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Doug Ford vows to keep Ontario abortion laws ‘exactly the same’

Ontario Premier Doug Ford walks towards Lt.-Gov. Elizabeth Dowdeswell's office at Queen's Park in Toronto, Tuesday, May 3, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

Ontario’s Liberal Party is raising concerns about a Progressive Conservative who vowed to make abortion “unthinkable in our lifetime” while serving as a sitting MPP in Doug Ford’s government.

The comments made by Sam Oosterhoff, who represents Niagara West, at a 2019 anti-abortion rally on the front lawn of Queen’s Park have resurfaced in the wake of a draft decision by the United States Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade.

While Oosterhoff’s comments at the time sparked an outcry among opposition politicians in the Ontario legislature, Ford was quick to defend his MPP and said the Ontario PC Party is a “big tent” that welcomes members “from a wide variety of backgrounds and beliefs.”

Read more: MPP Sam Oosterhoff affiliates himself with group that compares abortion to Holocaust

Ford, however, also told the Ontario legislature that while MPPs are free to speak their mind, Oosterhoff’s views wouldn’t influence his government’s approach to abortion issues.

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“We are not – I’m going to repeat – we are not reopening any abortion issues here in this legislature,” Ford declared nearly three years ago.

Click to play video: 'Fallout from leaked draft ruling on Roe V. Wade'
Fallout from leaked draft ruling on Roe V. Wade

On Wednesday, the first day of the election campaign, Ford was asked about his current stance on the issue and doubled down on his previous comments.

“The U.S. Supreme Court has absolutely zero jurisdiction in Canada,” Ford told reporters at a campaign stop in Brampton. “We’re not changing in Ontario, we’re keeping it exactly the same.”

Liberal candidate Amanda Simard, who once sat among the Ford government’s benches before quitting the PC party in 2018, questioned why Ford kept Oosterhoff in caucus despite his differing views.

“Despite Oosterhoff’s radical, hardline anti-choice views, Ford gave Sam Oosterhoff special responsibilities in the Ministry of Education for the sex education curriculum as it was being rewritten,” Simard said in a statement, which also called on Ford to dump him as a candidate.

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“It is time for Doug Ford to either make his tent a little smaller, or be honest with Ontarians as to his anti-abortion agenda.”

Read more: How abortion rights work in Canada — and whether they could be put at risk

Oosterhoff is one of eight PC Party candidates who gained the seal of approval from Campaign Life Coalition — a national, anti-abortion organization that works to influence multiple levels of government “to secure full legal protection for all human beings.”

The coalition gave Oosterhoff a ‘green light’ rating for his public comments on Ontario’s sex-ed curriculum, votes on a variety of COVID-19 related issues and for his answers to a 2016 questionnaire on his personal views.

In one question candidates were asked whether they would “support measures to stop funding abortions with taxpayers’ money in Ontario” to which Ossterhoff replied “yes.”

Ford accused his political opponents of trying to “change the topic” from building critical infrastructure, and sidestepped a question from Global News on whether anti-abortion views are still welcome in the Ontario PC party tent.

Meanwhile, the other three main party leaders said they would expand abortion access in the province.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said she would increase access to abortion in northern and rural areas by investing in health-care facilities and staffing in those regions.

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Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca said he would protect and enhance access to safe abortions, but didn’t provide specifics.

Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner said he would expand the number of women’s health clinics and abortion clinics in Ontario.

— With files from The Canadian Press

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