by Matt Gurney. April 17, 2013.
Today, reports emerged that Conservative MP Mark Warawa will not to appeal his right to make motions in Parliament to the Speaker of the House. This is unfortunate, and Mr. Warawa has good cause to reconsider.
I’m 100 percent behind Mark Warawa’s effort to raise a discussion on sex-selection abortion. If you could be more than 100 percent, I would be.
Abortion is about ending life; ending a life because you happen to favour boys over girls adds an extra layer of horror to what is already a tragedy, and to Canada’s refusal to even discuss legislating a legal regimen to deal with it.
However, I also appreciate the box Stephen Harper is in. I doubt very much that the Prime Minister is personally supportive of abortion, however you couch the terminology.
The issue is whether Mr. Warawa has the right, as an MP, to put forward a private member’s motion in the House. Mr. Warawa would like to put forward a motion condemning gender-based abortions in Canada. This is a motion, note. Not a bill. It would not force the government to take any action. But, if adopted, Mr. Warawa’s motion would be a sign that Canada’s parliamentarians condemn the practice of aborting fetuses is based on their sex.
This is not something that Prime Minister Harper wishes to see happen. He does not wish to see any discussion of abortion in Parliament, and certainly not any instigated by members of his own party. Any such chatter, to the Prime Minister’s thinking, represents an opportunity for the opposition, both in and out of Parliament, to slam the Conservative party with allegations of the infamous “hidden agenda.”
Mr. Warawa, however, is not merely a Conservative backbench drone. He is a member of the Parliament of Canada, duly elected by the citizens of his riding. He has rights. Nonetheless, his party has attempted to prevent him from speaking by denying him a spot in the order of MPs set to make their motions. A Conservative majority committee has also ruled his proposed motion inadmissible — despite contrary advice from Parliament’s very own, non-partisan experts on that matter. It’s a legitimate motion. But the government has shut it down.
Mr. Warawa would clearly have been provoking his party elders if he had proceeded with his appeal. Tough. He should do so, anyway, and if he does, he will not be nearly as alone as he may think he is.
In recent weeks, more and more Conservative MPs have been speaking out against rigid party discipline that has prevented them from pursuing interests of their own, or their constituents, that do not meet with the approval of senior party officials. It may have reached a tipping point. Earlier this week it was reported that two more Conservative MPs were joining this mini rebellion, joining the handful of others who have already spoken out.
That may not sound like a lot. Out of a Conservative caucus of 156, it arguably isn’t a lot. But it is getting close to being enough. Last year Conservative MP David Wilks, in a meeting with his constituents, was caught on camera saying he would have voted against the omnibus budget bill – his own party’s omnibus budget bill – if enough other Conservative MPs had been willing to join with him. Mr. Wilks clearly did not agree with omnibus budget including many regulatory and legal changes beyond those required by the needs of budgeting. But as he explained on the video, he didn’t see any point sticking his neck out unless there were enough others in his party willing to do the. The magic number for that was 12. If 12 conservative MPs were willing to join with Mr. Wilks, the budget would not have been able to pass.
This may not have been the fight he was looking for, but it’s the fight he has. And he should know he’s not fighting alone
This doesn’t mean, of course, that these Conservatives would have brought down their own government. Far more likely would have been the government blinking. The Prime Minister’s Office could not risk that kind of eruption of dissent in public, let alone the election that would be triggered by the budget’s failure. If enough MPs had joined together, the government would have been forced to back down. That’s not a small thing. We really don’t know what Canadian politics would look like today if that had occurred. But we do know that it was close to at least being possible.
Mr. Wilks did not have enough friends to take a stand a year ago – at least, a stand that had any chance of succeeding. Mr. Warawa, however, may have just enough friends to not only take a stand, but to win. With many Conservative MPs already speaking out public, you can be certain that there are others behind-the-scenes who feel similarly, but have not spoken publicly. Those already on the record as supportive of Mr. Warawa’s right to speak will just be the tip of the iceberg.
Mr. Warawa is undoubtedly aghast at all of the attention he is bringing down on himself and his party. All he wanted to do was debate an entirely reasonable, non-binding motion that polls show the majority of Canadians would support. Instead, he has been turned into a crusader for the rights of parliamentarians in our democracy.
This may not have been the fight he was looking for, but it’s the fight he has. And he should know he’s not fighting alone. Mr. Warawa should take this to the next level and pursue it with all possible vigour. Canada’s democracy will be better for it, and if Mr. Warawa is successful, the Conservative party may well benefit in the long run, too.
Source: National Post