OTTAWA — With abortion in the news and small parties wielding more power, social conservatives have their eyes set on Manitoba.

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This article was published 27/5/2019 (844 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

OTTAWA — With abortion in the news and small parties wielding more power, social conservatives have their eyes set on Manitoba.

"A lot of people are starting to realize that the big parties have not addressed the issues," said Rod Taylor, head of the Christian Heritage Party. Taylor is in Manitoba this week, ahead of a fall federal election in which he plans to have a candidate in each of the province's ridings for the first time. The party was founded in 1987.

Taylor agrees with the U.S. state of Alabama’s recent ban on abortion, which includes cases of rape and incest. He also knows those policies will push voters away.

"We think it’s important to speak the truth, even if society’s not ready to hear it," he said in an interview.

Since Alabama passed its restrictions this month, Liberal MPs have been claiming the Conservatives would reopen the debate in Canada — especially when pressed on government scandals such as the SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. affair.

Tory Leader Andrew Scheer has insisted he wouldn’t change abortion laws if elected, citing a vote last August by party members to keep the existing legislation.

Taylor predicts that will lead socially conservative Tories to exit the party, which had absorbed anti-abortion activists in the Reform and Alliance movements in 2003.

"The idea that they’re going to change a party from within — we’ve just seen that that isn’t going to happen," he said.

Taylor said MP Maxime Bernier’s decision to split from the Tories and start the Libertarian-minded People’s Party of Canada "has stirred the pot deeply." He also noted Green parties have started holding influence in provincial legislatures.

To him, Tory MPs such as Ted Falk of Provencher are a better fit in his party. (Falk yelled in Parliament a year ago that abortion was "not a right.")

"We’re expecting that the people of Manitoba are common-sense people who want the same things we want," Taylor said

He noted Manitoba is the sole province that explicitly protects a doctor’s right not to participate in medically assisted deaths.

Even if no CHP candidates win this term, supporters "will send a message to the other parties" about the pro-life agenda, Taylor argues, even if it means splitting the vote at the benefit of Liberal candidates.

Taylor said his party would restrict all forms of abortion unless it would prevent the mother or child’s death, jailing doctors who perform the procedure.

He argues the controversial Alabama law goes too far in allowing physicians’ jail sentences to reach up to 99 years — but he says exemptions for rape and incest are unreasonable.

"It is not the child’s fault that the mother was raped, but we do need to do something about rape," he said, suggesting promoting abstinence and respect for women could prevent the "horrendous" crime.

This week, Taylor will be visiting supporters at Brandon University and the towns of Roblin, Boissevain and Pilot Mound.

On Friday, he’ll hold a public meeting in Carman, a town with a large Reformist population.

The most recent federal filings show between 2015 and 2017, the party raised $71,000 from Manitoba donors, $30,400 of which has come from residents of Carman.

During this same time period, Manitobans donated $110,000 to the Green party. Comparable data to Bernier’s party is not yet available.

The party’s highest-ever vote result in Manitoba came in its first run, when candidate Don Esler took 5.56 per cent of votes in the former Lisgar-Marquette riding.

dylan.robertson@freepress.mb.ca