At Michael Ignatieff’s sold-out fundraising dinner last night – and when I was in Alberta on the weekend with that province’s Liberals, and in emails and messages I have been getting from across the country – women have asked me how to get more involved in politics. I ask them why. “Because Stephen Harper promised not to go after abortion rights, and now he’s doing just that,” they say. “Because I am afraid of what the country will be like if these sons-of-bitches get a majority.”
Looking at the morning papers, I’d say that many others are starting to express the same feelings. Canadians – and particularly Canadian women – are concerned that the crypto-Reformers now ensconced in government have a not-so-hidden agenda which will end in abortion again being criminalized. Examples are here and here and here and here and here and here and here.
On the weekend, I received a powerful commentary from a woman named Amanda. I think everyone should read it. It expresses a view that I am hearing over and over, these days. It expresses the view that Stephen Harper has woken a sleeping giant in Canadian politics – and he will come to profoundly regret it.
A little over a year ago, I would’ve told you that I was *this close* to thinking about voting for these guys. I liked their stand on Arctic Sovereignty, on Afghanistan and the Canadian Forces (foreign policy being an important part of what I think defines a federal government in Canada), and even to some extent on stimulus and a handful of other domestic issues. I am a great big, bleeding heart, capital “L” Liberal, and I just couldn’t see my way clear to voting for a man in my riding who I have never heard from, who is a member of a party with a leader who can’t see HIS way clear to finding himself a personality or traction on any issues; Except, now, for an issue on parliamentary rules that only people who actually understand the ins and outs of parliament can understand. Let’s just say it’s certainly not a wedge issue, or more to the point, an issue that is going to get into a householder.
I was *this close* to simply allowing my mind to ponder under what conditions would I cross the aisle and betray my party. Had the LPC (including the MPs and the Office of the Leader of the Opposition) done enough to shake my life-long faith in the Natural Governing Party? It began with the Prime Minister Chretien/Minister Martin debacle, and I never could get behind Prime Minister Martin. He had no interest in working with Premier McGuinty, despite being fully aware of the role Ontario plays in Confederation, and dashed the hopes of many who finally had a longed-for Liberal Ontario/Liberal Canada. It didn’t live up to hopes, and Prime Minister Martin began a sorry history of not being able to get traction on any issue – the very thing which is poisoning the party now, and which is a clear sign of a leader who is a compromise, rather than someone the party faithful really wanted to lead us. Prime Minister Martin, followed by Mr. Dion, and now Mr. Ignatieff. I feel like the only time the party actually got together in all this time was when Mr. Graham was interim leader. Did they shake my faith with horrifying incompetence, ridiculous attempts to grab power and a total inability to communicate on issues? Absolutely. This is not the party I felt drawn to as a newly-aware teenager. This is not the party of Prime Ministers Trudeau and Chretien.
And so, one turns to other options. The NDP is too silly to be serious about anything, although I have the utmost of respect for Mr. Mulcair. Green is a lovely idea, but it’s a wasted vote when the Leader can’t get elected to the House. The only other option is the Tories, and so the question must be asked – are they REALLY that bad? I don’t particularly like Prime Minister Harper as human being, but I don’t really believe in the general maliciousness of humans (See? LIBERAL!), and I do believe for the most part, he thinks that what he does is what is best for this country. His Ministers have not been impressive, obviously, but I have found myself nodding in agreement when foreign policy issues have been at the forefront. I believe in our mission in Afghanistan for many reasons, and I believe in protecting our sovereignty in the Arctic. I believe in our relationship with Israel, I thought that appointing Ambassador Doer in Washington was brilliant, and on other foreign policy issues, I thought this government was going mostly in the right direction.
Until now. This issue of denying abortions to women in developing countries is a way to start the debate here in Canada, after Prime Minister Harper said he would not – that abortion in Canada is established and he wasn’t going to be pro-active in opening the issue. Women everywhere have a right to choose to do what they want with their own bodies, particularly with reproductive concerns. It never occurred to me that Canada would be a country to implement a gag rule and would not provide funding to those who provide abortions. Removing funding from this essential health care service and from Pride festivals (Toronto may be relatively well-funded, but other places are not, and it’s no more acceptable to stop providing Pride funding than it would be to stop providing funding to a jazz festival because the Prime Minister doesn’t like people who play the trumpet) is not acceptable. Telling women to “shut the fuck up” was so revealing about who this man is and what his party stands for. And they are in government and as such, so very dangerous.
We are not that. We are, simply, not that country. And I will never, ever consider changing my vote again, and I will come back to my party and love it so much as to make sure I do all I can to ensure it gets to its fighting weight for the next round. We are not Prime Minister Harper’s Canada. We never will be.