Justin Trudeau, abortion and votes of conscience

Is the Liberal leader wrong to whip the vote? If so, why?

Joel Lemay/Agence QMI

Joel Lemay/Agence QMI

Whatever the political, legal and religious questions that might be raised by Justin Trudeau’s stand on abortion, the controversy basically comes down to a parliamentary question: When should MPs be able to vote freely? And within that difficult question is an even more difficult question: Why are certain issues considered so uniquely fraught that free votes should be permitted?

Cardinal Collins, the archbishop of Toronto, came to this first question in the penultimate paragraph of his letter to Mr. Trudeau.

Political leaders surely have the right to insist on party unity and discipline in political matters which are within the legitimate scope of their authority. But that political authority is not limitless: it does not extend to matters of conscience and religious faith. It does not govern all aspects of life.

The Archbishop of Edmonton then expanded on this point in his own letter.

As the cardinal points out in his letter, insistence by political authority on party unity and discipline has its place, but it is not unlimited in scope. There are issues that transcend political partisanship and must never be subordinated to a thirst for power. Respect for human life is foremost among these.

On matters of such fundamental import for the common good, we need all elected officials of every party to be free to make decisions on the basis of conscience, whose dictates are discerned through careful deliberation and not predetermined by the party leader.

Both men seem to be getting at a certain idea: that so-called “matters of conscience” should be free of the party whip.

There is some history in this regard, not only in Canada, but across Westminster parliaments. In the Canadian context, issues such as the death penalty, abortion and same-sex marriage have been subject to free votes (the Liberal cabinet and the NDP caucus were whipped on the vote to pass the Civil Marriage Act in 2005, while Liberal backbenchers as well as the Conservative and Bloc Quebecois caucus voted freely).

There is a general idea here that issues of moral or religious or personal conviction should be beyond the whip. And you could draw up a list of potential issues that might qualify: euthanasia, stem cell research, gambling, drug laws, prostitution, etc. In years past, you might’ve put divorce laws or homosexuality on that list. This Australian survey cites free votes on: “‘Life and death’ issues such as abortion, euthanasia and capital punishment; Social or moral issues such as family law, homosexuality, drug reform, war crimes and gambling; Human reproductive and scientific research issues such as in vitro fertilisation and stem cell research.” (In New Zealand there is a tradition that votes on alcohol laws should be considered conscience votes.)

Unfortunately, it’s easier to draw up a list of potential conscience votes than it is to draw tidy lines around that list.

What exactly defines a matter of conscience? And what separates those matters from various other issues that come before Parliament?

In his introduction to Conscience and Parliament, British scholar Philip Cowley reviewed various definitions and found all of them wanting. What about issues that require moral consideration? That could conceivably include matters of national defence, taxation and justice. What about matters in which the laws passed would “infringe on the conscience of the subjects”? This, Cowley argues, also doesn’t work. “Most laws impinge to some extent on the actions of others; and what one person sees as an infringement of his or her conscience others may see as a purely administrative policy (and vice versa),” he writes. “And more substantively, there are plenty of prima facie ‘conscience’ issues which are not private. The death penalty is clearly not an issue of private morality. Embryo research, abortion, vivisection and hunting all have other parties—embryos, foetuses or animals—involved.”

Cowley concludes that it’s impossible to clearly define what a matter of conscience is and he notes that another British scholar, Peter Jones, has argued that no distinction should be made. Jones’ essay is a thorough airing of the philosophies in play, but here is just a paragraph.

Legislators’ decisions do not merely ‘affect’ the lives of others, they are designed to govern the lives of others and those others typically number in their millions. The position of the legislator is therefore quite different from that of a private citizen leading his private life in accordance with the dictates of his conscience. An MP occupies a public role and is making decisions for others rather just for himself. Perhaps it is possible, even granted these facts, for someone still to insist that an MP has a fundamental right to act only according to his conscience and that his rights of conscience trump all other considerations that bear upon how legislative decisions should be made. Certainly, conscience is sometimes invoked in parliamentary contexts in ways which seem to give it that sort of ultimate significance. But, on reflection, it seems most implausible that the preeminent consideration in legislation should be the rights of those who make up the legislature. Surely the concerns of legislators should be primarily other-directed rather than self-directed; legislators should account for their actions as legislators in terms of the good or the right that their actions promote rather than in terms of what is owed to themselves.

