Saturday, 21 June 2014

Liberal Pary of Canada & abortion 3: Justin and Pierre should have talked more

Justin Trudeau has taken the highly unusual step of raising a political issue concerning which there was no current political debate at the federal level, while claiming some kind of moral high ground for doing so. The issue, of course, is abortion. Beyond raising it, he has used commitment to the loosely defined pro-choice mantra as the litmus test of who is an acceptable Liberal, at least for candidacy as a federal MP.

For taking this unexpected stand, he was labelled a bozo by a long-serving member of his caucus, John McKay (http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2014/05/26/liberal_mp_criticizes_justin_trudeau_over_abortion_edict.html).  As reported by the Toronto Star, McKay was having what he thought was a private conversation, not realizing that he was being recorded. The Star goes on to say:

McKay says on a recording obtained by CTV News that he thought Trudeau had a “bozo eruption” and didn’t think about what he said when he declared that anti-abortion candidates won’t be allowed to run for the Liberals. He added that it “scares the hell” out of him that Trudeau’s brain trust could have thought this through without realizing how much of a “toxic issue” it is.

Of course, when all of this became public, McKay had to do the classic sniveling political crawl down. But he did not retract his beliefs.

Another long-time pro-life Liberal MP (and former cabinet minister) Lawrence MacAulay (pictured above) understood his leader to say that current pro-life caucus members such as himself would be "grandfathered" and could continue to vote his conscience. But Trudeau's original pronouncements along this line changed dramatically as days passed:

Mr. MacAulay hoped a grandfather clause would exempt him from supporting any abortion bill that might come before the House of Commons. Parliament has failed to pass replacement legislation after the Supreme Court of Canada’s 1988 ruling striking down the country’s abortion law as unconstitutional under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The country has been left with only the court’s ruling for over 25 years, without the guidance of a replacement law, since those same judges said the state should also have an interest in the protection of the unborn.
Mr. Trudeau ordered that all candidates must declare as pro-choice before being allowed to run for the party in the next election. Then he clarified that to say it wouldn’t apply to sitting MPs who are pro-life. Mr. MacAulay grasped at that straw since his pro-life stand is well known, believing he could vote his conscience on the matter.
The grandfather clause would respect, to a certain extent, their choices, the leader had said. Mr. MacAulay felt he was unaffected, that he could vote whatever way he chose. It took one day for Mr. Trudeau to say: “Sorry, Lawrence, you may have a personal opinion on the issue but you will be required to vote party lines.”
A thunderstruck Mr. MacAulay had to backtrack and say he would bow to his leader’s wishes, while Mr. Trudeau had to clarify his own comments for the benefit of other MPs or potential candidates. (http://www.theguardian.pe.ca/Opinion/Editorials/2014-06-20/article-3770462/Cardigan-MP-ensnared-by-Trudeau-error/1)

Trudeau's justification for bringing this fundamental test of acceptability was the leadership of his father, Prime Minister Pierre. As recorded in another report in the Star, Justin makes this observation:

“I had an extraordinary example in a father who had deeply, deeply held personal views that were informed by the fact that he went to church every Sunday, read the Bible regularly to us, and raised us very religiously, as Catholics,” Trudeau wrote.

“But at the same time my father had no problem legalizing divorce, decriminalizing homosexuality and moving in ways that recognized the basic rights of the people.

“He too held fast to his beliefs. But he also understood that as leaders, as political figures, and as representatives of a larger community, our utmost responsibility is to stand up for people’s rights.” http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2014/05/19/trudeau_says_position_on_abortion_influenced_by_his_famous_father.html

But Trudeau Jr.'s explanation left much unanswered, including his own father's concerns about abortion and its effect on society, and the tolerance that Pierre had for different points of view within his caucus.

What did Pierre Trudeau really think of the abortion issue, and how would his views stack up against the pro-choice scrutiny that holds sway today? Consider this interview, reported this month in the Hill Times, that Pierre did with a Montreal paper in 1972 (N.B. underlining added): 

The quotation is from a Montreal Star column that quoted Mr. Trudeau’s comments, during the federal election campaign that year, to women in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., who were protesting his new law’s requirement for prior permission from hospital abortion committees.
At the time, wealthier women or families were still travelling to the U.S. to obtain abortions, without having to go through committee screenings in hospitals.
You would have to convince me that a person who asks for an abortion has no responsibility at all,” the Montreal Star article quotes Mr. Trudeau as saying. The report said he was responding to the protestors by stating his “private attitude.”

