Liberal Party of Canada leader Justin Trudeau declared that members of parliament in the party must vote pro-choice. Register file photo

MP takes aim at Liberal policy while defending conscience motion

  • June 7, 2015

OTTAWA - Justin Trudeau is acting contrary to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms by denying Liberal party members a free vote on matters of conscience, charged a Conservative MP during a Parliament debate.

Ed Komarnicki, whose private member’s Motion 590 to guarantee MPs the right to vote freely on matters of conscience was put before the House of Commons May 28, criticized Trudeau for forcing his party members to comply with the leader’s pro-choice view on abortion. Trudeau has declared that Liberal MPs must support abortion should the matter come before Parliament and new members must be pro-choice to stand for election as a Liberal candidate.

Komarnicki said Trudeau’s policy runs “absolutely contrary” to freedom of conscience, “as well as the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”

“Indeed, it would run against the fundamentals of democracy, where issues should be debated freely and then voted upon,” said the four-term Saskatchewan MP.

Komarnicki, who will not be running for re-election, said it may not always be easy to tell which issues fall under the conscience category.  

“I can, however, say with a great deal of confidence that matters relating to life, more particularly to the termination of life at any time from the point of conception to the point of natural death, would easily fall within that definition,” he said.

He told the House it is “regrettable” that due to positions held by Trudeau and some in the media “we cannot have a good or reasonable debate on these issues, with contrary points of view, without it seeming to be something unusual, unacceptable or in bad taste.”

NDP MP Alexandrine Latendresse told the House members can already vote freely. “Nowhere in the rules of this House does it state that members are obliged to betray their values or their beliefs in exercising the mandate they have been given — nowhere.”

She said the NDP “never rules out the possibility of a free vote” but that she and her colleagues “arrive at a consensus that is acceptable to everyone.”

Latendresse acknowledged there are consequences if a member votes against his or her party.

“Our duty is to come to an agreement with our colleagues and not to blindly defend our obsessions,” she said.

“That is why I believe my NDP colleagues should support this motion because, in the end, all of us are already free.”

Conservative MP Dave MacKenzie said that although parties agree party discipline is needed on some matters, such as the budget, “these have traditionally been matters of confidence.” But free votes have largely concerned matters of “morality and conscience,” such as capital punishment, he said.

MacKenzie said the government would support this motion, although it’s unlikely to come up for a second hour of debate or a vote before the election in October.

Liberal MP Kevin Lamoureux asked if he were “very passionate about the issue of poverty, is that not a matter of conscience?”

“Would that mean that votes on health care or poverty should be based on one’s conscience?” he asked, noting Komarnicki had been very limited in what he considered conscience votes.

Lamoureux said MPs have to consider many factors, such as whether they should vote the will of their constituents vs. the party line.

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