“You have a widening gulf between the electorate and the people running for office” says Jim Hughes
By Steve Jalsevac
OTTAWA, September 15, 2008 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Last week, LifeSiteNews interviewed Campaign Life Coalition National President and International Right to Life Vice President Jim Hughes about his organization’s involvement in the Canadian federal election now underway. The extensive interview, in which Hughes gives frank comments about the Canadian political scene, is being presented in two parts. See Part II in tomorrow’s LifeSiteNews.
Jim Hughes has personally known and interacted with hundreds of Canadian politicians and several federal political regimes in his over 30 years of intense involvement in the Canadian political scene.
LifeSiteNews: A federal election has been called – what is your response to that, being the leader of Canada’s national pro-life political organization?
Jim Hughes: Well, unfortunately, my first reaction is “ho-hum.” There don’t seem to be any clear cut issues facing the Canadian electorate. The issues that are important to us have been carefully concealed and the parties are still fighting like crazy to ensure that the topics don’t even come up. You see the majority of polls in Canada time and again showing people in Canada want some restrictions on abortion and despite that, you have all these wishy-washy or just plain cowardly politicians refusing to take a strong stand.
So, the political strategists are saying – “what else are they going to do but vote for us – there is no alternative.” That is what you hear within the Conservative camp and then of course, you have the Liberals who are saying, “We have so many rural Protestants on our side and so many Roman Catholics on our side and so many new Canadians who don’t understand the issues who are on our side because we brought them into our country that we can tell them what the issues are.”
You have a widening gulf between the electorate and the people running for office. And you find this especially so with the parties telling candidates not to answer questionnaires. Whereas, in the United states, it seems to be quite open as to where the candidates stand on the issues that are important to the electorate, here in Canada, despite the claims that there is going to be this new transparency, we have seen Stephen Harper constantly brow-beating his members of Parliament into almost total silence.
I think the case of Ken Epp’s Bill C-484 – the Unborn Victims of Crime Bill – was absolutely terrible – the lengths the government went to, to ensure that there would be no rights for the child in the womb – even no right’s for the wanted child in the womb. They did that despite the fact so many people wanted Ken Epp’s bill – a common sense bill. So, even though it wasn’t a piece of pro-life legislation, it was certainly something recognizing fetal rights which so many MPs and Canadian voters have said that they want to see but which the Tory leadership are all afraid of.
LifeSiteNews: What are they afraid of?
Jim Hughes: They are afraid for their political futures – that they are not going to get or stay in cabinet positions and they are not going to earn more bucks as a result of their speaking out. We know in the past that there have been people like in the Prime Minister’s office going around to the various Liberals and telling them that, “If you just tone down your ‘pro-life-ness’, I can get you in Cabinet.” As for Stephen Harper he is unjustifiably afraid that if he does not stop all efforts such as C-484 he will lose the people in the mushy middle who he is counting on to win a majority.
LifeSiteNews: So, if the conservatives win a majority, do you think we’ll see a significant difference in their behavior on these issues?
Jim Hughes: Just as we have seen with the Conservatives thus far, they emphasize fiscal conservatism above all (although their commitment to even that has been questionable given how much the size of government has grown under them) and to a certain extent they have been strong on some family issues. They have been much better overall than the federal Liberals and, of course, the NDP are absolutely hopeless on social conservative issues. But I would say that, if you take a look at the people who the Prime Minister has anointed or parachuted in as candidates – people like John Baird, etc. – if you take a look at who is sitting around the cabinet table – for the most part they are not friends of those who support life and family.
Do I expect to see, with a Conservative majority, a change? I think we will continue to see some positive legislation that we will all be happy with but as far as the killing of children before birth and possibly the killing of adults at the other end of life – who knows. I would expect that the Conservatives might be a little stronger on euthanasia than at the moment.
LifeSiteNews: Have you sensed any impact on what is happening south of the border especially with regards to Sarah Palin, that might affect the Canadian election on these issues?
Jim Hughes: Well, certainly the people that I have heard from in regard to Sarah Palin – most of them have been extremely positive, but not all of them. That has given a shot of adrenalin to a lot of people who were considering staying home on election day. I would say that a lot of the younger people who were consumed by the fact that a black man would hold the office of US President and that would be the end of discrimination are now saying “Wow, a woman and pro-life as well!”
LifeSiteNews: How would this affect the Canadian situation – if at all?
Jim Hughes: The Americans are looking for a change but what is being offered to voters at the moment here in Canada – I don’t see any significant alternatives to what has been going on for the past few years. I think we are going to see the cult of personality continue as we are going to see Harper, Dion and Jack Layton all fighting it out. I think there is a good chance that Harper will form a majority government. In the end, whether or not that will be more helpful to social conservatives, to pro-life, pro-family people than the very limited help we have gotten from the minority government we have now remains to be seen.
LifeSiteNews: So, what do you believe pro-life Canadians should do, in the meantime, during the election?
Jim Hughes: Well, continue to vote for candidates who are pro-life and pro-family and who you believe will actually speak out and stand up when a vote comes up and continue to support good incumbents, regardless of what political party they belong to.
I am most concerned about the number of pro-lifers who are not running for re-election this time. It is an inordinate percentage of the total that have decided to not run and we are going to miss them greatly. As I said before the last federal election campaign, I was concerned to see so many members of the Reform party deciding not to run because, when I first saw the Reformers running, I said, “They are like a breath of fresh air on Parliament Hill”. But, I think a lot of them too, have been jaded by the whole effort and would be inclined to still continue to support the party and speak up for it but I think many are disappointed.
LifeSiteNews: So, at the door, what should voters do – when candidates come knocking?
Jim Hughes: Above all, ask where the candidates stand on life and family issues – and get a commitment from them – one way or another. Then you will know exactly where they stand. But also, we really need that information – even the fact that the candidate refuses to respond to your questions – given to us by telephone, email or fax so we can help all the other voters make informed decisions. We also need information about candidates that supporters see in local media and hear at meetings and so on. Many of our supporters still don’t realize how important that information can be. Action by the grassroots is by far the greatest strength of the pro-life movement.
Ask, “where do you stand on the killing of children before birth” or “Do you support killing children before birth?” “Do you support the concept of killing people at the other end of life?” Use the questions from our questionnaire. ( See http://www.campaignlifecoalition.com/elections/federal/2008/…)
Just make it hot and don’t let them get away with avoiding the issue, giving just the party position or fudging their answers. They have an obligation to be up front with you. Be persistent, but also always be respectful. They will always remember that respectful attitude and you never know how that, more than anything else, may later cause them to consider what you said.
So many times people have told us back in the committee rooms that lots of people at the doors were saying – “where does the candidate stand on the abortion issue” and yet the media did not report it.
The Morgentaler Order of Canada award certainly brought abortion back to the surface, and I think you are going to find a lot more people during this election campaign asking where the candidates stand. But, if the candidates have committed themselves to a pro-abortion position and the supporters who have rallied around them are the same – there is not much that you are going to change and there don’t seem to be many alternatives.
I don’t think voters should stay home. There are people out there who are saying, “If we are faced with two pro-abortion candidates, one being an incumbent, we are going to vote to defeat the incumbent. We’ll take a chance on the other one and our ability to influence them.” It would be ok to do that. If someone has been in there for several terms and they are solidly pro-abortion, then it makes sense to get rid of them and turf them out.
Part II to be published tomorrow