I’ve given more thought to my support for a referendum on controversial issues such as abortion funding (the delisting question) and have decided that it’s Ki Ki Planet time. Ki Ki was a staunch support of the Wildrose Party until she became aware of the party’s position on conscience rights. She describes her own crisis of conscience in an insightful blog Pruned Bush: Confessions of a Wilted Rose.
I find myself in a similar position—having to backtrack—for a different reason. Unlike Ki Ki, I wasn’t an active Wildrose supporter, however their support of increased transparency in government, allowing free votes for MLAs and encouraging participatory democracy resonated with me. So when the Wildrose announced the citizen referendum process I jumped for joy. At last, an opportunity for citizens to make substantial changes in controversial government policies without having to wait for the next election.
Unfortunately (being the cool analytical person that I am) I did not delve deeply enough into the issue being proposed as an example for such a referendum—delisting abortions so they would no longer be funded by taxpayers dollars. I focused on the value of the process which worked just fine with the referendums on the federal Constitutional amendment, the Quebec sovereignty question and the repeal of the HST in BC. I focused on the fact that the majority of Albertans would never vote in favour of such a proposal in any event (I hope!). What I failed to focus on was the fact that such a proposal would create an illegal result and should never be put forward in the first place.
Here’s why. Federal law makes abortion legal. Consequently all of the provinces, including Alberta, are pro-choice. If the Wildrose proposal went ahead and successfully delisted abortions, Alberta would still be pro-choice, however in practice Alberta would become pro–life but only for the women who couldn’t afford to pay for an abortion. This would be both elitist and hypocritical. It would also turn the law on its head.
Lawyers have a saying: “You can’t do through the back door what you’re not allowed to do through the front door”. And yet this is exactly what happens if this referendum is successful: the legal right to choose is subverted simply by making an administrative change to the public healthcare funding schedule.
So I stand corrected. I’d like to thank you for patiently pointed out the obvious and I’d like to thank Ki Ki for demonstrating how easy it is to climb back off the ledge.
I’ll talk to you again after the BIG DEBATE. I can hardly wait.