Saturday May 25, 2019
Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Saturday May 25, 2019
Andrew Scheer really doesn’t want to talk about abortion
“As I’ve said, many, many times before,” Andrew Scheer said on Wednesday, “a Conservative government will not reopen this debate.
“I’ve been very clear on this … I’ve made it very clear. We will not reopen this debate.”
A fair bit depends on how broadly Scheer defines the word “we.”
At any rate, the example of Stephen Harper suggests the debate over abortion isn’t one that a Conservative leader can easily avoid.
On Wednesday, Scheer was asked whether he would allow Conservative MPs to introduce legislation related to abortion and, if so, whether he would allow those MPs to vote freely on such proposals.
Such questions have been coming up a lot lately, prompted by a wave of new legislation to restrict access to abortion services in the United States and by comments Scheer himself made when he was seeking the leadership of the Conservative Party.
Justin Trudeau’s Liberals have leaned into the debate, publicly pressuring Scheer over the fact that a dozen Conservative MPs recently attended an anti-abortion rally on Parliament Hill.
On Wednesday, Scheer accused the Liberals of “trying to import a divisive issue” from the United States to split Canadians and distract from the government’s recent troubles. But he also stopped short of directly answering the questions he was asked.
Based on what he said during the Conservative leadership race, Scheer’s answer to those specific questions would seem to be “yes.” Those campaign comments suggested that, while a Scheer government would not itself introduce abortion legislation, Conservative backbenchers would be free to do so and Conservatives would be free to vote their “conscience” on those bills or motions.
That roughly corresponds with official Conservative policy on such matters and relies on a legitimate parliamentary distinction between the MPs who are part of the government (cabinet ministers, parliamentary secretaries) and those who are not (the backbenchers who are members of the governing party, but not part of the executive).
If that’s still Scheer’s position, he might just say so. But he also wouldn’t be the first Conservative leader to have second thoughts about indulging the backbench. (CBC)