The press as party whips -

The press as party whips

Andrew Coyne questions the press’s motives in the abortion debate


Here we go again. The press gallery are universally scornful of the Liberals for being “divided” on a vote: that is, because three Liberal MPs voted as their consciences dictate, rather than falling in line with the party whip.

That may indeed be a concern for the party leadership, but why is the press scoring it the same way? Why are we volunteering to be the enforcers of party discipline? MPs voting their conscience, ie using their brains, is the way the system is supposed to work. We should rather be celebrating those MPs who had the courage to buck the party line on a matter of principle than decrying the “weakness” of their leader.

TALKING OF ABORTION: I don’t doubt the Liberals were playing politics with the issue, but so are the Tories. The Liberals want to provoke a debate on abortion, to smoke out the Tory pro-lifers. And the Tories want to avoid a debate on abortion, for the same reason. But even though the Liberal resolution was defeated, it was revealing in its own way.

One, it’s helpful to know that the Liberal party line is entirely amenable to abortion, albeit in Third World countries, as part of (to quote the resolution) “the full range of family planning, sexual and reproductive health options.” Not just as an ineradicable evil that a society may choose not to restrict by law (though every civilized society but ours has), but as a value-neutral “option,” no more objectionable than birth control.

Two, it’s also helpful to be reminded that there are pro-lifers in every party: it is not just a Tory disease. Perhaps, if the press agreed to report that once in a while, Tory pro-lifers could borrow some backbone from their Liberal counterparts, and start defying their own leader. Or would we then mark the Tories down for being “divided”?

Three, it’s helpful to be reminded, notwithstanding how determined the Conservative leadership is to prevent an honest debate on the issue, how necessary it is to have this debate. More than twenty years after the Morgentaler decision, we remain in a bizarre legislative limbo: as I’ve written before, we did not choose as a nation to have no abortion law. It is not settled, nor was it ever decided, either by Parliament or the courts. Quite the opposite: the Supreme Court went out of its way to invite Parliament to draft a new law, which challenge the House of Commons duly took up, and passed it. The bill died on a tie vote of the Senate.

That’s no way for a democratic country to decide anything. But then, we aren’t really a democratic country, are we?


The press as party whips

  1. That's no way for a democratic country to decide anything. But then, we aren't really a democratic country, are we?

    All right, Canada! Hands up! Who wants to have a debate on abor– wait, Andrew, let me finish the question– Who wants to have a national debate, maybe a single-issue election, or perhaps a referendum, on abortion?

    Democracy is awful quiet tonight, Mr. Coyne…

    • I do. Debate first, then a referendum.

    • I have no problem with having a debate on abortion, but as a person not in favour of abortion I am under no illusion that the press (in spite of Andrew's rational argument) will decide what is or is not allowed and what will be allowed is all the liberal left views. Anyone against abortion will be marginalized and derided on any discussion panels etc. as against womens' rights, will be labels as part of the extreme conservative religious right, insensitive to the aspirations of women and on and on and on.

      A fairer solution would be a straight-up reference called with very short notice and NO debate on either side of the issue. A straightforward questions – under no circumstances, current situation (abortion up to and including the day the child is born and maybe a third option of up to 3 months) – people would be expected to vote by their conscience – if they haven't figured out where they stand now, a long drawn out debate isn't going to help them.

  2. We are divided on this one 50/50, but is not only in Canada, it's all over the world, people gets very passionate about this one. I do agree with you that it would be nice to have an abortion law but I can't see anyone winning that one, that's why we are going to stay in limbo on this one!

    • 50/50? Really? How did you come to that conclusion?

      • That's not so hard to figure: You either support or reject access to abortions, and that's a 50/50 chance.

        • For most of us, it's not an absolute question.

          • My comment was intended to be a mildly humourous allusion to the confusion that almost all of us share wrt statistics: reject/support >>>> heads/tails>>>>>50/50.

            Regarding the issue itself I'm a strong follower of the "There is no black or white, only shades of grey" scholl of thought.

          • PhilCP, I like your conclusion, but I actually checked a poll last week don't remember where, will search for it, and we are evenly divided, it's a very touchy feeling.

    • We aren't divided 50/50. Well constructed polls show fairly consistently that 2/3rds of Canadians think there should be some sort of law limiting abortion.

  3. Even though I'm vehemently pro-choice on abortion, I'm actually glad that the motion died, and Rae, Iggy et al ended up with egg on their face, only because of the ridiculous, gratuitous language that they tacked on to the end of the motion. I disliked the Bush Administration, but was it really necessary to blather on in the motion about how evil the Bush Administration WAS (that's right, it no longer exists)? About the "failed policies of the Bush Administration" blah, blah, blah? Andrew, all that was was the Liberals poking a pointed stick into the eye of the Tories. Nothing more. It was playground antics at its worst. Partisans love this stuff. The rest of us normal, well-adjusted humans see it for the inane crap that it is.

    • The language they tacked on was juvenile and appalling. For a moment, I thought Warren Kinsella was still working for the LPOC. Turns out Team Donolo is just as bad as the old team was, maybe worse.