Consider Mr. Trudeau’s current situation and a couple hypothetical alternatives.

If he had declared that he would whip a vote of his caucus to support the legality of same-sex marriage, would it have caused such a fuss? What if he had declared that he would whip  a vote to oppose the reinstatement of the death penalty? I don’t think either declaration would have been considered as controversial—even if the latter would conceivably put him out of step with the majority of Canadians.

Now, what if he vowed to whip a vote to legalize euthanasia? I suspect the outcry would at least equal the current controversy.

The difference, if we accept my guesses, might be in that the laws around same-sex marriage and the death penalty seem “settled” in their current state—no such law exists for abortion and legalizing euthanasia would require explicitly changing the current law.

That’s a reasonable distinction, but it doesn’t work for the purposes of determining what qualifies as a matter of conscience. So let’s turn this around. If Mr. Trudeau should permit a free vote on abortion, what else should Mr. Trudeau permit a free vote on? Same-sex marriage? Capital punishment? Prostitution laws? The legalization of marijuana? Safe-injection facilities? Stem cell research? War?

The notion of morals, as noted above, complicates matters insofar as you can imagine it being applied to various areas of public policy. At the very least, I can imagine it being applied to decisions involving military combat, but you could probably find ways to argue that moral calculations could be included in deciding environmental regulations or changes to the tax code or judicial sentencing guidelines. Of course, the Liberal party, and other parties, might not be particularly divided on such issues—free votes might not be seen as necessary to appease the personal convictions of Liberal MPs or, for that matter, the MPs in other parties.

There is, in that way, a certain practicality to consider here. Stephen Harper couldn’t whip his caucus on an abortion vote even if he wanted to. Jean Chretien might not have been able to whip his caucus. Justin Trudeau has comparatively few pro-life MPs to worry about (and he’s grandfathering them into the new regime). But the previous split in the caucus might make Mr. Trudeau’s current stance seem more controversial. It does seem that the Liberal leader is being criticized for something that the NDP already does—adopting a strident policy on abortion. (Has the Catholic Church ever written to the NDP to complain? Should Thomas Mulcair at least be CC’d on all letters to Mr. Trudeau?)

A party leader is surely going to be more willing to offer a free vote if doing so is necessary to appease his caucus—as Cowley has written, free votes do help party leaders avoid having to deal with issues that are likely to cause controversy. But that, again, is a poor measure for determining what qualifies as a matter of conscience.

What it does do though is reinforce the practicality of the situation. The Liberal party and its leader have adopted a position. Liberal MPs, party members and voters who disagree have options. Current Liberal MPs who disagree could say so publicly. Future Liberal MPs who decide, whatever they promised the party during the vetting process, that they can’t vote with the party and thus challenge the whip and deal with the consequences. Party members who disagree could push for a new resolution at a future convention or they could decline to support the Liberals in the next election. Liberal members and supporters and unaligned voters could decide to support an alternative—conceivably moving to the Conservative party (though I think I’d be interested to hear what exactly they imagine is possible with the Conservative party).

Beyond the philosophical debate about what should and should not be beyond the power of the whip, the wisdom of Mr. Trudeau’s move will basically be settled democratically.


Justin Trudeau, abortion and votes of conscience

  1. Liberalism is a political philosophy or worldview founded on ideas of liberty and equality.

    It’s also a package deal.

    You can’t have some people free and equal, while others aren’t.


    • True, though for some, the question is still: when have enough cells divided for the end result to be considered worthy of being free and equal.

      • It’s not about cells or trimesters, or even pregnancy… it’s about a woman’s right to her own body.

        She owns it. The state does not.

        • Emily wrote:

          “It’s not about cells or trimesters, or even pregnancy… it’s about a woman’s right to her own body.

          She owns it. The state does not.”

          And yet……women think “the state” has a responsibility to pay for their abortions.

          curious that.

          • It is only curious if your moralistic code is so strong, you cannot understand that abortion is a medical procedure, and we pay taxes so that we have state-funded medical procedures.

          • Mmm yeah, your only concern is your wallet, nothing to do with abortion per se.

            However, the state also pays for your circumcision, vasectomy, prostate problems, erectile dysfunction and penile cancer

          • The state pays for your kids too.

