Could Michael Chong’s ‘Reform Act’ bill give pro-life groups new life?

·Politics Reporter

On Tuesday, Conservative MP Michael Chong introduced his private members' bill — the so-called Reform Act — to the public.

Should it pass, it would give MPs the power to trigger a leadership review, allow MPs to decide who is in caucus and would take away a leaders' power to sign-off on election candidates.

There's some concern, however, that the final measure listed there — taking away a leader's power to decide who runs for the party — might actually buoy the anti-abortion movement in Canada.

If a party leader doesn't have to authority to sign-off on candidates, what's to stop pro-life groups from taking over riding associations and running their own slate?

[ Related: Tory MP Michael Chong’s bid to give MPs more power elicits lively debate ]

Presumably, riding associations could have their own 'green light' procedures in place to block special interest groups from fielding candidates.

But as explained by Paul Wells of MacLean's, it's happened in the past.

"If the riding associations aren’t healthy then special-interest groups will have fun stacking them, as pro-life groups did with the Liberal party 20-odd years ago," Wells wrote.

"That adventure led to an earlier reform: giving the Liberal leader, fellow named Chrétien, the power to appoint candidates.

"Reforms tend to replace problems with different problems."

[ More Politics: Quebec’s PQ government moves to limit discounts on new books ]

At least one pro-life group says Reform Act is something they would likely support.

"It would help us to get rid of a “pro-abort” leader but on the flip side the same could be said for a pro-life leader," Jeff Gunnarson, Chairman of Campaign Life Coalition, told Yahoo Canada News in an email exchange.

"So, in the end we are somewhat neutral from a pro-life standpoint but would likely lean towards supporting it.

"We are all for giving the members at the riding level more power specifically the power to vet candidates for nomination."

If Chong's bill passes, it won't come into affect until after the election in 2015.

Campaign Life, however, isn't waiting until then. While they don't intend to run any candidates, they're encouraging their supporters to join political parties via an "Elections Alert" posted on their website:


CLC hopes to identify many pro-life candidates across Canada for whom we wish to get-out-the-vote. To be eligible to vote for these nomination candidates in your riding, you must be a paid-up party member at least 3 weeks prior to the date.

Many current, pro-life MPs will also face challengers during the nomination process. Protect them by ensuring you’re eligible to vote.


Elections have been called for the EDA’s Board of Directors in both parties. It’s imperative that pro-lifers get onto EDA Boards because members have much influence over whether the nomination papers of pro-life candidates are accepted or rejected.

And they even have a message for Liberal supporters.

Yes, it is true that Justin Trudeau is rabidly pro-abortion. He advocates passionately for the so-called “right” to kill babies who are still in the womb.

The reason why Campaign Life Coalition is encouraging people to buy Liberal party memberships, along with Conservative memberships, is so that the pro-life movement can try to conduct take-overs of nomination meetings, in every federal riding, for both parties.

If in a given riding we were able to engineer a situation through the nomination process where a pro-life Conservative was up against a pro-life Liberal in the next general election, that would be a win-win situation for the right-to-life movement. No matter which candidate wins (with the exception of a potential NDP victory) a pro-life MP would emerge.

As explained by the Ottawa Citizen, Stephen Harper is "not likely to sign nomination papers of any candidate elected via a pro-life drive in the riding association and is unlikely to abide a nomination challenge against an MP who is already in the House of Commons."

And while Trudeau says he will hold open nominations, his party his mulling over their own 'green light' policy.

But if Chong's bill passes, leaders like Harper and Trudeau could have their hands tied.

It could be a political boon for all special interest groups.

(Photo courtesy The Canadian Press)

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