Politics

Singh brushes off Green complaint about abortion-related social media posts

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh is brushing aside demands from the Greens that his party apologize for social-media posts that Green candidates hold anti-abortion positions.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh brings coffee to striking provincial public service workers in Saskatoon, on Friday, October 4, 2019. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh is brushing aside demands from the Greens that his party apologize for social-media posts that Green candidates hold anti-abortion positions.

On Monday, a report from PressProgress — a project of the Broadbent Institute, which is named for former NDP leader Ed Broadbent — raised questions about whether Green candidates, if elected, would quash any effort to reopen the abortion debate.

In a statement Friday morning, the Greens said the party filed a complaint with the Broadbent Institute and demanded an apology from the New Democrats after that party's candidates circulated the report on social media.

During a campaign stop in a Saskatoon riding the NDP want to hold on election day, Singh dismissed the demand, saying there are Green candidates that don't have a clear position on a woman's right to access abortion services.

Green Leader Elizabeth May has said she couldn't force Green MPs to vote a particular way on legislation or bills — comments Singh pointed to, adding for emphasis that May "went on to say, 'Frankly, I think that's a good thing.' Those were her words. She can't Photoshop those words. Those are real words that she said," Singh said.

"I know the Green party likes to Photoshop things, but they can't change what they said and the reality is, the fact is, there are candidates running for the Greens that do not have a clear position on a woman's right to choose," he said. (The two digs about editing photos are references to an image of May at a market the Greens modified to make it look as though she was holding a party-branded reusable cup when she was actually holding a compostable single-use cup.)

"With New Democrats, there is no question. All New Democrats firmly believe in the right to choose and if anyone did not, they would not be a New Democrat anymore," Singh said.

The New Democrats have sought to raise questions about abortion access as a wedge issue between themselves and the Greens. May has become publicly frustrated with Singh, saying on Wednesday she was losing patience with his attacks.

The NDP's focus on the Greens started just before the official launch of the campaign in September, when May told the CBC she would not whip votes or try to prevent anyone in her caucus from putting forward legislation on abortion, despite personally believing women should have access to safe and legal abortions.

The party later clarified that all candidates running under the Green banner are required to support abortion rights.

PressProgress's report on Monday said that more than half the 35 Green candidates who responded to its questionnaire believed Green MPs should have free votes on abortion issues and decide on their personal beliefs.

In a statement, the Green party said it filed a complaint with a self-regulatory news media body, although PressProgress is not a member of the National NewsMedia Council.

The party also said it has asked PressProgress to issue a correction — although the party didn't specify what in the article was incorrect other than claiming the article referred to candidates as "anti-choice" — and the NDP to issue an apology.

"This is a malicious attack that demonstrates a complete lack of journalistic integrity," Green spokesman John Chenery said in the statement.

"It is disappointing to see PressProgress acting not as a legitimate journalism outlet, but as the propaganda wing of a political party. That NDP candidates would spread these lies is disillusioning."

Singh quickly shrugged off the issue when asked about it Friday, even though it riled the partisan supporters around him, one of whom heckled a journalist by saying, "Greens are mean." After the event, party staffers noted that Liberal Melanie Joly also tweeted about the PressProgress report, but the Greens are only going after New Democrats.

The issue was one of several that Singh tackled during a stop in Saskatchewan, the historical home of the NDP.

Pitching his pharmacare program — a cornerstone of the party's campaign platform — Singh said Canadians would have access to the system by 2020 if the New Democrats are elected to govern on Oct. 21.

Singh is scheduled to make a similar pitch to supporters when he visits Thunder Bay, Ont., on Friday evening.

The NDP are looking to recapture the riding the party lost in 2015 to Liberal Patty Hajdu, the federal labour minister.

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