By Jonathon Van Maren
Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows that I supported Leslyn Lewis for leader of the Conservative Party of Canada during the last leadership race. We ended up with Erin O’Toole, the compromise candidate who ended up satisfying nobody by pivoting from “True Blue” to a spangled chameleon willing to say or do whatever it took to win the federal election—which, predictably, he ended up losing badly with fewer votes and fewer seats than Andrew Scheer obtained. O’Toole has since been struggling to maintain the support of his divided caucus.
O’Toole is clearly wary of Lewis, who is far more personally popular than he is. He declined to give her a shadow cabinet position, and even in the parliamentary seating arrangements assured that she would be out of the spotlight. I can understand why—O’Toole doesn’t need his base reminded once again that they bet on the wrong horse. But despite this, Lewis manages to remind many conservatives why she would make such a great leader.
When Justin Trudeau announced that he would be removing charitable status from crisis pregnancy centres, for example, O’Toole didn’t make a peep. Never mind that these centres provide much-needed resources to women who cannot find them elsewhere, from diapers to car seats to counselling. Trudeau doesn’t care—he will happily hurt vulnerable women if he thinks he can gain a few points with the abortion activists. But O’Toole declined to take the opportunity to simply defend charities who provide assistance to women for fear of appearing pro-life.
Both the Liberal and Conservative leaders appear to be fine with these women being collateral damage.
Leslyn Lewis has stepped into this leadership vacuum and has announced that as one of her first acts as a parliamentarian, she will be inviting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to a crisis pregnancy centre to see for himself the sort of support these charities provide. During the federal campaign, Lewis was one of the few (along with pro-life stalwarts such as Arnold Viersen) who spoke out on behalf of these essential services, stating that:
Too often, women find themselves in a position where they feel that the circumstances of life are pushing them to make a decision they don’t want to make. As a member of Parliament, I will be opposing the proposed illiberal, anti-women policy that would seek to strip charitable status from organizations that don’t pass Justin Trudeau’s values test.
Leslyn Lewis approaches this issue from personal experience. In an interview during the leadership campaign, I asked her where her pro-life convictions came from:
When I was a law student and was articling on Bay Street, I got pregnant and had to make a decision about my career. From a lot of perspectives, it was the “worst time” to have an unexpected pregnancy. People were quick to remind me that I could really destroy my career by working and walking around pregnant on Bay Street – never mind having to take time off between the Bar and being able to jump into a practice.
Many people, even friends that I thought shared my values, suggested that I have an abortion instead of destroying or impeding my career. Some friends even tried to go ahead and book appointments on my behalf in order to have a consultation to abort. And in fact, I was one of, if not the only, articling student not hired back by the firm I was at despite performing very well.
In the end, everything worked out career wise, but I don’t know if I would have been able to withstand all the pressure if I didn’t have a supportive husband to help me stand firm in my convictions.
There was, and still is, for women an immense amount of pressure at every stage of their career. Many other professional women told me that they had to have an abortion, as if there was no other option. My heart goes out to these women.
Supporting crisis pregnancy centres should not be controversial, regardless of your views on abortion. Erin O’Toole, who is pro-abortion, has the opportunity to show that he possesses empathy and common sense. He is so afraid of appearing pro-life, however, that I suspect he will not. I am glad that despite how the previous leadership race turned out, Leslyn Lewis is speaking out where he is remaining silent.