          • Prepare to be puzzled by this “curious” fact:
            Did you know that “the state” will pay for your hospital stay when you crash the car you own?
            Unbelievable….but true!

          • Patchouli wrote:
            “moralistic code is so strong, you cannot understand that abortion is a medical procedure, and we pay taxes so that we have state-funded medical procedures.”

            what is curious, is that your morality code…….cannot discern the difference between paying taxes to help save lives, or heal the sick and wounded…………and being forced to pay taxes to end a life. Let’s be clear….if you have an abortion, you are ending a life. Full stop.

            If you have to twist your morality around to allow your conscience to be clear…that is your right.

            the state does NOT pay for my kids….or anyone else’s kids. TAXES pay for them….and guess what? the only money the state raises….comes from taxpayers.

            We all pay for our kids. This discussion however, is just another example of you not having the understanding required for complexity. I don’t mind paying for my kids, or paying taxes to help other people’s kids…..my concern, is paying money for people NOT TO HAVE KIDS.

            I’m sure you will still not see it.

            If I am in a car crash….i’m glad the “state” will pay the bills. After all, they take about $55,000 from me each year in taxes.
            For this debate however, the “state” is not paying to save your life if you have a crash…..they are paying for you to throw your child in an incinerator.

          • Hi James

          • Maybe I don’t want my taxes to pay for your choice to have kids?

            Though apparently you get to be the final judge of that too. So to clarify, you think we should pay taxes for things you want, and you’d choices, but not for things you do not want, it other people’s choices.

            If only democracy worked that way.

        • You have expressed before that men have no right to a voice in this issue about a woman’s right to her own body and yet you have embraced some men’s opinions because their mirror your own about pro-choice and you have dismissed some women’s because they believe something different than you do. How is that honoring “liberty”.
          Meanwhile, I am completely in agreement that we do pay for all kinds of birth control counselling, tubal ligations and vasectomies which are comparable to abortion but prostate and penile problems are not in the same category…especially cancers. I would like to see us funding invitro-fertilization more widely as well.

          • I haven’t embraced any man’s opinion.

            It’s a simple principle.

            Applies to everyone.

          • Emily: “I haven’t embraced any man’s opinion.”

            Well, you most certainly HAVE told men who disagree with you on abortion that they have no right to express an opinion on the issue, while expressly NOT saying the same to men who agree with you.

            So from that it’s pretty safe to assume you are OK with men discussing the topic as long as they agree with you. (And you aren’t alone in that; several other female posters here have consistently displayed the same hypocritical behaviour.)

          • “For this debate however, the “state” is not paying to save your life if you have a crash…..they are paying for you to throw your child in an incinerator.”

            Which has nothing to do your point I was responding to, which was that somehow if the state doesn’t own your body it has no responsibility to provide medical care.

            But it is fascinating that while public services women access are paid for by “the state”, those you access are paid for by your taxes.

        • Apparently she thinks the body within her is also hers to own.

          I get where you’re coming from, but you oversimplify. The debate is between who has the greater right – the woman or the life she is hosting. Pretending there is no other life doesn’t make it so.

          The conflict over whose rights should be preeminent in this situation will likely never go away. But it certainly won’t as long as people even refuse to discuss it in those terms.

          • It would not be “discussed” in those “terms” if men gave birth.

          • No more silliness Bram. I haven’t the patience for it.

          • Yes, Gayle, it would. Because that’s the reality. And I know pro-choice women who agree with me on this – it’s not strictly a “male viewpoint”.

            If you want to bury your head in the sand and pretend it isn’t so, that’s your prerogative. But by doing so you prove my point that people aren’t able to discuss this issue rationally.

          • Sure Keith. Once you point me to all those debates on mandatory blood, tissue or organ donation, I will believe you. But you can’t, because people do not debate violating bodily integrity when it affects men. All of those processes save lives, and yet there are no laws mandating them.

            You cannot pretend this is about anything but women’s rights until you put your own bodily integrity at stake.

          • And there you go again Gayle – completely ignoring that there are TWO bodies involved where abortion is concerned. So your comparison doesn’t hold water. Arguing for retroactive abortions for people who are failures in the eyes of their parents makes as much sense.

            Most people who oppose abortion do so because they are defending the rights of that other body. The one you pretend does not exist. Like you, they focus on the rights of the one in exclusion of the other.

