There are going to be many issues that will be a part of the discussion going on around the 43rd General Election, some of which the parties will want to discuss and others that they won’t. One such issue that has been bubbling up in the run up to the start of the campaign has revolved around social issues, the Conservatives views on abortion and same sex marriage and specifically, those of Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer.
The Liberals have done their best to make this an issue going forward. Their opposition research team doing some bang up work bringing forward old videos of Andrew Scheer and supporters of his saying that under his leadership, the Conservatives will allow backbenchers to bring forward legislation to reopen some of these issues. It’s been something that the Blue Team has been trying to distance itself from, saying that this is only the Liberals are bringing up. But stories have kept coming, including the mixed messages on the topic in Quebec and about anti-abortion groups organizing to help the Conservatives in ways that are opening up new questions.
But what never ceases to amaze me is how other parties manage to get themselves trapped on issues that in theory shouldn’t trap them. Today it seems like this has happened again and in doing so, bringing back old concerns about one party in particular:
And with that, Elizabeth May falls into the trap head first. She was asked straight out by CBC’s Vassy Kapelos if she would stop an MP in her caucus from re-opening the abortion debate, a legitimate question to be asked in the context of the current campaign. According to Ms. May, as Leader of the Greens, a party that likes to say they are progressive, she doesn’t “have the power as leader of the Green Party to whip votes, nor do I have the power to silence an MP.” Therefore she wouldn’t do stop that hypothetical MP nor discipline them.
Ms. May tries to point to this as some kind of a good thing, that it gives MPs the freedom to represent their constituents, a thought that sounds decent in theory. But this is where reality hits and it shows just how indecent it can really be. If you think that this answer is a one-off only relating to a women’s right to choose, think again; she used the exact same excuse when defending her parties’ approach and position on Quebec’s Bill 21. In that case too, she said she was powerless to do anything about it, completely powerless.
To me this is a complete cop out on the part of May and the Greens. The fact is that these aren’t trivial issues that we’re talking about here. We’re talking about protecting the rights of women and minority community in both of these cases and when those rights are put under threat, Ms. May is saying that she’ll just stand by, watch and do nothing except state that she doesn’t agree with it. That opens legitimate questions for many voters to ask themselves if Ms. May and her caucus would actually defend their rights, even if it wasn’t popular among their constituents. From listing to Ms. May’s comments, that defence isn’t a guarantee at all.
But this declaration brings some questions to mind about this “I have no power” plea from Ms. May. If a Green MP decided to move legislation to abolish carbon pricing, would Ms. May whip or try to stop that member? If a Green MP decided to support a Private Members Bill to approve a pipeline project, would she punish that MP? Are those things acceptable to her as well under her leadership? Is she powerless to stop any of those things from ever happening? I have a hard time believing that if any Green MP ever took such a step that she would sit idly by and just let that happen. Every policy has its limits and none that works can ever be so absolute, so there must be a line somewhere, right?
For the Greens who are trying to poach Liberal and NDP votes, I am floored by this turn of events. Not only does this kind of pledge run so strongly counter to progressive values, it is exactly the same kind of language that the Conservatives have been using in regard to issues like these. Remember, as Andrew Scheer keeps saying, a Conservative government will never re-open these issues. That’s basically the line that Elizabeth May is now taking here, adding the same refusal to punish a backbencher who might do it that Andrew Scheer has refused to give.
It was just last week that Mark de Bruijn, the Green candidate in the BC riding of North Island – Powell River, was quoted in local media stating that his party has “a lot in common with conservatives at their ideological core.” At the time, many blew it off as a bad quote from a minor candidate in some random riding, but those words did help to feed a few days of old comments about the Greens. They’re “Conservatives with composters”, “Conservatives on bicycles” and so on. But todays comments from Ms. May just drive home that impression even more, for many probably for the first time. If people are having questions about voting Green, these statements won’t help ease the concerns of many. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Ms. May would find herself answering for these comments for a while. I would say this was a colossal mistake but let’s be honest, it wasn’t. That was an honest answer, a dodge but an honest one. That doesn’t make it a good answer and leaves a lot more questions open than it answers.