Pro-life, justice MPs will quit at election

Rod Bruinooge

Rod Bruinooge

February 9, 2015

As the October federal election approaches, a number of MPs who have played key roles in life, family and social justice issues have said they are stepping down from federal politics.

About two dozen Conservative MPs have indicated they will not run in the next federal election, among them many prominent pro-life and pro-family stalwarts.

They include Saskatoon-Wanuskwein, Sask. MP Maurice Vellacott, who co-chaired the parliamentary pro-life caucus for about a decade, Winnipeg South MP Rod Bruinooge who succeeded him as caucus chair; and Kildonan-St. Paul, Man. MP Joy Smith, who championed anti-human trafficking legislation and paved the way for the government's new anti-prostitution law.

Also stepping down is Westlock-St. Paul, Alberta MP Brian Storseth who pushed through a private member's bill axing the controversial "thought crimes" section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Among the NDP, some MPs that could be identified with the party's social gospel roots are also stepping down, including Windsor-Tecumseh, Ont. MP Joe Comartin who has played an important role in the House on all-party efforts to support a national palliative care strategy.

Nanaimo-Cowichan, B.C. MP Jean Crowder, who took leadership roles in all-party anti-poverty strategies, is also not running again.

Many former Reform MPs as well as newer MPs who are staunchly pro-life and pro-family are not running again.

Campaign Life Coalition president Jim Hughes said he was "very disappointed that the wave of fresh air that came into the House with the Reform Party was now dissipating."

Joe Comartin

Joe Comartin

"The difficulty is ensuring the people who run in their place are as dedicated and pro-life as they were," Hughes said.

Social policy think tank Cardus executive vice president Ray Pennings described the turnover as "a natural generational change that comes from a government that has been in place for over 10 years."

"A good number of people who are leaving have served their time, as you will," Pennings said.


In the Conservative Party, Pennings described a mix of elements, from libertarian, to "more traditional Chamber of Commerce conservative types" to "those more motivated by social issues."

Pennings said social conservatives will have to change their strategies. "In the past a lot of social conservative strategy has been premised on the fact there is a silent majority that agrees with them and that, if politically presented with the right alternatives, it would vote accordingly.

"Most social conservatives are coming to the realization that culturally they are in a minority and the nature of politics is that politics follows, it does not lead culture," he said.

Hughes also mourned the loss of pro-life Liberals and New Democrats now that both parties whip votes on moral issues.

Last year, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau announced he would no longer allow candidates to run who do not respect a woman's so-called "right" to abortion and said he would do away with the long-standing tradition of allowing conscience votes on moral issues.

Though a number of Conservative pro-life MPs intend to run again, the parliamentary pro-life caucus can no longer claim to be an all-party caucus, Hughes said. "That's bad for Canadian democracy, and bad for average voters having their voices heard."


For Campaign Life, it means redoubling the efforts, he said, including stepping up pro-life activities on provincial fronts.

"It's a massive undertaking," Hughes said. "Nothing has changed in the 25 years I've been here. The determination of the rank and file pro-lifer hasn't changed."

Pennings said, "Social conservatives need to buckle up and be prepared for the long ride. There are no short-term fixes."