A little noticed finding earlier in the week reinforced my hesitancy:
The poll indicates fully 74 per cent believed the plan should include government funding for contraception; only 21 per cent were opposed.
But respondents were almost evenly split as to whether Harper's initiative should include funding for abortion services, with 48 per cent opposed and 46 per cent in favour.
What the above shows, a wide chasm between contraception and abortion, resulting in a net benefit for the Conservatives, if positioned to stay ALONE in opposition. In other words, you can score the desired points on the contraception question, but that evaporates as soon as you introduce abortion. 48% of respondents are opposed, the slightest plurality, but legions above the current Conservative support level. Those that oppose are left with one option, the Conservative Party of Canada, whereas the opposition divides the rest. I believe our "thrust" here was tactical, which makes the decision all the more baffling. We didn't have the support on the abortion question, both inside and outside of our caucus. If anything the tension within the Liberal ranks is representative of wider problem, that should have been recognized.
Again, I'm not addressing the moral questions here, merely the strategy. If you accept the premise that the Liberals were motivated by a desire to embarrass the Conservatives (which they clearly were), then within this lens, the whole thing was nuts from the start. There were many different angles to challenge the government on this file, they are hardly credible and this initiative has all the hallmarks of opportunism. Unfortunately, that point is lost, because it is met with equal opportunism.
People are calling for sanctions against the Liberal MP's who didn't support our motion. I understand the frustration, but really it's a distraction, because the real culprit here is a poorly thought out "plan", the inherent pitfalls should have been obvious and the blame lies where it should and has already been articulated. The Liberals were a paper tiger on this issue from the start, and that we plowed ahead DESPITE internal and external cues, is disappointing. Hardly a positive to head into the "thinkers conference" with a "what were they thinking?" debate.
Even if the motion passed last night, politically speaking there was no upside for the Liberals. More succinctly, just as much risk as reward, which made the whole proposition dicey from the start.