child is not his and does not name the father on the birth certificate). If she names the father, unless he can prove he isn’t the source of the male contribution, he is on the hook financially. As I said in my previous comment, this is a vestige of the days of shotgun weddings and patently against the Charter’s section that forbids sex discrimination.

            [And regarding your ridiculous abortion vs testicle argument: the proper comparison here would be: If the man can be held financially responsible for a child he would rather have been aborted, then so too should a woman who gives up a child for adoption still be on the hook for the cost of its upbringing.]

            So, if we are to have true equal rights under the law, and we agree that the options should not include the right of the man to force the woman to carry the child to term, then equally we should agree that the woman should not have the right to decide for the man whether or not he is to be stuck with the cost of raising the child.

            (Though personally, I think any man worthy of respect would step up and make the payments, regardless of what the law says.)

          • Keith, the determination a man gets to make is whether or not he has unprotected sexual intercourse with a woman. If a man has had a vasectomy or used a condom with a spermicide, there is little chance procreation will occur. You wanting to decide what surgical procedures a woman undergoes and if she disagrees, you shouldn’t pay any money in the raising of a child, is a conversation you should have with her BEFORE the two of you hit the sheets. As for your assertion that my example of testicle surgery v. abortion is ridiculous, I would ask you why the two aren’t comparable. They are both surgical interventions that affect reproduction. The charter has decided that a fetus is not a human being so why do you get a say about a surgery that affects a woman’s reproductive organs but she gets no say in one affecting yours?
            You know you could have sued your ex-wife for spousal support even though you didn’t get joint custody. You also could have joint custody and have received child support. Given that paternity can be established through DNA, men are hardly being wrongly accused for fathering children they didn’t. Further, there are way more instances of dead-beat dads than wrongly accused victims. Even Steve Jobs was a dead-beat dad.

          • Yes, I know I could have received some spousal support; I was told the amount would have been negligible so I didn’t push for it. It would not have offset the child support to any great degree and I do put my child’s interests first. My argument here has nothing to do with my personal views on responsibility.

            But as to your other arguments… The Charter say nothing about fetuses. The Criminal Code says a fetus is not a person; it has no legal rights until it exits the womb (utter nonsense – as anyone working in the medical field ought to know – but that’s the law).

            And your argument about contraception is true as far as it goes but accidents still happen. And to say only the woman has rights post-conception is nonsense (or ought to be). I notice you failed to address my more apt comparison of a father who didn’t want the child to a mother who gives up he child for adoption – or my sperm donor comparison.

            There are only two ways to give equal rights to the man – either allow him equal say in whether or not to abort (a practical impossibility) or give him the option to be no more than a sperm donor. The woman can then base her decision on whether or not to continue the pregnancy in light of that information. It is an informed decision.

            You are basing your opinion on emotion, not on the law and how it gets interpreted. I’m playing devil’s advocate here – I really do think the father should be responsible – but looking at the Charter and what equal rights really mean, I think it is only a matter of time before someone with deep pockets makes this argument in court – and wins.

          • Don’t have sexual intercourse with any women who don’t share your views on abortion, child support and adoption. Discuss this issues in depth before you go to bed.

          • It takes two to tango; I note you seem to think the woman plays no role in the decision – and that the woman deserves a “get out of jail free” card (abortion) but the man doesn’t. Incredibly sexist thinking HI.

          • I think you completely misinterpreted what I said. When I said “discussion”, I meant that a man and a woman should decide together what they each would want to do should “their” mode of contraception fail (prior to engaging in sexual intercourse). Should their opinions be completely at odds, then perhaps the two of them should not embark on an intimate relationship.
            As for abortion being a “get out of jail free card”, I can only say that if you have ever met anyone who is going through the heart-wrenching decision to have an abortion, you would realize that it is probably one of the most gut-wrenching, difficult decisions a woman ever makes. There is a really good reason that in most provinces in Canada we offer counselling before and after the procedure. It isn’t something that you ever get over. I am not sure why you think being the one who carries all the responsibility of the unplanned and unwanted pregnancies is such an enviable place to be.

          • As you well know the reason you have small feet is so you can stand closer to the sink and BTW I agree with Stewart and Keith.

          • I don’t have small feet as a matter of fact. Mine are larger than many men as I am very close to six feet tall and I need those big feet to keep me balanced. I have no doubt that you agree with Stewart and Keith.

