According to a report by Hélène Buzzetti in Le Devoir this morning, Prime Minister Stephen Harper met for nearly an hour with his closest advisers last Monday in order to find a way out of the G8/G20 maternal-health abortion mess on the government's hands.
" 'Stephen Harper was furious,' according to a well-informed Conservative source … and is reported to have said: 'I'm in a bind on this issue and don't look forward to taking it into an election campaign.' According to the same source, the minister responsible, Bev Oda, is part of the problem: 'She's not a good communicator, she's pro-choice and is not persuasive when she speaks on the issue'." …
"At last Monday's meeting, one faction suggested that Mr. Harper deliver a major speech 'to set the record straight.' The other group [led by chief of staff Guy Giorno]ruled this out: "We must protect our base'."
An Ipsos-Reid poll published in today's Ottawa Citizen makes clear what must be of concern to Mr. Giorno:
"Forty-six per cent of those surveyed said the federal government should 'leave things as they are,' while 34 per cent said the abortion issue should be reopened and 17 per cent said they didn't care one way or the other."
Thirty-four per cent is roughly where the Conservatives stand in recent polls.
As to how Mr. Harper got into this bind, Le Devoir's source says :
"We're Conservatives, we don't think like the Liberals. … For them, it's clear that when you talk about maternal health, there's abortion. For our part, we did not see it. Not at all."
As to how the Conservatives hope to get out of the bind they are in, it appears that someone at last Monday's meeting came up with a third option: that of the anonymous leak. Followed by the inevitable question to the Prime Minister in a scrum.