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December 10, 2013 11:02 AM   Subscribe

Who's influencing reproductive policy in Canada? Unfortunately, the difference between the religious right in Canada and our neighbours to the south is not so much doctrinal as it is window dressing. The Tea Party’s "late term abortion" red herring with its attendant gruesome imagery very much parallels the "gender-selection" trope of the Conservative base in Canada. It’s a matter of media and public relations, knowing your audience and playing to its sympathies.
posted by Conspire (22 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
38% of Canadians voted for these criminals and clowns. I hate that Harper and his coterie have become proxy for "Canada" even among Canadians who know that the vast majority of Canadians oppose most of these measures.

905 and the rest of Ontario, really, has to get its shit together and not fall to the Tories again in 2015. We're (mostly) a lost cause in Alberta and were voting the same way in 1995. Ontario has to stop trying to be Alberta.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 11:15 AM on December 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


A few quick points for our neighbours down south who might not get all of the references made in this article:

Harper, or Steven Harper, is our current Prime Minister and the leader of the Conservative government. Currently, the Conservatives hold a majority in our House of Commons (which is to say that they hold over 50% of the seats). The way Canadian parliament works is that governments serve for a 4 year term - however, if the current Prime Minister's party fails to pass a bill, we automatically go into re-election. Typically, PMs only fail to pass bills in a minority government where they have less than 50% of the seats, and where a coalition of opposing parties band together to vote against a bill. However, in a majority, and especially with a party like Harper's Conservatives which has been remarkably strict about keeping its members in line with votes (particularly with political consequences, which has been widely criticized), they typically serve a full four-year term while reshaping policy as they see fit.

The omnibus bill referenced was a 321-page bill passed by the Conservatives that shelved multiple policy points into a single bill. Controversially, this bill included right-wing items such as immigration policy or veteran affairs or environmental policy within standard budget items. This type of bill took a leaf from the states and reflected a massive change in direction for Canadian politics - omnibus bills aren't very common here and are more indicative of American politics. (previously)

The media in Canada has been described as a monopoly with most of the news networks, newspapers, and other media, within Canada run by a group of tight-knit right-wing corporations. Rabble.ca, which the article originates from, is not affiliated with these corporations and brands itself as a left-wing opposition to the media monopoly within Canada. Thus, most of its criticisms of internships and media dominance are aimed towards this right-wing monopoly.
posted by Conspire at 11:23 AM on December 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


Canadians, perhaps in their anxiety to believe their own propaganda in the face of...views by the American public.

Right? The sense of northern supremacy is one of the least charming things about Canadian culture. To be fair the full quote was "in the face of the increasing validation of Tea Party views by the American public," which is apparently part of the propaganda.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 11:40 AM on December 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


While I more or less agree with the conclusions of this article, it doesn't make any persuasive (or new) arguments, apart from maybe the idea that the National Post has co-opted some language from US Conservatives. No mention of the Conservatives' attempts to re-introduce abortion debate via back-bench member's bills? And the idea that "Ezra Levant is a rabid free-speech proponent" is such an understatement I don't know where to begin.

The addenda provide more actual cause for concern.
posted by sneebler at 11:42 AM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


905 and the rest of Ontario, really, has to get its shit together and not fall to the Tories again in 2015.

Yes, let us frame this in terms of voters getting their shit together instead of political parties getting their shit together. Whatever we do, let's not ask ourselves why the Liberal and NDP platforms and track record failed to appeal to so many voters.
posted by Behemoth at 11:47 AM on December 10, 2013


Their platforms and track records appealed to more voters than the Tories' did. The total left vote (Lib + LDP + Green) in 2011 was over 50%.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:01 PM on December 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think this article does miss some real progress that's taken place that are concrete differences between the US and Canada.

