By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, April 17, 2013 - 0 Comments
A statement released by Conservative MP Mark Warawa just before Question Period this afternoon.
“When I made my decision to introduce Motion-408, I was determined to help raise awareness that sex selection is happening in Canada. An overwhelming number of Canadians responded, indicating their support for Motion 408, and I want to thank them. Over that last couple of weeks, I seriously considered my options and how best to move this issue forward. I’ve decided to continue working on the sex selection, gendercide issue by speaking at university campuses, giving lectures and engaging in debates. Within Parliament, I will continue to work on this important issue with my colleagues across all party lines.
“Legislatively, I will introduce a new bill tomorrow to protect children from sexual predators, called the Safe at Home bill. This bill is a result of a sex offender in my riding of Langley who was permitted to serve House arrest right next door to his young victim. In another case, the sex offender served House arrest across the street from the victim. In both cases, the young victims lived in fear and were re-victimized every time they saw their attacker. One mom asked me, ‘Why should we have to move from our home when we are the victims?’ That’s a good question! That’s why I will introduce my new bill. I look forward to the House debating my new bill.”
So MPs have now successfully prevented a motion from one of their colleagues from receiving a vote on the floor of the House of Commons despite altogether flimsy rationale.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, April 1, 2013 at 11:46 AM - 0 Comments
Geoff Norquay provides “some much-needed context to the prime minister’s sensitivities on MPs making comments that question party principles, stray from clearly-stated policy directions or wander off with outlandish commentary.”
From the early days of the Reform Party in the 1990s, through the subsequent Reform-Alliance period and even after the formation of the new Conservative Party in December, 2003, a combination of unrestrained populism and ill-advised public comments by MPs on a variety of issues made Canada’s centre-right party the object of ridicule. These comments ultimately coalesced to become a huge barrier to Reform, then the Alliance and finally the Conservatives, ever being elected as a national government.
For the sake of those too young to remember, it is useful to dust off just some of those nuggets:
- Store owners should be free to ask gays and ethnics to move “to the back of the shop” or even fire them if their presence offended another customer;
- It would be acceptable for homosexuals to be denied the right to teach;
- Official bilingualism should be abolished, or at the very least, reduced in scope;
- Aboriginal self-government would lead to communism; and
- Nelson Mandela is “a communist and a terrorist … the politically correct Left-lib poster boy of today.”
Each time one of these gaffes emerged, the media rejoiced at their great good luck for having been given another object of derision, and the editorials repeatedly called on the party leadership to get control of the backbench, stop what the media came to call “bimbo eruptions” and stop scaring the voters. Otherwise, the party would never see government. While Preston Manning and Stockwell Day both worked to tone down the offside rhetoric, it fell to Stephen Harper to complete the job of instilling discipline in the ranks.
Geoff’s piece is an important reminder of the history and political calculus in play here. But I’m not sure any of it quite explains why Mark Warawa’s motion should be prevented from reaching the floor of the House for a vote or why Mr. Warawa should be prevented from delivering a statement in the House about his motion.
First, consider those cited examples. Discriminating against “gays and ethnics” is offensive and bigoted. Suggesting that aboriginal self-government will lead to communism is ridiculous and offensive. Suggesting Nelson Mandela was a terrorist is ridiculous. Does condemning sex-selective abortion rise (or fall) to a similar level? I’m not sure it does. And if it does, it is at least a sentiment shared across party lines.
Geoff notes the Prime Minister’s commitment to not reopening the abortion debate. As I wrote last week, there are some holes in the logic that that commitment should prevent backbenchers from bringing forward motions and bills related to abortion: at the very least, Mr. Harper is moving rather belatedly to impose a total ban, having previously allowed Stephen Woodworth’s motion to go forward. If the Prime Minister now wishes to shut down all such moves, he will probably have to threaten to refuse to sign the nomination papers of any MP who attempts to do as Mr. Warawa has done with Motion 408.
