I suspect the Senator's colorful intervention yesterday really was intended as friendly advice rather than a threat, and the evolution of Liberal Status of Women Critic Anita Neville's response to this advice, from understanding to condemnation, tracks the LPoC's realization that they had come upon a politically exploitable moment. But whatever.
Senator Elaine McCoy has indentified the deeper significance in Ms. Ruth's outburst:
Senator Nancy Ruth (ON) has never in her life shied away from a fight. When women stormed the barricades in 1981 to insist on including gender equality in the new Charter of Rights and Freedoms, for example, she was right there. Ever since then, she's dedicated herself to supporting women, and even maintains a website called Section15.ca which helps keep the Charter success alive. Now, thirty years later, she's reduced to advocating silence for fear of escalating backlash against women's rights.
I've been hearing countless anecdotes of how this government is systematically quelling any activity that does not support its own point of view. Groups have been told to remove any reference to gender equality in their application for funding, for instance, and all advocacy funding has been eliminated. But so far, no collective and sustained public protest has emerged. In fact, it would seem to me that many non-governmental organizations have been following the senator's advice for several years now.
Oddly enough, Senator Nancy Ruth's impassioned plea to keep quiet may have the reverse effect. A member of yesterday's audience told me that one panelist responded to her by saying their silence over the past few years has only served to make matters worse. Could it be that this very public event will galvanize them into organizing a collective response? Let's hope so. At the very least, it gives us one more testimonial to the insidious way in which the Harper government is doing its level best to change the DNA of our nation.
As to Ruth's suggestion that Harper might make abortion an election issue, I doubt it. The whole point behind the Liberals' poking and prodding the government over this for the past couple of months has been to encourage just such an outcome. The result has been that the Tories rapidly distanced themselves from Rod Bruinooge's no-hope private member's bill, and their endless squirming over whether to include contraception and/or abortion in the G8 Maternal Health initiative. And the end-game of all this squirming (I suspect) will likely be that abortion is included in the final plan, but (as I've explained here) some means will be found by which the Canadian government's financial contribution to that portion of the plan can be disguised.
In any case, they've been playing defense on this issue for weeks now. It's definitely not something they'd want to campaign on.