      The Liberal Party needs to purge its leadership, purge its strategists, and rebuild from the ground up. They don't need a Thinker's Conference – they need a Convention.

      • I for once agree; it would have made much more sense, although equally just as a scurrilous tag-on, to state that this 'policy would be in agreement with the current Obama administration.'
        Liberals come out with egg; Cons come out as chickens. End result is more people turn to vegetarianism…

    • I don't know if most people really understand the mindset of the LPC since about the middle of Chretien's terms in government, but to me it has been very, very clear, and the third part of the motion shows it in flying colours:

      The Con's "Hidden Agenda" LPC policy has worked so well for so long that they assumed it would work forever. To them, every Conservative stick is to be a snake by which the country will be poisened.

      I had a personal conversation with Dr.Bennet in Edmonton (oh, sometime in 2008) and we talked a variety of topics, one of which was childcare, and every time my questions or my points of view were expressed to her, she always started and ended her reply wih the "extreme right wing conservatives". Now, I have to tell you that I was at a Liberal candidate nomination (unchallenged btw) and so the room was filled with Liberals except for me and a friend. I had a wonderful night, questioning the Liberals present there, but my conversation with Ms.Bennet was the best part.

      • They want to destroy Harper so bad that they have lost focus on their own party and they are such a huge cracks already that is going to come down in a very bad and then it will take years to rebuild, they need to focus on a new leadership fast.

  4. Um, maybe we don't want an abortion law? Do we need a vote in Parliament saying BIRT We have no abortion law?

    • As long as we have no abortion law, Canada doesn't distinguish between partial-birth abortion, or "therapeutic" abortion.

      At the very least, I think there's a difference there worth establishing in law.

  5. Sorry Andrew, that's not how the system is supposed to work. Read a few books on the Canadian Parliament, rather than the US Congress. I might suggest Smith's People House of Commons and Franks' The Parliament of Canada.

  6. I like your thinking Andrew on having the media, at least Macleans, framing the political stories in a manner that reinforces appropriate/ constructive political discourse and disclosing common ground; rather than sensationalizing and pitting each party against the other.

    • Best comment so far. . .

  7. why is the press scoring it the same way? Why are we volunteering to be the enforcers of party discipline?

    Because these Liberal MPs deprived the press of what they were really looking for…another opportunity to beat the Conservatives over the head with the abortion hammer.

    it's also helpful to be reminded that there are pro-lifers in every party: it is not just a Tory disease. Perhaps, if the press agreed to report that once in a while, Tory pro-lifers could borrow some backbone from their Liberal counterparts, and start defying their own leader.

    Come on Andrew…the media are just as disinterested in an abortion debate as the politicians. Abortion ceases to be interesting to the PPG the moment it can no longer be used to scare Canadians into what the right wing neanderthal Conservatives want to do to a woman's right to choose.

    Fix that problem, then maybe we can have a meaningful debate. Given the way the media has treated this issue it is completely understandable why the Conservatives don't want to touch it with a 10 foot pole.

    • It must be so hard, going through life a perpetual victim of the press corps. Everyone is out to get Canada's conservatives…

      • Exactly, right TJ. So animal sockpuppet above remains blind to the fact that the media is back to square one pouncing on foot-in-mouth liberals. Quelle surprise…

      • And I like it that way, it made us strong…..
        it's the secret to Conservative success, we have to try twice as hard and be twice as good.

        Judging by Liberal performance for the last four years,
        I'd say we are at least there.

        • The last four years have been an example of the Tories working "twice as hard" as the other parties???

          Wow, and all this time I didn't think they were trying at all.

          Also, are you saying the government I've been getting since 2006 would be described by you as "twice as good" as what I should expect from another party???

          Wow, and all this time I thought I was getting pretty uninspired government for the last four years that hasn't really accomplished much outside of the "failing to do things we said we'd do while simultaneously doing a bunch of other stuff we said we'd never do" category, and the "turning large annual surpluses into historic annual deficits with, literally, no end in sight" arena.

    • john, they are in the business of selling papers and getting hits on their blogs.
      Demonizing anything (other than our troops) sells. period.

      • While demonizing others by claiming they don't support the troops is even better!

  8. Dear Canada:

    Our House of Commons contains 308 different members (parliamentarians). In each of the separate 308 constituencies (ridings) an election is held. These constituencies use a plurality voting method (First-Past-The-Post) by which a candidate is selected to represent said constituency. In order for legislation to pass in the House of Commons, it must attain the support of a majority of parliamentarians.

    The system is designed to operate with and without party politics. All members of the House of Commons have the authority to act beyond restraints placed on them by party politics; their powers are derived from the consent of the Canadian people as expressed in elections – not talking-points written by political advisers in the P.M.O. or Official Opposition Offices.

    • Second best comment so far.

  9. We do NOT need a debate on abortion. Canadians are overwhelmingly pro-leaving-it-up-to-women-and-their-doctors. It has worked fine for years. We do not have a law on abortion and guess what? Other countries envy us for it.

