He may keep his pro-life stance well hidden, but Stephen Harper made it clear this week he’s not pro-choice.
The prime minister came down hard on dissident backbenchers after they initiated a small rebellion in the House of Commons.
The uprising was sparked primarily by Mark Warawa, who wanted to introduce a motion condemning the practice of sex-selective abortions.
The PM won’t allow Warawa and his fellow social Conservatives to even make statements in the House.
On Tuesday, Warawa appealed to the Speaker for consideration, in public defiance of party leadership.
After a closed-door caucus meeting, Warawa was singing a different tune Wednesday.
All the tension had magically evaporated.
Crisis? What crisis?
Warawa’s is only one in a long line of back-door attempts to revive the abortion debate, something Harper said he will never do.
The most recent was MP Stephen Woodward’s motion last fall to establish a committee to explore when life begins.
It was defeated in the House, but supported by more than half of Harper’s caucus, showing just how tenuous his grip is on party discipline.
To understand why Harper is so determined to quash this element within his own party, one need only look back to Stockwell Day.
Day, a Reform Party stalwart and first leader of the Canadian Alliance Party in 2000, was haunted by his religious past.
The Opposition dredged up his fundamentalist beliefs, as well as numerous comments he’d made about homosexuality and abortion.
Day denied being homophobic, but was adamantly against same-sex marriage, and even raised the spectre of invoking the Notwithstanding Clause to override a Supreme Court ruling.
Day’s “Young Earth” beliefs were constantly mocked by his opponents. Even the media nicknamed Day’s campaign bus “Prayer Force One,” and occasionally whistled “The Flintstones” theme on the trail.
As Opposition leader, Day’s image steadily declined in the face of numerous public gaffes and revelations about his past utterings.
In the end, he faced his own uprising.
Fed up with Day’s faltering leadership, high-profile Alliance MPs Deborah Grey and Chuck Strahl took a handful of caucus members and formed an independent bloc. They remained outcasts until Stephen Harper took over the party’s reins in 2002.
Harper realizes any resurrection of this former Reform element — perceived or otherwise — would seriously damage the Conservatives’ appeal to voters outside Alberta. Thus, the iron fist comes out.
Warawa and his pro-life friends may have backed down for now, but tensions still simmer.
It’s an uneasy alliance.