First, and most significant, is that Harper has explicitly stated that the abortion debate will not be re-opened - meaning that the absence of a legal prohibition on abortions will remain. I cannot fathom any Republican politician (nor most Democrats) taking a similar position. Yes, he's allowed some of the most nutcasey pro-life members of his caucus (Vellacott, Woodworth, etc) to introduce private members' bills and motions, but those have not passed despite the Conservative majority in the House. One thing you have to give Harper credit for, is that he's usually pretty good at choosing his battles and a key difference in the Canadian and USian political culture is that being anti-choice is calculated as electorally risky in Canada, while pro-choice often seems more politically risky in the US. People voted Conservative because they were clever enough to internally suppress their social conservatives (you hardly ever see Cheryl Gallant getting to opine freely in the media anymore) and they seemed the most credible at the time on issues that people did care about, like economic management, ethics (as ridiculous as that appears now!) and crime (again, as ridiculous as that appears now).

Secondly, one of the upsides of the Liberal decimation in the last federal election is that their most anti-choice MPs were defeated, either by Conservatives or by New Democrats. While I'm not a Liberal and don't have much personal stake in the culture of that party, it's a positive development that there are far fewer powerful anti-choice voices in the Liberal party as they rebuild and rebrand.

I think we will have to deal with the spectre of anti-choice measures coming to Canada for a long time, perhaps forever. The influence of American interest groups is partly, but not wholly responsible for this. As for the media, I'm less worried about notable right-wing political circus performers like Ezra Levant, than about more reasoned commentators calling for "debate", such as Andrew Coyne. Coyne's call for debate seems reasonable at first blush (and if the debate was merely academic and not legislative, I'd welcome it). For someone who otherwise is a champion of civil liberties, this call to debate is a curious anomaly. For one thing, Coyne and others questioning the status quo on the basis that other countries have abortion laws and we do not, universally fail to make a convincing case for why the status quo doesn't work, i.e. in what way the medical establishment is failing to regulate itself. The only reasons that I've read from anyone are "women are still sometimes getting abortions" (not an indication of failure) or that "women sometimes get abortions for reasons we don't like" (also not an indication of failure necessarily, more likely the outcome of another social variable that would be better addressed at root cause).

But even these media flare ups are event based and rare. I'd like to see more access in rural areas, but with the exception of PEI and possibly Manitoba, these are more health system problems (a lot of medical and social services are relatively difficult to access outside of the major cities in each province) than ones created by anti-choice dogma specifically. Although, there's an element of anti-choice attitudes of rural family doctors influencing access by failing in their duty to help individuals navigate the health system.
posted by Kurichina at 12:02 PM on December 10, 2013 [9 favorites]


While I more or less agree with the conclusions of this article, it doesn't make any persuasive (or new) arguments, apart from maybe the idea that the National Post has co-opted some language from US Conservatives.

Yes I thought it was a pretty shitty article, too; large claims without a lot of research from a rabble rousing website etc. Metafilter doesn't screen for quality....
posted by St. Peepsburg at 12:03 PM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Whatever we do, let's not ask ourselves why the Liberal and NDP platforms and track record failed to appeal to so many voters.

...except that the Liberal and NDP platforms and track record actually appealed to the vast majority of the voters, while the Conservatives skated through due to vote-splitting, entrenched support from the West, and the unflagging support of most of the country's major media outlets.

38% of the popular vote is hardly a sign that the other two major political parties have failed. It is a sign that first-past-the-post politics is maybe not such a hot idea.
posted by Shepherd at 12:04 PM on December 10, 2013 [7 favorites]


As noted in the article, women in rural areas, and PEI, have no access to abortion in their community. I thought you might be interested in some of the research I did on this issue...

warning! hobby horse!

One of the pernicious ways abortion is restricted in Canada is through the reciprocal billing policy in Canadian provincially-run health care systems (excluding Quebec).

For most procedures, if you are out of province, you simply go to the hospital and have treatment, presenting your home province medical card. The doctors sort out how to pay through their reciprocal billing arrangements, and you don't even notice a difference.

Abortion is on a short list of services that is not covered through this arrangement.

For example, see the 2013 guide for Alberta hospitals on reciprocal billing (Secion 2.1 has the list of exclusions)

So, if you are from PEI, and go off island for an abortion, there is no guarantee your provincial health care will cover it, while if you break your arm, no problem.

