Debate recently broke out in Ottawa over a motion pet forward by Mark Warawa, Member of Parliament for Langley (BC), that would have the Government of Canada take an official position on gender selection termination of pregnancy. This piece is not an attempt to endorse his motion. Frankly, I’m not sure how much this is an issue in a country like Canada, nor do I ever think it is advisable for a government to open doors to legislating on question of morality such as abortion. That said, Warawa has never made a secret of his perspective. He has long identified as ‘pro-life’. Where I will attempt to defend him is under the notion of free speech.
Warawa has been driven underground by a government that has embraced partisan interests over that of Canadians’ and that of democracy. First, his motion was denied at the subcommittee level, thus denying him the right to bring his motion before Parliament despite parliamentary experts testifying that there was no reason to prevent the action.
When Warawa attempted to protest in Parliament or petition the Speaker, he has been prevented and denounced as “rogue” by officials within his own party. The situation surrounding Warawa is not new. Parties of all stripes have long held the divisive opinions of back benchers down in the name of party unity. Earlier this year Bruce Hyer, Member of Parliament for Thunder Bay-Superior North (ON), was ejected by the New Democratic Party after choosing to vote in favour of ending the long-gun registry. However, in both the cases of Warawa and Hyer, their constituents were fully aware they held these positions. They were expected to take this message to Ottawa. The heavy-handed leadership of Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Leader of the Official Opposition Thomas Mulcair was not what the electorate voted for their individual ridings.
For the Liberal Party this has not been a great problem during the course of this sitting. That has more to do with the ability of Bob Rae than it does a lack of internal division. This previous weekend Bob Rae’s tenure as interim leader came to an end. Taking over is Justin Trudeau, who has signaled a similar position to that of the Harper and Mulcair. However, during the leadership contest, fellow candidate Martha Hall Findlay took a decidedly different approach. While she declared her opposition to Warawa’s motion, she said she would allow it to come before the house, because that is the job of an MP. As an individual who has always believed that the first job of a politician is to represent those that elect them directly, I welcomed Hall Findlay’s far more ‘liberal’ approach to back bench opinions. Closing up government further will only serve to alienate more and more Canadians. I sincerely hope that Trudeau heeds Hall Findlay’s advice. It could go a long way in helping re-unite a party coming off a contested leadership race.