Opening up the Abortion Debate in Canada

Well, sadly, it would seem that I was prescient when I wrote Reproductive Rights Discourse on March 18, 2012. In this post, I explored how Canada is affected by political discourse coming out of the United States. In the last 2 years, there has been an assault of biblical proportions on not only abortion but also contraception in the US. Even though Stephen Harper has said he is not interested in opening up the abortion debate he seems willing to let his backbencher Stephen Woodworth do it for him.

Motion 312, put forward by Woodworth, seeks to change the definition of when a fetus becomes a child. Referencing Subsection 223(1) of the Criminal Code of Canada, a fetus becomes a human being once it is born. Woodworth is asking the following questions:

  1. what medical evidence exists to demonstrate that a child is or is not a human being before the moment of complete birth?
  2. is the preponderance of medical evidence consistent with the declaration in Subsection 223(1) that a child is only a human being at the moment of complete birth?
  3. what are the legal impact and consequences of Subsection 223(1) on the fundamental human rights of a child before the moment of complete birth?
  4. what are the options available to Parliament in the exercise of its legislative authority in accordance with the Constitution and decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada to affirm, amend, or replace Subsection 223(1)?

The questions Woodworth is seeking to answer in Motion 312 would fundamentally change how abortion is viewed and provided in Canada. If passed, this motion could mandate all sorts of restrictions on access to abortion.

Now, one might want to ask why Stephen Harper has allowed this motion to go forward. There is no way that Harper the Control Freak would allow anything to go forward without his approval. So even though he says he does not want the abortion debate opened he is allowing just that to happen. He says he will vote against the motion but what does that really mean? By allowing this motion to move forward he is adding to the discourse that seeks to impose severe limitations on a woman’s right to choose. And, as students of discourse theory know, the more we talk about something the more powerful the discourse becomes and before we know it trans-vaginal ultrasounds are the norm prior to abortions in Canada.

Now, lest you think it is only the Conservative party of Canada who is seeking to oppress women let’s take a look at the Liberal Party of Canada. Justin Trudeau has been tweeting, quite proudly, that the LPC will have a free vote on this issue. That’s right folks, the LPC is also prepared to allow their MPs to vote their ‘conscience.’ This pisses me off. A quick scan through the list of MPs indicates 5 of 35 Liberals elected to Parliament are women. When Liberal MPs are allowed to vote their ‘conscience’ 30 men will get to have a say on what women do with their bodies. This is an excellent example of why the LPC is doing so badly in Canada: there is no leadership, no ideology to which people can adhere. It is in these really tough decisions that leadership makes a difference. Bob Rae has an opportunity to show he can lead. Sadly, I think we will all be disappointed.

What I find even more disturbing is the lack of leadership from Justin Trudeau. This is a man who grew up in a political house with one of the best leaders Canada has ever had.[1] He should understand how important ideology is to politics. Did he not learn lessons from his father? He is also of a younger generation than Bob Rae. This does not bode well his future in politics.

Now onto the NDP; Nikki Ashton announced “In Canada, in 2012, a woman’s right to choose is not up for negotiation.’ She confirmed that the NDP would vote unanimously against the motion. Don’t forget that the NDP now has over a hundred members from Quebec where Catholicism still runs deep. Tom Mulcair, unlike the wimpy Rae and Harper, is not allowing his MPs to a free vote. He understands that to do so would be to muddy waters about the real issue, which is safe access to abortion for all Canadian women.

Living in a society where men are the overwhelming decision makers about women’s access to reproductive choice is so incredibly disturbing. This makes it clear that women are still second-class citizens in this country. When men are able to carry a child to term, then perhaps they can have a say. Until then they have no right to force their or their god’s[2] will on women.


[1] I can never decide who was the best leader: Trudeau or Chretien.

[2] Don’t forget, most people who are anti-choice are doing it because of religious doctrine.

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Completely out of touch

So apparently one of the candidates for the presidency of the Liberal Party of Canada says that they need to bring in new ideas. In particular, Mike Crawley thinks we should debate the role of the Monarchy in Canada. Is this the best they’ve got? Because, if so, we are completely and utterly in trouble. If the Liberals cannot rebuild their party we will be stuck with some brand of a Stephen Harper government for the foreseeable future.