            And that division over whose rights win are the issue, and the reason why the debate will likely never end.

            I’ve thought long and hard on the issue over decades, Gayle, including many in-depth discussions with women on the issue. I’ve discussed it with both pro-choice and pro-life advocates. I’m not just pulling my opinion out of thin air. Yet you want to dismiss my opinion solely on the basis I’m a man. What a completely sexist attitude! You’d be all over me for denying you a voice on anything because you’re a woman. To say I have no stake is to ignore the fact that I have many women in my life I care for deeply.

            As I’ve said on here many times, I’m pro-choice because, in weighting the values of the two lives in question, I have come to the conclusion that the rights of the less fragile, more viable life with social connections and responsibilities must take the higher priority. But that doesn’t mean I can’t see the other side of the coin, or acknowledge the cost of that position.

            I’m not comfortable with abortion; I think we should, as a society, do everything we can to educate people in order to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies. But history shows we can’t legislate abortion out of existence, and – particularly in the case of rape – forcing a woman to go through with an unwanted pregnancy seems to me like cruel and unusual punishment.

            So I think it has to come down to individual choice, and individual conscience. I would much prefer that the choice be to go through with the pregnancy. But I am not the one who has to make the choice (you are right on that).

            That’s as clear as I can put it, Gayle. We’re on the same side. The difference between us is that I have my eyes open to the reality of the side I’ve chosen.

          • Oh, and by the way Gayle, pregnancy is a natural thing; it’s abortion that constitutes “violating bodily integrity”. Your comparison to “mandatory blood, tissue or organ donation” only works if you are discussing forced abortions.

            Which no one on here is.

          • A cold is a natural thing. Doesn’t mean you want one.

            And you certainly don’t want one forced on you.

          • Not the point, Emily. Gayle was making a claim, that on its face, is patently wrong. I pointed out the flaw in her argument. She – or you – are free to try again.

          • “And there you go again Gayle – completely ignoring that there are TWO bodies involved where abortion is concerned.”

            Uh, pretty sure there are at least two bodies involved where organ donation is concerned. What did you think they do with the organs?
            Though in the case of organ donation we even privilege the rights of the dead over those who need their organs.

          • It’s never a point when YOU make it, Bram

            It’s just your usual philosophical meandering. This time involving a body count.

            There are not two bodies involved….just one. The woman’s. She makes the decision. A two week old fetus does not.

            Until a ‘baby’ can live outside the mother’s body….the mother makes the decision.

            Lots of things live in a person’s body. Viruses, trillions of bacteria….but sorry, it’s not a democracy or a convention. It’s up to the woman.

            Same as a man gets to make decisions about his own body. Equality, remember?

            20% of all pregnancies end in a spontaneous abortion….what we euphemistically call a miscarriage. That outnumbers everything else.

            God is the biggest abortionist there is.

            So cease trying to disguise control over women as concern for something this big…..>>>>.<<<< and take up another hobby.

          • That’s funny, because I have always understood blood, tissue and organ donation was about one body donating to save the life of another. Almost like, oh I don’t. Know, TWO bodies being involved.

            But you keep ignoring the difficult questions…

          • Gayle, Lenny, Em – go back and read Gayle’s statement again.

            First, she is talking about forced procedures when she talks about “mandatory blood, tissue or organ donation”. Abortion is not a forced procedure; it is elective (unless looked at from the unborn’s viewpoint). The comparison is a false one. So fail on the first count.

            Second – the woman, in choosing abortion, is making a choice for a body other than her own. Organ donors make the choice only for their own body.

            If you want to pretend the zygote/embryo/fetus does not exist, then go ahead and live in your fantasy world. Those like me who acknowledge the reality of what an abortion is and are still pro-choice will just shake our heads and wonder how we ever ended up on the same side with people like you.

            You three make Exhibits A, B and C for my assertion that Canadians can’t have a reasoned debate on this topic.

            And Emily – doesn’t it seem odd to you that, as an advocate of science and one who constantly belittles those of faith for their belief in fairy tales, you still have to make up your own little fairy tale about when human life begins?

          • There is only one body, Bram.

            The woman’s.

            Her body, her choice.

            Try reading about infanticide one day…..wiki has an excellent item on it. Makes mush of your nonsense.

          • You ‘read in’ whatever you want to, Bram

            You would take an oath to the queen as evidence we have a republic!

