The abortion debate has divided Canadians for decades, especially within the Conservative Party, and that’s precisely why Andrew Scheer says he’s staunchly opposed to reopening the issue.
In advance of a vote on the subject at the party’s policy convention Scheer told CBC Radio’s The House he’s not interested in creating a chasm between Canadians — or his own caucus.
“I have made it very clear, I will not reopen these types of divisive social issues,” Scheer told host Chris Hall.
One of the policy resolutions being put to a vote Saturday afternoon at the Conservative Party convention deals with the party’s line on abortion legislation.
The motion — moved forward on Friday by just over 80 per cent of delegates — seeks to remove the article dealing with the party’s official position from its policy book, which currently states, “A Conservative Government will not support any legislation to regulate abortion.”
The resolution would open the issue up for further debate and free a Conservative government to introduce anti-abortion legislation.
While factions of the Opposition party are pro-life, former prime minister Stephen Harper and now Scheer both refused to reopen the legislation.
“We have a variety of views in our party, a variety of views in our caucus. We will not be reintroducing this type of legislation that would divide our caucus and divide Canadians,” Scheer insisted.
Unity has been the underlying theme of Scheer’s message to the convention, highlighted even more after he faced the departure of MP Maxime Bernier, who said the party was too “intellectually and morally corrupt” to be reformed.
Scheer’s speech on Friday at the convention emphasized the need to move forward together as one cohesive party.
Conservative caucus split despite hard line from leader
Under the previous Harper government, six Conservative backbench MPs introduced bills or motions dealing with abortion.
During the last federal election, Conservative MP Rachael Harder said she would introduce and pass laws to protect “unborn children,” while adding she believed life begins at the time of conception.
Canada’s pre-existing abortion law was struck down in 1988 by the Supreme Court of Canada. The justices ruled it violated a woman’s right to “life, liberty and security of person.”
In May, Conservative MP Ted Falk caused controversy in the House of Commons after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised his government would always defend the right of women to have an abortion.
In response, Falk yelled out: “It’s not a right.”
Scheer later said he had spoken with Falk about the incident.
The Conservative leader has spoken out in opposition of the Liberals’ summer jobs funding application form, which required organizations applying for grants to confirm they supported a woman’s reproductive rights.
“I believe that the federal government should respect the freedoms that Canadians enjoy to have different beliefs and that by imposing personal values of Justin Trudeau on a wide variety of groups is not an appropriate way to go,” Scheer said in January.
There were at least two pro-life exhibition booths at the Conservative Party’s convention in Halifax this week. The convention will finish voting on planks for its 2019 platform Saturday afternoon.