That there are anti-abortion MPs in the Conservative caucus (and, presumably, Conservative voters who hope to see restrictions on abortion in this country) is one reality Mr. Harper must deal with. The other, as Geoff notes, is that the opposition will attack him and his party for what those anti-abortion MPs say and do.
Since the Harper government took office, each time the proponents of limits on abortion have brought forward another motion or initiative, the response from the other side has been predictable: the Harper-haters tune up the fear machine and raise the spectre of women being denied the right to choose. And to Harper’s critics, the very fact of a Conservative MP raising the abortion issue is proof of the prime minister’s connivance. As the NDP’s Niki Ashton put it in the House last spring: “If the prime minister didn’t want a woman’s right to choose to be debated, we wouldn’t be here tonight.”
So the prime minister is caught. If he “allows” even the discussion of abortion, he has a “Trojan horse agenda,” as Ashton so objectively describes it. If he shuts it all down, he is a tyrant, preventing the expression of constituents’ views by their MPs.
This is, one imagines, the choice the Prime Minister sees. And it’s a fair reading of the possibilities. But then it’s probably worth those of us who generally champion the independence of MPs pushing back against the opposition’s framing of the situation. As I wrote last week, the opposition likes to have their mockery of the Prime Minister’s control and eat it too. They should be made to explain how they would have him handle private members’ business and how they would square that with the independence of individual MPs. Justin Trudeau, for instance, seems to draw the line at “fundamental rights,” which, in his mind, includes access to abortion. Does that mean he would whip the vote on something like Motion 408? How would those Liberal MPs who oppose abortion feel about that? How does the NDP square their opposition to Mr. Warawa’s motion with their stated belief that sex-selective abortion has “no place in our society”? Can anyone mount a persuasive argument as to why Mr. Warawa’s motion should be deemed non-voteable?
There is no doubt that greater independence for individual MPs and greater freedom for MPs to speak freely would require—perhaps necessitate?—a change in the culture of Parliament Hill. And that would include the press gallery. All-consuming control would no longer have to revered or admired or at least required a prerequisite for effective leadership. We would all have to get used to a slightly more mature understanding of representative politics.
But that includes appreciating the between what Mr. Warawa is doing now and what some MPs have been criticized for saying in the past. Greater independence for MPs doesn’t mean that there will have to be acceptance of comments such as those Geoff has cited as bimbo eruptions—accepting greater independence for MPs does not mean that offensive and prejudicial comments must be free from scorn and mockery.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, March 28, 2013 at 1:01 PM - 0 Comments
Joe Preston, chair of the Procedure and House Affairs committee, has just reported to the House that the committee has concurred with the subcommittee on private members’ business that Motion 408, authored by Mark Warawa, is non-voteable.
Mr. Warawa can now appeal to the House of Commons.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, March 28, 2013 at 11:30 AM - 0 Comments
The Globe reports on yesterday’s Conservative caucus meeting.
The Prime Minister reminded his MPs he made a pledge to Canadians during the 2011 election: that his government would not reopen the abortion debate and that Conservatives wouldn’t bring forward legislation on the topic.
“He said he’s determined to keep his word to the people of Canada and he views this motion as tantamount to breaking the promise,” one source said. “He vowed he would use whatever tools are at his discretion to prevent the abortion debate from being reopened.”
There is a case to be made that any Conservative candidate who could not abide by a commitment to never reopen the abortion debate should have thus resigned. But there is also a distinction to be made here that excludes Mr. Warawa from the Prime Minister’s commitment. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, March 27, 2013 at 8:55 PM - 0 Comments
Mark Warawa presented his appeal to the Procedure and House Affairs committee this afternoon. The committee had no questions for him, went in camera to decide the fate of Motion 408 and will table its report with the House tomorrow.
The search is otherwise on for the meaning of all this.
Conservative MP Jay Aspin says Mark Warawa has gone “rogue.”
Conservative MP Jay Aspin criticized Warawa, saying he went “rogue” on the abortion issue, which Harper has vowed not to revisit. “[The] Conservative party has a policy. We had a policy going into the last election, and he failed to adhere to it,” Aspin said after the weekly Conservative caucus meeting.