I have a few suggestions for the LPC if they can’t think of new ideas:

  • Re-assess the relationship between the government and the governed. Our first-past-the-post system is broken. We need a much more representative government with some mechanisms to make our voices heard in between elections.
  • They must engage youth. If the LPC were smart they would tap into the energy of the Occupy Movement in Canada. They need to harness and organize the movement’s ideas and use some of their methods. If the Occupiers feel valued and listened to by the LPC they will gain a whole new constituency.
  • The must look at the relationship between corporations and consumers and corporations and their employees. There needs to be some serious discussion about consumer rights and corporations being held accountable. Similarly, corporations must be regulated when it comes to how they treat their employees. The situation at the Caterpillar plant should be high on the government’s agenda.
  • As a country we must pledge to stop filling the DTES with new souls. Every child must be given a minimum standard of living and access to opportunity. We must eradicate poverty and invest heavily in child development programs. Finally, we must value stay-at-home parents. It has been proven time and time again that children who are stimulated intellectually by a parent at home have much better outcomes.

As for the Monarchy, who really cares? Besides the odd Royal Visit and the need for extra security it really does not cost as that much. In fact, given the last couple of Royal visits, it would seem that the Monarchy is more popular than ever.

My Live Tweet of the Election Results

6:59 pm One minute to go! #elxn41bc #elxn41

7:07 Crap!!! The Cons could get a majority. Very sad. #elxn41bc #elxn41

7:08 NDP Official Opposition! Wow! Jack Layton and the NDP have made history! #elxn41bc #elxn41

7:10 WTF is wrong with Manitoba? They elect NDP provincially but Cons federally? #elxn41bc #elxn41 #manitobasucks

7:13 pm Historic success for the #NDP and #jacklayton #elxn41bc #elxn41

7:18  Jack Layton said he was running to be Prime Minister. #jacklayton #elxn41bc #elxn41

7:21 Jack Layton has earned this! Could the NDP hit triple digits?#elxn41bc #elxn41 #NDP

7:26 The #NDP are over 100! Jack Layton has earned this! #elxn41bc#elxn41 #NDP

7:29 Lawrence Cannon going down to the #orangecrush! #elxn41bc #elxn41

7:31 One of my dogs is barking for Kali daal. She has decided she likes lentils. She is interrupting my tweeting. #orangecrush#elxn41bc#elxn41

7:53 Fuck. Conservative majority government. #elxn41bc #elxn41

7:56 Bitter sweet results. #NDP Official Opposition but Con Majority #elxn41bc #elxn41

8:03 The #NDP is the real story tonight! #elxn41bc #elxn41. Even though they are dealing with a majority Con gov they will have platform to work.

8:04 I never thought I would see an #NDP Official Opposition in my lifetime. Way to go #jacklayton #elxn41bc #elxn41

8:15 Sadly, I do not feel bad for Michael Ignatieff. The ‘natural governing’ party goes down, hard. #elxn41bc #elxn41#jacklayton

8:16 Is Ignatieff’s job still available at Harvard? #elxn41bc #elxn41

8:17 The Liberals are an ‘ancient’ party – Michael Ignatieff#elxn41bc #elxn41

8:20 I don’t understand what people see in MichaelIgnatieff? Do you? #elxn41bc#elxn41

8:21 Stop thanking people and resign already. #elxn41bc #elxn41 #ignatieff

8:34 Get Jason fucking Kenney off my television! #elxn41bc #elxn41

8:37 Elizabeth May ahead in Saanich-Gulf Islands. #elxn41bc #elxn41

8:40 We need to go to proportional representation. First-past-the-post is so last century. #elxn41bc #elxn41

8:43 Sweet victory for Bob Rae being re-elected and Ignatieff not. Anxiously awaiting #jacklayton speaking. #elxn41bc #elxn41

8:45 I actually liked Gilles Duceppe.Not sad to see the #BQ go down. Maybe it’s time to try to bring QB into the Constitution. #elxn41bc#elxn41

8:50 #Duceppe is not very humble…#elxn41bc #elxn41

8:53 There isn’t even a CDN flag on stage with #duceppe. Speaks volumes. He is leaving. But not spelling end of Sov. for QB#elxn41bc #elxn41

