PRESS RELEASE: Party Discipline or Democracy; Pick One

Fox Creek, AB - May 9th

On Wednesday Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau announced that all future party candidates would be expected to vote pro-choice in Parliament and he will not be signing the nomination papers of candidates that refuse to agree to do so. Currently voting on this issue is a matter of conscience. The Pirate Party of Canada views Trudeau’s actions as a further tightening of party discipline in Canada.

It is also an open question how Trudeau intends to enforce this if MP Michael Chong’s caucus reform bill passes. Chong’s reform bill takes candidate confirmation out of the party leader’s hands and gives it to the local riding associations. If Trudeau is aware of this it may be a hint he intends to oppose the reform bill. The Pirate Party’s policy is to have a suggested way of voting for our MPs but not to whip the vote. Instead we will seek consensus through open and honest debate.

“I can understand Trudeau’s desire to have everyone ‘sing from the same hymn book’ on an issue vital to their party. If a Pirate Party candidate stated that they supported tighter intellectual property laws or increased government surveillance I’d have a hard time signing their nomination papers. However, if the membership said that is the candidate they wanted I would bow to their judgement. Ultimately party policy should be directed by the membership, not the party leader”, says James Wilson, Leader of the Pirate Party of Canada. “As well, there is a real danger for parties in requiring ideological purity; the party becomes an echo chamber repeating back the same view. It is the dissenting voices challenging the prevailing view that creates debate and growth. It is sad the Liberal party may slowly be losing this”.

The Pirate Party of Canada is a federal political party focused on thoughtful information policy reform, genuine democracy, civil liberties, and the freedom of the Internet. You can find out more online at .

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6 Comments on "PRESS RELEASE: Party Discipline or Democracy; Pick One"

  • Mike Scott says

    Unfortunately the Pirate Party of Canada has lost my support with this post. Should things such as Slavery or Human Rights be “debated” for the sake of Democracy? I didn’t think so.
    In a perfect world where every individual can vote on every decision the country makes via online-voting then this might make more sense. But with our current system of Old-White-Men making decisions for everyone, crossing our fingers and hoping that they will come to a consensus about basic Human Rights and common sense issues should not always be left up for “debate” just because some confused people think it is a “matter of conscience”.
    Try and convince someone that Child Labour or Slavery are “debatable matters of conscience.”
    Also, if you think that a woman’s right to make decisions about her own body should be “up for debate” then good luck in the future Pirate Party.

    • Mike,

      Thanks for taking the time to comment.

      If you have strong enough feelings about something to engage, I hope we can get you back. We need people who will act, rather than just staying on the sidelines. To some extent, I would prefer to engage people who disagree with us so we can learn to communicate our vision better and to refine our positions. James is something of a savant for expressing his forthright opinion and defending his positions while still being able to compromise appropriately and even change his mind.

      You are correct that fundamental rights should not be ‘up for grabs’ in a given parliament. For important things like constitutions and bills of rights, most governments, ours included, have special procedures that require more assurance than a simple majority vote in a single legislature.

      One of the main legitimate jobs of federal government is to protect fundamental rights against encroachment by anyone, including transient legislatures.

      At the very heart of our fundamental rights lies the right to believe as we wish and to express ourselves. If we have no voice, we cannot properly enjoy any of our other rights. Expression is important enough to be protected in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in the Constitution Act of 1982. Expression alone is necessary, but not sufficient. To properly participate in our own destiny, we need the right to cast votes for representatives as we please. The Charter proceeds as follows:

      1) The rights set out are guaranteed subject only to reasonable limits (paraphrased for simplicity).

      2) Everyone* has a right to the following fundamental freedoms: (a) freedom of conscience and religion; (b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication; (c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and (d) freedom of association.

      3) Every citizen of Canada has the right to vote in an election of members of the House of Commons or of a legislative assembly and to be qualified for membership therein.

      We all have a right and arguably a responsibility to claim our conscience and to speak our minds. We may do as we wish, but our rights end where other people’s rights begin. No matter how strongly we feel about a contentious issue like abortion, we have to respect the rights of others to voice their opinion. Our charter wisely protects a citizen’s right to vote as they wish. Pro-life campaigners, no matter how strongly you oppose them, have the right to voice their opinion and in a federal riding that is predominantly pro-life they have a right to send a representative that actually represents them.

      If we say, as Justin Trudeau has said, that only representatives who adhere to party dogma may represent their constituents in Ottawa, we strip everyone in that riding, regardless of their opinions, of their fundamental right to vote. A vote that is constrained narrowly to things chosen by others is no longer effectively a vote. By extension, establishing the principle that some people may be arbitrarily stripped of their rights is an assault on everyone’s rights.

      If you feel strongly about an issue, you can voice your opinion and campaign for your point of view, but you have no right to impose your will, no matter how strong your conviction. A ballot on the death penalty is not a legitimate ballot if it only includes styles of execution and fails to include a choice to abolish the death penalty. You cannot rob abolitionists of their right to vote just because your literal interpretation of scripture demands execution.

      What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. If we put in place a mechanism that effectively abrogates fundamental rights of others, in the fullness of time, it will be used to strip us of our rights. I doubt that you think of it quite this way, but you have expressed a wish to establish a principle that when enough people feel especially strong about an issue that it cancels out the fundamental rights of other people. I disagree, and mercifully for us all, my disagreement is enshrined in a Charter of Rights that is difficult to change.

      If Justin Trudeau wishes to undo the work of his father, he will have to follow the legitimate process to change the Charter. His personal conviction is not sufficient to strip people of their right to vote when he disagrees with them.