On the matter of Mr. Warawa’s freedom to give a members’ statement about his motion, Conservative MP Kyle Seeback is supportive.
“A member should be able to make a statement on any issue they think is important to themselves or their constituencies,” said Tory MP Kyle Seeback. “Mr. Warawa’s (member’s statement) should not have been taken away. That’s my personal view.”
Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth says he’s thinking about it.
“Is the right to make a member statement owned by an individual member or is it owned by the whip? I still haven’t quite got there yet,” he told reporters.
Mr. Warawa pledges his full support for the Prime Minister and tries to blame the state of Parliament for the fact that he couldn’t deliver that statement, while also saying he’s not being muzzled.
I think Parliament’s at fault for not permitting this issue to be dealt with earlier and others have suffered by losing that right. I experienced that suffering last Thursday and then when it affected me personally, then I had a responsibility to speak up.
Andrew Coyne considers the ramifications of it all.
This did not begin with Warawa, in short, and it will not end here. The question is whether opposition MPs will join the fray. The shuttering of Warawa’s motion, after all, was an all-party affair: it was his motion this time, but it could be theirs next. There’s a fight worth having, here, but it isn’t Conservatives vs. Opposition, or pro-life vs. pro-choice. It’s for the freedom of all MPs against the dictates of a system that, as in no other democracy, has vested all power in the party leader.
In other news, tonight the House defeated NDP MP Fin Donnelly’s private member’s bill that would have banned the import of shark fins. Kristy Kirkup reports that some Conservatives supported the bill, but that the Prime Minister’s Office pushed for the bill to be defeated.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, March 25, 2013 at 12:37 PM - 0 Comments
Mr. Warawa’s motion was ruled out of order after a discussion at the subcommittee on private members’ business last Thursday. The audio of that meeting is available here—Motion 408 was the second motion dealt with by the committee.
An expert from the Library of Parliament told the committee the following.
This motion will ask the House to condemn discrimination against females occurring through sex selective pregnancy termination. With respect to this motion, I will first underline that there is a fundamental distinction between a motion and an Act of Parliament. A motion does not enact in itself a rule of law. It’s not an Act of Parliament. It does not put in place rules. This motion refers to the deliberative functions of Parliament, which is protected by Parliamentary privilege. If we look at the criteria, it is within federal jurisdiction. It does not offend the constitution, and there’s no similar motion currently on the order paper.
NDP MP Philip Toone asked a few questions about the jurisdictional rule. Liberal MP Stephane Dion argued that Motion 408 was similar in subject matter to Motion 312, which the House had already voted. Conservative MP Scott Armstrong then commented as follows.
I would like to support my colleagues at the table in both instances. We’re of the position that Bill C-408 should not be deemed votable because it doesn’t meet these two criteria. It involves ultrasounds and health care delivery, and this is clearly the jurisdiction of the provinces. This bill would impinge upon provincial jurisdiction, and, in our opinion, this bill is very similar in nature to a former motion which was debated in the house, motion M-312. This was also voted on. We agree with the positions of both the colleagues at the table.
By a voice vote, the motion was then deemed non-votable.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, December 6, 2012 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
A statement from the Prime Minister’s Office on Mark Warawa’s motion.
The Government is opposed to opening this debate. Parliament has already voted on this issue. We don’t think it should be opened again.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, December 5, 2012 at 4:08 PM - 0 Comments
Mark Warawa, who represents the riding of Langley in British Columbia, and 11 of his caucus colleagues held a news conference on Wednesday to promote Mr. Warawa’s motion M-408 which calls upon the House of Commons to “condemn discrimination against females occurring through sex-selective pregnancy termination.”
That puts members of the opposition in a difficult spot. Although they are suspicious that the motion is another attempt from the Conservative backbench to clamp down on abortion, and NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair said his MPs will vote against it, no politician wants to be seen as sanctioning the practice of ending pregnancies simply because the fetus is female. The point is not lost on Mr. Warawa, who said he expects every Member of Parliament lend their support. “They should,” he said, “because who could not condemn discrimination against women and girls?”