“You know, at some point you are killing life in the fetus in self-defence, of what, of the mother’s health, or her happiness, or of her social rights or her privilege as a human being?” Mr. Trudeau went on to say.
“I think she should have to answer for it and explain. Now, whether it should be to three doctors, or one doctor, or to a priest or a bishop or to her mother-in-law is a question you might want to argue, you do have a right over your own body, it is your body. But the fetus is not your body; it’s someone else’s body, and if you kill it, you’ll have to explain,” Mr. Trudeau said. (http://www.hilltimes.com/news/politics/2014/06/19/tory-mp-vellacott-digs-up-old-pierre-trudeau-quote-to-oppose-justin-trudeaus/38855)

Knowing the self-appointed guardians of women's rights as I do, I am quite sure that if I voiced Pierre's concerns, they would be insisting that Justin not consider me as suitable material for running for Parliament.Yet Justin says that his father is his role model in this regard.

I'm not at all convinced that Justin and Pierre are on the same page in the least on the issue. We'll look at the important differences next.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Liberal Pary of Canada & abortion 2: How old are those chickens?

The Right Honourable Joe Clark is the Jimmy Carter of Canada. Carter was undistinguished as a one-term president of the United States, but has carved out a niche for himself as a wise counsellor to succeeding presidents and an unofficial, well received American ambassador of doing good in other lands.

Joe was similarly a distinct failure in his nine months at the helm of the good ship Canada, failing to win the hearts of his fellow citizens from the grasp of the towering Pierre Trudeau. But he was an above average Foreign Minister under Brian Mulroney, and is now seen in many circles as a bit of a wise old throwback to the days when politics had more substance than sizzle.

But in his earlier years in politics, Clark was vilified in the media for being stiff and awkward in public, and for asking inane questions. Perhaps his most famous gaffe came during a tour of a poultry farm where, not knowing what else to say, he asked, "How old are those chickens?" On another occasion, he questioned a farmer concerning his holdings thus: “What is the totality of your land?” A typical Joe Clark joke at the time was: Joe Clark was given a set of cufflinks so he ran out to get his wrists pierced.

But those were different times. Now we are witness to not only questions but observations, pronouncements, even policies of surpassing inanity. Examples could be drawn from any and every point in the political spectrum in these days of hyper-partisanship and super-spin, but I'm particularly interested in the pronouncements of young Trudeau Jr., not because I don't like his party but because I don't care for him--not as a potential leader of Canada.

While well-known to political watchers like myself, not all of you may be aware of the series of public gaffes that have characterized Trudeau's faltering path to the leadership of his party. These are the statements of the man who wants to lead, and unite, our country:

On Alberta: “Canada isn’t looking good because it’s Albertans who are controlling our community and social-democratic agenda. It’s not working.” (Source: Toronto Globe & Mail, Nov. 22 2012. Note that Trudeau's remarks were made two years earlier.)

The Globe went on to report: Mr. Trudeau then suggested that the most important prime ministers in the recent history of Canada were also Quebec MPs, mentioning his father, Pierre Trudeau, and his successors Brian Mulroney, Jean Chr├ętien and Paul Martin. As part of his critique of Alberta politicians, Mr. Trudeau argued that Quebeckers were a crucial presence in federal politics.

On Quebec's place within Canada: "And I always say that if I ever believed Canada was really the Canada of Stephen Harper and we were going against abortion and going against gay marriage, and we were going backward in 10,000 different ways, maybe I'd think of wanting to make Quebec a country." (Source: CTV News, February 14, 2012)

 CTV was quick to note the response of fellow politicians to Trudeau's tremendous gaffe:
During the talk show, when (talk show host Franco) Nuovo expressed some surprise at Trudeau's remarks, the parliamentarian added: "Oh yes, absolutely. If I no longer recognized Canada, I know my own values."


