Abortion views will not be imposed on party members: Harper

Teresa Wright twright@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on June 19, 2014

Prime Minister Stephen Harper says he does not believe his party’s views on abortion should be imposed on party members.

Harper was responding to a P.E.I. Liberal MP reversing his position Wednesday on how he will vote in Parliament if abortion is raised after party leader Justin Trudeau clarified that all Liberal MPs will be expected to vote pro-choice.

The prime minister said today he does not wish to reopen the abortion debate, but indicated he does not believe in imposing party policies on MPs in matters of conscience.

“The reality is, in public life there are issues that engage people’s moral views, engage their faith, engage their most deeply-held beliefs,” Harper said during his visit in Charlottetown today.

“It’s our party’s view that on those issues, you cannot impose views on people.”

Earlier this week, The Guardian published an article in which Cardigan MP Lawrence MacAulay said he planned to vote pro-life in any future votes on abortion despite the fact Trudeau announced a month ago party members must support the Liberal party's pro-choice stance.

At that time, Trudeau included a “grandfathering in” caveat for sitting MPs.

MacAulay said he understood this to mean he would be allowed to vote with his conscience on abortion, adding he is “pro-life all the way through.”

But Trudeau clarified this yesterday, explaining his ‘grandfathering in’ caveat was meant only to allow sitting anti-abortion MPs to seek the nominations in their ridings.

They would still be expected to vote pro-choice, regardless of their personal feelings, Trudeau told reporters in Ottawa Wednesday.

“The policy going forward is that every single Liberal MP will be expected to stand up for women's rights to choose.”

MacAulay then issued a statement Wednesday, reversing his position.

“Despite my personal beliefs, I understand that I will have to vote the party position should this issue ever come up in the House of Commons,” he said yesterday in an email to The Guardian.

Harper said today he would “let them keep arguing about it,” but was clear he would not be following Trudeau’s lead.

“You have to let people be able to express and represent their own views, and our party does do that, and we have people with a range of views on that particular question,” Harper said.

The prime minister is in P.E.I. to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Charlottetown Conference. He announced funding for the celebrations and re-announced funding to help renovate Province House, the building where the Fathers of Confederation met in 1864 to discuss the formation of Canada.

 

twright@theguardian.pe.ca

Twitter.com/GuardianTeresa

Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Charlottetown