• John G. Stackhouse, Jr.

Why Dig in? Clues to the Liberals’ Stubbornness over the Summer Jobs Program

There’s a lot not to like about the Summer Jobs Program fiasco. The Liberal government’s insistence that employers conform with its ideology in order to gain tax dollars to support student employment has been eviscerated from coast to coast.

What abides, however, is its weirdness, and the weird intransigence of the government. What really is The Wrong that it is meant to put right, and why do they keep defending their stance?

According to the Prime Minister and the Employment Minister, they had “reports” of two problems they wanted to fix.

The first was that at least one organization (Just a second: an entire federal policy change to deal with one organization?) employed students to press a pro-life campaign. That campaign included the photos of aborted fetuses (typical of such crusades) that shocked complainants.

So what precisely is wrong with that?

Even from a prochoice point of view, surely the federal government should support, not oppose, organizations playing an active role in a civic discussion of a vexed—and unsolved—political matter. Shouldn’t a responsible government, in this age of low voter turnout and decreasing engagement in political life, want to encourage young people to get involved in serious public questions, even if they are (for now) on a side different from that of the current government?

What about those offensive photos, however? Now we’re getting into censorship of free speech, and a form that is almost silly, as well as sinister: “You can express your point of view, but only by means that don’t bother other people.”

But besides that non-trivial matter—which is a genuine Charter question—what photos would be more germane to the issue? These pictures document exactly what prochoice spokespeople characteristically deny: that there is another human involved along with the mother.

How else to demonstrate that “safe abortion” isn’t safe for the fetus? How else to help adults make adult decisions, which means facing the full implications of their choices—to practice, indeed, “informed consent”?

The rejoinder from the Liberal government has been that prolife views contradict the rights of Canadians and laws of the land. But as legions of journalists, lawyers, and professors have pointed out, they don’t. There is no “right to abortion” in Canadian law. Indeed, there is no law governing abortion at all.

Okay, but what about the previous Conservative government restricting overseas aid to those in line with its own policies on reproduction and reproductive rights?

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