Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of February 13, 2006
New cabinate pleases social conservatives
Life, family advocates happy, justice activists wary of new lineup
By DEBORAH GYAPONG
Campaign Life Coalition counted nine pro-life MPs in the new cabinet: Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, Agriculture Minister Chuck Strahl, Justice Minister Vic Toews, Fisheries Minister Loyola Hearn, Citizenship and Immigration Minister Monte Solberg, Minister for Democratic Reform Rob Nicholson, Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day, Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn and National Revenue Minister Carol Skelton.
Those same names pop up in a similar list from Vote Marriage Canada as supporters of the traditional marriage.
"However, our analysis of the cabinet reveals that there are opponents of traditional marriage, as well," the Feb. 6 release from Vote Marriage Canada said, naming Transportation Minister Lawrence Cannon; and International Cooperation Minister Josée Verner, Treasury Board Minister John Baird and Indian Affairs Minister Jim Prentice.
Social conservatives were also disappointed that Jason Kenney and Diane Ablonczy did not receive cabinet posts.
Kenney will serve as Harper's parliamentary secretary, however, while Ablonczy will serve as Flaherty's parliament secretary.
Veteran journalist Lloyd Mackey, author of The Pilgrimage of Stephen Harper, and longtime observer of the intersection of faith and politics on Parliament Hill, told CCN Feb. 6 the social conservatives in cabinet are known for being "incremental" in their approach to social change.
Mackey said they are less likely to look for legislative changes such as banning abortions, but to seek more "indirect means" to reduce the numbers of abortions, for example.
Euthanasia Prevention Coalition executive director Alex Schadenberg describes the cabinet as a "mixed bag."
"We're all very thankful Vic Toews is the justice minister and he understands the issues and he understands them in the right way," he said in a Feb 7 phone interview.
Toews, a former Manitoba attorney general and Conservative justice critic, managed his party's handling of the marriage debate, and personally opposed the assisted suicide bill C-407, setting a tone for the rest of the caucus.
"There's a good chance these issues will be treated in the right way," Schadenberg said.
Bastien points out that Flaherty in finance, Day in public safety and Toews in justice means that social conservatives will play an influential role in these senior posts.
Catholic Health Association of Canada (CHAC) vice president for advocacy and public policy James Roche met the new health minister Tony Clement Feb. 7 during launch of the second annual report of the Health Council of Canada.
Roche told CCN he was pleased to see Clement already on the job, listening to the report on progress and recommendations on health care renewal.
"He is familiar with Catholic health care," Roche said, pointing out that as Ontario health minister he would have worked with the Catholic Health Association of Ontario.
Roche said CHAC will continue to advocate the preservation of justice and equity, and will be presenting the new ministers with a package outlining key issues shortly.
"There's no real attempt to take seriously that some people really are refugees and it really is life and death for them."
- Mary Corkery
Observers concerned about social justice are taking a "wait and see" attitude, though Joe Gunn, a spokesman for Make Poverty History, said he was pleased to see Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay and International Cooperation Minister Jos‚e Verner attend a consultation among government officials and NGOs on upcoming UN Human Rights Commission meetings the day after their swearing in .
"We hope this is an indicator that this cabinet will engage civil society in a serious and mutually helpful manner," Gunn said in a Feb. 7 email to CCN.
"What remains to be seen, however, is whether immediate and concrete action will be taken by the new ministers to address poverty," he said. "In the speech from the throne, the government should commit to bring forward legislation to guarantee that international aid be directed to poverty alleviation."
KAIROS executive director Mary Corkery told CCN in a phone interview from Toronto Feb. 7 that while the Conservatives' election platform raised concerns, they may govern differently, especially in a minority government.
"One of the biggest issues that got lost in the campaign was the issue of the common good," she said. "We're not just consumers; we are citizens."
She opposes tax cuts, privatization of social programs, and the backing away from the Liberals' daycare agreement with the provinces, an agreement she described as "very good."
Gunn agrees that abandoning the agreement risks "leaving children in poor families unable to access the care they need and their parents unable to work."
Some Catholic organizations, however, such as the Catholic Organization for Life and Family (COLF), have urged government to also financially support families who choose to have a parent stay home with children. The Liberal plan funds only institutional daycare spaces.
Harper has promised a budget in the spring and the first direct-to-parent subsidy of $100 per month for every child six and under to start in July. He has also promised credits and tax incentives for the building of private daycare spaces.
Corkery and Gunn would like the new government to live up to Canada's commitment to the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals, and to upping the foreign aid contribution to .07 per cent of Gross National Income (GNI) by the year 2015.
She points out MPs from all parties signed a declaration to do so. But foreign aid is not one of Harper's priorities.
Corkery also raised concerns about the plight of refugees, and sees no signs the Conservatives will change the emphasis on security that began under the Liberals.
"There's no real attempt to take seriously that some people really are refugees and it really is life and death for them," she said. "The emphasis has been on people who are here illegally."
She said she wants to see the day when "security interests never trump human rights."
Parliament is scheduled to begin April 3, with the speech from the throne on April 4.
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