          • OOPs, sorry sir. That explains the myth of men with big feet and women with big mouths.

          • What is it? You have never met a tall woman? I guess those super-models are all “sirs” to you.

          • Nope and I don’t want to either, they do more harm to young girls and bone racks like they are, are not any kind of a turn on as far as I am concerned. Somehow I don’t believe you are a super model either as they don’t have enough energy to make their brains work.

          • How about this compromise? Make abortions illegal, but then all pregnant women who do not wish to have the child get paid a weekly salary from the government at the rate of oh, $2000 per week during the pregnancy and then $1000 per week for a six week period of recovery after delivery be it stillbirth or live.
            If men are going to continue to demand a say in my reproductive life then they can pay through the nose for the privilege.

          • Oh, I forgot a few things. We also get free maternity clothes, free vitamins, a grocery allowance, free transportation from and to doctor’s appointments, and physio-therapy/personal training and a six week gym membership to return our original bodies to us and transportation to and from the same.

          • Six weeks would not be adequate if a mother is breastfeeding because it is pretty much impossible to work and breastfeed as that is the sole source of nutrition for the first six months of a baby’s life and the baby needs to be fed every two to four hours.

          • We are discussing carrying a child versus abortion. If I don’t want the baby and would prefer an abortion but am forced to carry it to term by law then I am not keeping it after the birth and thus not breastfeeding it so six weeks is adequate for recovery. The law can’t force me to keep a child. Incidentally I am a mother of two and having breastfed my child am intimately aware of child care and feeding.

          • Oh, okay.

  4. It’s time to turn this around.

    We know why Conservatives aren’t allowed to talk about abortion…

    Why aren’t journalists?

    Canada is mostly a pro-choice country. I get that, and to an extent I
    agree. But you don’t have to be pro-life to be utterly horrified by the
    story linked above. You also don’t have to be pro life to report on it.
    All you need is an understanding of what is newsworthy, and the
    integrity to report on something that is. And yet, I doubt there are
    1000 people in Canada today aware of the horror show being unveiled at
    Kermit Gosnell’s trial. Because not one damn one of you will write about

    So what’s up journalists? This story is so obviously news it’s embarrassing. Why aren’t YOU allowed to talk about it?

    X-posted from your pointer story.

    • Wow.. got the tinfoil twisted on really tight today, don’t you?

      It’s a criminal trial about a local doctor who did horrible things. Those rarely get more than local coverage, especially by the trial phase. As it is, the story was covered by NBC and USA Today. That’s hardly indicative of a lack of coverage.

      I really wish you’d just get off your ass and go do your own damn media if you think the current one is doing such a poor job of it. And, after following in the footsteps of the Western Standard, perhaps you’d have a better understanding of why certain events generally don’t get international coverage.

      • “A Pittsburgh medic has revealed horrifying details of the operating conditions of a Philadelphia abortion clinic, where children born alive were “beheaded”,,,One former worker, Adrienne Moton, testified that Gosnell taught her his “snipping” technique to use on infants born alive. .

        You got that Thwim? They were born alive, and then murdered by cutting their spinal cords. One of his staff testified that he cut the spinal cords of 100 living infants. Not fetuses. Infants. Already born. Alive.

        100 living infants. That’s 4 Newtowns, for anyone keeping track. Was Newtown just a local story too?

        But perhaps that’s a bit extreme. He’s only on trial for the murder of 7 actual live babies. So let’s use that number. James Holmes killed 12 people in Aurora at the Batman screening. Was that just a local story too? Would our media have written off the James Holmes or Sandy Hook stories as just “local stories” if the number killed had been only 7?

        Was Trayvon Martin just a local crime story? Was the Cambridge police arresting Henry Louis Gates just a local crime story?

        Right now your “local crime story” is the #2 trending topic on Twitter across the entire US. Despite the media blackout. Does that sound like a story that has only local implications to you?

        I know full well why this story is not being covered. This explains it pretty well.

        I’m not standing for it anymore. The media who are calling out Harper’s crackdown on MP’s speaking about abortion are hypocrits of the highest order. It’s time to expose them.

        • Good luck with this john g. It doesn’t fit the correct narrative, so it gets buried. For Planned Parenthood progressives–if recent testimony in Florida is anything to go by (don’t worry if you’re unfamiliar with this incredible, Youtube-preserved dissemblin; it didn’t quite make it to into the newstream)–killing a baby inside the womb or out is something that should only concern a woman and her personal Mengele.