    • About one-quarter of pregnancies are aborted. For people who are concerned about human beings prior to birth (as well as after they are born, not rather than, contra the most common rebuttal), that's not something that "working". Whatever happened to the idea of "safe, legal and rare"?

      • And 70% of pregnancies self abort, as indicated by a late/missed period.
        And 90% of abortion deaths could have been prevented with access to effective contraceptives.

        Just thought I'd throw in some number facts too.

      • Once we have agreed on the safe and legal part, it kinda becomes none of our business what a woman does with her body in consultation with her doctor.

        We have already decided that you are not a citizen worthy of protection until you are alive when the cord is cut. Like it, lump it, that's the way it is. Recall the Manitoba coke-head who could not be compelled to do anything against her will in the interests of her unborn child. The kid will just have to takes its first breath severely damaged, and the social workers could not really do anything useful until baby was no longer of its mother's body. Late term abortions undoubtedly happen on occasion, too, but are presumably so rare that there has not been enough of an outcry to pick at this scab.

        • Who is "We"?

      • You have every right to not have an abortion.

      • Can you please provide a link that shows one-quarter of pregnancies are aborted?

    • Please provide evidence of your statement, because any polls I've seen have clearly indicated that the majority of Canadians do not want unrestricted access to abortion up to and including the day the child is due – which by the way is the law as it currently stands.

  10. Are alkl of the Conservatives anti-choice? Or are they not allowed to vote according to their consciences?

    • It's a mix of pro-choice and pro-life, tho pro-choice does not neccessarily mean pro-abortion.

      the way the motion was worded gave the Cons the perfect out.
      A straight forward sincere motion would have been a much tougher call,
      but, it was a Opp Day motion, which are usually whipped, all parties.

      • "the way the motion was worded gave the Cons the perfect out."

        Exactly. I would love to know whose bright idea that gratuitous anti-American diatribe was.

  11. Maybe I'm being too optimistic here, but maybe, just maybe that Thinker's Conference will get the Liberals focusing on things that are actually important — as opposed to thinly-veiled partisan stunts like this. It just seems to me that the Liberals are flitting from issue to issue, stunt to stunt, with no real sense of continuity or focus. About the only consistent narrative from them is "The Tories Suck". Well, the NDP, Bloc and Greens think that too. I'm surprised that Donolo hasn't brought more focus and a more consistent narrative to bear. On the other hand, maybe we all forgot that Donolo had the unique luxury of going up against a divided right, and he really hasn't adapted to Tory version 2.0.

    • You do know that most of the Liberal MPs aren't going to be there, right?

    • And over 80% of the 'thinkers' are from Ontario and Quebec,
      so add the West to 'not invited' list.

      • Points taken. Still, given the fact that this Thinkers' Conference is being significantly publicized by the Liberals, and given that some "big ideas" are going to be discussed and generated there (insert snarky retort here), you'd think that there would be some significant pressure on the Liberals after that conference to actually put at least, like, maybe, one of those ideas into practice in terms of an actual policy position of some sort. I mean, if they did squat after that conference, the derision would be unbelievable. Surely the Liberal brain trust understands this.

      • Source please

    • Donolo is starting to seem like he was seriously overrated. As you said, it's easy to look smart when you're running against a divided right. Perhaps Donolo will turn out to be an empty suit, like most of his ilk.

      • "Perhaps Donolo will turn out to be an empty suit, like most of his ilk."

        Oh yes, and which "ilk" would that be, exactly ?

        • Political strategists.

      • Come to think of it CR, that is definitely a piece of political reporting I'd like to see — just what exactly is going on these days amongst Iggy and his top advisors (especially, of course, Donolo)? What exactly is Donolo's strategic approach? Is it being followed? What's the plan, Stan?

        Unburdened by any knowledge of the facts (my specialty), if there is in fact a serious problem with Donolo, one guess would be that he hasn't come to grips with the fact that people aren't as scared of the Tories (a known entity, as they are the government) as they were of Reform/Alliance. Thus with Reform/Alliance, it was a valid and effective political strategy to simply carpet bomb them and basically tell everyone how awful and scary they were. That was enough to keep a sufficient number of people inside the Liberal tent — they weren't necessarily in love with the Liberals, but they weren't going to jump ship. Maybe Donolo hasn't figured out that under this new electoral universe, you actually have to offer a substantive alternative.

    • "Things that are actually important"

      See, that's the problem. What exactly are the things that really are important, and does anybody see them as 'sexy' issues in the manner of , say, Lisa Raitt? Between politicians, media, and us plebes, it is the wedge issues that attract the most interest.

      Not to mention, that it is likely that on "Things that are actually important", the difference between the Liberal and Conservative positions is not that great.

      What are "The Things That Are Actually Important" anyway?

      • Well, for starters, I'm going to go way the hell out on a limb here and posit that most Canadians would prefer if our parlimentarians spent their workdays focusing on important matters of public policy (e.g., jobs, economy, health care). And did it in a serious, good faith way. Inserting gratuitous, inflammatory language into a motion introduced in the House for nothing more than petty partisan reasons is the antithesis of that. And yes, I'm well aware that the Liberals are not the only party that's been guilty of petty partisanship.

