A House of Commons vote in favour of reopening the debate on when human life starts was not about abortion, Brandon-Souris Conservative MP Merv Tweed said one day after supporting that motion.
“I chose to support the motion simply because I believe what (Kitchener-Centre Conservative MP Stephen) Woodworth was trying to do was create a discussion around whether science from 400 years ago has changed enough so we can create or have a better definition on when life begins,” Tweed said. “In my mind, this is about public health and it’s about the understanding of science and I think having that discussion would have been beneficial. A motion (of this type) made is not something any government has to act on.”
The House of Commons vote on M-312, if passed, would have opened the door for a Parliamentary committee to study the issue and produce a report of its findings for consideration. It was not to introduce a Private Members Bill, which if passed by both the House of Commons and the Senate, becomes a law.
Dauphin-Swan River-Marquette Conservative MP Bob Sopuck voted against M-312 because he opposed reopening a debate on abortion matters.
“It’s the wrong thing to do for Canada and our government and I followed Article 19 of our 2011 policy declaration which was very clear that a Conservative government would not reopen the abortion debate,” Sopuck said.
Sopuck, who is openly pro-choice on abortion matters, said the policy platform is “what we are elected on.”
“People often forget that,” Sopuck said. “We were elected on that platform.”
Neither Tweed nor Sopuck ever saw this motion as a pro-life versus pro-choice debate.
“We are accused sometimes in Parliament of avoiding tough issues and when we avoid them, we are accused of that very thing, and when we talk about them we are accused of bringing up issues that people think we shouldn’t discuss,” Tweed said. “In Parliament, in my mind, that’s where those discussions should take place.”
Constituents supporting either side were not shy about sharing their views, though Tweed added the majority of those letters and phone calls came from people supporting M-312.
“I certainly can say the yes response was considerably larger in Brandon-Souris and that influenced my decision to some degree,” Tweed said. “But at the end of the day, I like having an open and frank discussion about this. It’s good for everyone and it’s education and informative if anything.
“(Prime Minister Stephen Harper) has been clear this is not an issue he wants, but has also been clear that on those issues, he allows us to vote with our conscience or with what our constituents want.”
Sopuck said the debate came at the wrong time because the focus of Parliament should be on jobs and economic issues.
“The Prime Minister has said many times that the world economy is still fragile and we are part of the world economy,” Sopuck said. “Canada is part of the world economy and we have done better than just about anybody else. That has to be our laser-like focus. Economy, jobs and moving our country forward.”
While voter reaction in Brandon-Souris was a partial factor in his decision to vote in favour of M-312, Tweed noted that he would rather see the time, effort and money spent fighting either side of the debate focussed on educating families.
Tweed and Sopuck said that while the Conservative and Liberal MPs were free to vote either for or against the motion, the NDP MPs voted en masse against the motion.
Vanessa Hamilton, the Brandon-Souris NDP riding president, was pleased that the measure was defeated, calling Woodworth’s motion, “a poor political tactic for the Conservative government to take away citizens’ rights.”
“Even the Canadian Medical Association said that it was a back door attempt to criminalize abortion,” Hamilton said. “A lot of people think, myself included, that’s where this was heading, to criminalize abortion.”
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition September 28, 2012