When the comments spread from Quebec to a national audience over the next 48 hours, Trudeau attempted to tamp down the smouldering controversy on Twitter by stating he would never be okay with Quebec leaving confederation. Trudeau tweeted: "Canada needs (Quebec) to balance out Harper's vision that I (and many) don't support."

But the Conservatives were quick to seize on Trudeau's remarks, as well as refer to his father, the late prime minister Pierre Trudeau. "(Trudeau) grew up hearing about a strong, united Canada, but just last week he said he would favour Quebec independence," Tory MP Merv Tweed said in Parliament, adding that Trudeau should recant or further clarify his comments.

Meanwhile, Interim NDP Leader Nicole Turmel used the occasion to talk about her own federalism.
"I will let (Trudeau) choose his party, if he wants to go to Quebec, but for me and for the (New Democratic) party we are clear: we're a federalist party and we represent all Canadians," she said.

On which political administration he most admires: “There is a level of admiration I actually have for China because their basic dictatorship is allowing them to actually turn their economy around on a dime and say we need to go green, we need to start, you know, investing in solar. There is a flexibility that I know Stephen Harper must dream about: having a dictatorship where you can do whatever you wanted, that I find quite interesting.” (Source: National Post,
The NDP also noted this wasn’t Mr. Trudeau’s first expression of admiration for the quasi-Communist rising global superpower. While on CBC TV’s Power and Politics, Mr. Trudeau noted the concerns swirling around the takeover of natural resources by a Chinese state-owned entity would be similar to those of a takeover by a Scandinavian state-owned entity.
 
Tim Uppal, the Minister of State for Multiculturalism, said Mr. Trudeau’s remarks on China show he is unfit to lead the “greatest democracy in the world.” “The comments made by the leader of the Liberal party are an insult to the many Canadians who fought for the basic values and freedoms that we enjoy today. His answer demonstrates again a long-standing position of our party that he is in over his head.”

On the seriousness of Russia's takeover of Crimea: “It’s very worrisome,” Trudeau said after telling the panel that he now considers Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych to be illegitimate. “Especially since Russia lost in hockey, they will be in a bad mood. We are afraid of a Russian intervention in Ukraine.” (See the interview at this CBC News link: http://www.cbc.ca/player/News/World/ID/2439244214/ if you can put up with the ads that precede it.)

Trudeau admitted that he had made a poor joke. But given that Canada is home to the third largest population of people of Ukrainian descent in the world, it was seen as remarkably insensitive. The Ukrainian ambassador suggested that an apology was in order.

On legalizing marijuana: Trudeau quite rightly observes that the "war against marijuana" has not worked, and that decriminalizing it may rob criminal elements of a cash cow. He has also acknowledged that it should be kept out of the hands of young people who are susceptible to harm to their developing brains. But then he goes on to say that a number of studies have shown marijuana is less hazardous to health than alcohol and tobacco (http://www.theguardian.pe.ca/News/Local/2012-11-13/article-3119682/Trudeau-supports-decriminalization-of-marijuana/1).

Yet the president of the Canadian Medical Association does not accept such a positive view: A marijuana cigarette causes as much as six times the damage to an individual’s heart and lung health as a tobacco cigarette. As physicians, we take an oath, and one of the cornerstones of that oath is to “first do no harm.” This is why we do not support marijuana smoking, especially among young people (http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2014/08/27/chris-simpson-why-the-cma-chose-not-to-participate-in-the-governments-anti-pot-campaign/).
In my next post, I want to switch from political blunders and immature utterances to something even more serious: Trudeau's tendency to bludgeon his followers into submission despite their heartfelt moral convictions--while displaying little knowledge regarding the issues themselves.  


Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Liberal Pary of Canada & abortion 1: Of Justin Trudeau and other dimwits

I grew up in a politically conservative household--that's Conservative with a capital C to be sure. Had you given my late father the authority to add a fourth personage to the Trinity, he would have chosen former Progressive Conservative prime minister John Diefenbaker (1957-1963). He also had a very high regard for Conservative Prime Ministers Joe Clark and Stephen Harper, although he couldn't stand Brian Mulroney. Dad ran for the Tories in 1979 during the brief Clark leadership.