            It’s why, after all these years, I ignore your ‘sources.’ The fault lies not with them but with you

          • I’m pretty sure the alternative to the right to choose is forced childbirth.
            And there’s no essential difference between abortion and denial of donor organs, other than the facts that the organ donor is often already dead, and the body that the organ denier is choosing to allow to die is that of a fully formed human.
            So if it’s a poor analogy, it’s only because it compares the right of a fully formed, birthed and independent person to live, with that of an embryo.

          • Hi Keith. Go look up the phrase “distinction without a difference” and get back to me.

            You keep avoiding the issue of autonomy, which of course you have to because if you accept that people do not have to sacrifice personal autonomy for others, you also accept your position is untenable.

          • If men gave birth the planet would be severely underpopulated.

  2. First of all, all politicians should leave there religious and moral feelings out of any political decisions. Its parliament, the HOC, not a church or any place of worship, its where politics goes on, not moral or religious conscience. Its a place to make laws and run institutions belong to taxpayers. Please keep faith out of our political institutions and become real MPs by being politicians and stop being our guiding light.

    • Not everyone who is pro-life is religious or even believes in God. Further, some people who are pro-choice are still bothered by the complete lack of an abortion law. They do not trust that the medical community can ensure that late-term abortions are not occurring without good reason or that gender-selection abortion does not become common place in Canada. It is said that 80% of Canadians find gender-selection abortion abhorrent and yet, 80% of Canadians are not religious.

      • Sources would be nice.

          • Not what was asked.

            PS Don’t tell us women hate it….it’s women DOING it.

          • The woman opting for gender-selection abortions are being forced to do so by misogynistic, controlling men from cultures that don’t value girls. These women have no equal rights so don’t pretend it is their idea.

      • I have yet to meet someone who is pro-life but is not religious. I’m sure that they exist, but they’re a vanishingly small minority of the population.

        No, yes, I certainly agree that there are a lot of people who are pro-choice, but if you poke at them a bit, they’ll concede that there might be certain restrictions that they might want to add. But the people who believe that life begins at conception? Almost all religious.

        As it is, on the issue of gender-selective abortion, most public ultrasound clinics won’t reveal the sex until around the 20th week of pregnancy–generally well beyond the point where abortions are easily available without a significant medical complication in the pregnancy. The medical community has already largely taken care of these issues.

        • “But the people who believe that life begins at conception? Almost all religious.”

          Actually, anyone with the most basic understanding of biology ought to believe this. The question is not when does life begin, but at what point do we assign it legal rights.

          But many pro-choice are afraid to admit this, because they fear it gives too much weight to the pro-life side. So they continue the fiction that life begins at some other point in the process.

          (I’m pro-choice, BTW – just hate the hypocrisy and outright lies of so many who support choice, Not sure who they are trying to delude – pro-lifers, or themselves.)

  3. This is a great article. Thanks for publishing it.

    It’s good to see a proper critique of voting according to your own conscience.

  4. Aaron,

    If anyone thought Justin Trudeau put as much thought into his comments, as you put in your article; we may not be so hard on him.

    Truth be told however, Justin’s comments were geared strictly towards his political ends…..not any real consideration of the issue. That appears to be a habit of his.

    • Yes. No doubt Harper’s refusal to consider legislation on this issue is totally about his consideration of this issue, and not about politics at all.

  5. It’s long past time we stopped giving in to moralistic religious codes for legislation and calling that “conscience.” I applaud Trudeau — maybe this move will finally send the message, loud and clear, that an MPs personal religious views are not welcomed in policy making.

    • You don’t have to be religious to be horrified at the thought of a 3rd trimester or sex-selective abortion.

      I’m not religious. My objection to those has nothing to do with religion. It has everything to do with basic humanity.

      • No doubt 3rd semester abortions are even more horrifying to the women who is left to choose between a serious risk to her life or carrying a fetus that is so damaged, that it is not viable and an abortion and there is no evidence that sex selection abortions are an issue in Canada.

        As for humanity, we have done a damn poor job of caring for the millions of people, including children who are already on earth and for whom just barely surviving every day is the best they can hope to do.

