NEW MARYLAND, New Brunswick, May 16, 2014 ( – While the Conservative Party still has no interest in reopening the abortion debate, the party is at least open to candidates with “different and conflicting views” on abortion, said Prime Minister Stephen Harper Thursday.

“Ours is a big party where we understand the Canadian people have different, often conflicting views on issues like this, deeply held views — and all such views are welcome in the Conservative Party of Canada,” Harper said following an announcement outlining a new series of conservation initiatives in New Brunswick.

The remarks were a clear swipe against Liberal leader Justin Trudeau’s recent announcement that pro-life Canadians will not be allowed to run for office in the Liberal Party.


“I have made it clear that future candidates need to be completely understanding that they will be expected to vote pro-choice on any bills,” Trudeau said after the Liberals’ caucus meeting on May 7, according to CBC News. 

“The existing MPs…will be respected to a certain extent in their choices, but our position as a party is we do not reopen that debate,” he said. 

Trudeau confirmed that part of the vetting process for potential candidates includes a litmus test on moral issues like abortion and same-sex “marriage.” 

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A video of Harper's statement, which was part of a response to a question about whether New Brunswick was in violation of the Canada Health Act because the provincial government refuses to fund private abortion clinics, is available on the CBC here

While Harper had remained silent on Trudeau's statement until Thursday, pro-life leaders, religious leaders, numerous politicians, media pundits, and academics have slammed Trudeau's pronouncements.

Jim Hughes, Campaign Life Coalition’s national president, accused Trudeau of speaking “out of both sides of his mouth” in promoting open nominations while forcing candidates to adopt his moral outlook. 

Cardinal Thomas Collins of Toronto said in a letter to Trudeau, a Catholic, that the Liberal leader's policy banning pro-life candidates would exclude Pope Francis himself from running for office in the party. 

Former Liberal pro-life MP Tom Wappel called Trudeau’s pro-abortion policy the “antithesis of the Liberal Party which I have supported and worked for the better part of my adult life,” and said the edict was “dictatorial,”  “unprincipled, undemocratic, unappreciative, and intellectually bankrupt.”  

Columnist Margaret Wente, who identifies herself as “pro-choice,” said she sees Trudeau’s position as extreme. 

“The man who promised he would never dictate party policy or keep Liberal MPs on a leash has come out as an abortion absolutist. He is pro-choice, no exceptions, period, and anyone who disagrees won’t be welcome in the party,” Wente wrote in the Globe and Mail. 

She called the idea that “governments shouldn’t legislate abortion, as Mr. Trudeau asserts … downright idiotic.” 

Academic Margaret Somerville, director of the Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law at McGill University, wrote in the Ottawa Citizen that Justin Trudeau’s famous father Pierre would be “appalled” by his son’s action. 

“Such an edict by a leader of a political party on a matter of conscience relating to one of our most fundamental values – respect for human life – violates the basic principle that MPs are primarily their constituents’ representative in Parliament on such matters, not their leaders,’” Somerville stated.

“I hope, no matter what their position on abortion, most Canadians will also feel appalled by Trudeau’s action,” she wrote.

Related stories: 

Justin Trudeau: Candidates who oppose abortion are not welcome in Liberal ‘open’ nomination battles

New Brunswick Liberals approve resolution calling for taxpayer-funded abortion at Morgentaler clinic

Abortion Funding for Privately Run Clinics? New Brunswick Says No Way