Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer says that if Canadians elect a Tory government this fall, the party won’t reopen debates on issues such as same-sex marriage and abortion.
At the same time, Scheer said he won’t prevent individual MPs from expressing themselves on social issues.
Scheer made the remarks in Toronto on Thursday, a week after a 2005 video in which he expressed opposition to same-sex marriage was released by the Liberals.
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On Thursday, Scheer accused the Trudeau government of dredging up “divisive” social issues as a means of distraction.
“Trudeau can’t run on his record. He can’t possibly defend all his broken promises, massive deficits, tax increases and ethical and corruption scandals,” Scheer said.
He said that he would uphold marriage equality if he becomes prime minister, adding that the matter was settled with the 2005 vote.
“My personal views are that LGBT Canadians have the same inherent self-worth and dignity as any other Canadian and I will always uphold the law and always ensure they have equal access to the institution of marriage,” he said.
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Scheer sidestepped a question on when he changed his mind on the issue, however.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canadians need to know where their leaders stand on such issues.
“It’s not enough to reluctantly support the law because it’s the law, especially when it comes to the rights of women and LGBTQ2 communities,” he told reporters in Surrey, B.C., following Scheer’s speech.
“People need to know that their prime minister will defend them, will be there for them. That’s what Canadians expect.”
In response to Trudeau’s remarks, a Tory spokesperson pointed out in an email that several Liberal caucus members have expressed support for anti-abortion views in the past.
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Asked about Scheer’s call to “show some courage” and participate in two upcoming debates — the Munk Leaders Debate on Foreign Policy and the Maclean’s/Citytv National Leaders Debate — Trudeau would only say he looked forward to debating his opponents, but didn’t specify in which events.
The Liberal Party said in a statement earlier on Thursday that so far, Trudeau is committed to the two Leaders’ Debates Commission events.
“Other organizations have also started to express interest in holding debates or forums, but we have not yet made any new commitments or decisions,” a spokesperson said.
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Scheer’s comments come after doubt was sown about what, precisely, a Conservative government would or would not allow when it came to a debate about abortion rights.
The federal election is set for Oct. 21.
— With files from the Canadian Press