  6. Now Aaron, you went on ad nauseum when it was the ‘Arab Spring’ for the Con Mp’s. You certainly didn’t make any excuses for Harper’s behavior on whipping votes. You wonder why Trudeau is different than Mulclair…why the Archbishops from the Roman Catholic Church are so vocal? Could it have something to do with Trudeau’s active membership in their church? He worships there every Sunday so they feel they have the right to voice an opinion on a proclamation he makes which is in direct opposition to their objectives.

    • Yeah the RC church tried the same blackmail on Chretien and Martin but it didn’t work then either.

      • There is one big difference. Chretien and Martin never told other Libs they couldn’t vote their conscience on abortion. It is one thing to be a Roman Catholic and decide to suppress your own conscience. It is another thing to force others to suppress theirs.

        • Don’t make things up.

          • Yes – how dare Hmmm! Making things up is YOUR turf!

          • Actually I’ve always sourced any claims I made, Bram

            Claims to the contrary always show up when the other poster can’t prove it

            Chretien and Martin never did anything on abortion.

          • What??? I said that Chretien and Martin let Libs run that were pro-life. That isn’t made up because some of those pro-life MP’s that are grandfathered by Justin Trudeau have been around since Chretien and Martin. Justin Trudeau is the first Roman Catholic Lib leader who is forcing other Roman Catholics to deny the edicts of the Roman Catholic church and suppress their own consciences when it comes to the abortion debate.

          • Em, you rarely back up anything you claim. On those rare occasions when you try, more than half the time your “evidence” supports your opponent’s view when read in context; you usually pull out quotes out of context and assign them a meaning only you see. I’ve demonstrated this time and again.

            And I’ve given up trying to provide sources to you because you don’t (or can’t) read them anyway.

        • Chretien and Martin were never going to have a vote on abortion. So there was no policy on it.

          • Bingo! Justin Trudeau is never going to vote on abortion either. The Cons and the Libs led by Dion blocked the Warawa’s latest tabled motion on gender-selection abortion from reaching the floor of the HOC. If the Cons won’t vote on abortion with a majority, is “that’s PM Trudeau to you” (as you referred to him” going to table or motion or Tom Mulclair? Ha! This policy is completely unnecessary and divisive. NO PARTY wants to vote on gender-selection abortion so the issue will never be debated and voted on in the HOC. No one is in favor of it…no even Libs and NDP…they just hope that cultural attitudes will change to favor girls as people integrate into Canada and they will not be a market for gender-selection abortion.

  7. “Surely the concerns of legislators should be primarily other-directed rather than self-directed; legislators should account for their actions as legislators in terms of the good or the right that their actions promote rather than in terms of what is owed to themselves.”

    This quote from Peter Jones best sums it up; legislators are there to act on behalf of their constituents. If elected on a Party’s platform, then one should generally vote accordingly. If you choose not to, then you do so knowing there will likely be consequences.

    Trudeau’s earlier stance that he wouldn’t allow someone to run for the nomination if they held views contrary to the Party’s platform was a bit excessive; he seems to have loosened that stance somewhat, and now only expects individuals to vote with the party should a vote ever come up. That’s fair.

    If your conscience doesn’t allow you to vote with your party, then a choice is necessary. But bear in mind that you were elected to represent everyone in your riding, whether they voted for you or not. And with the split on this issue, are you really representing their views if you vote against the party they chose to represent them? Your personal view is not what counts. If you feel expressing your personal view when voting on a piece of legislation is more important than the party’s platform, maybe you don’t belong in that caucus.

    • But this way, you won’t even run for the LPC if you are so morally conflicted, and constituents will know up front that the LPC candidate is pro-choice, and can cast their votes accordingly. So the moralistic conundrum will be gone for candidates and for voters: do NOT attempt to run or vote for the LPC candidate if you have strong feelings about this because that is NOT what they represent. I can see it may lose voters but I think it’s open and so it may also gain voters. I mean, if you are vehemently against same-sex marriage, I would think you know enough not to run for CPC until they go through a transformation some day, After Steve.

      • The problem, though, is that if you absolutely bar someone on the grounds of ONE issue (and, let’s face it – in this instance, an issue that is likely never to raise its head anyway as most pols are too terrified to go near it) you may lose an otherwise stellar candidate with great ideas, and instead succumb to a form of groupthink. You want a wide variety of ideas, and healthy debate, if your party is going to grow and thrive. It’s the same approach that top businesses take – bring in people from as wide a variety of backgrounds as possible.