9:08 Where is #rickmercer? He should be commenting! #elxn41bc #elxn41

9:31 #NDP #NDP #NDP #NDP #elxn41 #elxn41bc

9:32 #JackLayton – Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition #elxn41#elxn41bc

9:39 Proposition over opposition – #JackLayton #elxn41 #elxn41bc

Now for more than 140 character thoughts:

  1. It is bittersweet tonight. While the NDP did better than anyone could have predicted it came at the expense of a Conservative majority. It is going to be really hard to stomach 4 more years of Stephen Harper.
  2. The Liberal party will take its time and rebuild over the next 4 years. This is a good thing. It will not happen under Michael Ignatieff. It will take a very charismatic leader who will be able to inspire the entire country. I believe it will be Justin Trudeau.
  3. Jack Layton will be amazing as the leader of the opposition. He will act with integrity and hold the Conservatives accountable. This extra exposure will be great for the NDP.

My 2011 Election Prediction

If someone had told me a month ago that the NDP and the Liberals would have exchanged places in the poll I would not have believed it. Jack Layton has run a very tight yet engaging campaign. He has not faltered from his message of support for families. I find it so interesting how both Harper and Ignatieff became so afraid of Layton and the NDP in the last week of the campaign.

This is a really hard election to call. There are so many variables to consider. Really, it depends on who can get the vote out. If the polls are correct and the NDP support does not erode then Jack Layton stands a very good chance of taking the NDP to its best performance ever. He may even be leader of the Official Opposition.

I think Harper can expect another minority parliament. He did very little to allay the fears of voters with what he would do if he won a majority. I think many people are weary of Harper saying he needs a majority to govern. He needs a majority if he is going to be a dictator.

The real question mark right now is Quebec. If support for the Bloc Quebecois has diminished and if most of it goes to the NDP the results of this election will be one for the history books. Clearly Quebec is not going to support the Liberals no matter how often they trot out Jean Chretien. The problem with the Liberals is Michael Ignatieff. Apparently he has charisma if you meet him in person, however he does not present well on TV. He comes across as a pompous ass who thinks he knows what is best for us.

The Liberals are done until they get a real leader. They need someone with vision and charisma not a professor lecturing to them. Since Jean Chretien stepped down, the Liberals have floundered. Paul Martin wanted to be prime minister simply to be prime minister. He didn’t have a vision for what he wanted to do for the country. Stephane Dion had promise but he got bogged down in policy.

Harper has shown his true colours this campaign. All of the scandals aside, his insistence on only answering 5 questions a day was quite arrogant. He was so tightly wound and uncomfortable. His perseveration on the ‘coalition’ became so tiresome. He consistently misrepresented several issues.

The other unknown is the youth vote. It is interesting that neither the Liberals nor Conservatives has tried to engage the youth vote. I suspect they are afraid that youth will support the NDP. Rick Mercer has done a great deal to get the youth of Canada more engaged in the political process. If the youth vote in droves it may well be enough to put the NDP over the top.

I think we will have another minority parliament. If the NDP gets the vote out then they well could form the Official Opposition. There is a role the governor-general could play here as well. He could ask the opposition parties to form a government if the numbers are close. It is only convention that dictates that the party with the largest number of seats forms the government. I think it is not likely he will do that but the possibility does exist.

If things happen like I have predicted, Michael Ignatieff will resign tomorrow night. There is nothing the Liberal Party of Canada can do to rehabilitate his leadership. Instead of having a leadership coronation again, like they did with Michael Ignatieff. The Liberals need an exciting and engaging leadership campaign with younger contenders. It is my hope that Justin Trudeau become the next leader of the Liberal Party of Canada. I think he has the charisma and the leadership skills to bring the Liberals back.

Yawn

So today there has been some breaking news! Wiebo is back (I am not going to blog about that yet). Stevie and Mikey are exchanging blows once again. Only this time it seems like Mikey may be making the most sense. The CBC was reporting today that the Harpie is justifying proroguing parliament again because he needs to reset Parliament in order to deal with the pressing issues of 2010. Apparently the ‘reset’ will help Harper to focus on the economy. Now, please correct me, but haven’t we been focusing on the economy since late 2008? How could all that stimulus money have been approved if Parliament was not focused on the economy? I guess this explains why things have not improved.