Add to this the fact that students who study out of province stay on their home province medical for the duration of their studies, effectively limiting abortion access to a large number of women who are within the age group likely to need the service. Students are usually surprised to find out they have to foot the bill for the abortion, especially when they are told they could fly home and have an abortion covered by their provincial plan.

(Sex reassignment is also on the list, btw).

Some provinces have agreements to cover this (BC and the YUKON) but not all do.

Here is a letter written by abortion activists/law profs on this issue in 2008. (Some, like me, might find the lumping of sex reassignment with the other procedures unfair, though it is not as time-presses as abortion, I suppose... but back to the main point).

I once called around to find out who sits on the committee to determine what is excluded from reciprocal billing. I managed to find out that the committee is called Interprovincial Health Insurance Agreements Coordinating Committee (the IHIACC), and that the members are appointed. But good luck finding out who sits on the committee! (I have not been successful on that one) Here is a ruling of the Ontario Information and Privacy Commissioner denying access to records of this and another committee.

Actually, that asked for meeting minutes, perhaps I will ask for the members, and the process of appointment to the committee. :) ... Ok DONE! Will report back if you are interested.
posted by chapps at 12:12 PM on December 10, 2013 [12 favorites]


(On the out of province student, there are 800 first year undergrads at my university, about 60% of whom will be women, who come from another Canadian province... so over four years that represents about 1920 undergrads or about 11% of the undergrads at my institution who are affected by this).

/end hobby horse
posted by chapps at 12:16 PM on December 10, 2013


And jut out MP Stephen Woodworth is back with his protection before birth ideas
posted by chapps at 12:19 PM on December 10, 2013


The way Canadian parliament works is that governments serve for a 4 year term - however, if the current Prime Minister's party fails to pass a bill, we automatically go into re-election.

Parliaments expires after five years, not four, but no Parliament has been allowed to expire without being dissolved first. A prime minister with a majority in the House of Commons will typically request a dissolution of Parliament to allow an election to happen about four years after the previous one. If the governing party does not have an outright majority, it's possible for the government to fall on a matter of confidence (such as the annual budget, or the Speech from the Throne), but failure to pass ordinary bills that are not matters of confidence does not trigger an election.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 12:57 PM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


It used to be 5 years. In 2007, the Conservative government passed a bill for fixed-date federal elections, happening every 4 years (although they can also be called before those 4 years have elapsed). This is why we know the next election will be no later than 2015 (IT CAN'T COME QUICKLY ENOUGH).
posted by erlking at 3:13 PM on December 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


It used to be 5 years. In 2007, the Conservative government passed a bill for fixed-date federal elections, happening every 4 years (although they can also be called before those 4 years have elapsed). This is why we know the next election will be no later than 2015 (IT CAN'T COME QUICKLY ENOUGH).

Parliament still expires after five years; changing this would require a constitutional amendment. The fixed-date election thing is essentially a toothless feel-good measure, since the dissolution of Parliament is still up to the Crown, acting on the advice of the Prime Minister, exactly as it always has been. (Think about it: nobody can stop the PM from asking for an early dissolution, and nobody can force the PM to ask for a dissolution at all.)
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 3:52 PM on December 10, 2013


but failure to pass ordinary bills that are not matters of confidence does not trigger an election.

It's easy to overlook this point when Harper's minority government would make every government bill a confidence motion then dared the Liberals to vote against them while their leadership was in disarray and their coffers empty, explicitly threatening to blame them for an "unnecessary election".

the unflagging support of most of the country's major media outlets.

Yeah, something that is often overlooked is that corporate media in Canada is extremely consolidated and very Conservative. We are in many ways still living in the shadow of Conrad Black, even this long after his media empire has evaporated. In 2011, only one English language daily newspaper endorsed a party other than the Conservatives.

So 38% doesn't look much like a mandate to me in that light.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 3:56 PM on December 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Parliament still expires after five years; changing this would require a constitutional amendment. The fixed-date election thing is essentially a toothless feel-good measure, since the dissolution of Parliament is still up to the Crown, acting on the advice of the Prime Minister, exactly as it always has been. (Think about it: nobody can stop the PM from asking for an early dissolution, and nobody can force the PM to ask for a dissolution at all.)

