The lone MP to vote against Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s omnibus crime bill has been “disciplined” by his party. Queer NDPer Bill Siksay was outvoted 221-1 in Nov 26 2007 on the Conservative bill, which includes provisions to raise the age of sexual consent from 14 to 16.
Siksay went public with the knuckle-wrapping in the February issue of the Burnaby Douglas Link, his constituency newsletter.
“I decided that for reasons of conscience and despite the decision of my leader that all NDP MPs would be required to vote for the omnibus crime bill that I had to vote against it,” he writes. “Because I departed from the position of the leader and caucus I was disciplined.”
In the letter, he details what he called “serious challenges to longstanding principles of our justice system” pertaining to bill C-2. Those include tying the hands of trial judges, the introduction of a reverse onus for dangerous offender designations, and that the bill “criminalized sexual activity for some 15 and 16 year olds.”
Efforts to raise the age of consent have formerly been opposed by the NDP, the Liberals and the Bloc Quebecois. All three parties now officially support raising the age of consent.
Still, individual MPs have vocally opposed the measure, primarily because of fears it will limit access to sexual health services and be used by conservative school boards to delay teaching sex ed. Those MPs, including NDP MP Libby Davies and Liberal MP Hedy Fry, were absent or abstained from the Nov vote.
“Despite the tone of the debate when most opposition speakers outlined serious problems with the legislation, I was the only MP to actually vote against the bill,” he says.
“In our Parliamentary system, there are really only two choices when it comes to a vote: a vote in favour or a vote against. While some MPs choose to abstain as an indication that they had serious reservations about a bill, an abstention is not recorded. In our system, when you abstain, it looks as though you were absent for the vote.