The Current

'Dog-whistle politics': Liberals trying to 'provoke fear' over abortion, says Conservative strategist

Conservative leader Andrew Scheer insisted the debate on abortion will not be reopened if he's elected, but one political strategist says fear around the issue is understandable.

NDP strategist argues fear around reproductive rights shouldn't be ignored

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer speaks during the Maclean's/Citytv National leaders debate in Toronto on Thursday, Sept. 12, 2019. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press)
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The federal Liberal Party is "weaving the mythology" that if elected, a Conservative government would introduce legislation on abortion, according to one strategist.

"They're not aren't talking about the facts but something hypothetical," said Alise Mills, Conservative strategist and a senior associate at Sussex Strategy Group.

"It's intended to provoke fear, and I think at a time where Canadians are feeling not united ... I think, you know, this dog-whistle politics is dangerous."

On the second day of campaigning Thursday, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer paid a visit to a daycare in the riding of York Centre in Toronto, where Rachel Willson is running as a Conservative candidate.

Earlier in the day, Liberal candidate Carolyn Bennett tweeted a video showing Willson at a 2017 event, discussing her desire to end abortion through "pro-life legislation."

Responding to the tweet, 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.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer says that if he becomes prime minister, his government won't introduce legislation on abortion. The issue is back on the agenda after the Liberals released a two-year-old video of Tory candidate Rachel Willson discussing her pro-life views. 0:53

Political strategist Sally Housser said there is a fear among Canadians, especially "when you see some of the things that are happening at the state level in the United States."

"Just saying kind of: 'OK, we're not going to legislate that abortion is now legal,' is not enough," said Housser, who is a veteran of NDP campaigns.

"There are so many different ways that right-wing governments and right-wing politicians can reduce [or] restrict access to safe reproductive health care." she said.

"I think ignoring it is at our peril. We've got to be proactive." 

The first televised leaders debate took place Thursday night, featuring Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and Green Party Leader Elizabeth May.

To discuss their performance, and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau's decision not to take part, The Current's interim host Laura Lynch was joined by: 

  • Amanda Alvaro, Liberal strategist and co-founder and president of PR firm Pomp & Circumstance. 
  • Alise Mills, Conservative strategist and a senior associate at Sussex Strategy Group.
  • Sally Housser, political strategist and veteran of NDP campaigns.

Written by Padraig Moran. Produced by Allie Jaynes and Ines Colabrese.

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