        But here's the thing– it goes back to that "consistency of narrative" thing that Donolo was supposed to bring to bear on the LPC. Ignatieff has, many times, tried to paint this picture as though he's "above the fray" and that Harper is this petty, partisan attack dog. Yet this stunt that the Liberals pulled is every bit as petty and silly as anything the Tories have done. If you're going to say you're above the fray, then stay above the fray.

  12. "One, it's helpful to know that the Liberal party line is entirely amenable to abortion… but as a value-neutral “option,” no more objectionable than birth control."

    I don't really think that fair Mr.Coyne.

    At least it's not the way I read the (badly worded) motion that was put forward.

    I would favour some restrictions on late term abortions if I were to write a Canadian law, but I would not support a "global gag rule" type foreign policy.

    I would also have to do some research into the 1% of abortions done after the 20th week, to see if the circumstances were justified.

    The fact is that as soon as you open this can of worms you get the extremists on either side unwilling to compromise, and no sensible law can be reached.

    It would be political suicide for the CPC to be part of an abortion debate, as the number of totally uncompromising anti-abortionists are significantly higher in their caucus.

    I tried to glean what kind of law you might be in favour of, but couldn't discern it from your linked article.

    Any moderate position on this issue will draw fire from both sides, so you may be wise to keep your opinion on the matter under wraps.

    I'll give you the benefit of the doubt, and say you are just practicing objective journalism, but any law you proposed would draw the ire of a great many people.

    That's why it's the "third rail" of Canadian politcs, and why we may never get a law restricting it.

    • The thing about late-term abortions is that they are done in order to save the woman's life. If you restrict them, you are likely to kill some women and save no foetus.

      • So, why not a law saying abortions are only legal after the first trimester if two doctors verify that continuing the pregnancy will cause serious physical harm to the mother? That's how most of Europe manages it, and from the POV of anyone outside the far right, Europe hasn't degenerated into dystopia yet.

        • There might be a problem with the approval procedure – the delays it created were part of the reason the original law was unconstitutional.

          Aside from that it's an interesting starting point, but I think way way too far to the anti-abortion side.

          What are anti-abortionists prepared to give up in order to get this concession: In the third trimester, a doctor must state that there is some risk to the mother before an abortion can be performed. When you've got something interesting, come to the table.

          • I think the other related factor that was cited in the Supreme Court of Canada decision in Morgentaler, aside from delays, was inconsistency in application of the procedure. In other words, when you have low-level decision makers making a call like that, you can get vastly different results at the ground level. So what ends up happening, e.g., is it's easy as pie to get an abortion in City A, but really really difficult, if not impossible, in City B, on the same basic facts.

            And in fact this is very much the case, for different legal reasons, in the US right now. There was an excellent Frontline documentary about that a couple of years ago. Even though Roe v. Wade was decided at the federal level, there are huge differences in access to abortion from state to state, town to town, etc. in the US these days. And of course at some abortion clinics in the Bible Belt, it's basically like being in a beseiged fortress in the middle of hostile territory, a la the Green Zone in Baghdad.

          • That doesn't qualify as a concession to me – "some risk" can cover absolutely everything, so it would change nothing. At minimum, it would have to be a doctor's statement that continuing the pregnancy would cause serious physical harm.

            What do people who are pro-life have to "give up"? The status quo is unrestricted government-funded abortion. It's like asking what a pacifist would concede to get cuts in the US military budget. If there's a debate, we should push for something substantive, even more than what I recommended above, on the basis that it will have to be watered down.

          • Well, the good guys are holding all the cards on this one (although as a practical matter the anti-abortionists have very little to be upset about). The libs bloc and NDP risk losing votes for caving on womens rights and don't have a lot to gain. It makes no sense to give up trump and give your opponents a leg up just because they want it.

            I am quite happy to have the matter be between a woman and her doctor. I have no wish to give up anything or budge from that position. Make it worth my while or I won't listen.

          • I'd be interested in knowing how many Canadian women seek and receive a second or third tri-mester abortion and for what reasons. I'm pro-choice and 25+ years ago I had a first tri-mester abortion and, for me, at the time it was the best decision and I don't regret it.

        • Do you remember how the Liberals and Dippers screamed when Cons proposed women getting councilling before and AFTER an abortion?

          • Absolutely, it was incredibly insulting. Some even wanted anti-abortionist tripe read aloud by doctors as a pre-condition to sound medical treatment.

  13. It's not just a media issues. The Reformers/Tories used to be all about free votes, now they make a big deal when a Liberal Senator disagrees with the leadership.

    • Is 'Reform/Tories' supposed to be a negative,
      like something far beneath a Liberal?
      It sure comes off that way.

      • Think on that.

  14. I really think this is distracting from the main issue which is that Stéphane Dion is not a leader.

    • Iggy is making Stéphane Dion look pretty good these days.

      • We knew you'd miss Dion when he left… Now just to get your so-called leader off his dictatorial chair.

      • Don't worry the next LPC leader will make Ignatieff look good.

        Opposition leader. Best job in the world.

