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

Global climate strike makes its stand in Terrace

Approximately 50 people rallied in front of city hall to bring awareness to climate change

Bear shot by police in Stewart neighbourhood, residents say

Gunshots were heard in the dark, alarming and angering neighbours

Skeena Voices | Walking between two parallel roads

Lynn Parker found knowledge a powerful tool for reconciliation

Terrace Community Forests harvests $750k for City of Terrace

Money was given in recognition of National Forest Week

Coast Mountain College opens new health and wellness centre in Terrace

College’s eventual goal is to open up the gym and programming for public use

VIDEO: Grizzly bears fight along northern B.C. highway in rare footage

Cari McGillivray posted the head-turning video, shot near Stewart, B.C., to social media

VIDEO: A moment to remember during the World Lacrosse Men’s Indoor World Championship in B.C.

Diego Hernandez Valenzuela’s team lost, but he felt like a winner Saturday

Handgun crackdown, health spending and transit plans latest campaign promises

Friday was the end of a busy week on the campaign trail

B.C. woman photographs massive ant swarm on Abbotsford driveway

She asked what the ants were doing? The answer: war

Iconic 90s TV show ‘Friends’ celebrates 25th anniversary

The iconic, decade-long television show aired its first episode 25 years ago today

Police arrest B.C. phone scammer linked to illegal call centres in India

Person arrested in Burnaby here on a work visa, says police

Air Canada forced girl, 12, to remove hijab: civil rights group

The San Francisco Bay Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations calling for change

Man from Winnipeg who was hiking alone found dead in Banff National Park

RCMP say the man was hiking alone on Mount Temple Thursday

Most Read