          It’s not unlike that recent incident somewhere down south where a…youth of a certain hue shot a baby in the face, allegedly because the mother didn’t cough up money for him. I can’t remember the exact details because the story got disappeared by an uncomfortable FSM almost immediately. Perhaps a reader boasting an eidetic memory can flesh out the particulars for those who are unfamiliar with the account.

        • Obviously, it’s because the media has a strong pro-life bias. I mean, all abortions are murders, right? What makes this one case so special, when there are abortion providers all over the country who are doing the same thing? It’s a dog-bites-man story to them.

      • Oh and by the way, just as a point of contrast…George Tiller was a late term abortion provider in the US who was murdered 4 years ago by an anti-abortion activist. CBC’s site still shows at least a dozen relevant hits to that single death, 4 year old “local crime story”.

      • Epic fail Thwim. You’re trying to tell me that a person on trial for murdering 7 living human beings is a “local story”?! Since when is interest in mass murderers a local thing? The reason you and MSM don’t want to discuss the story, is because it so perfectly characterizes the thin line between an abortion and murdering a baby. Can you even get yourself to say that what Gosnell did was wrong?

        • I realize that more than one sentence is a challenge for your brain, but try the second one in my comment.

          • Ya, keep telling yourself that a doctor murdering 8 people is “a local doctor doing bad things”. So you now classify serial killing as a “bad thing”, do we? I guess Pickton was just a “local pig farmer who did bad things”? Or Bernardo/Homolka were just a “local couple who did bad things”?

            Is this the kind of justice policies we can expect out of Junior’s Liberal leadership? Mass murders are just “bad people”, who shouldn’t be condemned? Yeesh!

    • It is horrifying, John. I am not sure why journalists haven’t reported it but it certainly does not reflect the Canadian experience. Licensed physicians perform the procedures in accredited facilities and nurses and staff report any irregularities because they are employed by the government rather than the physicians. In Canada, late term abortions occur because the mother cannot carry the child to term without harm to herself and sex-selection abortion is not acceptable.

  5. If the Speaker sides with Warawa, it will set in motion a process that could lead to small, but substantive change in the way the House operates.
    And if he doesn’t, MPs may as well pack up and go home, as the Speaker will have proven once and for all that regular MPs are, by deliberate intention, nothing but sock puppets, and that in Canada, at least at the federal level, parliamentary democracy is a sham.

    • Trudeau, the father, is famously reported to have declared that, “When they are 50 yards from Parliament Hill, [MPs] are no longer honourable members, they are just nobodies.”

      I think they’re starting to discover that they don’t even have to leave the Hill to become nobodies. In fact, not only are they discovering their anonymity, they’re willingly abetting it.

  6. I’m fully in the pro-choice camp on the issue of abortion but, IMO, there’s a fundamental democratic principle at stake and all parties are colluding in the denial of that principle, i.e., the right of any MP to raise an issue that, he or she believes, merits examination by our elected representatives. Warawa’s particular item is a motion not a bill. I don’t believe there is an obligation on the part of any government to promulgate legislation as a consequence of the House deliberating his motion, even if a majority were to vote in its favour. Those MPs who were paralyzed with indecision on the politics vs. the principle could abstain or absent themselves.

    I don’t understand why, in respecting the right of duly elected MPs to raise matters they believe to be important to their constituents or to the nation, the House can’t entertain a motion denouncing abortion based solely on sex selection, vote on it, and move on. Done.

  7. Further to my comment below, let’s run a few Google searches of every major media site in Canada over the last month about the Gosnell house of horrors.

    Your search – kermit gosnell – did not match any documents.
    Your search – kermit gosnell – did not match any documents.
    Your search – kermit gosnell – did not match any documents.
    Your search – kermit gosnell – did not match any documents.
    Your search – kermit gosnell – did not match any documents.
    Your search – kermit gosnell – did not match any documents.
    Your search – kermit gosnell – did not match any documents.
    Your search – kermit gosnell – did not match any documents.

    Only the National Post has a couple stories from when the trial opened March 18-19 which are horrific enough. They have not touched this story in almost a month.

    Someone please tell me…who has a bigger problem with transparency here? The politicians or the media? How is Harper muzzling his MPs about abortion, which is what he essentially promised to do, a bigger threat to democracy than an entire national media willing and able to cover up the Gosnell house of horrors like I’ve just demonstrated above, all to ensure nothing threatens the national liberal dogma about abortion?

