The Tories, like any other political party, are no stranger to voting against motions that don't fit in with the party's mandate. But it's not often Stephen Harper's Conservatives have been told to vote against a controversial motion proposed by one of their own MPs.
The tension stems from a motion that has the Tories, along with many Canadians, worried that the debate over abortion could be reignited. It's known as Motion 312 and it calls for a formal committee to consult specialists on the definition of when a human life begins. Currently in Canada, a fetus is defined as a human once it leaves the birth canal.
The Prime Minister has repeatedly said that his party would not look into the matter, citing he would be breaking the party's promise not to reopen the debate on abortion.
"This motion was deemed voteable by an all-party committee of the House. I think that's unfortunate. In my case I will be voting against the motion," said Harper in in the House of Commons during an April session according to The Canadian Press. That hasn't stopped Stephen Woodworth, MP for Kitchener-Centre and the motion's founder, from pursuing his quest to have the definition of a human being re-examined.
The motion will however, be delayed until the fall. It was announced today in Parliament that the motion was swapped with the Liberal MP Scott Brison's until the fall due to an illness in Woodworth's family.
“What it comes down to is that my mother is dying,” the Kitchener Centre MP said in a telephone interview. “She’s 90 and I understand that is has to happen but the circumstances of it are not nice and it has really weighed me down so I am trying to ease up a little on the work side," said Woodworth in an interview with the Globe And Mail.
The issue has reached the point where the Prime Minister's Office has issued a reminder to the Conservative caucus members that a vote to support fellow Conservative MP Woodworth's bill is a vote against Harper's wishes.
It's a tactic that's creating pressure to keep the the party unified on the matter but also aims to sway inexperienced MPs, those on the fence on the issue, as well as anyone in the party aspiring to climb the ranks to fall in line, according to a Globe and Mail article.
Pro-life advocates on the other hand, are siding with Woodworth.
"When all that is at stake is a discussion, then I believe to say no to the discussion is to say we will not have free speech on this issue," said Andrea Mrozek, a spokeswoman for the Institute of Marriage and Family Canada in an interview with Sun News.
Pro-life advocates may get their wish as the Prime Minister's Office is allowing a free vote on the matter. Motion 312 is up for debate on Thursday while the vote on it with be next Thursday. The motion is non-binding.
Which Cabinet Ministers Oppose Abortion?
The <a href="http://www.campaignlifecoalition.com/index.php?p=Find_Your_MP" target="_hplink">Campaign Life Coalition provides a listing of MPs who support and oppose abortion rights</a>. The list is based on voting records, previous comments and questionnaire responses. Here is a list of Conservative cabinet ministers who, according to the Coalition, oppose abortion. (CP)
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada. (CP)
Minister of Public Safety. (CP)
Peter Van Loan
Leader of the Government in the House of Commons. (CP)
Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism. (CP)
Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board. (Handout)
Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway. (CP)
Minister of State for Western Economic Diversification. (Handout)
Minister of State for Science and Technology and for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario. (Handout)
Where The Parties Stand On Abortion
Here's a look at the official position of Canada's federal parties, and how the controversial debate has reared its head in recent years. <em>With files from CBC</em>
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has repeatedly said that he has no interest in addressing the issue head-on.<br><br>"As long as I am prime minister we are not opening the abortion debate," Mr. Harper said in April 2011. "The government will not bring forward any such legislation, and any such legislation that is brought forward will be defeated as long as I am prime minister." (CP)
NDP leader Tom Mulcair has stated that his caucus is unanimous in its opposition to the private member's motion calling on Parliament to look at whether a fetus is a human being, but he plans to force his MPs to vote along party lines.<br><br>"We're resolutely in favour of women's right to choose," Mulcair declared. (CP)
Interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae has stressed that the abortion issue is matter of individual conscience. Rae expressed his personal opposition to reopening the debate, but said Liberal MPs will be allowed to vote "their conscience" rather than force them to toe the party line.<br><br>"Our position on reproductive choice, my position on reproductive choice is very, very clear. It has been for decades. The position is it's a person's right to choose." (CP)
Planned Parenthood Funding Controversy
Saskatoon-Humboldt MP Brad Trost tells Saskatchewan's ProLife Association in April 2011 that the federal government has decided to cut funding to the International Planned Parenthood Federation, a decision he says was influenced by anti-abortion supporters.<br><br>"I cannot tell you specifically how we used it, but those petitions were very, very useful and they were part of what we used to defund Planned Parenthood because it has been an absolute disgrace that that organization and several others like it have been receiving one penny of Canadian taxpayers' dollars," Trost said.<br><br>Maurice Vellacott, a Conservative MP from Saskatoon-Wanuskewin, also calls for Planned Parenthood to be defunded.<br><br>Vellacott says the controversy over the funding "exposed the lies and destructiveness of IPPF's agenda."<br><br>"It exposes what this abortion giant is surreptitiously trying to achieve worldwide."<br><br>International Cooperation Minister Bev Oda approves funding. (CP)
'Coerced' Abortion Law
Conservative Winnipeg MP Rod Bruinooge proposes "Roxanne's Law" in 2010, a bill that would penalize anyone who "coerced" a woman into ending her pregnancy against her will.<br><br>"It's not just as simple as feeling pressured to get an abortion; there is a lot of discussion of sex-selection abortion these days, as well," Bruinooge told the Winnipeg Free Press. "It's part of the overall topic of intimidation that goes towards a pregnant woman."<br><br>Bruinooge insisted the bill wasn't meant to force Parliament to wade into the debate banned by Harper, stating that nothing in his bill made it illegal to abort a fetus.<br><br>But the Liberals and New Democrats saw it as a backdoor entry into the touchy topic.<br><br>"How is an abortion bill not an abortion bill?" said then-Liberal MP Anita Neville. "This certainly introduces discussion into the House of Commons and it is a rather sneaky way of doing it."<br><br>Then-NDP leader Jack Layton echoed her concerns. "You have got to wonder what is really going on here."<br><br>The bill was defeated in December of 2010, with 178 votes for and 97 against it. Harper and many Conservatives voted against it and 10 Liberals supported it. The NDP was unanimously against it. (Handout)
International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda discloses for the first time in April 2011 that Canada will not fund abortions in its G8 child and maternal health-care initiative for developing countries.<br><br>Keith Martin, then-Liberal MP who had defected from the Tories years earlier, expressed outrage. "People here are perplexed and wondering why Canada is rolling back the clock and depriving women in developing countries from having the same rights to basic health care and access to abortion as women in Canada," he said.<br><br>Then-NDP leader Jack Layton accused the Tories of putting Canada on side with former U.S. president George Bush, who reduced support for abortion-related aid.<br><br>"It's picking up the banner that George Bush used to carry, and I think that that's not something that would be supported by the majority of Canadians, that's for sure," Layton said.<br><br>On June 25, Canada pledged $1.1 billion to a global initiative on maternal and child health for developing countries - a disproportionately high amount compared to other G8 countries. Canada did not allow for its share to be used in the funding of abortions. (CP)