Leader of Canada’s opposition party distances self from anti-abortion comment

OTTAWA (Reuters) – The leader of Canada’s main opposition Conservative Party on Thursday distanced himself from comments by a candidate opposing abortion, which could hurt his chances with women voters in an Oct. 21 election.

FILE PHOTO – Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) leader Andrew Scheer speaks to the media as he launches his election campaign in Trois-Rivieres, Quebec, Canada September 11, 2019. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi

Andrew Scheer, trying to defeat Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, insisted he had no plans to reopen the abortion debate if he won the election.

“Nothing on this issue has changed for our party. We have always made it very clear … that a Conservative government will not reopen this issue,” Andrew Scheer told a televised news conference in Toronto.

Trudeau kicked off the election campaign on Wednesday with polls showing him only slightly ahead of the Conservatives.

There are few restrictions on abortion in Canada and the right-of-center Conservatives have traditionally steered clear of the topic, fearing they could alienate progressive voters. Unlike in the United States, abortion has not been a major political issue in Canada.

Scheer made his remarks after the Liberals circulated a video showing Rachel Willson, a Conservative candidate in Toronto, saying she was shocked at the lack of limits on abortion.

Liberal cabinet minister Carolyn Bennett, writing on Twitter, asked “Is the abortion debate really closed, Andrew Scheer?” and noted he had decided to start his Toronto campaign alongside Willson.

“It’s not a surprise that the Liberals are once again trying to push this thing out,” Scheer said, accusing his opponents of fear-mongering in a bid to deflect attention from “their scandals and corruption”.

Last month, a top watchdog ruled Trudeau had breached ethics rules by pressuring the former justice minister to ensure a major construction firm avoid a corruption trial.

In brief remarks, Willson said she had never made a secret of her views on abortion but would be focusing on issues that united Canadians.

Trudeau was due to make an announcement later in the day in British Columbia. He will skip a debate hosted by Macleans news magazine that starts at 8 p.m. eastern time (midnight GMT) although Scheer and other party leaders will attend.

Late on Wednesday night the bus carrying reporters following Trudeau’s campaign scraped the wing of the Liberal plane. Party officials said the travel schedule would not be affected.

Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Marguerita Choy

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