OTTAWA, April 26, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — Andrew Scheer says he wants to lead the Conservative Party of Canada so he can unite the party.
But that’s one thing the 37-year-old Saskatchewan Member of Parliament hasn’t managed for the party’s social conservatives.
With just four weeks left in the race, they’re split over the merits of Scheer’s candidacy when it comes to right-to-life, same-sex “marriage” and gender issues.
A Catholic father of five and MP since 2004, Scheer has an impeccable pro-life and pro-family voting record, but declared at the outset of his campaign that he won’t reopen the abortion debate as prime minister.
That was clear enough for Campaign Life Coalition, Canada’s national pro-life, pro-family political lobby group, which released a candidate voter guide on Monday disqualifying Scheer.
Of the 14 candidates, Campaign Life has endorsed only Saskatchewan MP Brad Trost and former Ontario MP Pierre Lemieux as supportable because of their consistently solid pro-life and pro-family campaign commitments.
Conservative Party members are voting for their new leader on a ranked ballot that allows up to 10 choices. The results will be tabulated and the winner announced at the party's convention in Toronto on May 27.
It’s a rare and critical opportunity for the pro-life movement because the next Conservative leader could shape the party for decades to come, and may well become prime minister.
Pro and con for Scheer
Campaign Life Coalition president Jim Hughes says Trost and Lemieux are the “only candidates who have publicly highlighted the injustice of abortion in Canada and have vowed to take concrete actions to address the killing of 100,000 children in the womb every year."
But while Campaign Life is not endorsing Scheer for Tory leader, a number of politicians rated by Campaign Life as pro-life are supporting him.
The Scheer campaign boasts 71 endorsements from former and current federal and provincial politicians — including eight senators and 24 sitting MPs.
Pro-lifers among them include MPs Ted Falk, Garnett Genuis, Mark Warawa, Cathay Wagantall, and Bob Zimmer; former MPs Garry Breitkreuz and Kyle Seebak; and Senators Don Plett, Betty Unger, and Norman Doyle — to name a few.
In an email to LifeSiteNews, Scheer pointed to his record — which includes speaking out against abortionist Henry Morgentaler receiving the Order of Canada — as proof of his pro-life convictions.
“My voting record on life and family issues is clear,"” wrote Scheer. “I voted according to my conscience every time.”
Campaign Life praises Scheer's record, but it says that’s not the problem.
The problem, says Hughes, is, among other issues, Scheer’s insistence that as Conservative Party leader and prime minister he will not reopen the abortion debate.
“We’re killing 100,000 babies a year and here’s a guy who won’t bring it up,” Hughes told LifeSiteNews.
“We need some courageous politicians right now: courageous people who will raise the issue and say how important it is to the whole country, and he isn’t one of them at the moment.”
What is Scheer saying?
When Scheer announced his candidacy at a September 2016 press conference, English and French reporters alike doggedly quizzed him on social conservative issues, given his known pro-life and pro-family stances.
He doggedly replied he would not reopen the abortion debate.
A reporter pointed to Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s position on abortion.
“Mr Harper, when he was governing, always refused to reopen the debate on abortion,” she said in French. “If you were to be elected as a leader, do you commit yourself not to reopen the abortion debate?”
“It’s not just the former leader, it’s our party, our caucus which decided that it wasn’t a good idea to reopen the debate, so I will maintain the same approach,” Scheer replied.
Indeed, as the party’s 2016 Policy Declaration reads: “A Conservative government will not support any legislation to regulate abortion.” (No. 65)
Another reporter pressed Scheer further.
“So you’re saying that if you were leader, you would pledge not to bring forward, like as a government or party positions, anything to do with abortion laws, same-sex marriage, anything resembling Stephen Woodworth’s former motion on when life begins?” she asked.
And Scheer responded: “As leader of the Conservative Party, as prime minister of Canada, I will not, those subjects will not be reopened from the Conservative government.”
“It doesn’t advance the cause of the things that we believe in, it doesn’t advance the cause of the party to be focusing on those things that even Conservatives don’t agree on,” he later added.
‘I am pro-life’
Scheer repeated this to Rosemary Barton, host of CBC’s Power and Politics.
“It’s one of the things that held our coalition together is that some of these divisive issues were not brought forward as the government,” he told her.
“So as prime minister I would maintain that commitment to my caucus and the party that these issues wouldn’t be reopened.”
Barton asked Scheer if he believed women should have the “right” to choose abortion.
“Look, as I’ve said, my personal views on this have always been consistent. I’m an authentic person, I am pro-life, I’ve always expressed that and absolutely been consistent on that,” Scheer replied.
“But does that mean that the leader of the Conservative party or the prime minister of Canada should initiate legislation on that, to open up that issue, when our own caucus is not united on that?” he asked.
“And that’s where I think there may be a separation between myself and other candidates on this.”
What would Scheer let his caucus do?
So if a Prime Minister Scheer wouldn't bring up government legislation on abortion, would he let MPs do so?
He says yes.
“I believe 100 percent that Members of Parliament have the right to bring forward and debate any legislation of importance to them,” he told LifeSiteNews. “Debate is invaluable in a healthy democracy.”
And he proved that as Speaker of the House — a position he held from 2011 to 2015 — he says.
Scheer issued a ruling as Speaker “which upheld the rights of MPs to speak about whatever they wished and that the right to speak did not come from their party or leader, it came from being MPs,” he told LifeSiteNews. “I will absolutely continue that practice as Leader and Prime Minister.”
“Moreover, I have committed that all votes on matters of conscience will be free votes.”
That, too, is Conservative policy.
As the 2016 Declaration reads: “All votes should be free, except for the budget, main estimates, and core government initiatives.” It further states that on matters of conscience votes should be free.