    Here’s the grand jury transcript. It’s absolutely shocking.

    Any journalist reading this…for the love of God, please explain yourselves. Why are you suppressing this story?

    • How the hell does this threaten anything? It’s a lone doctor, in a different country, who’s on trial for what he’s done.

      Christ, that’s like saying that Kim-Jong Un threatens the idea of a country having leaders.

    • I agree that the Gosnell story merits attention, but the kind of attention it’s already getting is the wrong kind: instead of focusing on the particulars of the story, the debate has already devolved into “all abortionists are inherently Gosnell’s” foolishness. If the country can’t handle a mature debate about what horrifying things can go on in unregulated medical clinics (of ALL kinds) without going into all-out “BAN IT ALL AND EVERYWHERE! IT’S IMMORAL” hysteria, then maybe the media is savvy to keep it under wraps. Remember Kevorkian? Right. Same deal. “All assisted suicides are murders”. We’re all sick of the totalizing nature of commentary. Every situation has it’s multiple shades of gray, and every story that gets reported on turns into black and white. Gosnell is either sick or evil (see! even doing it myself) and deserves to be punished if he is guilty of what he’s accused of. Beyond that, I don’t see a need for a pogrom.

  8. ABC Nightline’s co-anchor Terry Moran, a few minutes ago on twitter.

    “Kermit Gosnell is probably the most successful serial killer in the history of the world”.

    For the record, last night’s episode of Nightline was about “Weight Loss, Fast Food, Dance Revolution”.

  9. I certainly would feel a lot better if there was at least one woman blogging on here or among your repressed MPs. I don’t think even one of you men has an idea of what it feels like for us women to have you guys arguing about our right to control our own bodies.

  10. Backbenchers need to vote how they want, they are supposed to be representing their riding, not their “Dear Leader”. That goes for all MPs of all parties.

  11. I’m a constituent of Rathgeber’s, I wish he’d find the time to answer my question about why the government continues to spend millions on economic action plan ads and what he can do about them.

  12. There is a very simple way to give individual MPs power and make them relevant. Let them choose their party leader. With that kind of power, a prime minister would ignore them at his peril.

  13. The entire house and the party and electoral systems need a massive overhaul. It is monstrously unjust that a handful of superrich get to decide who sits in the Prime Ministers Office. Oh, sure, we get a choice of 3 men, but that is not much of a choice is it?

    In the House of Commons, my representative should vote on issues as directed by his/her constituents, not as directed by the Party Leader otherwise he is not my representative, he is the Party’s yes-boy.

    Democracy is a fable, a farce. It is always 100 years behind the times. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why few people bother to vote, because it’s all one big fat joke. My vote doesn’t matter because my representative likely doesn’t matter, unless of course some old rich white man in my electoral district is purchased by the Loblaw, Weston or McCain family to be a party leader.

  14. If you read the various entries below you can forgive liberals for beleiving that Warawa’s uncomplicated and simple request for permission to put a motion “to condemn gender selection abortions” on the floor of the Commons is actually just a precursor to trying to shoehorn a motion to condemn all abortions in to Parliament. This blog has turned into a polemic on the evils of abortion, dragging stories of lunatic abortionists, etc., into the debate and has lost all sense of this being an issue relating to “democratic reform”. Why is it that whenever an opportunity to blog is presented to radicals they come out in full force and take the most extreme views and positions on an issue and leave all logic and rational discourse behind? We can debate abortion ad nauseum another time. Can we just stick to the most important principle of democratic reform for one minute, please.

  15. The lesson to be learned here is for the parties to have much stricter vetting of their candidates before nominating them, nation-wide. It’s much less difficult to keep your cabinet under control if you don’t have people who adhere to Biblical inerrancy; who think they’ll earn a sweeter spot in heaven for proselytizing; and who think evolution and climate change should be off the science curriculm– running to represent the entire country.

  16. This change in parliamentary procedure represents an opening in the political opportunity structure especially because it creates a more favorable environment for backbenchers to act entrepreneurially on issues; not just any issue, but issues that the party may not prioritize or would prefer to avoid. Increasing the voice of backbenchers helps to “parochialize” Canadian parliamentary politics so as to look more like the U.S. Congress. In so doing, it can open the door for movement and interest groups since backbenchers can act as new gateways or veto points in the political process.

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