        • Best job in the world? Really? I'd say the opposite.

          • I was plumbing new depths of sarcasm.

          • Ah. That explains it. ;-)

  15. Mr Coyne, tell us, please, that you do not really believe that a belief in pro-choice is a disease. This is a most extraordinary statement in what is, to be blunt, an extraordinarily unpleasant entry in which you wear your political heart on your sleeve even more openly than usual. If you wrote it purposefully, then just who were you trying to influence or impress?

    • No, to set the record straight, I do not believe pro-lifers are a disease. Once again you have caught me committing irony.

    • He didn't say that, he said: "Two, it's also helpful to be reminded that there are pro-lifers in every party: it is not just a Tory disease". So he was saying that being pro-life is a disease. My assumption is that he meant it in the sense of being an unpleasant condition for the parties to deal with politically.

      • Of course,that's how Coyne meant it: in the sense of being an unpleasant condition for the parties to deal with equally.

        But Coyne worded it pretty smart-ly. It added a little punch to it.

        I was thinking, if such rather playfull addition (such as Coyne;s sentence was) cannot be fully understood by the average reader, then how to have a productive debate about abortion?

  16. It's good for MPs to vote their consciences. But that Ignatieff made this a whipped vote, and that they still voted against the bill, says two things: Ignatieff didn't read his caucus well, and he didn't manage the vote well considering how many Liberals who supported the bill were absent.

    I agree entirely on the need for an open debate on abortion. From the way politics works you'd think opinion on abortion was unanimous in favour of it being unrestricted, which is far from being true. At minimum I'd like to see third-term abortions limited to cases where the physical health of the mother is endangered; preferably second-term abortions as well. This isn't radical right-wing stuff: most European countries have it. The BBC has a rundown:

    France: Legal up to 12 weeks (~3 months) if pregnancy causes "a state of distress"; after that, only if two doctors confirm a risk of grave danger to the mother's health or if there is a risk of the child having a severe, incurable illness.

    Germany: Legal up to 12 weeks, with mandatory counselling three days before the abortion aimed at convincing the mother not to abort. Inducing a woman to have an abortion by withholding support payments is illegal.

    Sweden: Legal up to 18 weeks; abortions at 12-18 weeks must be discussed with a social worker, ones after 18 weeks require permission from National Board of Health and Welfare.

    UK: Legal up to 24 weeks (~6 months)

    Europe is 1.) highly secular and 2.) doesn't appear to have an epidemic of illegal abortions. Reasonable regulation is possible without causing illegal abortions, and there are reasons besides religion for people to find them morally problematic. I think the debate in Canada is distorted by most people not having any terms of reference other than the United States, and thus seeing anything relating to reducing the number of abortions as an initiative of far-right social conservatives.

    • Stop being reasonable. You're on the wrong topic for that.

    • But on the other hand, leaving the decision entirely up to women and their doctors hasn't caused any problems and probably provided the exact same results, without cumbersome government regulation (a conservative dream come true!) And anti-abortion forces will still fight to take away more and more rights, so it's best not to give them a starting point, and to make them give heavy concessions for any restrictions that do get put in place.

      • Has it provided the exact same results? We don't know if it will reduce late-term abortions if we don't try, and I think reducing the number is a worthwhile policy goal. We may disagree on what does and doesn't qualify as a person, but these are human beings, with all of their body parts and organs formed by the end of the first trimester, who will if not aborted be born as living, crying, smiling babies. Their lives shouldn't be treated cavalierly.

        At the very least, it would get people to think about abortion rather than trying to pretend it doesn't exist as an issue by covering it with terms like "family planning" and "reproductive rights" to disguise what they're actually talking about.

        • But late term abortions are excedingly rare and those not performed for health reasons are, as far as I know, non-existent. Success for the anti-abortionists!

          • Do you have any proof of that?

          • Not offhand, but I really don't care.

          • Good to know.

  17. I do find it hard to believe that all Conservatives are pro-life. Even the NDP has a few pro-life members, like Peter Stoffer. How did he vote on this measure?

  18. Peter Stoffer is pro-choice not pro-life, and he voted for the motion.

    There are also pro-choice Conservatives, but they decided to treat the issue publicly as being one of anti-Americanism (since that option was made so easy for them by the childishly inept and politically clumsy drafting of the Liberal motion), and they were able for all practical purposes to turn the tables on the gimmicky amateurish Liberals.

    It seems the Government Whip's Office is better at counting Liberal votes than the Liberal Whip's Office is.

    I'm sympathetic with what Andrew says about MPs voting against the party line on a few issues dearly held (and on which they must have a strong personal mandate, having been reelected several times either because of or in spite of those positions). I think the Gallery has made a short-hand of trying to cover the bigger strategic failure by covering the whipped-ness or non-whipped-ness of the vote.

    But it is a fair question for them to ask whether the man has the strategic chops to lead his party successfully into and through the next election, or even to effectively run any government mandate he might stumble into afterwards in spite of his campaigning abilities. The evidence so far seems to be no, and it certainly seems that more than one Liberal MP has drawn this conclusion as well.

