Tory hopefuls square off
Forum spends significant time focusing on abortion and assisted dying rights
The six men seeking the federal Conservative nomination agree in degrees on a number of things, including low taxes, pipeline development, and that as MP they would explore incremental restrictions on abortion as a pathway to eventually eliminating the practice.
The issue arose at Wednesday’s all nominee forum at the Medicine Hat Public Library to open a second half that featured questions from a packed-house audience selected by the party nomination committee.
Nominee Joseph Schow answered first saying that safe-quards are needed to protect doctors and patients under legislation proposed by the Liberal government.
“Our party is about conscious rights,” said Schow, who recently worked as a party staffer on Parliament Hill.
“On abortion we’re never going to see a black and white, yes or no question.
My job as your MP is to fight for incremental changes, such as (restrictions on) sex selective abortions, then on late-term abortions. “It’s called a foot-in-the-door tactic.” The winner of a party vote later this month will represent the party in a yet-to-be scheduled byelection to fill the vacant seat for Medicine Hat-Cardston-Warner. Wednesday’s forum was the second of two this week, and the last before party candidates vote later this month. Candidates were asked a series of questions that touched on low petroleum prices, democratic reform proposals, and how they would work to represent all areas of the vast riding.
The audience showed most interest in the question about individual stances on abortion and euthanasia legislation however, and the candidates spoke with the most passion.
It’s also an issue that some political observers have said the party should shy away from as the controversial topic could turn off more moderate voters.
Glen Motz, considered the leader among party voters in Medicine Hat, said on abortion “I’m pro-life, there’s no question.
“Unfortunately it’s the law of the land in this country,” he said. “(As MP) I will continue to fight that the rights of the unborn are not eroded further. I believe in the sanctity of life.”
Paul Hinman, a two-term MLA, who said his support for referendums extends to large social issues, and that parliament needs to hear directly from citizens.
“The sanctity of life is paramount,” he said, adding that the first step should be to limit funding for the procedure that he said was used as a means of birth control.
Michael Jones, a lawyer who lives in Raymond, agreed with Schow that an incremental gameplan “had worked in the United States” and that it should not be paid for out of health budgets.
“It’s not up to you and me to fund abortions with our tax dollars,” he said. “That’s fundamentally disturbing to me as a human being.”
Greg Ranger, a Raymond-based businessman, said his position echoed the others.
Medicine Hat businessman Brian Benoit said there is “no gray area” about his pro-life stance on abortion, but assisted dying is a difficult issue better left up to an individual, their family and their clergy, not government.
“I don’t think it’s something that needs to be decided by your member of parliament,” he said.
The evening opened with a moment of silence to honour the memory of former MP Jim Hillyer, who died suddenly in March.
Candidates agreed they would strive to continue the work of the recent Conservative government to keep taxes low, expand trade and restrict government’s role.
In his closing remarks, Hinman, a former Wildrose MLA, said he had experience getting results in government and was willing to stand up for his convictions.
“It’s a critical time in our history,” he said. “We can’t have a (Liberal) government that restricts our way forward.”
Motz, a retired police inspector, said he is dedicated to serving the riding and would continue to do so.
“I have a proven record that is decades long of getting involved in issues until they’re resolved,” said Motz.
Benoit said his business experience would help bring economic benefits to the region and help build consensus with members of other parties “I’m a negotiator.” Jones said the party should build on the work of Ralph Klein, Preston Manning and Stephen Harper.
“These men changed a province and nation, allowing people to build their businesses and their families their way,” he said, adding the party should spread “a positive conservative vision of this country.”
Schow told the audience his experience in Ottawa, means he can be effective immediately if elected.
Moderator Kris Samraj, left, addresses six nominees vying to the candidate for the Conservative Party of Canada in an upcoming byelection. The forum, held Wednesday night at the Medicine Hat Public Library, brought in a capacity crowd. Voting for party members begins on June 23 and ends on June 25 in Medicine Hat.