Now, to Michael Ignatieff. He seems to have learned his lesson and toned down the rhetoric. He has stated that the Liberals will be back in Ottawa conducting ‘public consultations’ in Ottawa on ‘issues important to Canadians.’ At least they will be in Ottawa. I wonder where the Harpie and the Cons will be? Perhaps in box seats at “Owe-lympics?”* I am sure the federal Liberals are just pissed that they are not in power for the games.

So, to sum up, the Liberals will be in Ottawa trying to conduct fact-finding missions in Ottawa in the dead of winter. I am sure this will be very successful for Mikey. If nothing else it will give his handlers more time to fine-tune his image while no one is looking. It is unclear what Stevie and the Cons will be doing. No doubt they will be drafting a new Throne Speech wherein they will try to focus the Canadian Parliament on the economy. This further shakes my confidence in this government.

The really sad thing about the state of Canadian politics is that it is boring. Not only is it boring, it is also irrelevant. Completely and utterly irrelevant.

*I completely stole this word from the Wandering Coyote. Check out her blog, it is great!

Ignatieff’s Error

Before the summer, Michael Ignatieff threatened to bring down the government over changes it wanted to EI. He went into negotiations with Harper and came out with a promise of a ‘blue-ribbon’ panel to study the issue over the summer. Citing his great concern for ‘ordinary working Canadians’ Michael Ignatieff seemed relish his role as the champion of unemployed Canadians.

Parliament is now back in session and it seems that Ignatieff has done some ruminating over the summer BBQ scene. He has now decided that he and the Liberals can no longer continue to support the Harper Conservatives. Ignatieff is now threatening to bring down the government over proposed changes to EI that would see benefits flow to some workers for a longer period of time. Instead of trying to ensure that ‘ordinary working Canadias’ receive extended benefits he has decided that he would rather bring down the government.

The NDP have looked at the proposed legislation and has decided to support it. This legislation will pass with the support of the NDP and the BQ. It is doubtful that the NDP would be supporting this legislation just to prevent an election. The NDP would not be blamed for bringing down the government – that would fall on the Liberals. So there are really no political consequences for the NDP if there is another election. The NDP cannot really afford another election right now but I doubt that is why they are supporting the proposed legislation. The NDP is supporting the proposed legislation because it is good for unemployed Canadians.

The Official Opposition is very important to our democracy. Without it governments would run amok. However, oppositions have to be careful that they are not opposing things for the sake of opposing them. Carole James and the BC NDP learned this lesson the hard way when they opposed the Carbon Tax in BC. By opposing the tax and making it a central tenet of their campaign they alienated key supporters of the NDP. They bled a lot of votes to the Greens and allowed the BC Liberals to win again.

Ignatieff seems poised to make the same mistake. If he and the Liberals are really concerned about ‘ordinary working Canadians’ and ensuring that EI benefits are flowing to as many as possible, for as long as possible then they will get off their metaphorical high horse and support the legislation. If they are succesful in triggering an election then we may well be saddled with a majority Conservative government.

Federal Election?

So Michael Ignatieff has decided that the Liberals are tired of propping up the Conservative government and is threatening to table a motion of non-confidence at the first opportunity. I am no fan of the Harpie and his merry band of Cons however, Ignatieff’s ‘reasons’ for the motion of non-confidence are spurious at best. There isn’t a big issue, like say a budget, to hang their hats on. Instead they are looking at the entire Harper record and deciding that they should force an election. When the Coalition threatened to bring the government down over the budget I supported that action. There were serious problems with that budget and they deserved to lose control of government. However this time it is different.

If the Liberals force an election it is going to be seen for what it is: a grab for power. I am not sure who is advising Ignatieff but calling an election now would be a really bad idea for the following reasons:

1. There is no galvanizing issue. Saying that the Cons have provided bad government for 4 years is not going to cut it. Those people who would support the Liberals would likely do so and those who support the Conservatives would probably still vote for them. It is the undecided voters who would need to be convinced. It is unlikely that the Liberals could command this group.

2. Generally speaking the party that forces the election is usually punished at the polls.

3. We just had an election. Frequent elections are a de-stabilizing factor on democracies. Given that our economy grew by a slight amount in the last quarter, an election may derail this nascent recovery.

