A former Manitoba Progressive Conservative youth leader and school board candidate has ignited an online backlash for saying she supports abstinence-only sex education.

Candace Maxymowich, 20, is currently running to be a public school board trustee in the Louis Riel school division in Winnipeg.

She wrote on Twitter that she personally does not support sex education other than abstinence.

That prompted dozens of replies from people who called her views backward and said teens need to be educated about contraception.

Maxymowich later told CBC she was expressing a personal opinion, and her view is not something she would necessarily push if elected.

“The issue of abstinence-only sex education isn't something that a school board has a lot of power over. It's something that falls on the hands of the provincial government, so by making the statements that I did, it's just really saying this is my personal opinion,” she said. “I'm not really campaigning on this issue. It's not something that I would push for, necessarily.”

Maxymowich said she was trying to “create a dialogue on the issue.”

"It's controversial as it is. I know that people have different opinions on this, and they don't necessarily need to agree," she said. 

Public health educator Jennifer Davis said the fact is, sex ed doesn’t promote sex. Instead, she said, it teaches teens how to be healthy and safe.

“In this day and age, we are bombarded with sexualized images from TV and from pop culture. People are getting really unhealthy messages about sex and that needs to be countered somewhere,” said Davis, who works at Winnipeg’s Women’s Health Clinic.

Davis said an important part of sex education is information about the consequences of sex, like pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.

Davis said teaching abstinence in schools does work, but only if teens aren’t already having sex. Right now, she said, it’s estimated that 30 per cent of high schoolers are sexually active.

School-trustee candidate also anti-abortion

Maxymowich has also spoken out against abortion, sending out tweets asking, "Which candidates will stand up for your parental rights and the moral integrity of children?" while linking to anti-abortion sites.

“It’s just a personal belief I’ve come to over the past years,” she said. “It’s not something I am trying to push on others.”

Her tweets created a firestorm of responses on Twitter. Ben Brisboise tweeted, “I’m not sure how I feel that you’re sort of dragging the abortion debate into a school trustee race.”

While Haley Winnipeg tweeted, “What is there to discuss? How is this important to a school board election? Stay out of my uterus.”

Even Manitoba PC leader Brian Pallister weighed in, saying she’s entitled to her opinion.

Maxymowich became the provincial Tory youth leader after her predecessor, Braydon Mazurkiewich, was ousted for making racist comments on Facebook about aboriginals.​

Pallister said on Wednesday Maxymowich was no longer the Tory youth leader because her campaign for school trustee precluded her from holding the position. 

with files from the Canadian Press