      As a party, we wish to honestly and properly represent *all* Canadians, not just ones with whom we personally agree. As a matter of fact, if I get my way, we will represent everyone to the best of our ability whether they support us or not. Unlike the other parties, we do not have a whip. If you vote a Pirate Candidate into office, you can rest assured that they will honestly represent the opinions and best interests of people in your riding regardless of whether those opinions and interests are currently in vogue.

      For us, your right to have your vote effectively counted is not contingent upon the current popularity of your position.

      A right to speak that only includes things which are approved is not an effective right to speak. A right to vote for a representative who can only represent wishes that are approved is not an effective right to vote.

      As Canadians, we have a social contract that is made explicit in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. A Pirate Party government would honestly and properly enforce that social contract, not just when we agree with you, but especially when your opinion is contrary.

      The protection of rights like free speech demands courage. We need to give the fiercest protection to those things of which we most disapprove.

    • Ric Lim says

      Mike, sorry to hear that our press release had caused you to have a strong negative reaction and concern about the party. Canadians are open minded people and I believe a genuine open debate will bring out our best quality. But the current political environment of leadership dictating policies does not help a cause no matter how good it is. You could have the opposite with a leader mandating that only pro-life candidates can run in his/her party.

      Going through a genuine democratic process of nationwide debate is necessary to settle an issue. This is especially true if the issue is contentious and divisive. Otherwise it will create a perception of stifling debate and add ammunitions to those in the opposite side. But an open civilized nationwide debate will bring out the real voice of the majority and leave the vocal minority with no choice but to accept the democratic will of the Canadians. A position come to by consensus is always more respected than one that has to be enforced from above. In this case, we believe it was unnecessarily heavy handed for a leader of a party to impose such restriction when there was no sign that a threat against the party exist.

      I agree with your sentiment and our party will be campaigning for democratic and electoral reform. We need to address the fact that our current system is unable to reflect the true sentiments of the majority of Canadians. We hope you would stick around to see how we plan to create a modern democratic government based on reason and evidence rather than alarmist hyperbole from all sides of the political spectrum.

    • “In the practice of tolerance, one’s enemy is the best teacher.” — Dalai Lama

      I am ‘pro-choice’. For me, that means leaving a difficult personal moral and medical decision to a woman and her doctor.

      I think that the aggressive ‘anti-choice’ lobby is wrong both morally and medically. They wish to play God themselves by dictating a medical decision in advance of even knowing the facts. If it is God that has chosen a course, then it is not up to them to change his will. If he has dictated that circumstance and free will will result in a particular decision, that is up to God, not up to them or to you and I. God has placed agents on the scene in the persons of the woman, the medical professionals taking care of her and her own community. It is arguably blasphemous to interfere.

      Whether you suppose there is a God, or you suppose there is not, for the most part this type of matter is out of your hands unless you are the woman herself.

      The ‘anti-choice’ lobby pretends that doctors performing this particular medical procedure, women having the procedure and families supporting the decision are thoughtlessly terminating a life, without regard to its presumptive rights. They entirely wrong. Even aggressively pro-choice people agonize over such a decision both during and long after the event. Nothing can make this an easy choice in the instances where it is controversial.

      Early first trimester pregnancy termination — miscarriage — happens naturally about half the time and less than half of those are even known about by the people involved. It is not some tragic anomaly. Depending upon the desires of the woman it might well be tragic, but it is not anomalous. It is part of the norm.

      Elective abortions happen almost exclusively in the first trimester or very shortly after the second trimester, long before the fetus is reasonably viable. There is no reasonable way to legislate this away even if we wanted to. It would require ridiculous and extreme state intervention and invasions of privacy. The capacity for abuse would be simply unacceptable. Invasive interference like this would be positively dangerous to some pregnancies that do not even had issues. The state has no right to do this.

      One of the reasons that abortion became such a cause célèbre was that women who found themselves with a pregnancy gone wrong, for whatever reason, were coming to harm. No reasonable person who understands the issue wants to go back to a time when women had to die or become sterile due because they could not obtain safe medical care. We cannot safely and humanely make a priori assumptions about situations that have yet to occur. We have to allow people and their advisers make their best judgement when the real situation arises.

      Third trimester abortions are very rare and it is hard to imagine any doctor participating in such a thing unless the mother is in danger. We already have legislation that would prevent something abusive here and otherwise the state has no place at the bedside with the doctor. I am subject to correction, but I do not believe that this is properly be the subject of new legislation because existing legislation is already sufficient.

      The above leaves not much to legislate. Of the few things that fit in between, we cannot second-guess the doctors we have put in charge or interfere with the rights of the woman to make medical decisions that are in her best interests.

      We may, on the strength of our religious convictions, make certain decisions for ourselves. However, to attempt to force our opinion on others opens the door to tyranny. The rules some people wish to put into place to replace the religious convictions of others with their own can just as easily be turned upon them to force them to follow a different religion.

      Thus far, I believe that the majority of Canadians, when properly informed of the facts, would opt for the status quo. We have reached a sensible compromise in this difficult issue and do not presently need changes. However, this is still a very difficult issue and it is hardly cut and dried despite what the polar extremes have to say. At some point the public has a stake in reproductive matters. We would likely disallow certain macabre manipulations and although we do not currently have laws in place for such a thing, should abortion come to be used as a tool for genocide or to select the sex of children too frequently, the public in the form of the federal government might feel obliged to step in somehow.

  • U.S. legislator that wants to ban abortion admits he has never thought about why a woman would want one.

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