        No party should exclusively seek Yes people. But when you refuse candidates because they don’t agree with your platform on every single point, then that’s what you’ll get. And then your party will eventually atrophy.

        • It is not debatable, that’s the point. It’s not an “issue.” We won’t agree on this one. You aren’t really pro-choice because you have a lot of ifs and buts attached, and you see it as an issue to be debated. You can say what you like about what a party should strive for, want, but it’s open and so now it’s clear. How can openness and clarity about party values be anything but good for voters? Disagree — don’t vote LPC. If governments had been this openly supportive of the rights of the public over the consciences of individuals all along, we wouldn’t even be having this discussion.

          • You’re right – if you think there is no debate then we won’t agree. I’m not fond of blind dogma. And if you think you’re not being dogmatic, look at how you dismiss me as not a “true believer” because I don’t wear blinders. Odds are, I’ve given the issue way more thought than you have. Go look at my response to Gayle on the previous page.

            I also find it highly ironic that someone who calls herself pro-choice refuses to let others choose for themselves on a related issue.

          • Sigh..

          • Actually meant to say more there.

            Like this: saying you’ve discussed this with women means your position is not sexist is like saying your neighbor is gay means you’re not a homophobe.

            Saying that people who do not agree with you simply haven’t given the issue as much thought as you is profoundly arrogant. And sexist.

            We say this is not an issue because it is not an issue. People have autonomy over their bodies. Neither the law nor societal norms compel one person to sacrifice their bodily integrity to save another. You can parse this any way you want, but those are the facts.

            Now, I wish these so called “pro-lifers” cared as much for the born as they do for the unborn.

            Those homeless teenage girls you want to force to be mothers? If you put a tenth of the energy into caring for them as you do for the unborn, the world would be a better place.

          • OK Gayle:

            1) initially, in the comment that started this exchange, when I was talking debating I was speaking generally – not just about abortion. But then you raised it so I commented on it. I still stand by my assertion that refusing to accept someone as a candidate for nomination because they disagree with ONE area of party policy (and especially one like abortion that has next to zero chance of being voted on anyway, though it applies to pretty much ANY policy point) is a dumb idea that restricts candidacy to meat puppets who don’t own an independent thought. We already have way too many of those in Parliament.

            2) As to whether there is a debate about abortion – take a look at the exchanges here. Are people debating? (Hint: answer is Yes.) You may not like that fact, but it IS a fact. Abortion is something people debate about. You’re free to drop out of that debate at any time, but as long as you participate you disprove your own statement.

            3) “[S]aying you’ve discussed this with women means your position is not sexist is like saying your neighbor is gay means you’re not a homophobe.” I didn’t just say I discussed it with them; I said many agreed with my viewpoint. I guess now you’ll be calling them traitors to their sex. Calling me sexist simply because I’m male and I disagree with you (on some points, I note; we are both pro-choice) makes YOU the sexist. And exceedingly dogmatic.

            3) “People have autonomy over their bodies. Neither the law nor societal norms compel one person to sacrifice their bodily integrity to save another.” I agree with you. Others don’t (and they make up almost half the population). Their belief is based not just (or always) in religion, but also in biology. That’s why there is a debate. If you want the debate to go away, you have to win them over to your view. You’re not going to do that by sticking your fingers in your ears and saying “There’s no debate.”

          • So Real Women is not sexist because its members are women?

          • There are people who debate gay marriage too. Doesn’t mean that gay people don’t have the same rights as straight people. Debate away – just maybe try to recognize that just because we recognize that the terms upon which you wish to debate are moot does not mean we are “dogmatic” and inconsiderate. I reject your premise. You are simply wrong. Call me all the names you want, it’s not going to change that fact.

        • You are so right.A Party that does not listen to other points of views will become very stale and rigid.

  8. I can’t believe how this issue has blown up in the press. Religious beliefs have no place in political policy making, and this debate is clearly about religion, anyone pretending otherwise is lying to themselves. A party is entitled to its positions. The NDP has done this for years and nobody cares.

    • It’s another way to attack Justin, that’s all. Libs have always been pro-choice, same as the NDP. This is faux-shock over it. LOL

      You’re right….this is just religion again….and politics.

    • The NDP will never be the ruling party either.

      • This comment has been removed.

