Anti-abortion group aims to help pro-lifers gain positions in MPs' offices

OTTAWA — A group whose mission is to elect candidates committed to restricting access to abortions in Canada is trying to recruit pro-life people to staff newly elected MPs' offices.

RightNow has produced "a guide to advancing the pro-life movement as a political staffer" and is sending it to members as part of a pitch to persuade them to apply to become a political staffer.

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"We are on track to have a very good evening on Oct. 21, electing a solid number of new pro-life candidates across Canada," RightNow co-founder Scott Hayward says in an Oct. 14 email, to which the guide was attached.

"Our newly elected pro-life members of Parliament will be in need of pro-life political staff and it is of utmost importance that the pro-life movement has excellent pro-life political staff (such as yourself)."

Hayward did not respond to requests for comment by phone or email. His group was founded with a mission "to nominate and elect pro-life politicians," according to RightNow's website. The website also promotes an internship program for young people interested in politics who want experience on Parliament Hill and doing campaign work.

It is registered as a third-party advertiser in this election campaign but Elections Canada has no financial documents posted for the group, suggesting it hasn't raised or spent more than the threshold of $10,000 that requires immediate reporting.

The nine-page guide mostly covers the nuts and bolts of life as an aide to a politician — what kinds of tasks need doing in a political office, what a typical day's schedule might be. But it is explicit about the influence pro-life staffers could wield.

"There's a common saying on Parliament Hill that personnel is policy. Nothing could be more true; the people that exist in the space of decision-making and power (i.e. political staffers) heavily influence policy," it says.

"Everyone brings their own opinions, biases and experiences to the decision-making table and therefore if an office or a ministry is staffed with pro-abortion conservatives, the decisions, policies and actions made or taken by that office will reflect that side of the political spectrum."

Pro-life staffers will "have the opportunity to influence those around you," including in other MPs' or ministerial offices, to consider "the pro-life worldview and the logic of the pro-life side."

They'll be able to draw their MP's attention to news items and events with implications for the pro-life movement and suggest possible courses of action the MP could take, from issuing a press release to presenting a motion in the House of Commons. And, simply by their presence in an MP's office, they can be "a huge support and encouragement" for pro-life MPs to speak out publicly.

The guide also suggests that pro-lifers need not stop at staffing pro-life MPs' offices.

"While it is absolutely imperative that we have solid pro-life staffers assisting our pro-life parliamentarians and ministers, it is equally important to have good people staffing non-pro-life parliamentarians and ministers. This ensures that there are good influences around them and prevents them from being surrounded solely by pro-abortion influences."

Discretion is among the qualifications the guide says are needed to be a political staffer.

"Be careful who you tell and what you tell them, even within your own caucus or party. (This is especially pertinent to pro-life issues. There are many people within the parties who are not on our side and who would love to know what types of things we are working on so that they can work against us.)"

In his email, Hayward says RightNow has a "staffer co-ordinator" who will help those interested in applying to work for an MP and "ensure that your resume and interview allows you the best opportunity to come to Ottawa as a pro-life political staffer."

Canada has not had any legal restrictions on access to abortion since 1988, when the Supreme Court of Canada struck down the existing abortion law.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, who is personally anti-abortion, has said that a Scheer-led government would not re-open the abortion debate and he would oppose any attempt to legislate on the issue.

But Scheer has left open the possibility that backbench Conservative MPs could introduce private members' bills to restrict abortions.

The Liberals and NDP are officially pro-choice parties. While some Liberal candidates are personally opposed to abortion, they are not allowed to run unless they agree to support a woman's right to choose in any vote on the matter.

Green Leader Elizabeth May has said her party, too, is unequivocally pro-choice, despite initially saying that as leader, she has no authority to tell party MPs what bills they could or couldn't introduce.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 18, 2019.

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