Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Opinions and Laws

I like Martha Hall Findlay. There probably isn't a great reason for me to like her, I don't know very much about her. I liked her speech a lot at the 2006 leadership convention, and I suppose that is reason enough.

But her piece in the Huffington Post about Justin Trudeau's stance on abortion and Liberal MPs is the kind of nonsense that makes me glad she didn't win.

Trudeau, not too long ago, mused that any new Liberal candidates should be prepared to vote pro-choice if any bills regarding abortion came up in the house. Here is what he said:

It’s not for any government to legislate what happens – what a woman chooses to do with her body, and that is the bottom line. I have made it clear that future candidates need to be completely understanding that they will be expected to vote pro-choice on any bills.

What Hall Findlay recently wrote in the Huffington Post is that it is bad to try to force MPs to vote a certain way on matters of conscience.  I guess she advocates for a parliament where MPs actually decide how to vote based on what they think or based on representing their constituents instead of dutifully parroting their leaders.  I personally like that idea a lot.

But if I was going to pick a handful of issues that I would expect my MPs to vote with the party on, were I leader, abortion would definitely be one of them.  The idea that this should be excluded while voting on a budget should not is silly.

Whether or not you believe people should have abortions could be a matter of conscience.  Whether or not you like to hang around with people who have had or who actively support the choice to have abortions is your personal preference.  But whether you want to enact legislation regulating or criminalizing access to abortion is not just a matter of conscience.  It is a matter of law.

Bills are not whimsical, they have real world effect.  Trudeau's pronouncement was about bills, not about motions.  Honestly if some Liberals voted to support a motion condemning abortion that would certainly cost them my vote, but I can understand why someone would say it was a matter of conscience.  No one is asking any Liberal MP to vote against their firmly held moral believes, but rather they are asking them to vote for or against laws.

You may think that drugs are bad or even morally problematic, but if you support current criminal drug laws, you are supporting a very stupid thing.  You may think that cheating on tests in highschool is morally wrong, but if you were to support a bill that regulated cheating or set out penalties for it, I would call you a moron.  You may think that bigamy is morally wrong but within the next few years the Supreme Court is going to tell you how dumb it is for us to have a criminal law about that one.

If someone demonstrated that laws against theft actually led to more theft, didn't help victims of theft, and led to numerous spurious convictions against non-thieves, would you still support that law?  Because theft is wrong?

Laws are not our conscience, and MPs should not expect their parties to not care whether they vote in accordance with their party's policies.  If you are so right, then vote however you want and your constituents will vindicate you in the next election.  But if you join a party that is committed to maintaining women's rights over their bodies, don't expect the party to make that the one issue they are willing to look the other way on.


  1. I would guess that most people think of laws as "What our country says you ought and ought not to do" rather than as a tool for regulating the behaviour of its citizens. When you tell someone who thinks that way that a law has none of its intended consequences and a host of negative repercussions they won't find it a compelling reason to change the law.

    1. And I guess I find that an unacceptable way for people who actually write and vote on laws to think.