Will the Hair delay death and dying?

Obviously the Prime Minister is not a fatalist. He has been low key in response to the Supreme Court giving his government a year to do something about the current legal position of medical specialists assisting terminally ill patients to die. The time has come to take a stand on the issue and it is just not in his playbook. It looks like the Supreme Court judges will be asked for a stay of execution.

But bear in mind, the only thing the Hair has said on the issue is that Canadians have strong opinions on both sides of the question. Unlike his Justice Minister Peter MacKay who said that the government was unlikely to use the notwithstanding clause to continue to prohibit medically assisted death, he has said nothing substantive.

While the Hair has dithered, an emboldened Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau pushed the issue forward. He wanted the House to vote on an order paper request to have a vote on getting a committee established to examine the issue. This is the normal procedure other than the government party usually puts such motions forward. It was one of the Hair’s back bench flunkies who responded with the notion of asking for a six month delay—until after the coming election.

And while the New Democrats are likely to back the Liberals on the issue, they have also been strangely silent. This is surprising as the Quebec government has used its responsibility for health care to get ahead of the Supreme Court and pass an assisted suicide bill that will come into effect at the end of 2015 in Quebec. The question is whether a Conservative federal government would go as far in relaxing the restrictions as the Quebec bill has done.

In any event, New Democrat Leader Thomas Mulcair will not have his English-French schizophrenia to contend with on this issue. This is an issue where some of his MPs would normally want to be in the vanguard.

But it is a Liberal issue. The right to die at a time of your choosing is an individual right. It is not something you really want the state to decide. In Canada the state is out of the business of capital punishment. While the occasional cantankerous bugger wants to restore the death penalty, it is hard to imagine Canadians returning to retribution.

And what the Hair knows—and keeps him awake nights—is that Canada is a basically liberal country. This country is not only live and let live but it also recognizes the right of a terminally ill person to end their suffering.

But the question has come down to convenience for the Hair. If he had turned loose the social conservative portion of his party in the past four years he would not run in the coming election because his party’s chances would already be toast. Will Justin Trudeau be able to back him into a corner on this issue? Methinks the Hair wants to pass.


Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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