I’m as surprised as everyone else is. Everything seems hunky dory with the Conservatives; they have their majority the P.M. is relaxing a little. But that’s just on the surface. Underneath is a different story, as it’s rumoured as many as 20 Members of Parliament (M.P.’s) are getting together to basically talk about their boss behind their back.
Among them, M.P: Stephen Woodworth. Woodworth earlier this month introduced a private members bill seeking the establishment of an all-party committee to study what defines a human being. This would re-open the abortion debate; something I think was settled in the legal sense at least, the minute the charter of rights was brought in. Women being people have the freedom to choose.
It’s something the Prime Minister promised he wouldn’t do, so this puts him in danger of breaking a huge election promise. And it exposes not only the afore-mentioned rift, but some weaknesses in the system.
Every party has what’s called a “Party whip,” someone whose role it is to make sure the backbench M.P.’s vote the way leadership wants them to. For example Harper says you must all vote for the budget, and they all do as they’re told no matter what; even if they disagree or if their constituents disagree. In making this promise the Prime Minister pretty much whipped his party into never re-opening the abortion debate. That Woodworth has managed to introduce his private members bill could be a huge embarrassment to Harper.
To most of you, this sounds like democracy’s boring details: M.P’s as creatures of their parties who cares? You should. It raises some interesting questions. When do M.P’s personal beliefs on issues come ahead of their party and constituents? And when do they get to express them in Parliament? Should they get to express them in Parliament? Where do the constituents’ wishes fit in?
These aren’t just questions the Conservatives should be asking. These are questions all parties should be asking because the Liberals, and N.D.P. are just as guilty of whipping their M.P.’s into line.
I’d let Woodworth go ahead; free the M.P’s to vote how they would. All it would take is one single charter challenge to undo it and I don’t think it would take long for that to happen.