        • Thank you Geo. Orwell!

          18,000 children a day die of starvation.

          But it’s easier for them to sit here every day and chatter about something they’ll never face….than it is to feed the kids we already have.

        • I am a woman. I am pro-choice. I am pro-girl.

      • No, probably not.

        What has that got to do with the topic?

        • The fact that I am a woman and I am pro-life means by your standards, I get a say in the debate. My concerns are for the freedom of all women to choose and I know that in cultures that aren’t pro-girl, the women do not have the freedom to choose to keep their girl fetuses. I would support trying to change the attitudes of these men through education but history has shown us that the efforts expended are not always fruitful despite the amount of time and effort spent at the task. That is precisely what we have laws against female circumcision in Canada.

  9. This thread is getting too long and answers are now wandering all over the place, so I shall depart.

    Thank you Gayle, lenny and Geo.Orwell.

    Somewhere in the space-time continuum I’m sure there is a small crowd of men gathered round still arguing that a railroad across Canada to unify it is a bad idea.

    I have no interest in the address, but Bram and several others here live there. It’s right next to the place that’s arguing about building a Great Wall across China to prevent invasions.

    Some people live on opposing accomplished history.

    I met a group once that was arguing about whether humanity should go through the Industrial Revolution. A tad late to worry about it I thought…..but they impressed themselves and amused others, so what the hey…….

  10. Jesus Christ. It is incredible the lengths you will go to to defend Trudeau.

    It’s really simple Aaron. It should not be whipped because Pro-Life and Pro-choice is not a black and white issue.

    Some people, like Gayle and Emily, are abortion extremists who believe a woman’s choice should not be restricted even if it involves murdering a fetus at birth minus 10 seconds, or performing a sex-selective abortion because you really didn’t want a girl.

    Some people are pro-Life extremists who believe no abortion is ever acceptable.

    The rest of us are somewhere in the middle.

    The problem is that Trudeau just put every single one of his candidates in the Gayle/Emily camp, no matter where a future bill falls on the abortion “spectrum”. Someone wants to make abortion illegal after 32 weeks? Tough. Vote against it, even if your conscience is horrified by the thought of murdering a 32 week fetus.

    If you can’t see what’s wrong with that, then you should resign your post, put away the pretense, and just run as a Liberal already.

    • I know this is hard for you, but you ae missing the point. And lying, but then again both are par for the course.

      There is no need to legislate something that the medical profession adequately regulates. Especially since it never happens. Fabricating scenarios makes you look stupid. Not that you seem to care about that.

      • The medical profession is concerned with whether they can ‘regulate’ gender-selection abortion due to private ultrasound clinics that provide information about the gender of the fetus before 20 weeks gestation.

        • Well one answer is regulating the private clinics. Nothing stopping the government from doing that – I can’t envision a Charter right to know the gender of your fetus.

        • If only you had a link to all those 10 seconds away from birth abortions that you talk about. But you don’t. Because they don’t happen

          But it’s really cute that you think I meant the other. Way to avoid the point, yet again.

  11. The issue of abortion is now little more than a political football to be kicked around by politicians looking for votes. Caucus members are whipped into voting for or against legislation that no doubt pricks the conscience of at least some of them. They may not be directly connected to life and death but a case can be made that there may be an indirect connection. Why isn’t voting to deny EI benefits to some unemployed Canadians even though they were required to pay into the fund, a matter of personal conscience? How about a budget that cuts funding to wounded veterans or to healthcare or a bill that denies life-saving medical treatment to refugee claimants?

    The recent claims that moral imperatives determine their decisions by both John Baird and Tim Hudak illustrate how meaningless any sense of morality has become in politics. Baird stated that the Harper government basis its foreign policy on moral absolutes. Apparently he thinks that Canadian companies selling weapons to Bahrain which tortures doctors who treated wounded protesters and Egypt which tries and condemns to death hundreds of its citizens in 15 minutes or that trade with even the most brutal dictators are moral imperative. Hudak claims that governments giving grants to corporations is immoral but giving them tax breaks isn’t. Obviously he thinks that the existence of corporations is a moral absolute,as well and that he and Baird haven’t a clue what morality is, let alone base their policies on it.

    It’s long past the time that politicians dropped the charade that morality or personal conscience has any bearing on their decisions and govern Canada as a secular nation.