Conservative leadership candidate Roman Baber would allow MPs to bring forward legislation amid the renewed debate on abortion access in the U.S.
In a statement obtained by Global News, Baber said he would not “stand in (the) way” of MPs introducing legislation or “force” caucus to vote the party line on matters of conscience.
The pledge comes amid furor in the U.S. over a draft Supreme Court decision that could overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that protected access to abortion services in America.
It also comes as conservatives gather in Ottawa for the Canada Strong and Free Network conference for three days of networking, speeches and workshops.
The conference is an unofficial, but important stop for Conservative leadership hopefuls, who will share the stage in a debate on Thursday evening.
“MPs work for their constituents, not the party or the party boss … I will never prevent an MP from voicing an opinion or doing what they genuinely believe to be right by their constituents,” Baber said in a draft statement reviewed by Global News.
Baber clarified Thursday morning he does not believe “government has a role in how people start or grow their families.”
Baber is a long-shot candidate for the party leadership, but managed to raise the $300,000 required to have a spot on the final ballot. The former Ontario Progressive Conservative MPP was booted from Premier Doug Ford’s caucus over his public opposition to COVID-19 public health measures.
But Barber told The West Block guest host David Akin that his candidacy is about more than opposition to lockdowns. He says he is also opposing an “erosion” of democratic principles at the federal level.
In an appeal to the Conservative grassroots, Baber promised to end what he called “shenanigans” around nomination battles, establishing “pre-set” nomination dates, requiring all approved nomination contestants get membership lists at the same time, and requiring “written reasons for any disqualification of a nomination contestant.”
Perceived interference from “the centre” of the party has been a running concern while leaders have struggled to keep the rank-and-file rowing in the same direction.
Baber’s commitment is likely to play well with the social-conservative set which could hold significant power in determining who the next leader of the party will be.
The current frontrunner, Carleton MP and former cabinet minister Pierre Poilievre, is facing off against former Quebec Premier Jean Charest, Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown, Haldimand-Norfolk MP Leslyn Lewis, Parry Sound-Muskoka MP Scott Aitchison, and Baber.
Three other leadership hopefuls – Joel Etienne, Joseph Bourgault and Grant Abraham – are seeking clarification from the party as to why they were left off the ballot.
The race has been unfolding largely behind the scenes, with candidates focused on selling memberships to support their leadership ahead of the June 2 cut-off for eligible new voters. The next leader is scheduled to be announced on Sept. 10.