Scheer accuses the Liberals of fear-mongering as anti-abortion video emerges
Scheer, Singh and May will spend most of Thursday prepping for the Maclean's/Citytv leaders' debate
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer started his second day on the campaign trail by accusing the Liberals of trying to change the channel on the SNC-Lavalin scandal after they pushed out a new video of an anti-abortion activist turned Tory candidate.
"The only people who are continuously trying to re-open this debate or fear-monger on this issue are Liberals," said Scheer during a stop in the riding of York Centre, where Rachel Willson will run under the blue banner.
"They are going to continue to do this for 39 days because they are desperate to change the channel on their scandals and corruption."
Scheer originally hadn't planned on taking questions, but stopped in front of TV cameras to address a video Liberal MP Carolyn Bennett tweeted out this morning showing Willson at a 2017 event discussing her desire to end abortion through "pro-life legislation."
Is the abortion debate really closed <a href="https://twitter.com/AndrewScheer?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@AndrewScheer</a>? You’ve chosen to launch your Toronto campaign today in York Centre, alongside your leading anti-choice candidate and campaigner. Her top priority is "ending abortion" and "advancing pro-life legislation." Just watch this: <a href="https://t.co/zhXWMsrarX">pic.twitter.com/zhXWMsrarX</a>—@Carolyn_Bennett
In the video, Willson called Canada's abortion policy "shocking."
Scheer repeated his assurance that he would oppose any measure to introduce legislation on abortion as prime minister.
"Nothing on this issue has changed for our party. We have always made it very clear that we will not support re-opening the issue," he said.
The issue's eruption on the campaign trail seems to be driving a wedge between the Conservatives and at least one prominent anti-abortion group.
"We're not going to let Andrew Scheer get away with throwing the pro-life movement under the bus, in spite of our disappointment with his stand on abortion," Jack Fonseca, director of political operations for the Campaign Life Coalition, told CBC News.
Notwithstanding Scheer's claim that a government led by him would not table abortion legislation, Fonseca said the Conservative Party is running more than 70 anti-abortion candidates and he's hoping at least a few of them would introduce private member's bills on the issue.
"Andrew has to realize the debate is open and deserves to be open," he said.
After Conservative Party Deputy Leader Lisa Raitt said last month that a Scheer government would shut down any attempt by backbenchers to reopen the abortion debate, Fonseca called Scheer's stance "vague and troubling" and questioned whether the Conservative leader himself would vote against any attempt to limit access to the procedure.
"That's also a very negative implication for Scheer personally and morally, because it means an end to his unblemished pro-life voting record in the House of Commons," he said. "And we'd probably have to change his rating to a red light."
Speaking at a campaign stop in Victoria, B.C., today, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau responded to a question about abortion policy by pointing to his party's practice of running only candidates who accept the right of women to choose what to do with their own pregnancies.
"No one can force a woman to choose when or with whom to start a family. It is her choice," he said. "That is my core conviction."
Before the campaign began, Tourism Minister Mélanie Joly tweeted another short video clip of a media interview with Scott Hayward, founder of the anti-abortion group RightNow, while accusing Scheer of "saying different things to different people."
Scheer will spend the rest of the day preparing for the Maclean's/Citytv debate tonight.
Singh, Scheer to make debate debut
Trudeau will spend his second day on the campaign trail again trying to distance himself from the ghost of the SNC-Lavalin affair with his first policy announcement in Victoria, B.C.
Trudeau is set to make a brief stop in Kamloops, B.C., before heading to Edmonton for a rally, skipping the debate.
On Wednesday night, the wing of the Liberal campaign plane was scraped by the roof of the media bus on the tarmac in Victoria. The party has secured a replacement aircraft.
Before ducking into his own debate prep, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh started his second day of campaigning by promising to build a hospital in Brampton, Ont., if he is elected prime minister.
Both Scheer and Singh are making their debate debuts tonight and will be looking to impress, even though their main rival, Trudeau, won't be there.
NDP campaign sources say Singh has been preparing for weeks for his first leaders' debate. He spent much of the past two days in mock debates with people playing the roles of Scheer and Green leader Elizabeth May.
At Wednesday's campaign event, Singh said he will spend time focusing on the man not in the room.
"[Canadians] expect that the prime minister should be able to stand up and respond to questions, hold up and defend his record," Singh told reporters. "[Trudeau's] record is pretty abysmal, but that doesn't mean that he should give up on the debate."
Here are the party leaders' public schedules, all in eastern time (ET):
Liberals' Justin Trudeau:
- 11 a.m.: Makes an announcement and holds a media availability in Victoria.
- 7:30 p.m.: Delivers remarks at a campaign rally in Edmonton
Conservatives' Andrew Scheer:
- 9:45 a.m.: Highlights his plan "to put more money in your pockets" when he appears in North York, suburban Toronto.
- 8 p.m.: Takes part in the Maclean's/Citytv debate in Toronto.
NDP's Jagmeet Singh:
- 9:40 a.m.: Makes health-care funding announcement in Brampton, will take questions from reporters.
- 8 p.m.: Makes his debut in the Maclean's/Citytv debate
Green Party's Elizabeth May:
- 8 p.m.: Takes part in the Maclean's/Citytv debate.
With files from Hannah Thibedeau