Anti-abortion motion reviewed in secret
Committee's decision on Mark Warawa's sex-selective abortion motion could be released Thursday
A committee reviewing a motion on sex-selective abortion went behind closed doors almost immediately on Wednesday as it deliberated whether to allow the motion to go to the floor of the House for debate.
Conservative MP Mark Warawa had just over five minutes to make his case in an appeal of a subcommittee decision last week that the motion condemning sex-selective abortion, M-408, wasn't eligible to be debated and voted on.
No MPs on the procedure and House affairs committee had questions for Warawa, so the committee went in-camera for 15 to 20 minutes before emerging to announce they had made a decision, but it wouldn't be announced until their report is tabled in the House of Commons Thursday around 12 p.m. ET.
Warawa said it's "a mystery" why the committee went behind closed doors and softened his previous criticism of the Conservatives.
"Well, it appears that minds were made up," he said.
As for a complaint he made Tuesday on the floor of the House about his caucus interfering in his right to make a statement because he was going to talk about abortion, Warawa broadened the criticism to include all the major parties and praised Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
"The issue of [members'] statements, SO-31s, being restricted for members of Parliament, that is an all-party whip issue and it needs to be dealt with separately and it is being dealt with separately by the Speaker," Warawa said.
Asked who instructs the whips, Warawa said each whip answers to the party leader. But he wouldn't blame Harper for blocking him from making a statement about his abortion motion.
"I think Parliament's at fault for not permitting this issue to be dealt with earlier and others have suffered by losing that right. I experienced that suffering last Thursday and then when it affected me personally, then I had a responsibility to speak up," Warawa said.
It's the latest twist in a fight by a group of anti-abortion Conservatives to bring the issue to the floor of the House.
Earlier in the day, Conservative MP Jay Aspin told reporters that it's Warawa's problem he brought up an issue contrary to party policy.
Warawa is a "rogue member" and has to suffer the consequences of holding views contrary to his caucus, Aspin said Wednesday morning.
Warawa also raised a question of privilege in the House of Commons yesterday over the party's leadership interfering in his ability to talk about whatever he wants in the time set aside for members' statements.
MPs get 15 one-minute slots every day to talk about issues important to them or their constituents. Those statements are referred to as SO-31s. Warawa says he was on the list last Thursday but was removed after submitting a statement on his sex-selective abortion motion. He asked House Speaker Andrew Scheer to rule on whether the Conservative House leader can decide who gets to make those statements.
Conservative MPs Leon Benoit and Rod Bruinooge spoke in support of Warawa's question of privilege.
On Wednesday, Benoit reversed his criticism. The day before, he told MPs that he had had his "rights taken away" when it came to representing his constituents on certain topics. "I just don't think that's appropriate," Benoit said in the House on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, Benoit praised Harper's "usual good leadership" and said the MPs had a "good discussion" in caucus. There was no ban on him talking about abortion, he said.
"No, I've done it before and I'll do it again. Absolutely."
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has repeatedly said the Conservatives won't reopen the abortion debate.
Abortion placed 'above every democratic value'
The Conservative MPs who stopped to answer reporters' questions said they had no problem making the statements they wanted to in the House of Commons.
Rick Dykstra, Shelly Glover and Stephen Woodworth said they've never been told not to talk about something. Their answers differed slightly on whether anyone vets the SO-31s, with Woodworth saying yes, but that he'd only ever had minor modifications, and Dykstra saying he vets his own statements.
"I'm happy to do my SO-31s the way that I want to do them," Glover said when asked whether her statements were vetted.
Woodworth, whose motion to study when life begins was defeated last September, says he thinks Warawa's motion should be able to go in front of the House for debate and a vote. He pointed to statements by MPs from all parties last summer condemning sex-selective abortion.
"Actually, I think it would be rather astonishing if all three party leaders through their representatives last June were able to comment on the issue of sex selection, but that members of Parliament collectively don't have the jurisdiction to comment on it," Woodworth said.
"What I've observed is there is a certain philosophy with some people that places abortion above every democratic value. And maybe that's what happened in the subcommittee. I don't really know for sure," he added.
NDP House Leader Nathan Cullen said yesterday the NDP wanted to review the rules of the House before he addressed the issue.