Liberal MPs on Tuesday forced a Conservative MP, against her will, to begin sitting as chair of the committee tasked with advancing women’s rights and gender equality.
Karen Vecchio, a Conservative MP from Ontario, was involuntarily elected to chair the House of Commons status of women committee after the Liberals refused to support the Conservative leader’s original choice.
“It’s too bad that Vecchio had to be forced by the Liberals to take the seat,” said NDP MP Sheila Malcolmson, before adding she was happier with Vecchio at the helm than with the alternative.
“It would have been much better if the Conservatives had proposed a reasonable candidate themselves.”
The issue of who would lead the committee came to a head last week when Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer chose to nominate Rachael Harder, an Alberta MP with an established record against abortion rights.
WATCH: Conservative leader’s initial choice to lead women’s committee ‘is a problem’: NDP
In response, the Liberal MPs, who form a majority on the committee, refused to vote on the nomination and instead chose to walk out, prompting an abrupt end to the meeting.
In the week since, Scheer didn’t offer another nomination; the official Opposition has the right to select the chairs for a number of House of Commons committees, including the status of women committee.
“I think [the choice of Harder] speaks to Andrew Scheer’s leadership and the voice he wants to put on women’s equality and reproductive justice. So that’s still a problem,” Malcolmson said.
WATCH: Liberal MPs walked out of a committee meeting in protest of the Conservative party’s choice for chair
Liberal and NDP members on the committee said they could not support Scheer’s nomination of Harder – who he also appointed his status of women critic – because of her voting record on abortion rights as well the endorsement she received from the Campaign for Life Coalition.
Last week, the Liberals were saying they wanted to honour the Conservatives’ right to pick the chair. This week, however, they said the choice is the committee’s.
WATCH: Trudeau stands by his MPs who protested selection of Rachael Harder
“It’s the committee’s decision … and the committee has chosen someone else to be their spokesperson,” said Liberal MP Pam Damoff.
And so, the Liberal majority (and sole NDP member) on the committee voted against Harder, which opened the door for them to put forward Vecchio’s name for consideration.
But she didn’t want it.
“Although I appreciate the nomination, I would like to back down from the nomination,” Vecchio said.
The Liberals did not grant the unanimous consent required to have her name withdrawn, which led to a vote and the installation of Vecchio as committee chair, against her will.
The Conservative women at the centre of this didn’t speak with reporters immediately following the meeting.
In a joint statement released shortly after, however, Vecchio and Harder accused the Liberals – and especially Prime Minister Justin Trudeau – of “politicizing” the committee.
“For Justin Trudeau to say a member of Parliament is unfit to hold a procedural position because she doesn’t agree with his personal position is ridiculous,” they wrote.
“Conservatives accept the democratic will of the committee, and unlike Justin Trudeau, we commit to working on behalf of all women in Canada, regardless of their beliefs.”
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