Jane Philpott makes an announcement regarding her political future as running in the next federal election as an independent in Markham, Ont., on Monday, May 27, 2019. Philpott says she stands by the commitment she made as a Liberal candidate to support access to abortion.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Abortion, same-sex marriage fights feed cynicism: ex-Liberal Philpott

She called it a “highly opportunistic” move by the Liberals

Jane Philpott is standing by the pledge she made as a Liberal candidate to support access to abortion despite her beliefs, but accuses her former party of playing politics with a deeply personal issue.

The former cabinet minister is now running for re-election as an Independent in her suburban Toronto riding after being kicked out of the Liberal caucus in the wake of the SNC-Lavalin affair. She said there are some areas where she might vote differently from her former party if she returns to Ottawa after the Oct. 21 vote.

But abortion, which she described as a right that is both protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and upheld by the courts, is not one of the issues where she plans to change her approach.

“The commitment that I made as a Liberal not to oppose access to abortion is something that I will maintain a commitment to,” Philpott said in an interview with The Canadian Press on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau requires all Liberal MPs to vote with his government on matters of reproductive health, and would-be candidates for his party are asked during the nomination process whether that will be a problem.

Philpott, a Mennonite and a family doctor, said her religious belief has no bearing on what she would do as an MP.

“I have personally never been in the circumstance where I have had to make a decision like that,” said Philpott.

“If I were, my sense would be that unless there were extraordinary extenuating circumstances, that it would not be the right choice for me personally to make for myself,” she said, “but that has nothing to do with my obligations as a member of Parliament to uphold the broad rights that are well-documented for Canadians writ large.”

Still, she did not give a definitive answer when asked whether that would extend to the issues of sex-selective abortion, coercing someone into terminating a pregnancy or amending the Criminal Code so that someone accused of harming a pregnant woman could also be charged with harming the fetus.

Backbench Conservative MPs have put forward bills or motions along those lines over the years, but all have been defeated.

“I don’t want to answer a hypothetical question, because I think it really depends on the particular bill that might be before the house,” Philpott said.

She did make clear, however, that she disagrees with how the Liberals are talking about abortion in the run-up to the election campaign.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer was on the defensive last week after it emerged that his Quebec lieutenant, MP Alain Rayes, had been telling candidates in the province that backbench MPs would be forbidden from bringing forward any bills or motions on abortion.

That goes against party policy, which created confusion until Scheer, a practising Catholic who has voted in favour of restricting abortion rights in the past, said he would oppose any attempt to reopen the debate as prime minister.

The Liberals were not the ones who brought up the abortion issue but they did jump at the opportunity to spread messages suggesting Scheer would restrict access to it should the Conservatives form the next government.

READ MORE: Scheer says he will not reopen abortion debate, as members vote to uphold policy

READ MORE: Scheer says Liberals deflecting from scandals with abortion, same-sex marriage

Philpott said she found that offensive.

“For Liberals in particular to politicize an issue that has to do with the choice that women make about their reproductive rights, I think is highly opportunistic and shows a focus on political expediency rather than truly respecting something that is such a serious and important personal matter for Canadians,” she said.

She also criticized the Liberals for circulating a 2005 speech by Scheer explaining his opposition to same-sex marriage, especially since many Liberal MPs, including some still in the caucus, once held those views.

“I think it’s what makes Canadians so cynical about politicians,” said Philpott, while noting she firmly supports same-sex marriage.

“We should be talking about what good things we are going to do to improve the lives of Canadians, rather than finding ways to amp up divisions amongst Canadians,” she said.

In Markham-Stouffville, Philpott is up against Helena Jaczek (herself a doctor and a former Ontario health minister) for the Liberals, Theodore Antony for the Conservatives and Roy Long for the Green party.

The NDP have yet to nominate their candidate in the riding.

VIDEO: Trudeau responds to Scheer on abortion, same-sex issue

Joanna Smith, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Festival of Mini-Trees raises almost $7,000 for Dr. R.E.M. Lee Hospital Foundation

Twenty Christmas trees decked out with merchandise, gift cards were given out in raffle draw

Caledonia Kermode basketball team holds first-ever Men’s Health Night fundraiser

Approximately $250 was raised during the senior boys’ home opener game

Here are the top earners at Coast Mountains School District

Audited financial report released for 2018/2019 fiscal year

Skeena Voices | The wild path

Courtenay Crucil is a nature-based therapist and herbalist who helps people with the earth in mind

Northwest B.C. physician receives Medal of Good Citizenship Award

Dr. Peter Newbery was one of 18 people in B.C. to get provincial recognition

VIDEO: Boys help rescue Cariboo bear cub

The cub, weighing just 24lbs, has been taken to wildlife sanctuary in Northwest B.C. for the winter

Campbell River mom’s iPhone containing priceless photos stolen from Victoria hospital parkade

The phone contained photos, heartbeat recordings of her late son

Miller nets winner as Canucks edge Sabres 6-5 in OT

Roussel, Leivo tally two apiece for Vancouver

‘Norovirus-like’ outbreak interrupts Bantam hockey showcase in Greater Victoria

Several athletes were sent home, quarantined on the ferry

$578: that’s how much your first distracted driving ticket will cost with recent premium hikes

Over 50 per cent of Canadians admitted to using phone while driving last year, according to study

Kelowna man attempts to steal bait bike from RCMP parking lot

38-year-old Brian Richard Harbison is facing several charges

‘Things haven’t changed enough:’ Ecole Polytechnique anniversary prompts reflection

Fourteen women were fatally shot by a gunman at the Montreal school on Dec. 6, 1989

Bear raids freezer, gorges on Island family’s Christmas baking

Hungry bruin virtually ignored meat and fish, focused, instead, on the sweets

B.C. pharmaceutical company’s stocks double in value after successful lupus drug trial

More than 40 per cent of patients using voclosporin saw improvements in kidney function

Most Read