  19. ' Why are we (media) volunteering to be the enforcers of party discipline?'

    Because you feel entitled to do so.

    '…we did not choose as a nation to have no abortion law'
    We are not without abortion 'limits',
    the Provinces have taken over that role.
    example: in Saskatoon, no abortions are performed in public facilities after the 12th week.
    Why try to fix a divisive issue that is not broken?

    A federal law will not make either extreme happy…

  20. I'ts true. I've never seen it reported by "the press" that there are pro-life MPs in other parties. This is quite a scoop.

    • I don't know if it's appropriate to blame the press in any or all cases where the general public is ignorant of something. Who knows. Whatever the case, it's certainly true that a lot of Canadians, including some who claim to be politically engaged, cruise along on the assumption that all anti-abortion MPs must be Tories (or a few years back, Reformers). And of course that's emphatically not the case. Arguably the most vocal anti-abortion MP in the House for many, many years was Tom Wappel, a Liberal. But the fact is, again, if you had pointed that out to a lot of people, they would have been quite surprised.

      • I think that even if people don't realize that there are Liberal prolifers, they do know Canada is only in danger of anti-abortion laws from the CPC. Chretien trounced Stockwell Day on the issue, and they'd whip their caucus into shape fast if they thought big restrictions on access to abortion were going to pass due to Liberal votes.

        • "they'd whip their caucus into shape fast if they thought big restrictions on access to abortion were going to pass due to Liberal votes"

          What's that, an assumption on top of a supposition on top of a hypothetical? I'll take that for what it's worth.

          • Please do.

        • Who knows? If the Libs whip their caucus into shape hard enough, maybe nine Liberal MPs will cross the floor and Harper will finally have his majority.

          • Actually, the Liberals would be dancing in the streets if they could get Harper to make an anti-abortion bill strong enough to attract party-changers.

          • I actually considered that too. Then I looked up where these MPs ridings are. I imagine they'd get a fun three years in government but would then either have to move elsewhere or say goodbye to politics come the next election. But if nine of them were thinking of hanging it up anyhow in the next few years….

    • Well that explains why Ignatieff wasn't aware he has 13 Pro Lifers in his caucus,
      surely had he known, he would not have trampled all over them, eh.

    • I think Wells is being pissy because this is going to throw a wrench in the Ignatieff-is-a-loser-and-I-told-you-guys-years-ago-and-you-should-never-have-pushed-out-Chrétien column he's hard at work on.

      • Frankly, Chretien is looking pretty good these days as leader of the LPC, and I never thought I'd say that. The bar just keeps on dropping.

          • Fair enough. After reading his wiki entry, Chretien doesn't look so good as LPC leader. How far back do we have to go? Trudeau?

          • Well as you know Crit_Reasoning there have never been any good Liberal leaders. Only the Conservatives produce strong manly leaders as evidenced by how much fun they have when they are in opposition.


      Scoop? Like the private members' bill introduced in 2006 to criminalize abortion? By Liberal MP Gord Steckle?

      Or the dozen MP's from the Liberal party who consistently vote against anything to do with abortion, contraception or same sex marriage?

      Scoop? Really?

      • This is one of those cases where you've missed the author's use of sarcasm because on a blog post you can't see Wells rolling his eyes.

    • In recent memory I have lived in two federal ridings (Ottawa South and Burin St. George's) in which the NDP nominated "star" candidates, both of whom were anti-choice candidates. In each case Jack Layton said it was ok, because of their faith. So every time some dipper waves Tom Wappel in your face, ask them to go google Des McGrath.

      For better or for worse, Michael Ignatieff may inherited a gaggle of anti-choice MPs.
      Jack Layton went out and actively recruited them.

      • For better, I'd say.

    • Paul's sarcasm seems to miss the mark with some people.

      • I know eh? 17 replies in, and it looks like only one or two people realized he was being sarcastic.

        • Time and time again, writers forget we can't hear them think as they type.

          When that many miss the point either your readership can't read, or you're doing it wrong.

          • Sad as I am to slag fellow commenters (lol), I think this case is an instance of a lack of reading comprehension, not a lack of writing skills.

            The use of the word "never" in Wells' comment is a good clue.

        • I'd say the opposite… two people didn't realize he was sarcastic. It's pretty obvious.

  21. How horribly out of touch is Iggy, with his own party, if he didn't even realize this was going to happen? Didn't Iggy even check to see if some of his colleagues might actually use their own brain? Make their own judgement?

    The Liberal Party looks absolutely ridiculous right now (and they are not even in power).

    Forget the abortion debate – you can argue that till the end of time- This was an amateur strategic move that blew up in Iggy's face – Wow!

    • I totally agree with you, it is pathetic, this man is so out touch, it's like he is from another planet!

  22. I think that the debate (if it happens) should focus on procurement of abortion only (to begin). Nationalistic abortion bans are as evil as unrestricted abortion (decided!). Yet what constitutes procurement? Denial of pre-natal care?

