The Liberal Party forces their members to vote pro-choice, and frankly, that’s really okay
The Liberal Party of Canada does a Liberal move, and for some reason, everyone is upset.
It’s, admittedly, a bit more complicated than that. Justin Trudeau, Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, has decreed that any and every Liberal MP, regardless of their own moral compass, will never be allowed to vote against a woman’s right to have an abortion. For a supposedly left-leaning party, this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. You would think its members would applaud such a move, if anything.
Six former members of his own caucus wrote an open letter to Trudeau, demanding that he rescind his position on forcing MPs to support a woman’s right to choose. This has raised an interesting question for the Liberals: what’s more important? An MP’s right to vote according to their conscience? Or the right to have an abortion?
Some MPs are firmly in the former camp. “I have had a lot of Liberals come up to me and say, ‘I don’t quite understand, isn’t the Liberal party about freedom and about defending people’s rights?’” admitted Trudeau, speaking to CBC’s The Sunday Edition with Michael Enright.
“The firm position of all previous Liberal Leaders, including Pierre E. Trudeau, has been that, on moral issues, Liberal Members of Parliament were able to vote according to their respective consciences,” wrote the former MPs, who — to their credit — managed to include a low-blow reference to Trudeau’s deceased father in the process. (Class act, fellas.)
However, Trudeau has remained steadfast. “If [Liberal MPs] vote in favour of restricting women’s access to abortion, that’s taking away their rights. And that is something that we will not accept in the Liberal party. We are the party of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and that’s a serious, serious position that Liberals have to defend.”
Which brings us back to the ultimate conundrum: is the trampling of the rights of a very small group (Liberal MPs, a current grand total of 37) justified if it defends the rights of a much larger majority?
It’s worth noting that what Trudeau is trying to do is not revolutionary. The New Democratic Party (NDP) has long held the pro-choice view, and it was announced back in May that the NDP caucus will never include an anti-choice MP.
This kind of “subjugation” is, for better or for worse, a part of our political system. On many issues — particularly sensitive ones — the MPs are forced to toe a party line. There’s a role in Parliament devoted to making sure your MPs vote a certain way: the party whip, named because they “whip” their MPs a certain way.
Party discipline is, simply, a part of Canadian politics. If you think that’s unfortunate, then ask yourself: when was the last time you voted for your borough candidate, and not for the party they represented? Did you ask your borough MP their opinion on abortion, environment, or foreign policy? Or did you see what their party’s position was? How would you have felt if they ended up voting against the very position you elected them for?
Everyone should have the right to their conscience, of course. But if you sign up under a political banner, then you damn well better carry it.