Lib­er­als us­ing so­cial is­sues to dodge scan­dals: Scheer

The Prince George Citizen - - News -

Con­ser­va­tive Leader An­drew Scheer sought Thurs­day to put a pin in the ques­tion of whether his party would re­open de­bates on abor­tion or same-sex mar­riage, blam­ing the Lib­er­als for try­ing to ag­gra­vate an­cient di­vi­sions to dis­tract from their own fail­ures.

Scheer has long been on the record as op­pos­ing both abor­tion and same-sex mar­riage per­son­ally, and dis­avowed nei­ther of those po­si­tions Thurs­day de­spite be­ing asked sev­eral times for clar­ity.

In­stead, after a week of si­lence in the face of re­peated calls for him to ad­dress a 14-year-old speech he gave in Par­lia­ment against same-sex mar­riage, and con­fu­sion in Que­bec over whether his MPs could bring for­ward pri­vate mem­bers’ bills on abor­tion, he sought to re­as­sure Cana­di­ans that if elected prime min­is­ter, his own opin­ions won’t get in the way.

“While ev­ery in­di­vid­ual Cana­dian has a right to their own per­sonal con­vic­tions on any num­ber of is­sues, I will al­ways en­sure I am gov­ern­ing for all Cana­di­ans,” he said in a press con­fer­ence. “And on this is­sue I have been very clear I will not re­open this de­bate, I will op­pose mea­sures or at­tempts to open this de­bate.”

As a mem­ber of Par­lia­ment who is also a prac­tis­ing Catholic, Scheer has con­sis­tently voted in favour of ef­forts that were un­der­stood to re­strict abor­tion rights, and in 2005 gave a speech against same-sex mar­riage. Among other things, he said then that while same-sex cou­ples can be in lov­ing re­la­tion­ships for life, they can’t marry be­cause they can’t “com­mit to the nat­u­ral pro­cre­ation of chil­dren.”

Con­ser­va­tives had been ex­pect­ing his record to be an is­sue for them dur­ing the cam­paign, but were still caught off-guard last Fri­day when the Lib­er­als be­gan cir­cu­lat­ing a video of the speech.

While Scheer’s team tried to do dam­age con­trol by is­su­ing state­ments on his sup­port for the law al­low­ing same-sex unions, calls had not abated for Scheer to ad­dress the is­sue per­son­ally.

On Thurs­day, he said his speech was part of a now-closed chap­ter of Cana­dian his­tory, and he ac­cepts the law as it stands.

“My per­sonal views are that LGBT Cana­di­ans have the same in­her­ent self-worth and dig­nity as ev­ery other Cana­dian and I will al­ways up­hold the law and al­ways en­sure that they have equal ac­cess to the in­sti­tu­tion of mar­riage as it ex­ists un­der the law,” he said.

Scheer said the Lib­er­als were send­ing around the video be­cause they are afraid to run on their own record.

“It’s just the Lib­er­als who are push­ing this, try­ing to dis­tract from their record of fail­ure, cor­rup­tion and scan­dal, try­ing to dredge up is­sues from long ago in at­tempt to di­vide Cana­di­ans and dis­tract from their own scan­dal,” he said.

The ques­tion of Scheer’s op­po­si­tion to abor­tion, how­ever, did not resur­face at the hands of the Lib­er­als. On that, it was Scheer’s own Que­bec lieu­tenant sow­ing con­fu­sion, telling Con­ser­va­tive can­di­dates in the prov­ince that back­bench MPs would not be al­lowed to pro­pose pri­vate mem­ber’s bills to re­strict abor­tion ac­cess.

Rich­mond-Arthabaska MP Alain Rayes’ prom­ise ap­peared to fly in the face of Con­ser­va­tive pol­icy, which has been un­der­stood to al­low MPs to bring for­ward pri­vate mem­bers’ bills on what­ever sub­jects they like.

Scheer in­sisted Thurs­day there was no con­tra­dic­tion. He said MPs know they are al­lowed to hold their own be­liefs, but that they must also all work to­gether. While he did not ex­plic­itly rule out al­low­ing pri­vate mem­bers’ bills, he sug­gested they would not be wel­come.

“A Con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment will not re­open this is­sue, and I as prime min­is­ter will op­pose mea­sures that re­open this is­sue.”

Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau called for Scheer to be far firmer with his MPs. He pointed out that in the Lib­eral party, MPs are re­quired to be un­equiv­o­cally in favour of what Trudeau framed as “women’s rights.”

“Canada in­cludes ev­ery­one and lead­ers need to de­fend ev­ery­one, par­tic­u­larly peo­ple who’ve been marginal­ized. It’s not enough to re­luc­tantly sup­port the law be­cause it’s a law, es­pe­cially when it comes to the rights of women and LGBTQ2 com­mu­ni­ties,” Trudeau said at an event in Sur­rey, B.C.

Scheer said Trudeau’s de­sire to dis­tance him­self from his record was also be­hind the prime min­is­ter’s re­fusal so far to agree to take part in two sched­uled fed­eral elec­tion de­bates, and called on him to ac­cept.

Trudeau said he is look­ing for­ward to the de­bates dur­ing the elec­tion, but de­clined to com­mit to ei­ther the Munk for­eign-pol­icy de­bate or one be­ing hosted by Ma­clean’s mag­a­zine.


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