But Campaign Life’s Hughes questioned just how much encouragement Scheer would give pro-life private members’ bills, given his priority of party unity.
“He probably won’t stop a backbencher from bringing it up, but he says we have to unite the party, which I would assume means, don’t bring it up.”
Campaign Life’s voter guide notes: “Scheer has stated that he would not interfere with pro-life private members bills or motions.”
Supports protections for unborn victims of crime
Scheer backs the Conservative Party’s policy, passed at the May 2016 convention, to enact laws protecting unborn victims of crime.
Policy 97 says the Party “supports legislation to ensure that individuals who commit violence against a pregnant woman would face additional charges if her unborn child was killed or injured during the commission of a crime against the mother.”
Molly's Law, a private member’s bill introduced by MP Wagantall and defeated in October 2016, tried to do just that.
Scheer was “proud to support Molly's Law,” he wrote LifeSiteNews. “That was an important piece of legislation and I’d like to see it before the House again.”
Delegates at the May 2016 convention also voted to “condemn discrimination against girls through gender selection abortions.”
But he did not answer a LifeSiteNews question on what action a Scheer government would take on sex-selection abortion.
Voted no to ‘gender identity’ bill but hasn’t promised repeal
As for Liberal Bill C-16, which adds “gender expression” and “gender identity” as prohibited grounds of discrimination, Scheer voted against it at second reading.
So far, however, Scheer has not publicly pledged to repeal Bill C-16, which is now before a Senate committee.
That lowers Scheer’s grading by Campaign Life, because “pledging to repeal C-16” is one of the criteria it uses on its voter guide to measure candidate’s supportability.
Sheer voted against C-16 because, he told LifeSiteNews, "I know Dr. [Jordan] Peterson is on the right side of history in his brave stance against political correctness run amok.”
Dr. Peterson is the University of Toronto professor who has been sounding the alarm that Bill C-16 threatens free speech.
He is “now taking a lead in the fight against political correctness to restore freedom of speech,” he wrote.
“A Scheer government will normalize diversity of thought and level the playing field so that everyone is free to express their ideas and beliefs.”
Conscience rights and tighter euthanasia laws
“I took the lead on making sure the recent euthanasia laws were tightened and restricted as much as possible to protect the vulnerable,” he told LifeSiteNews.
But given the Supreme Court decision, he doesn’t see how the Conservatives can repeal the euthanasia bill, he told Vassy Kapalos on Global’s The West Block.
“On the euthanasia front, obviously we’re dealing with a situation where the courts have struck down existing law and put in a framework of what needs to happen,” Scheer said then.
“So in terms of repealing the Liberal law, I don’t believe that’s the, legally, the best course of action to take.”
His response to euthanasia would be to “make it a tighter regime, better regime,” he added.
The Liberal legislation needs to be improved “to protect conscience rights of doctors and nurses so that no one would be forced to perform a procedure that was against their beliefs,” Scheer wrote LifeSiteNews.
“We also need to ensure protection for young people and people who struggle with mental health issues,” he added.
Scheer told Kapelos he supports conscience rights protection for institutions.
Conservative Party policy backs conscience rights for individuals (No. 57).
Same-sex "marriage" is “the law in Canada”
Scheer did not oppose a motion to delete the definition of marriage as between one man and one woman from Conservative Party policy, which delegates passed at the May 2016 convention.
Approving the motion “wasn’t the Conservative Party taking a new position on marriage, it was just deleting a clause … that in the minds of many had become a little bit anachronistic,” he said in a CPAC interview at the time.
“We had two votes in the House of Commons, we had two elections where this was a central issue,” he told CPAC. “Canadians had their say in 2004 and 2006. It’s been almost 10 years, if not more, that this has been legal.”
The Conservative Party “chose to recognize the reality that is the law in Canada,” he said. “We have a policy document that has to be reflective of that.”
Social conservative marriage defenders in the United States and Canada maintain that this issue should never be considered settled, because they view same-sex “marriage” as an impossible contradiction and an ongoing danger to natural marriage and the family.
On legalizing marijuana
More recently, on an impending Liberal government law legalizing marijuana, Scheer doesn’t seem to favour repealing the law.
“As a father of five, I’m not thrilled with the idea that this is something that could be more accessible,” he told Global’s Kapelos.
But once Canadians have legal cannabis and its attendant benefits, it will be hard to turn back the clock on this one, too.
“There’s going to be a lot of people that work for companies that distribute it, and, and retail it, and there’s going to be a lot of people who are employed throughout the … whatever it turns out to be,” Scheer said.
“So we have to be very realistic as a party as to what we’re promising Canadians going into the 2019 election,” he added.
“If this is something that, that has been legal for a period of time, it’s going to be very difficult to say, hey, we’re going to make illegal again.”
Unite under Scheer, he says
One thing Scheer is definite on is that he can unite Conservatives and lead them to victory.
“It is important that conservatives are united in order to beat Justin Trudeau in 2019,” he told LifeSiteNews.
He alluded to Trudeau’s 2014 edict as Liberal leader barring pro-lifers as Liberal Party candidates, and to the Liberal government earmarking $650 million over three years to promote abortion, including lobbying for its legalization, in developing countries.
“Where Justin Trudeau believes that in order to stand as a Liberal candidate, you must be pro-choice, all Conservatives are welcome in my caucus,” wrote Scheer.
“Where Conservatives brought forward historic initiatives to promote maternal and child health which were an example to the world, this Prime Minister is spending $650 million dollars exporting his own ideological agenda,” he added.
“Let’s be clear, we need to defeat Justin Trudeau in 2019.”
To see Campaign Life candidate voter guide, go here.
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