Divisive politics at heart of Tory strategy

While the local Pro-life forces in Northumberland have not hit the streets yet, clearly the anti-abortion movement in Canada is gaining traction once more.
Thousands of activists gathered on Parliament Hill last week to show their solidarity with the Conservative government’s decision not to fund abortions services abroad under its G8 maternal health initiative.
So, it may only be a matter of time before Northumberland-Quinte West MP Rick Norlock gets public kudos from local activists, either outside his office or in some other public form.
Norlock is more cautious about his stance than Peterborough MP Dean Del Mastro, who joined the anti-abortion rally, suggesting a national debate needs to be rekindled.
Meanwhile, Joyce Arthur, a member of Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada, tracks anti-choice members of parliament. Norlock was not designated anti-choice during the 2004 and 2006 Federal elections, nor did he provide any public position when efforts were made to take away the Order of Canada from famous abortion rights advocate Dr. Henry Morgentaler.
However, Norlock did vote in favour of Bill C-484, the Unborn Victims of Crime Act, which is meant to introduce fetal rights.. Despite this vote, he is viewed as a wild card by abortion rights groups since he has kept his position such a mystery.
Why, then, are the Conservatives suddenly pushing a public debate on this highly sensitive topic? In fact, until now, Prime Minister Stephen Harper avoided this debate like it was the plague.
It would appear this is part of a larger political strategy leading up to a possible election. Harper and the Tories are looking to stir up a series of wedge issues that appeal to a right-wing base within the party. Abortion is just one such issue that will bring in votes from the Christian right.
However, this is not the only wedge issue. The debate over the gun registry is another one that will stir up the Conservative base and become fodder for a divisive debate within the country, as it has in the past.
Still another is the release of the documents related to the Afghan detainees. While a compromise was reached at the last minute, Harper and his government have skilfully positioned itself to appear to be defenders of national security and guardians of Canadian troops fighting overseas. Harper sound patriotic when he makes his arguments; meanwhile, a national disgrace is being swept under the rug.
This divide and conquer approach is typical in Conservative politics. Former Ontario Premier Mike Harris often used divisive issues to isolate anyone who opposed him or his government’s position. Harper is doing the same. He is also hoping these three issues will evoke enough strong emotion to get the Canadian snapping at each other, while he gains support from his political base to carry him to a majority government, even though these may not represent the majority’s opinion.
Hopefully, Northumberland County residents and other Canadians will not be drawn into these debates. Voters should not be manipulated in such a crass manner, nor should we be sucked in to these fights, many of which were settled years ago.
Norlock’s test will be his ability to navigate these troubled waters. It will be up to voters to throw him a rope or an anchor, if he fails.


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