OTTAWA - Opponents of abortion should check their views at the door if they want to run as candidates for the Liberal party in the next election, leader Justin Trudeau says.
“The party that we’re building, and that we’re continuing to build as we form government, will be resolutely pro-choice,” Trudeau told reporters on Wednesday.
“I have made it clear that future candidates need to be completely understanding that they will be expected to vote pro-choice on any bills.”
This new “bottom line,” as Trudeau called it, goes a step farther than the past Liberal policy on abortion, which allowed all MPs a free vote on this issue and other matters of conscience, such as same-sex marriage.
Asked when the party had adopted this harder line, Trudeau pointed to his own election as leader a year ago — “when they chose a resolutely pro-choice leader with over 80 per cent of the support . . . of (the) membership.”
Sitting Liberal MPs who oppose abortion, such as John McKay (Scarborough-Guildwood), are cleared to run as candidates already and will not have to clear their positions with the so-called “green-light committee.”
But Trudeau said such MPs should steer clear of trying to reopen the debate within the party or within any future Parliament.
“My preference is that we not be engaging in the discussion of abortion,” Trudeau said. “For me, it’s a debate that has been settled for the vast majority of Canadians and we don’t need to reopen that issue.”
The declaration threatens to shine a spotlight once again on Trudeau’s vow of open nomination contests — more specifically, on whether the party is open only to those candidates who meet the leader’s approval. Trudeau is already being accused of weighting the process in favour of his chosen recruits, such as MP Chrystia Freeland (Toronto Centre), for example, and against anyone who stands in the way of “friends of Justin.”
Trudeau says that while the Liberal party has always tried to appeal across a broad range of the political spectrum when it comes to economics, he does not believe it’s too much to ask MPs to embrace the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It is, in fact, part of the screening process for new candidates.
“We check on a number of issues: how do you feel about the Charter of Rights and freedoms, how do you feel about same-sex marriage, how do you feel about pro-choice, where are you on that?” Trudeau said.
“And we make sure that the people who are stepping forward are consistent with the Liberal Party as it is now, as it stands under my leadership and under the feedback we’re getting from Canadians across the country.”
In French, Trudeau said Toronto mayor Rob Ford would be an example of someone who wouldn’t be allowed to run for the Liberals because he doesn’t stand for Liberal values.
The Liberal leader appeared reluctant to talk too much about details of how this pro-choice position would work in practice — if he would permit MPs to simply not show up for votes on abortion, for instance. “It’s a tough one,” he said at one point.
Nonetheless, he said he is putting a deliberate, pro-choice stamp on the party before the next election.
“As a party, we’re steadfast in our belief . . . that it’s not for any government to legislate what happens, what a woman chooses to do with her body and that is the bottom line,” Trudeau said.