  23. 'The Liberals want to provoke a debate on abortion, to smoke out the Tory pro-lifers"

    "If that's how you smoke someone out, better you stay home and play tiddly winks"

    Hey Coyne your name Howard these days? A little attribution please. Ok it might have been a coicidence…great minds think alike…
    I'll settle for a couple of thumbs up. :)

    • Whoa with the thumbs up there AC, i might have to take that as an admission of guilt. :)

  24. I don't know about other people, but how exactly does this all work?

    Last week, the opposition parties fought, and fought hard for getting the importance of the House established. The speaker will rule to somethings to that effect.

    And now we have a member of the VERY SAME oppostion parties saying this:

    ""Just because a majority of the House did not support it doesn't mean … it isn't the right thing to do," said Martin, a physician."

    I am begging, anyone!!!! Could anyone explain to me the method of reasoning these parliamentarians are using.

    • Parliament being supreme and the House being above the government, (not below it!) on the org chart is not synonymous with "Parliament and the House are infallible".

      It's not that complicated.

      Parliament being ultimately responsible for keeping us a democracy, and holding the government to account doesn't mean that nothing Parliament ever does can be wrong. I just means that if the government say "X", and our Parliament says "Y", then Parliament is always supposed to win. That doesn't mean they're always right, just that their always the body with the authority to make the ultimate decision.

      • Martin is asserting the same principle the PM is, but it doesn't change the fact that the house had the final say in defeating the liberal motion. One the other hand the gov't is bending itself into a pretzel to avoid the house having the final say on the detainee issue. As you say the reasoning is pretty basic.

      • before long, when starting to formulate democracy within those terms we will have to be able to shape our minds into the shape of a pretzel in order to at least resemble the looks of that knot!

        So our democracy is not about finding out the meaning between right and wrong? The most important part of our democracy is the place where "it" happens?

        If the Government says something is wrong and Parliament says it's right, does the issue of right versus wrong pertain to the workings of democrcacy or does the fact that a particular decision making body should exist be the meaning of democracy.

        If one considers Martin's statement, I am not sureif the MP's are clear on any of this. And if they are not clear on any of this, then should they, as being this body we call parliament, be judge and jury simultaneously?,

      • And so Lord Kitchener, how about a Derek Lee who holds Parliament to be supreme, for not showing up in the House when the voting starts?

        I mean, tell us then how it is supposed to work?

        We have MP's who shout the loudest for the House to be supreme, hand in motions to the effect, and yet, when the house does have business to attend they "sit out" the House.

        Why can't you, or anyone else, explain this so called workings of a democracy?

        Everyone ducks when the real questions are being asked. That is the problem with our democracy.

  25. CBC's headline for reporting on the motion defeat issue:

    "Liberals defeat own family planning motion"

    Now, if that headline would have stated:" Liberals defeat own family planning NOTION." ithe headline would have been perfect.

    You see, family planning and undergoing an abortion are in essence cancelling each other out: if one plans for a family, one does not plan for an abortion.

    (yeah, yeah, I know, the spacing of at least two yrs between pregnacies and what not, yeah, yeah, it's there for all to read up on….please don't reply to me for not understanding)

    I got the notion.

    It was all about e…….motions.

    • I second that emotion.

  26. But this one really takes the cake!

    The following is the FIRST paragraph leading into the "rest of the story":

    "A Liberal motion to include a broader range of family planning programs, including contraception, in a maternal health initiative for developing countries, was defeated 144-138 in the House of Commons on Tuesday."

    Well, ladies and gentlemen, there you have it. The Canadian viewers and the developing nations are being re-educated with a little help from the Liberal's BFF – the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation:

    the word contra-ceptive has been officially revised to mean the following: everything which should've happened before should not happen after. And we shall all be happy. That's the happening thing.

    You've got that?

    (Update: Dr.Bennet has been so kind to notify the new dictionary printers to start the presses)

    • I'm not sure I understand what you're saying here. Are you upset at the CBC for not using the word abortion to describe a bill that doesn't contain the word abortion?

  27. "It hurts," he said. "They don't like it because we're telling the truth. They'll seize on anything that will allow them to hide their real ideology."

    Without identifying the remarker of the above quote, could anyone guess which party he belongs to?

    It beats me.

  28. It seems to me that the universal scorn being heaped upon the Liberals is not so much for their having been divided on this vote, but because the powers that be didn't bother to determine if all their MPs would show up and if they would fall in line with the party whip. It certainly baffles me why they would overlook this rather significant step. Also baffling is the very peculiar wording of what should have been a very straightforward motion about policy in this country, not the US. It all seemed so stunningly stupid – like they intended their motion to fail.

  29. Still riding this ancient hobby-horse, Coyne? Give it a rest. Its over.

  30. "Harper fired back that Ignatieff was being "too clever by half" with the issue, only to create divisions within his own ranks." (CBC reporting)

    Yes, it is sad but true that this was said a day (or two) BEFORE the votecount on the motion took place!

    Waw, this puts the age-old adage of "knowing thy enemy" into new perspectives.

    I mean, for that "loser" to give away secrets that easily…………………

    Harper must be nuts

  31. There's a line in the Charter that gives every citizen (even…. WOMEN, dontcha know), "right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice."

