Tory MP backs down on Conservative criticism, as motion debated in private

Conservative MP Mark Warawa
Conservative MP Mark Warawa appears before the Commons house affairs committee to discuss motion, Wednesday March 27, 2013 in Ottawa. Fred Chartrand, The Canadian Press

A day after he complained of stifling party discipline and sparked talk of a mini-revolt, Conservative MP Mark Warawa backed down Wednesday from his claim that he was being muzzled by his own party – even as his motion on sex-selective abortion was being debated away from the public eye.

“There’s no muzzling and no intimidation,” Warawa told reporters. “I respect the prime minister, I have great respect for him. He has my loyalty.”

Warawa made the comments as the Commons procedure and House affairs committee decided on whether his motion calling for the condemnation of the practice of sex-selective abortion would be deemed votable in the House, after it was previously rejected by the committee.

Warawa maintains the motion is ultimately about discrimination against girls, while the Liberals and NDP say it is an attempt to re-open the abortion debate and Conservatives have vowed not to.

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After hearing his opening remarks – in which Warawa told the committee “the future of Parliament is in your hands” – the committee took no questions from Warawa and then moved in-camera, meaning the discussions were done in private.

Conservative MP Joe Preston, the committee chair, said a report will remain confidential and will be reported in the House Thursday. “All reports are written in-camera,” he said.

Warawa said he was “surprised” the debate happened in private.

“It appears that minds were made up,” he said. “It’s concerning what’s happened.”

He said if the motion is deemed unvotable again, he will either reintroduce a similar motion or appeal to the Speaker.

Take a look at this interactive graphic from The Canadian Press, detailing the major players in the story:

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On Tuesday, Warawa spoke out against his own government for taking him off the list of members’ statements, known as S.O. 31s. Warawa wanted to speak about his work on the motion.

Warawa complained that stifling party discipline is preventing him from representing his Langley, B.C., constituents, and asked Speaker Andrew Scheer to intervene in what he called a breach of his privileges as an MP.

Warawa’s complaint was echoed by another Conservative backbencher, Alberta MP Leon Benoit, and backed by others.

But on Wednesday, Warawa backed down, deflecting responsibility from his own government to the practice of party whips clearing statements with the leaders.

“It’s a practice that has evolved in this House that is a practice that shouldn’t be happening,” he said.

“I think Parliament’s at fault for not permitting this issue to be dealt with earlier.”

Still, the move caused many to consider a fracture within the Conservative caucus, known for airtight discipline under Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Conservative MP Jay Aspin criticized Warawa, saying he went “rogue” on the abortion issue, which Harper has vowed not to revisit.

“[The] Conservative party has a policy. We had a policy going into the last election, and he failed to adhere to it,” Aspin said after the weekly Conservative caucus meeting.
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Fellow MP Larry Miller said, “we always have good dialogue” and refuted suggestions of dissention.

“Which one of us hasn’t had a disagreement, from time to time with our spouse or a difference of opinion,” said Miller.

“We talk about it, sit down like adults.”

Peter Julian said his party’s members submit their statements to make sure people have a head’s up about what subject MPs will be speaking about.

“My sense from the Conservatives particularly since they formed a majority is that their statements are incredibly partisan now and they’re written by the prime minister’s office. So you don’t have Conservative MPs standing up for their constituencies and standing up for issues that are important to them,” he said.

“I think that’s why today, why we’re seeing so much division within the Conservative caucus.”

But when asked if Warawa had the right to see his motion debated, Julian said no.

“The NDP is a solid and united caucus on the issue of choice for women. And so the issue of choice, we feel very strongly, that we do not re-open that debate.”

With files from The Canadian Press

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