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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Oak Bay neighbourhoods rocked by blasting activity

Oak Bay seeks new rock blasting bylaw regarding ‘continuous’ noise

VicPD responding to robbery suspect barricaded in building on Cook Street

Residents are asked to avoid the 2300-block of Cook Street

New University of Victoria president to take over leadership role this fall

Kevin Hall selected to lead institution for five-year term

VIDEO: Seal pup and mom play and ‘kiss’ in Oak Bay Marina

BRNKL seal cam captures harbour seal growing up in busy harbour

UPDATED: Young deckhands backed out of fatal Arctic Fox II trip just before fishboat departed

Inexperienced twin brothers had ‘gut feeling’ and bailed before going to open ocean

B.C. records new COVID-19 death, 85 more cases; Horgan calls on celebrity help

This brings the total number of active confirmed cases to 531 across the province

Michigan plans dedicated road lanes for autonomous vehicles

First study of its kind in the U.S. to figure out whether existing lanes or shoulders could be used

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Aug. 11

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Filmmaker James Cameron’s Comox Valley winery up for sale

The director behind The Terminator and Titanic puts Beaufort Winery on the market after six years

B.C. announces multi-year plan to double treatment beds for youth with addiction

This will bring the total number of new beds specific to those 12 to 24 years old to 247 province-wide

B.C. man who nearly died from COVID-19 reflects on one-month battle

Robert Billyard was in an induced coma to ensure his body would not fight the ventilator to breathe

Cowichan’s Dillabaugh checks in from the NHL bubble in Toronto

Flyers’ Duncan-born goalie coach weighs in on hockey restart

Wedding party bear sprayed at Okanagan campsite irks locals

Latest criminal activity at the Meadows leaves locals frustrated

Most Read