A Conservative MP at the heart of a debate over individual freedom in Parliament has vowed not to give up on the issue of sex-selective abortion, even after a Tory-heavy committee rejected his appeal Thursday.
Mark Warawa, MP for Langley, B.C., said he was “very disappointed” following the committee’s decision to once again reject his motion from proceeding to debate in the House of Commons.
“My motion is not a bill looking for legislative change. It’s a simple motion looking for a condemnation of discrimination against women and girls,” Warawa said, following the release of the Committee on Procedure and House Affairs’ decision to deem his motion, M-408, non-votable.
Warawa said he will either introduce a different motion, or appeal to the House – an unprecedented move that would involve a secret ballot. As the House enters a two-week Easter break, he has until April 19 to decide.
But he said he will not do nothing.
The committee, which deems whether legislation is fit for the House, twice rejected Warawa’s motion even after the non-partisan Library of Parliament said it could be voted upon.
Some have speculated that move came from the upper echelons of the Conservative party, even the prime minister’s office, since the committee has a government majority.
Warawa set off a firestorm this week when he complained in the House that his own party prevented him from making a routine statement about his motion. It is up to the Speaker to rule on that issue, known as a point of privilege, when the House resumes after the break.
That fueled speculation of a mini-revolt within the Conservative caucus, known to fall under the strict discipline of Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Harper has repeatedly vowed not to reopen the abortion debate, although Warawa insists his motion – which asks the House to condemn discrimination against females occurring through sex-selective pregnancy termination – would do no such thing.
The backbench Conservative has since been supported on the statement issue by several MPs, including New Brunswick Conservative John Williamson, Harper’s former communications director, on Thursday.
“I believe there are limits that have been crossed that involve removing speaking rights,” Williamson said in the House.
In an about-face, Warawa then insisted he had felt no pressure from the higher ranks of the party regarding both his motion and his members’ statement, known as standing orders or SO-31s.
“It’s very healthy and important debate that’s going on in the House right now,” he said.
He also brushed off suggestions of leaving the Tory caucus over his motion.
“I have to be able to look in the mirror. My conscience is my guide, but I also am proud to be a member of the Conservative caucus,” he said.
NDP House leader Nathan Cullen, who sits on the committee, said the motion was rejected because it falls out of federal jurisdiction and is too similar to Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth’s motion from this session, M-312, which asked the Commons to study when life begins.
“We seem to talk an awful lot about abortion when the prime minister says we’re not supposed to,” said Cullen.
Cullen also spoke to the issue of members’ statements in the House Thursday, adding that without the rights of MPs to express themselves freely “our democratic institutions simply cannot function properly.” But he never explicitly said he supported Warawa or any MP’s right to give an SO-31 on any topic of their choosing.
“I’m supportive of Mr. Warawa’s attempt to stand up and speak on behalf of his constituents,” he said.
“We reserve the right and privilege to say things, even that we disagree with.”