A few notes on the Woodworth motion

That backdoor motion to re-open the abortion debate happens Thursday afternoon, but before you get too worked up, let’s remember a few things:

1) This is a Private Members’ Motion, not a bill. These motions are possibly the most harmless and indeed meaningless items on the Order Paper. He wants to debate about having a debate, in a vote the House can then ignore if it so chooses. At most, a successful vote will push this off to a committee to debate. That’s all.

2) Even if it passes and they choose to send it for debate, the law he wants to challenge (about legal personhood requiring full birth) is actually legally sound. The jurisprudence and history behind it are nothing what Woodworth describes. It has nothing to do with medical science, no matter what he insists. So he’ll end up looking pretty foolish in the end once the law professors walk you through it.

3) Harper doesn’t want to open this debate, and he’s just been reminded about what happens when parties try. You saw what happened to the Wildrose – the electorate doesn’t really have a stomach for “social” issues like these, especially in unsettled economic times. Yes, he’ll have some stalwarts in his benches who want to make an issue out of it, but he’ll be applying some backroom pressure to ensure that this doesn’t advance any further than this debate (on a debate). He’s voting against it. It sounds like the cabinet will be whipped into voting against it (though he may have a few strategic absences as a result). He’s not stupid, and this isn’t really his “hidden agenda,” because guess what – that really doesn’t exist. Really.

4) No, Harper really can’t get Woodworth to withdraw the motion as the NDP have been insisting, because it’s Private Members’ Business. Yes, the Conservatives have abused it to try and get stuff passed on the sly (witness the long-gun registry bill in the last parliament), and the NDP seem to have a central office controlling their PMBs, but it’s still private members’ business. It’s one of the only independent outlets that MPs have for their private policy hobbyhorses. Do we really want to codify that MPs have zero independence any longer and that their party apparatus now controls all of their thoughts and actions? No, I didn’t think so either. So stop trying to insist that this is what should happen – especially other MPs calling for it.

5) It’s just a debate. It’s not a bill. It’s a debate. No matter how the contentious the issue, we shouldn’t be afraid of debate. This is, after all, a democracy.