    There's your abortion law: it's the one most progressive and respectful of women's liberty on the planet and it one of the few things that makes me proud to be Canadian. We don't need anything further.

    • So, what you're saying is that any unborn Canadian might very well be a new life, but not necessarily be a citizen yet

      • I haven't said anything of the sort. I don't have anything to say about a potential; I'm only concerned with actual persons.

        • So you have already established what is a person and what is not. Or, by eliminating potential we can make progress? Strange debate when one simply throws out the core of a debate.

        • I'm just curious here.

          Do you consider an eight month old fetus, to be a person, with some right to the "security of the person" that you speak of?

          At some point I think you have to consider that the unborn child, has some rights also.

          Where exactly to draw that line, is the real matter for debate.

          Saying that the unborn is not a "person" till he/she draws breath, seems to me to be an extreme position.

          • Adequately counter balanced by the view that the moment of conception is the dividing line.

            Where exactly to draw that line, is the real matter for debate. is exactly correct. Seems to me that quite a few folks, for whatever reason, are not comfortable delving into the 40 week interval that typically separates the two extremes; they end up choosing one of those two end points as the boundary, and most of that group chooses conception as the boundary.

            The rest of us, those who can't accept using either conception or birth as the dividing line, are left to sort through that 40 week period of time to come up with our own judgment about what we can support and what we can't support.

  32. I agree. After the free vote on the long gun registry it seemed abundantly clear that a party is far, far better off whiping every vote. At least from a media coverage point of view (and now it appears from a Caucus contentment point of view as well). I'm surprised the Libs didn't pick up on this and take some corrective action. Maybe this debacle will teach them, but I wouldn't actually wager moeny on it.

  33. "One, it's helpful to know that the Liberal party line is entirely amenable to abortion… but as a value-neutral “option,” no more objectionable than birth control."

    This is a cheap shot AC. Even more so when you consider the pro lifers in the party didn't fall into line. We are a signatory to an agreement [ G8 or UN i forget] which already states that provision for safe or medically abortion shall be made where not conflicting with national laws or customs. How an earth is this a call to hand out abortion like candies. Yes this is an embarrassment for the libs who got bit for playing cheap politics. But as you point out the outcome is that the conservatives still don't get to state their real views, particularly since we are a signatory. I believe it is known as hypocrisy, smart politics or not.

  34. " Why are we volunteering to be the enforcers of party discipline? "

    Obviously not everyone the press is like this, but I think many are quite willing to let their ideology colour their reporting and shape the narrative. If the dissenting MPs had been from the CPC side, I'm pretty sure the same reporters would be lauding them to the skies.

  35. Thank you, Mr. Coyne. I was feeling rather despondent.

  36. Open letter to Mr.Coyne, editor of Macleans

    Dear Mr.Coyne,

    This letter is in regards to the meaning of democracy. Lately, the topic of discussion amongst politicians, the main stream media (msm) and Canadians at large, has focused in on our democratic well being.

    Within this letter I would like to address the role being played by members of the msm in regards to the state of our democray, and in particular the role being played by Macleans. Since you are its editor, I would like to address this letter to you.

    Working towards a healthy democratic state involves the act of reasoning. You reasoned under the title The Grand Inquest of the Nation that "this is a great day in the history of Parliament. Three members — Lee, Harris and Bachand — have stood up for Parliament's ancient powers and privileges. Now it's up to the rest of them to do the same."

  37. Open letter to Mr.Coyne, editor of Macleans

    Dear Mr.Coyne,

    This letter is in regards to the meaning of democracy. Lately, the topic of discussion amongst politicians, the main stream media (msm) and Canadians at large, has focused in on our democratic well being.

    Within this letter I would like to address the role being played by members of the msm in regards to the state of our democray, and in particular the role being played by Macleans. Since you are its editor, I would like to address this letter to you.

    • Please stop providing our host with those pesky facts. All they want is to run around all day with their anti-Harper crap and not bother to see what ACTUALLY is happening. I'm sure the reply you hear will be crickets chirping! Democracy is so messy sometimes!

  38. And yet, as of today, I have not been able to find a piece of your writing in which you publicly question Mr.Lee for his insistence to stand outside the House when other motions in regards to foreign affairs are being called upon. Thatâ?Ts no way for a democratic country to decide anything. And so, we are not really a democratic country…… Yet, again, both motions deal with foreign affairs, and both motions are of the essence to the well being of our democracy. If you reason, as I do, that the media must be held responsible for upholding its designated pillar onto which our demcracy is to stand up proudly, and if it's up to the rest of us to do our part, could you explain to me and everyone else, why you have so willingly decided to praise the actions of one man, while when one such man does the exact opposite, you offer no further insight publically? Awaiting your reply, Francien Verhoeven

  39. It's easy to make a mockery out of our democracy. I wonder when men like Coyne decide it's time to stand up tall by start ing to answer some of the more difficult questions.

  40. Spot on Coyne. If every single vote is a monolith, why do we elect representatives by region? We should just elect a party, or a leader, because if the leader (party) just decides everything then what's the point?