Mr. John Harvard (Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia, Lib.)
Mr. Speaker, last night when other members of the House were free to vote according to their beliefs on a matter of conscience, the Alliance Party, which up until now prided itself on being a populace party, was forced into a whipped vote.
What is worse is in this morning's newspapers I read that the Alliance leader was warning that there would be consequences for members who did not explain their whereabouts. In fact he is publicly criticizing members, including one on his own side, who chose to abstain from the vote.
One of the fundamental tenets of a free vote is the freedom to choose to vote yea or nay, or in fact to make the choice to abstain from voting. While I do not support abstentions, MPs are obliged to make choices, I think.
What is truly appalling is the apparent decision taken by the leader of the official opposition to force his members, without due regard to conscience, to vote no on issues as fundamental as human rights. That perhaps explains the one no show. Whatever the case, the action taken by the leader of the Canadian Alliance is to be condemned.
Subtopic: Leader of the Opposition