While technically parliaments formally expire after five years, this is one of those odd quirks of Canadian government that really doesn't happen in practice - another example would be that technically the Governor General has the ability to refuse to give bills that have successfully passed in both houses royal assent and thus prevent them from being passed, but this power has never been exercised before and it's unlikely to be ever exercised. To my knowledge, every government has historically dissolved within four years - to not do so would create massive controversy for the government at hand given historical precedent and given that opposition parties will likely be pressing the government to acknowledge this precedent. In that respect, while it's constitutionally toothless, it's not so toothless on an electorate level. So in practical terms we can consider parliaments to serve for four year terms.

But yeah, even if the majority of Canadians do not support the Conservatives and their right-wing policies, in the end they do unfortunately have a majority government, and the near unanimous support of the media monopoly within Canada which serves to enable them. I do agree that we are well-ahead on the states on a number of social issues to the point that political directions that are seen as anti-choice, for one, are highly unpopular and risky political moves; but at the same time, I would argue as the article does that fear of making politically unpopular statements does not completely prevent the Conservatives from making more subtle socially conservative strikes that do not necessarily have to manefest as a full-blown re-openings of the choice debate (or other issues). This was the controversy behind the omnibus bill, for instance; and bureaucratic and systematic anti-choice policies are also visible in chapps' research as well. So personally, I would be very much concerned about the motions that the Conservatives have set in their policy, even if they do not really provide us with any new information beyond what we've always known about the Conservatives, and even if they choose not to directly implement their socially conservative policy for fear of controversy.
posted by Conspire at 4:33 PM on December 10, 2013


fear of making politically unpopular statements does not completely prevent the Conservatives from making more subtle socially conservative strikes

Absolutely. In fact it's to their advantage, because people don't know what they're up to.

Someone described Stephen Harper as a "determined incrementalist", meaning that he's still hard at work on his stated goal that "you won't recognize Canada when I'm done with it." To me, that means he want to create a neo-whatchamacallit free-for-all like his economic heros in the Chicago School (or is it the Calgary School nowadays?). For example, here's an interactive graphic of program cuts by the government during the Conservatives' tenure. Where I know something about the stories behind these cuts, I'm sure they're ideological and move us toward social conservatism, although I'm just as concerned about the anti-science cuts.

This sly, under-the-radar removal of programs, combined with the push towards more blatant political bias in government is changing Canada dramatically. I'm a leftist anyway, but I think people are going to be very surprised when (if?) they wake up and find that they're living in Harper's neo-Liberal paradise and the corporations who control our country intend to keep it that way.
posted by sneebler at 7:21 PM on December 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


It is a sign that first-past-the-post politics is maybe not such a hot idea.

It is not Harper's fault that the four major non-Conservative parties value their independent existence more than they value winning elections.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 7:30 PM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


> I'm a leftist anyway, but I think people are going to be very surprised when (if?) they wake up...

Most people will be too busy fighting over whatever scraps are left at that point to give any thought to larger issues. This process is already well under way.
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:41 PM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


To my knowledge, every government has historically dissolved within four years

There are some counterexamples. Most recently, the 34th Parliament ran almost 4¾ years, from 1988 Dec 12 to 1993 Sep 8.
posted by stebulus at 12:07 AM on December 11, 2013


To my knowledge, every government has historically dissolved within four years - to not do so would create massive controversy for the government at hand given historical precedent and given that opposition parties will likely be pressing the government to acknowledge this precedent. In that respect, while it's constitutionally toothless, it's not so toothless on an electorate level. So in practical terms we can consider parliaments to serve for four year terms.

Fixed-date elections were brought in for exactly the opposite reason. The worry was not that Parliament would be allowed to expire, but that the PM would call for an early election at a time when the government was likely to be re-elected (and such a window may have just passed for the Tories). However, the 2007 changes had absolutely no effect on the royal prerogative to dissolve Parliament on the advice of the PM.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 5:53 AM on December 11, 2013


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