Liberal Leader Brian Gallant says graphic anti-abortion postcards being distributed in Fredericton go beyond free speech.
He was responding to a campaign launched on Monday by the Campaign Life Coalition Youth (CLCY) and the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform (CCBR).
The postcards, being left in residential mailboxes on the city's north side, depict the remains of a purported five-month-old aborted fetus, along with a photo of Gallant and the message: "A vote for Brian Gallant and the Liberals is a vote for this."
Gallant, who is running in Shediac Bay-Dieppe, contends the postcards go too far.
"There’s no doubt that during a campaign you’ll have many people that will try to influence people’s votes, and that’s normal and that’s something that we certainly accept, but we find it very disappointing and very unfortunate to have such graphic photos going around," said Gallant.
"We do think it’s OK to debate and discuss and to have conversations, but to send graphic photos like that, we do think is crossing a line," he said.
"We certainly welcome people to join the debate and the discussion, but I think we have to all do it in a respectful way and I certainly don’t think that was the case when it comes to those pamphlets."
The City of Fredericton has received a "significant number of complaints" from residents about the postcards, officials have said.
But Fredericton police say no laws are being broken and there's nothing they can do except ask the groups to stop distributing the postcards.
The groups say they have no plans to stop.
Gallant, who has declared himself “pro-choice," has promised to review New Brunswick’s abortion restrictions if he becomes premier.
He reiterated his position on Tuesday. "We would act swiftly to ensure that we find any barriers to a woman’s right to choose and eliminate them," he said.
Asked whether he would follow the lead of federal Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and only accept pro-choice candidates, Gallant said provincial Liberal candidates "can have their personal preference, their personal beliefs, but they would have to respect the position outlined by the party."
Currently in New Brunswick, the provincial government pays for abortions at two hospitals, but only if a woman gets approval from two doctors who certify the procedure is "medically necessary."
Progressive Conservative Leader David Alward says he hasn't seen the postcards.
"What I can say is certainly different groups and organizations have the right and responsibility to provide information to their members. That is taking place, I'm sure … by all different groups on all sides of the issue right now," Alward said.
The reality is this is an issue that touches many and all New Brunswickers, that New Brunswickers on all sides feel very passionate about," he said.
"This is something that’s very divisive and quite frankly, you know, Mr. Gallant opened this issue up. We’re very clear on our position."