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

Supporting a friend with mental health issues

AHS: Do you have a friend who just doesn’t seem to be their usual self?

PHOTOS: Ponoka Curling Club hosts Alberta Junior Curling Tour Event

The Ponoka Curling Club hosted its first-ever Alberta Junior Curling Tour Event… Continue reading

Jeffery Kraft of Ponoka remembered for being loving, well-liked

Kraft passed away on Dec. 15, 2019, in Lacombe at 20 years old

Deserving Ponoka student appointed to National Youth Council

Yael Witvoet will now be able to advocate for causes on a national scale

Province investigating death of Samson Cree Nation youth in care

16-year-old found deceased outside in Rocky Mountain House

Officials reaching out to those in contact with Canada’s first coronavirus patient

The illness has sickened at least 1,975 people and killed 56 in China

Canada’s basketball community mourns Kobe Bryant after helicopter crash

Bryant was an 18-time NBA all-star who won five championships

‘Devastated’: Fans, celebrities remember Kobe Bryant after his death

Bryant played all of his 20-year career with the NBA with the Los Angeles Lakers

Kobe Bryant, daughter killed in California helicopter crash

Bryant entered the NBA draft straight out of high school in 1996

Canadian Lunar New Year celebrations dampened by coronavirus worries

But Health Minister Patty Hajdu said today that the risk of infection is low

UPDATE Human remains found in Manny’s Motel ruins

UPDATE RCMP Major Crimes Unit Investigate Fatal Fire in Wetaskiwin

‘Presumptive case’ of coronavirus in Canada confirmed by Ontario doctors

Man in his 50s felt ill on his return to Canada from Wuhan, China

‘My heart is going to bleed’: Bodies brought back to Canada following Iran plane crash

Remains of Sahar Haghjoo, 37, and her eight-year-old daughter, Elsa Jadidi, were identified last weekend

Most Read