This week in opposition misfires

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Put some pants on, because it’s time for another round of: what the opposition parties are screwing up this week!

The Liberals.

Listen, I get it.

Our Parliament is pretty terrible.

I sit in Question Period several days a week.  I get why we’re all rather sick of having a democracy.

But I’m not sure that our leaders should running to join the pile-on.

Hence why I was a tad incised when the Liberal Party sent out a particularly obtuse call to faux-populism this week.

The ad, which juxtaposes Thomas Mulcair’s Parliamentary browbeating with Justin Trudeau’s whistle stop glad-handing.

“So when Thomas Mulcair asks 5 questions in the House & gets the usual Conservative non-answers, but Justin Trudeau speaks to 600 university students about their future — which leader engages more Canadians?”

Well the answer, of course, is Thomas Mulcair.

That is, if you believe in Parliamentary Democracy.

Because Mulcair, at the very least, is representing the 95,357 residents in his riding and is, ostensibly, representing every Canadian in challenging the government.

And hey, Justin Trudeau does too, when he chooses to show up in Parliament.

Certainly, there’s nothing wrong with Trudeau’s barnstorming roadshow.  If anything, it’s a huge positive, and kudos to him for taking the Liberal Party back to the grassroots, where it belongs.

Yet I think we ought to be wary of any leader who is effectively arguing that Parliamentary Democracy is moot and that real democracy comes from holding town halls where partisans show up to support the Liberal Party.

Further, let’s not pretend like Justin Trudeau was actually talking to those 600 students about “their future.  He was selling them on the idea that they should vote for him and, thus, give him a Parliamentary majority.

So it’s a bit of a quixotic approach to say that presence in the House is irrelevant because you’re actively campaigning to…get a bigger standing in the House.

Trudeau would argue, I think, that the Harper Government has made Parliamentary participation essentially moot.

Yet, the Tories said the same thing of the Chretien Government in the 90s.

Perhaps if Trudeau were to more actively try and balance his baby-kissing tour with his duties as a Member of Parliament, he could adopt both an appreciation for cooperation, and an understanding of what Joe and Jane Sixpack think.

But, please, spare us the idea that holding a “town hall” and selling Liberal Party memberships is somehow akin, or superior, to participating in the democratic process that governs our country.

The New Democrats.

There was a point in time when the New Democratic Party was the only proper pro-choice party in Canada.  And kudos to them for supporting a women’s right to chose.

But, at some pint in the last decade, the other two parties joined them.

The Conservatives, for their part, realized the toxicity of the issue, and merely dropped it altogether.  While some of its MPs, and much of its membership, support restricting abortion services — generally speaking, codifying the existing practise of not performing abortions in the third trimester — you would be hard pressed to find more than a dozen MPs who vow to actively campaign to reduce access to abortions.  Nominally, the party is pro-choice.

The Liberal Party, always a nominally pro-choice party with a sizeable pro-life contingent, mostly weeded out its anti-abortion membership in recent years — thanks, in part, to the party’s slow march to committed social liberalism, and due to a general rise in support for abortion rights — and became, essentially, a pro-choice party.

So that’s what was so confounding about the NDP’s lashing-out at Trudeau’s decision to finalizing the exile of its pro-life membership.

While you would think that the erstwhile third party would celebrate the Liberal Party’s final rights of passage in becoming a full-fledged member of the pro-choice contingent — that is, barring pro-choice candidates from running — they instead used the issue to snipe at the Liberal Leader.

Mulcair slammed Trudeau’s move as creating a “two-tier system” — one tier for those existing pro-life MPs, which is basically a caucus of one, and another for prospective candidates.

That level of thought policing is confounding.

I once asked Trudeau, before his crowning as leader, what he thought of the abortion debate.  He told me that, while he supports his MPs’ freedom to vote with their conscience, he has reserved certain issues:

“For me, with the Supreme Court’s Morgentaler ruling, I consider that the freedom for a women to choose is a fundamental right.  Therefore I’m coming at this from a values perspective…I’m pro-choice, so I’m not comfortable with MPs coming out and suggesting that we can legislate on a women’s right to choose in a negative way.”

What more do you want?

Oh, well, for those flying communications monkeys in the NDP, there remains a lacking.

They went back to a 2011 Canadian Press story on the subject of Trudeau’s faith, where he notes that he: “is personally very opposed to abortion.”

Gasp.

Some New Democrat staffers used that as a lance to joust at Trudeau with.  Yet, if you read onto the next line of that story…

“but still believes nobody can tell a woman what she should do with her body.”

Aha!

I think any Canadian should be weary of a party that insists that people must subjugate their beliefs in the name of politics.  The fact is that Trudeau is committing his party to an unabashedly pro-choice firm.  Whether or not he believes in abortion — and, I contend, that there are no politicians that would actually say that they are pro-abortion, hence why they say “pro-choice” — he has committed to only pro-choice legislation.

As he told me: “I am pro-choice, the Liberal Party, if I am leader, will continue to be pro-choice in its policy direction, and its legislation.”

So good for him.  He certainly didn’t need to do so, as I don’t think anyone believes that the Liberals are losing votes for being too pro-life, and he certainly stands to lose votes for stumping too strongly as pro-choice.  So, to that end, I think we can say that this is a purely values-based judgement, rather than a political one.

All that said, it really is frankly confounding that no opposition politician is willing to even consider a reasoned debate on abortion legislation (which we have none of, at the federal level) with the understanding that we should probably have some basic guidelines about where abortion services begin and end in this country.

But, as we know, talking about things is hard.

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OTHER ARTICLES BY JUSTIN LING

The Rotten Temporary Foreign Worker Mess
Harper standing on his tennis court
Economic Bananas
When is an open nomination not open?
Stephen Harper the dinosaur

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Follow Justin Ling on twitter: @Justin_Ling

 

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