Ever since Stéphane Dion took over the helm of the badly listing Liberal ship following the party’s defeat in 2006 and a prolonged leadership contest that followed, we’ve been told by the Conservative party and its supporters that the former academic and cabinet minister is “not a leader.” By contrast, Stephen Harper has been touted as the embodiment of “leadership” — a principled man of conscience that’s unconcerned by the whims of popular opinion polls and is unafraid to stake out forward positions on a range of controversial issues. Or so the story goes.
Yesterday, in response to a question at a town hall meeting about the Unborn Victims of Crime Act, the pending bill that would make it a criminal offence to harm an unborn child during an attack on its mother, Dion stated that he opposed because it might infringe on women’s access to abortion. “We need to protect everyone against crime but, at the same time, it happens that I believe in the rights of women to choose and I have a lot of respect for the people who have a different view,” he told the crowd.
Dion then went on to ask that Stephen Harper to state his own position on abortion. “I think all Canadians have the right to know what the party leader thinks,” he said. “I gave my opinion. I want to hear the opinion of Stephen Harper.” A fair enough question it seems.
So how did our fearless “leader” respond? Harper had Darren Eke, some flunky in the PMO, send an e-mail distancing the government from the private member’s bill and further stating that the government “no intention to reopen the debate on abortion.” Wow. That was quite some “leadership” there. So much for appealing to the “silent majority” of social conservatives that have long been ignored by the media, but are supposed to living in what’s imagined will soon become “Harperland” after the next election.