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Prime Minister Stephen Harper responds during question period in the House of Commons March 28, 2013, in Ottawa. (Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Prime Minister Stephen Harper responds during question period in the House of Commons March 28, 2013, in Ottawa. (Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

SATURDAY

April 6: Letters and other talking points of the week Add to ...

Critics say Stephen Harper is either doing exactly what he should and delivering on a promise not to reopen the abortion issue, or he is the silencer-in-chief, muzzling MPs so they can’t speak their mind. Readers, print and digital, speak theirs:

Like Margaret Wente, I, too, am amazed at the number of left-wing papers and pundits who, prior to Stephen Harper’s coming to power, kept on about his need to muzzle his MPs, yet now complain about his control (Advice To Mr. Harper: Muzzle Them! – April 5). They should be cheering him on instead of complaining.

David Neal, Toronto

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MPs absolutely should not be muzzled on issues such as abortion. Allowing them to voice their personal and political position lets their constituents gain a clear understanding of what the MP representing them stands for – and whether they will vote for that MP in the next election.

Faith Mills, Winnipeg

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I urge the aggrieved MPs to quit the Conservative Party, form a new one and run in the next election under that banner. That will afford them ample opportunity to speak to issues dear to them and their constituents.

William Blackburn, Halifax

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Whatever happened to: I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend at all costs your right to say it?

Henry Slofstra, Waterloo, Ont.

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If the Conservative Party fringe gets to speak its mind, the party will lose a critical slice of voters.

The difference between winning and losing an election in our system is a shift by a relatively small number of voters. Just look at the shifting percentage of the “conservative” popular vote in the past five elections, and the effect on which party got to govern. The numbers don’t suggest a political sea change toward conservatism, but a minimal voting shift:

2011: Conservative popular vote, 39.6 per cent. Result: Conservative majority;

2008: Conservative popular vote, 37.7 per cent. Result: Conservative minority;

2006: Conservative popular vote, 36.3 per cent. Result: Conservative minority;

2004: Conservative popular vote, 29.6 per cent. Result: Liberal minority;

2000: Reform/Alliance/Conservative popular vote, 25.5 per cent. Result: Liberal majority.

I think we know what Mr. Harper told his caucus in that closed door meeting a little while ago. I say, “For the sake of democracy, let them speak!”

Robin Collins, Ottawa

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Let them speak and let the majority vote them down.

Grant Bowen, New Westminster, B.C.

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I was very active as a private member during my terms in Parliament. Every MP has the right (and the responsibility) to press his/her personal views, or the views of his/her constituents, in private members’ business for discussion. The private member does not, of course, have the right to ensure that any such proposal is voted upon in the House.

While some outside the House would prefer that some topics never be debated in the House, doing so risks the rights and responsibilities that underlie our parliamentary democracy.

W. Paul McCrossan, Toronto

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Most of us don’t agree with Mark Warawa’s views on abortion, but when the right to express them is removed, we are one step closer to extinguishing free speech in favour of one-man rule.

Anthony Burgess, Campbellton, N.B.

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Lawrence Martin repeats the current Press Gallery mantra that Stephen Harper doesn’t tolerate dissent (Harper’s Image Could Tolerate A Little Dissent – April 2).

Really? In February, The Globe ran a review of parliamentary voting records during the first Harper majority government. The NDP voted the party line 100 per cent of the time, the Liberals 90 per cent – the Tories, just 76 per cent of the time.

Indeed, under Thomas Mulcair’s leadership, three NDP MPs have left the party over disagreements with their leader. So just who, exactly, doesn’t tolerate dissent?

Claire Hoy, Toronto

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Pierre Trudeau remarked that backbenchers were nobody once they left the Hill. It appears, in the Harper government, backbenchers are nobody – even on the Hill.

Chris Phillips, Ancaster, Ont.

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