Okanagan-Shuswap MP Colin Mayes took the less popular position in a controversial free vote in the House of Commons.
Out of 203 MPs, Mayes was one of 91 who voted for a motion that would have parliamentarians study when life begins, or when a fetus becomes a human. Of Conservative MPs themselves, a majority, 87 of 163, voted for the motion. Prime Minister Stephen Harper was not one of those who voted in favour – and this was the first time Mayes has voted against him.
The contentious motion was seen by many Canadians in opposition to it as a step back for women’s rights and a move towards re-criminalizing abortion, but Mayes contends he didn’t have a particular agenda.
“To me, what I voted for was, OK let’s have a discussion,” he said.
“I’m not afraid of the discussion. Through that discussion, once recommendations come forward – I have my views and might have to make some compromises – I would look at that and talk to my constituents. I don’t see a problem having that discussion.”
He said there is no set term for a limit on when an abortion can be performed in Canada, but in European countries, most are around 10 or 12 weeks.
“If there was a decision that came out of the recommendation from the committee that would look into the issue, maybe we need to set a time frame – that you need to abort before a certain time frame, or whatever. I was willing to look at that in light of what other countries have done.”
Mayes says a discussion hasn’t taken place since the Trudeau era.
“A lot has changed in science in the last 40 years. I don’t think there has been in the last 40 years, what I would call a formal discussion. Some opinions by various groups have been thrown out there, and the media has played referee to the two opinions. It hasn’t been a healthy confrontation. That was my thought, we need to have a healthy discussion.”
Asked if he was representing the wishes of his constituents, he said: “I’ve always said this, I’ve been very plain, I’ve been right up front. If it’s a vote of conscience I will always vote my conscience, I’m not representing you. I have to stand for those things I believe. I think people respect that… The issue we dealt with was to have a discussion. I don’t think I let my constituents down.”
He says surveys suggest 60 to 80 per cent of Canadians think there should be a time limit on abortion.