A few weeks ago, Justin Trudeau announced that opponents of abortion need not apply to run for the Liberal party in the next election — and if they do, they’ll be weeded out during the vetting process.
In a private conversation — recorded without his knowledge — Liberal MP John McKay described Trudeau’s attempt to prevent anti-abortion candidates from running as Liberals as a “bozo eruption.” He couldn’t be more wrong.
Trudeau’s attempt to purify the nomination process was carefully planned to give the Liberals a wedge issue — something to split pro-choice women voters away from the Conservative party. It’s a blatant attempt to resurrect the abortion debate for Liberal partisan advantage — and it’s much worse than any mere gaffe.
Early this month, Trudeau held a press conference to announce the Liberal party’s pro-choice position. There was nothing off-the-cuff about it. This was a very well-organized, well-attended media event timed a day in advance of a major anti-abortion rally on Parliament Hill.
Trudeau laid down the law: All new Liberal candidates must support the party’s pro-choice position. Trudeau stated that current Liberal MPs who hold anti-abortion views — such as McKay and Kevin Lamoureux — would not be kicked out of caucus.
Why did Trudeau address this issue now, and in this way? There was no crisis on the horizon with respect to a women’s right to choose. No vote was pending on a bill or motion that might affect abortion rights.
It was a political decision, nothing more or less. Just a tactic to peel off women voters from the Conservatives, who have provided a safe haven to anti-abortion MPs.
What Trudeau and his brain trust are doing here is exploiting a highly emotional and divisive issue — not out of concern for women’s rights and freedoms, but for short-term political advantage. That is, they’re doing this to distinguish themselves from the Conservatives in an effort to go after the undecided female vote and those women who currently support the Conservatives.
By reopening the complex abortion issue — with its myriad moral, religious, medical, political and practical dimensions — Trudeau has unintentionally drawn attention to a question that has been dogging him since he was elected leader. Does he have the intelligence to be prime minister, or is he just an attractive airhead whose strings are being pulled by cynical, unprincipled Liberal advisers?
When questioned by the media after his prepared statement about whether anti-abortion Liberal MPs could still vote their consciences, Trudeau looked like a deer caught in the headlights. He later badly misspoke when he claimed that the Charter of Rights specifically protects abortion rights.
Trudeau is supposed to represent idealism, hope and change — the new and friendlier face of the federal Liberals. In contrast to the controlling Harper, Trudeau was supposed to be in favour of democratic reform and open nominations. But Trudeau’s absolute edict preventing anti-abortion Liberals from becoming candidates undermines his and the Liberals’ alleged democratic reform credentials. It also exposes a harsh truth — that these Liberals are the same old arrogant, unprincipled, cynical operators we remember from Adscam, in new packaging.
I am pro-choice. I see Trudeau’s efforts to politicize and reopen the abortion question as deeply troubling and offensive to both men and women — especially those who, like myself, prefer the status quo. For more than 25 years Canada has had no abortion law on the books. That’s 25 years without a divisive, destructive national abortion debate.
Trudeau and the Liberals are choosing political opportunism and calculation over the principle of a woman’s right to choose. And this cynical political ploy may backfire against Trudeau and undermine his credibility, making it harder for Canadians to see him as an intelligent, principled and competent leader.