FILE – Andrew Scheer mingled and spoke to supporters at a Langley equestrian centre Wednesday evening. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance)

Scheer says he is personally ‘pro-life,’ but would not reopen abortion debate

Trudeau, before he became Liberal leader, said that he was personally against abortion

Andrew Scheer says he is personally against abortion, but promised again Thursday that a Conservative government under his leadership would not reopen the debate.

His political rivals pushed the Conservative leader to clarify his stance on abortion at the French-language debate hosted by private television network TVA on Wednesday night, demanding to know whether he is personally in favour of women having the right to choose to end pregnancies.

Scheer didn’t answer the question about his personal views on stage, and he has evaded such questions since before the election campaign began.

On Thursday, Scheer decided to elaborate, while arguing he has been upfront about his position since he first ran for office 15 years ago.

“My personal position has always been open and consistent,” Scheer said Thursday in Upper Kingsclear, N.B.

“I am personally pro-life, but I have also made the commitment that as leader of this party, it is my responsibility to ensure that we do not reopen this debate, that we focus on issues that unite our party and unite Canadians,” he said.

“That is exactly what I will do and that is why I will vote against measures that attempt to reopen this debate.”

READ MORE: Tory leader grilled on abortion in Canadian election debate

Scheer was pressed to clarify his stance on abortion this summer after it emerged that his Quebec lieutenant, Alain Rayes, had told candidates in the province that backbench MPs would not be allowed to bring forward any bills or motions on the issue.

That goes against party policy, which created confusion until Scheer, a practising Catholic who has voted in favour of restricting abortion rights in the past, said he would oppose any attempt to revive the issue in the House of Commons.

New Democrat Leader Jagmeet Singh said Scheer should have elaborated on his position sooner.

“The fact that he said it today, but he didn’t say it during the debate when asked directly, certainly shows a lack of courage,” Singh said in Toronto.

Trudeau, before he became Liberal leader, said that he was personally against abortion, but did not believe anyone should tell a woman what choices to make involving her own body. Trudeau, who is also a practising Catholic, told The Canadian Press last month that he disagrees with what the Catholic Church teaches about abortion.

As prime minister, Trudeau required all Liberal MPs to vote with his government on matters of reproductive health, and would-be candidates for his party are asked during the nomination process whether that would be a problem.

Asked whether his decision to finally say more about his personal views would put the matter to rest on the campaign trail, Scheer said he expects the Liberals to keep talking about it as a way to distract Canadians from their own record.

“It’s a historic Liberal strategy, that when a Liberal government was dealing with scandal and corruption, it tried to sow fear among Canadians. It tried to divide Canadians with false attacks,” Scheer said.

“So, I expect Justin Trudeau to continue to sow fear and division among Canadians, but Canadians can trust that as prime minister of Canada, I would not reopen this debate,” he said.

Trudeau, meanwhile, accused the Conservatives of trying to distract from their own record on climate change by making hay out of the fact that the Liberals have two campaign planes — one for passengers and one for cargo.

Scheer had brought it up during the debate on Wednesday night, calling Trudeau a hypocrite on the environment.

The Liberals said the campaign is buying carbon offsets for greenhouse-gas emissions the planes produce, and did the same for two planes in 2015.

“What we’re seeing here from the Conservatives is a classic and desperate attempt to distract from the fact that they have zero approach on climate change — don’t even think it’s important,” Trudeau said Thursday in Montreal.

“It’s a well-established far-right tactic to try and discredit environmentalists and people who actually want to fight the environment by distracting.”

With another major debate behind them, the federal party leaders were scattering across the country Wednesday.

They are all hoping that when the dust settles after the French-language debate, they will have broken out of the stasis the polls keep showing, despite three weeks of each party working hard to convince Canadians to support them in the Oct. 21 election.

Trudeau stayed in Montreal, where he met with local candidates and supporters. Scheer took his campaign to Atlantic Canada, with stops in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

Singh is in Toronto, returning to areas where he is hoping to take seats back from Liberals after an extended sojourn in British Columbia.

The Greens’ Elizabeth May and the People’s Party’s Maxime Bernier are also on their respective home turfs — May on Vancouver Island and Bernier in Quebec’s Beauce region.

Next week the leaders have two more debates, these organized by the new federal debates commission.

Joanna Smith, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Sept. 20 to 26

Rabbit Day, Hobbit Day and One-Hit Wonder Day are all coming up this week

Port Hardy Mounties help First Nation chief build smokehouse

‘We have great maya’xala for all the community members, in each of the communities…’

Emaciated grizzly found dead on central B.C. coast as low salmon count sparks concern

Grizzly was found on Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw territory in Smith Inlet, 60K north of Port Hardy

Access to remote Side Bay beach up in the bureaucratic air

Roads to the pristine north west coast Vancouver Island beach at risk of being deactivated

B.C. or Ontario? Residential school survivors fight move of court battle

It’s now up to Ontario’s Court of Appeal to sort out the venue question

Body discovered floating in water near Lasqueti Island

JRCC reports personnel aboard fishing vessel made the find

Young B.C. cancer survivor rides 105-km with Terry Fox’s brother

Jacob Bredenhof and Darrell Fox’s cycling trek raises almost $90,000 for cancer research

B.C. migrant, undocumented workers rally for permanent residency program

Rally is part of the Amnesty for Undocumented Workers Campaign led by the Migrant Workers Centre

Preparations underway for pandemic election in Saskatchewan and maybe B.C.

Administrators in B.C. and around the country are also looking to expand voting by mail during the pandemic

Nearly 20 per cent of COVID-19 infections among health-care workers by late July

WHO acknowledged the possibility that COVID-19 might be spread in the air under certain conditions

Ferry riders say lower fares are what’s most needed to improve service

Provincial government announces findings of public engagement process

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies at 87

The court’s second female justice, died Friday at her home in Washington

Comox Valley protesters send message over old-growth logging

Event in downtown Courtenay was part of wider event on Friday

Most Read