April 18, 2011

OTTAWA — Social conservative leaders have expressed disappointment Prime Minister Stephen Harper refuses to reopen debates on abortion or marriage even if the Conservatives win a majority in the May 2 election.

But one prominent social conservative says taking these issues off the public agenda is a sign of a bigger problem: No serious issues — such as health care reform, immigration or serious nation security problems — get discussed in a responsible way in elections either.

"Nobody talks about doing anything," said Canadian Centre for Policy Studies president Joseph Ben-Ami.

But others said the Tory party's base have taken a realistic attitude towards Harper's stance, particularly on abortion.

"He doesn't believe it's a winner or otherwise he would be advocating a strong pro-life position," said Campaign Life Coalition president Jim Hughes.

Campaign Life has urged its members to vote for the pro-life candidate in their riding, irrespective of political party.

Hughes said Campaign Life has given Harper a "C+" rating on the abortion issue because of his refusal to include abortion in his maternal and child health care initiative. The other party leaders each received an "F."

He stressed up to 25 strong pro-life Liberals have often voted against their own caucuses to support the right to life.

Ben-Ami questioned whether Harper deserves such a high grade. "In the final analysis, performance has to be judged on what we're doing here at home," he said. "If Mr. Harper has the courage to stand up on the issue of abortion when it comes to foreign policy, we should be applying the same courage here at home."


Retired economist Richard Bastien, who represents the Catholic Civil Rights League in the National Capital Region, said Harper's statement is "regrettable," but as a "political realist, it's hard to blame the guy. Many people don't know that it's evil or at least refuse to confront the issue."

REAL Women of Canada national vice president Gwendolyn Landolt agreed, describing the prime minister's comments "disappointing" but "understandable."

Ben-Ami said he was uncomfortable calling abortion or marriage socially conservative issues. "Abortion is not a socially conservative issue," he said. Many who are not otherwise conservative want protection for unborn children. "It's a human rights issue."