4. I dare say that most voters are not really convinced that Ignatieff can actually lead the Liberal party. Personally, I find him ‘smarmy’, a bit like a used car sales person (no offence to used car sales people). I think he is a rush to fulfil his own ‘manifest destiny’ and Canada will not benefit from this. He should take a lesson from Paul Martin’s playbook – wanting to be prime minister just to be prime minister is not a really good way to lead a country.

I sincerely hope that Ignatieff changes his mind. I believe that if he forces an election now the Liberals would likely lose seats and then he will bring us one step closer to a Cons majority – a truly scary, scary option.

Michael Ignatieff – Perhaps a Leader?

Depending on when you read this Michael Ignatieff may be the interim leader or not. I have not had a lot of faith in Ignatieff. His story does not have command respect in the Canadian pantheon – after all he is a well-educated Canadian who left for the US for most of his adult life. Now, as he is approaching retirement (perhaps needing our health benefits??) he has come home and seems to want to tell us all what is good for us. He is an academic and has come off as out of touch with Canadians when he first burst on the national scene.

Fast forward a couple of years. As we are mired in another Conservative minority government, Ignatieff is poised to take over the Liberal Party of Canada – at least in an interim way. The current political crisis demands action and when Harper shut the door on the Coalition by having Jean prorogue parliament the Liberals needed another escape hatch. So, Dion is being forced to leave earlier, Dominic Leblanc and Bob Rae are dropping out, clearing the way for Ignatieff. I am not sure having the caucus vote to elect an interim leader is the most democratic but it seems like the circumstances demand it.

I listened to the Sunday Edition podcast with Michael Enright from the CBC. If you have not heard it I strongly recommend it. Michael was interviewing Ignatieff and I have to admit that I was impressed. While Stephen Harper may have understood Machiavelli only to the point of the ‘ends justifies the means.’ Ignatieff has a much more nuanced approach. When talking about the Coalition, Ignatieff described it as a ‘means’ and as an ‘end.’ This is a very interesting approach. As a ‘means’ he indicates that the Coalition has served a purpose. It has forced the government to reconsider its position on several key points. The Coalition may also be an ‘end’ in that it may end up forming a government.

Ignatieff also seems to be bringing some leadership to this point as well. He is saying (don’t forget this was on Sunday before he knew he would be leader by Wednesday) that it would be irresponsible to bring down the government without actually looking at the budget first. Wow, what a breath of fresh air. I am all for the Progressive Coalition but only if it is reasonable and all other avenues have been followed and exhausted.

Ignatieff made anther great point around rhetoric. Particularly, he was quite hard on Stephen Harper’s (and rightly so) casting duly elected members of Parliament as ‘traitors’ and ‘separatists’ because the Coalition was going forward with the help of the Bloc. I fully understand the purpose of the Bloc and so do the Quebecers who elect them. But the Bloc is about more than just protecting Quebec’s political and nationalist interests in Ottawa. They are also a left of centre party who hold seats in the House of Commons. They are every bit as ‘elected’ as everyone else. To cast aspersions on them and other politicians who work with them is inappropriate.

At this point I am cautiously optimistic about Ignatieff’s leadership. I don’t think it can be worse than the non-leadership of Paul Martin or the muddy style of Stephane Dion. I was also impressed that Ignatieff was pledging his support to Dion as late as Sunday even when other members of his caucus were sharpening their knives. In the party that had the big leadership battle between Chretien and Martin this was a bold stance. It would seem that Mr. Ignatieff has integrity – which will serve him well.

Oh, and he is a brave, brave man: he called Michael Enright ‘Mike’ more than once!

Don’t blink…

Well it seems that blinking or turning your eye from the news for a few hours means that you will be woefully behind with regard to the latest shenanigans in Ottawa. I was fairly sure the Coalition would not last with Dion at the helm but I certainly did not predict the speed with which he has been dispatched to the political wilderness. Stephen Harper succeeded in making sure that Dion will go down as one of the worst leaders of the Liberal Party of Canada, ever. I think he deserved more. Yes, Dion had many faults. Mostly though his problem was that he was too smart for those around him and he chose not to conduct himself accordingly. When your entire party does not understand one of the main planks of your election platform you have a problem.  The fact that kept on pushing through, with the same strategy, shows his hubris. This should not have come as a big surprise to Liberals – after all who could say that they *understood* the Clarity Act.

