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Election woes: balancing reproductive justice with combating climate change

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Green party canvasser in B.C. Image: Vancouver Ghost/Wikimedia Commons

This election is stressing me out.

I am not someone who is involved in politics in her daily life. I don't work for the government in any capacity, nor do I blog about politics regularly. Yet, I follow politics closely and subscribe to several podcasts. I watch the debates. I consider myself very well-informed on the state of our parties, the leaders, and their platforms, but I've had a bit of a quandary when it comes to deciding who I'm giving my vote to this time around.

I would rather not vote at all than vote for the People's Party of Canada (PPC). PPC Leader Maxime Bernier's comments about activist Greta Thunberg (claiming she was "clearly mentally unstable") were abhorrent to me. I also don't believe you should claim you are for the people of Canada if you spout rhetoric against immigrants. The few purple signs I see in my neighbourhood make me crinkle my nose in disgust (thankfully none of them are on lawns, merely on the side of major roads).   

I will also not be voting for the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) for a few reasons, but the most pressing being that 80 per cent of CPC candidates are anti-choice. Anyone who is considering voting Conservative but believes in reproductive rights should really think about what it might mean if Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer is elected. Yes, Scheer continues to claim his party will not "re-open" the abortion "debate," but this does not mean abortion rights are protected. First, while it could be a (possibly tense) discussion to have with friends or family, it's not a debate in the sense of legality -- framing abortion in that light is part of anti-choice rhetoric. Abortion is a health-care service in Canada. It's legal and we're not going back, so there's no debate there. Second, while Scheer claims his party won't introduce legislation regarding abortion, he refuses to clarify whether this means he'll block his members from doing so. Before the election, anti-choice groups have been making a concerted effort to get as many anti-choice candidates elected as possible, clearly, so they could bring forth private member's bills. These are bills that individual MPs can introduce as proposed legislation. In comparison, Liberal and NDP MPs must adhere to the party's position on the matter, which is that women have the right to choose.

Even if Scheer were to solve every other problem we have (from climate change to affordability), I could not, in good conscience, vote for him because of this issue. If the CPC is elected, my rights are under threat. 

Here's where my main indecision lies. Do I vote for the Liberals, who have undergone several not-minor scandals in the last year, to "block" the Conservatives from a majority, or do I vote for a party that isn't perfect when it comes to abortion rights, but cares about the other issue -- climate change -- I am desperately concerned about?

While I understand the idea behind strategic voting (and have done it before), I don't like it. If we simply flip-flop between two parties every election, we will never embrace a new way of governance.

As such, I'm voting Green. This is not a decision I came to lightly. I'm still worried about it.

I live in southwestern Ontario, about an hour from Toronto. I'm an older millennial with a mortgage and a child of daycare age. As such, I'm the demographic the parties are targeting with their focus on affordability. But do I care about that? Not so much. I'm more concerned about climate change. I am desperately worried about the future of our planet. Not just for myself, but for my daughter. I understand those people who refuse to have kids because they think it's cruel to raise them in a dying world. My next car will be electric. I have solar panels. I use beeswax wraps and make other small eco-friendly decisions in my home.

If the right people are governing, we have a chance to reverse or at least stall our own destruction. Yet, I also couldn't vote for a party that will take away my and my daughter's right to have an abortion.

That's why the Greens' waffling on abortion rights in the two weeks following the writ drop troubled me greatly.

I've very thankful to see the Greens have solidified their stance on the topic and clarified the misinformation, specifying that Green candidates are expected to support abortion rights. Elizabeth May, in the October 7 debate, made me smile in relief when she said "We must be clear as all leaders, and you are not clear, Andrew [Scheer], that we will never allow a single inch of retreat from the hard-earned rights of women in this country, not one inch."

But what really helped me was the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada's election toolkit, which includes a voting guide for this election. What helped me the most was the list of questions you can email or ask your incumbent (or current) MP regarding their stance on abortion and other aspects of reproductive justice. As such, I emailed the Green candidate in my riding and asked her whether she would stand up for women's (and LGBTQ) rights. I was pleasantly surprised that she responded to me the next day (I was expecting a week at earliest) and her answers allayed my fears. I can vote for the planet in good conscience that my rights won't be sacrificed, at least in terms of who I voted for.

Why not the NDP, you say? While I like leader Jagmeet Singh and his support for human rights on all fronts, I don't believe he will become prime minister. As such, I'd rather try and get the Greens some more seats. At least if it's a minority Liberal government with a strong Green presence, we should make some headway on climate change and I know abortion will stay where it should be: a constitutional right.

Tina S. Beier is a freelance writer and volunteer blog coordinator with the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada. She lives in Ontario and champions the causes of women's rights, animal welfare, and the environment.

Viewpoint: Reproductive Justice is a blog by the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada.

Image: Vancouver Ghost/Wikimedia Commons

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