Stand on Bill C-484 casts pall on (otherwise elegant) party
Yesterday, I got an email message from the Star's formidable columnist and blogger, Antonia Zerbisias, asking when the House of Commons would be voting on a private member's bill known as Bill C-484, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (injuring or causing the death of an unborn child while committing an offence).
Antonia, bless her, has been keeping her eyes on this bill, while the rest of us in the Ottawa bureau have been keeping focused on the other developing problems for Harper's Conservatives. There are worries out there that this bill is an opening of the door to entrenching rights of the unborn - which could reopen the abortion debate in Canada.
The bill cleared a vote in the Commons last night that sent it to committee for further study. Here's the Hansard transcript.
Women journalists were at an event at Stornoway, the official Opposition Leader's residence, when female Liberal MPs began to filter in and tell the news of the bill's clearance. Many were not happy. They were using words like "outrageous." However, some of their own Liberal colleagues helped facilitate the "outrage" - MPs such as Paul Steckle, Paul Szabo, Jim Karygiannis, Albina Guaranieri. It is no surprise that these MPs, long on the record as anti-abortion, voted this way. But it also demonstrates what an unwieldy caucus Dion has - power helped keep it disciplined; now, not so much.
At around 8 p.m., Stephane Dion informally addressed the group at his house. He made mention of the bill's passing and acknowledged the deep disappointment in the room. But he assured his women MPs that if the vote had been on actually passing the bill, Liberals would have turned out in force to defeat it. I detected a little sheepishness -- the Liberals not turning up for votes in the House is starting to be a sensitive topic. As it should be.
For the record, the bill's sponsor, Conservative MP Ken Epp, says adamantly that this bill has nothing to do with abortion. Here's a snippet of his conversation with reporters yesterday.
Epp: "Well I, I really believe that C-484 is very important because it addresses specifically the case where a mother has chosen to have a child. This has nothing to do with abortion, it is explicitly excluded. It has to do with where the mother has chosen to not have an abortion. And when a pregnant woman is expecting her baby, that is probably the thing that she wants to protect the most and she has currently in our law no legal protection whatsoever. So my bill very narrowly focuses on the woman who has chosen to have her child and where that choice has been unilaterally taken away from her...with somebody who had attacked her because that's the only way you can get to a, to an unborn child. But he takes away what she values at that stage in her life the very absolute most."
Antonia and I were exchanging messages last night and she tells me she's writing on this in the print edition of the paper tomorrow. Expect attitude.
Apart from this, and on a more social note, the party was quite elegant. It was hosted by Janine Krieber, Dion's very interesting spouse, and was intended to mark International Women's Week. (The irony of Bill C-484's fate, juxtaposed with this event, is almost too much.) Krieber had decked the house out in pink flowers and all the cocktail food served was pink as well -- lobster, pink-tinted goat-cheese canapes, red-pepper bisque and yes, even tiny hamburgers, served on pink-tinted buns.