MP Warawa to unveil decision on abortion motion appeal
Conservative MP could trigger secret ballot in Parliament on whether motion can go ahead
Conservative MP Mark Warawa says he'll announce tomorrow whether he will appeal to the House over a decision that killed his anti-abortion motion, as some MPs continue to back his appeal to the Speaker over their ability to make statements in the House.
Warawa has until Friday to decide whether to use his final appeal after a House committee upheld its sub-committee's decision that his private member's motion wasn't eligible to go to the floor for a vote.
He also has the option of substituting his ineligible motion for another motion or bill. Late Tuesday, the notice paper for the House of Commons suggested he may introduce a new bill on Wednesday entitled "An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (restrictions on offenders.)"
Warawa's motion, M-408, would have condemned the practice of sex-selective abortion. Critics of the motion say it comes too close to reopening the abortion debate, given Warawa is opposed to abortion more generally.
If he appeals, MPs hold a secret ballot on whether to allow the motion to go ahead. Warawa says he has the backing of at least five MPs from two recognized parties that he needs to force the appeal.
"I've spent the last two weeks consulting, thinking, praying and trying to do the right thing for the issue of gendercide and I'll be announcing tomorrow," Warawa said in an interview with the CBC's Julie Van Dusen.
The MP for Langley, B.C., says he wants to tell his colleagues in national caucus Wednesday morning, as well as "other partners," before he tells reporters.
Looked at chance of going ahead
Warawa says he looked at how likely the motion is to proceed when he decided whether to appeal to MPs.
"I've researched it, I've looked at everything very carefully and when I look at the whole picture, that of course has influenced my decision," he said.
If he chooses not to appeal, Warawa says the motion will still be debated in the House for an hour — but MPs won't be able to vote on it.
He could also choose to present a new private members' motion or bill to replace it, but would end up at the bottom of the precedence list, making it weeks or months before his measure would be debated.
Last month, three MPs on a sub-committee of the procedure and House affairs committee — one each from the Conservatives, Liberals and NDP — said that the motion doesn't fall within the rules of the House and is therefore non-voteable. The MPs made the decision despite advice from a non-partisan Library of Parliament analyst, who said the motion was in order.
Private member's motions and bills must not:
- Fall outside federal jurisdiction.
- Clearly violate the Constitution, including the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
- Double up on business already voted on by the House of Commons in the current session of Parliament.
- Double up on business already put forward by the government.
Liberal MP Bob Rae and New Democrat House Leader Nathan Cullen have said the motion is ineligible because it touches on health care, a provincial matter, and that the motion was already covered earlier this session by last September's vote on Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth's motion to study when life begins.
MPs challenge Speaker
Warawa has also challenged the way MPs are chosen to do members' statements, or SO-31s, the one-minute statements done for 15 minutes every sitting day before question period. The day after his motion was ruled non-voteable, Warawa tried to make a statement about it, but was told about 15 minutes before he was to stand in the House that he'd been taken off the list provided by the whip's office to the Speaker.
MPs who support Warawa have argued that party whips provide lists of MPs to the Speaker to make it easier for him to recognize them, not so they can control who is able to speak.
The 15 minutes before question period is the only time in the House MPs have to make general statements about issues or events in their ridings. They're usually used to congratulate local organizations and teams or draw attention to issues of concern, though they've recently been used to attack opposing politicians through party-scripted statements.
Eight MPs have spoken in the House in support of Warawa, including Cullen. Three of those, Michael Chong, Pierre Lemieux and Russ Hiebert, are Conservative MPs who added their concerns on Monday and Tuesday, following a two-week parliamentary break.
Chong condemned the "command and control" structure used by party whips to control who says what in the Commons. Lemieux and Hiebert both argued for the preservation of free speech rights for MPs when it comes to members statements.
Conservative MP John Williamson, who was once Prime Minister Stephen Harper's director of communications, urged House Speaker Andrew Scheer to go further and look at whether the whips should decide who gets to ask questions in question period.
"I would remind you again, sir, that rules and convention cannot trump a parliamentary privilege, a right. What we have seen over the last 30 years has all happened very slowly ... I propose that your review go further and that you are guided both by your judgment and authority on these questions and yield to no one," Williamson said to Scheer.
Other Conservative MPs say Harper promised his government would never reopen the abortion debate, so denying his caucus the chance to make statements on the issue is consistent with that promise.
With files from the CBC's Julie Van Dusen