Now, that brings us to Michael Ignatieff. I am not sure he is the best choice as leader of the Liberal Party of the Canada. Like Dion, he is an academic which could pose the same kind of problems. My sense of Ignatieff is that he knows he is right and he is going to make damn sure that everyone else knows it too. I have not seen any leadership coming from him at all since he first burst on to the federal political scene. He does not inspire confidence for me. He is the slightly better choice but only marginally.

On to Bob Rae. I have always liked Bob Rae. I lived in Ontario when he was premier and he was hammered from all sides. It is really hard to be an NDP premier during a recession when you need unions to give you some concessions. Unfortunately for Bob, ‘Rae’ days will haunt him forever. He would never be able to win enough seats in Ontario to form a government. The Liberals would be foolish to elect him as their leader.

So, who would be good? Well, the Liberal Party of Canada is at a crossroads. They need to morph into a party that speaks to people. To do this they need a charismatic leader. Hell, even a leader would do. The reason they have been so unsuccessful since Chretien left is because they have not yet had a true leader.

Brian Tobin is a leader – I am not sure why he has not run. He would be great. The man made fish exciting during the Turbot wars with Spain. I am positive he could turn around the Liberal’s fortunes. He must have a really good gig going on in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Deb is convinced that Frank McKenna could do something but he has also not put his hat into the ring. Again, not really clear why.

Clearly, what the Liberals need is the next generation. The current generation is old and tired and ready to retire. Pierre Trudeau burst on to the national scene and snatched the Leadership away from Paul Martin Sr. (which is why Junior needed to be PM so bad). I think what we need is Justin. Yes, he is young and has just been elected. Nothing was handed to him in the last election. He electrified Canadians with his eulogy for his father and he showed that he has every bit as much charisma as Pierre. Justin may be inexperienced in Parliament but he grew up in a political household. He has received a political education unlike any other. Perhaps he will be our Barack Obama.

Little Stevie…

If Stephen Harper received a report card for his recent behaviour I am sure it would read: “Little Stephen does not work or play well with others.” Harper is a bully plain and simple. He talks the talk about working with others but he is completely without skill or desire in this realm.  What does he do when no one else agrees with him? He closes the sandbox. What kid should have that power? There is a reason we have a system of government complete with rules and conventions – it is so that politicians need to work together or they will be defeated. I think little Stevie needs to put down the Machiavelli and pick up the Ghandi.

Now, on to the rhetoric. I am so sick and tired of the Conservatives misinformation campaign. If I were a Quebecer I would be downright angry that he used the word ‘separatists’ when he spoke in English and called them ‘Sovereignists’ en francais. It is disingenuous. Does he think that no one in Quebec can speak, understand or read English? I am also sick to death of hearing that the Coalition is trying to steal power. They have conducted themselves correctly within a parliamentary democracy. All the scare mongering the Cons can muster is not enough to overrun the rules of Parliament.

I am worried for the Coalition. Some Liberals are sharpening the knives and they are all aimed at Dion. If the Coalition cannot stay together and agree on a leader then we are all in trouble. A bully running amok without someone to push back is a recipe for disaster. The Liberals need to unite behind Dion as he has government experience and will be very effective in government. Really, governing is what Dion does best. He is only the leader until the Leadership Convention in May and he is the Liberals only real opportunity to govern in the near future.

I am not sure how Harper convinced Jean to prorogue parliament. I will refrain from GG bashing as it is inappropriate. However, I believe this decision is bad for Canada and bad for democracy. It creates a dangerous precedent where a sitting prime minister can duck his/her responsibility to maintain the confidence of the House. Canada needed the confidence vote – after all Harper used to love to make everything a confidence vote to force the Liberals to abstain. Then his other tactic was to poke fun at Dion for abstaining.

Harper has made a serious political error. Dion has nothing to lose and everything to gain. He either goes down in history as the worst leader the Liberals have ever had (although I think that dubious distinction belongs to Martin) or as the bold, innovative leader who was able to build bridges with the NDP and the Bloc. In short, Dion is everything that Harper is not.

What Canada really needed the GG to do was to put Harper in a time out – perhaps with a dunce cap.