I don't remember much about the Diefenbaker years. I was in high school when he was succeeded by Liberal Prime Minister Pearson--famous for his bow ties--whose distinguished career is nicely summarized by Wikipedia:

Lester Bowles "Mike" Pearson (23 April 1897 – 27 December 1972) was a Canadian professor, historian, civil servant, statesman, diplomat, and politician, who won the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1957 for organizing the United Nations Emergency Force to resolve the Suez Canal Crisis. He was the 14th Prime Minister of Canada from 22 April 1963 to 20 April 1968, as the head of two back-to-back Liberal minority governments following elections in 1963 and 1965.

During Pearson's time as Prime Minister, his Liberal minority governments introduced universal health care, student loans, the Canada Pension Plan, the Order of Canada, and the new Flag of Canada. Pearson also convened the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism, and he struggled to keep Canada out of the Vietnam War. In 1967, his government abolished capital punishment in Canada de facto - by restricting it to a few capital offenses for which it was never used, and which themselves were abolished in 1976. With these accomplishments, together with his groundbreaking work at the United Nations and in international diplomacy, Pearson is generally considered among the most influential Canadians of the 20th century.

Pearson suffered by comparison with Diefenbaker in terms of charisma, although certainly not in substance. He was an international figure, in his way, and did Canada proud and the world good.

Pearson's successor, in turn, was an amazing man although subject to mixed reviews--Pierre Elliot Trudeau (1968-79, 1980-84). He was a person of boundless intellect, refined tastes, a great love for Canada, tremendous personal courage, but regrettable (as it turned out) economic policies. A practicing Catholic, he nevertheless paved the way for abortion on demand and gay rights in Canada. He was also the father of Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

American President Richard Nixon called Trudeau, in his characteristically vulgar way, a son of a bitch, an asshole, and a pompous egghead (http://www.ctvnews.ca/trudeau-lectures-rambling-nixon-in-long-lost-recording-1.349373). But in a recent poll conducted by the Harper government regarding inspirational Canadians, Trudeau topped the list. Lester Pearson was also high among the choices (http://news.nationalpost.com/2014/06/15/pierre-trudeau-tops-list-of-inspirational-canadians-named-in-poll-commissioned-by-harper-government/).

Successive governments since Trudeau's day have produced (to put the kindest possible construction on it) rather middling government leaders in my view. Prime Ministers Mulroney, Chretien, and Harper can all number some important accomplishments among their many decisions, but none of these gentlemen could be said to have the political heft of either Trudeau or Pearson, or the ability to excite that Diefenbaker could create at his best. Harper especially is probably the nation's best cure for insomnia.

But let's follow this devolution further. Mr. Harper has benefited from past Liberal scandals and a succession of gormless Liberal leaders to stay comfortably in power for ten years. Paul Martin had been a great Minister of Finance, but was definitely Peter Principled in his promotion to Prime Minister. His nickname, Mr. Dithers, was well earned. He was succeeded by Stephane Dion, who was certainly well educated, a strong federalist, and accomplished in other settings. But his English was very much of the cereal box variety, his record as Environment Minister undistinguished, and his campaigning ability abysmal. The Liberals tried another professor, Michael Ignatieff, who prior to succeeding to the Liberal leadership had spent the previous two decades in the U.K. and the U.S. He, too, flamed out, leaving the once mighty Grits in third place in Parliament behind the victorious Conservatives and the socialist New Democratic Party.

And that brings us to Pierre Trudeau's son and now Liberal leader, Justin. In my humble opinion (well, not all that humble to be honest), he makes a nice foursome of recent Liberal leadership lightweights. But at least the three prior to Justin had significant credentials to draw upon, even if they failed to use them wisely in attempting to give political leadership. Trudeau has none. Unlike Trudeau Sr., a widely exposed intellect and original thinker, Justin appears to be un-nuanced, even unaware, perhaps not overly bright, looking for Canada's future in his father's past.

Yet he may become the next Prime Minister of Canada.

Because of my interest in pro-life/pro abortion matters, I have followed young Trudeau's short and undistinguished political career more carefully than would be normal. In further posts, I would like to discuss his views further, and to consider a number of related issues about which Trudeau appears to be fairly unacquainted, such as religious freedom, separation of church and state, and democracy.