A Liberal MP in Prince Edward Island says he expects to be permitted to vote pro-life in any future votes on abortion, but an official with leader Justin Trudeau’s office says that’s not the case.
Cardigan MP Lawrence MacAulay says his understanding of Trudeau’s “grandfathering in” exception for sitting MPs would allow him to vote with his conscience if an abortion vote were held in the House of Commons.
“He’s indicated that I can vote whatever way I choose. I’m, I guess, what you call grandfathered,” MacAulay said in an interview with The Guardian.
“I have voted pro-life all the way through.”
Trudeau announced last month all candidates who run for the Liberal nomination in the 2015 federal election campaign must support the Liberal party’s pro-choice stance.
But he included a caveat for MPs elected before he became leader.
“The existing MPs who have been grandfathered in, to a certain extent, will be respected to a certain extent in their choices,” Trudeau told reporters in Ottawa last month.
MacAulay says he believes this will allow him to vote pro-life as he always has on the abortion issue.
“It does not affect me. I have done and voted the way that I wish to vote and will continue to do so.”
But Trudeau’s office is now clarifying the intent behind the leader’s abortion policy.
Liberal MPs will be expected to vote pro-choice, says Kate Purchase, Trudeau’s director of communications.
“Mr. Trudeau believes that everyone is welcome to their own personal views, but it is important that Canadians understand that Liberal MPs will be expected to stand up for women’s rights in the House with their votes,” Purchase said in an email to The Guardian Tuesday.
MacAulay has been loath to address the controversial topic of abortion, usually leaving media requests for comment on the matter unanswered.
Last week, The Guardian was finally able to get a response from MacAulay on the issue by tacking questions about it onto an interview on an unrelated matter.
MacAulay says he does not expect to have to worry too much about it, anyway.
“No party has dealt with this in any manner whatsoever anyhow in the last number of years and it is open, so I’m not disappointed with the situation that I’m in,” he said.
But the issue did come up in 2012 when Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth put forward a motion that aimed to create a parliamentary committee to review the Criminal Code’s definition of when life begins.
Many believed this motion was a thinly veiled attempt to reopen the abortion debate in Ottawa.
MacAulay was one of three current Liberal MPs who voted in favour of this motion.
P.E.I.’s three other MPs indicated their views on Trudeau’s pro-choice stance last month.
Malpeque MP Wayne Easter said he was surprised by it, but supports it, as he is pro-choice.
Charlottetown MP Sean Casey is pro-life, however, and said he has personally struggled with it. But he said he will respect the courts and his constituents and will vote with the party.
Fisheries Minister and Egmont MP Gail Shea also voted in favour of Woodworth’s motion in 2012.
Last month she criticized Trudeau’s stance on abortion as “rejecting any potential candidates that respect the sanctity of life.”