Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau has clarified his party’s pro-choice policy after at least one sitting MP felt he was “grand-fathered” and could continue to vote against abortion rights in Canada.
Mr. Trudeau sowed confusion in early May when he laid out a staunchly pro-choice position for all new Liberal candidates in the next election, stating they all had to agree to vote in favour of a “woman’s right to choose” to run for the party.
Mr. Trudeau struggled at the time to clearly state what would happen to sitting MPs with an existing track record of voting against abortion.
Mr. Trudeau said that “existing MPs … have been grandfathered in to a certain extent,” adding that “new MP and new candidates will be pro-choice.”
Long-time Liberal MP Lawrence MacAulay said in a recent interview with The Guardian in Charlottetown that the party’s pro-choice policy did not apply to him.
“I have done and voted the way that I wish to vote and will continue to do so,” the PEI MP said.
However, Mr. MacAulay issued a statement on Wednesday morning to state that he would now adhere to the new policy.
“Despite my personal beliefs, I understand that I will have to vote the party position should this issue ever come up in the House of Commons,” he said.
Mr. Trudeau laid down the law later in the day for his entire caucus on the issue of abortion, which the Liberals are treating as a Charter right.
“The policy going forward is that every single Liberal MP will be expected to stand up for a woman’s right to choose,” Mr. Trudeau said.
Mr. Trudeau added that last month’s comments with respect to “grandfathering” of existing MPs only referred to the nomination process to become a Liberal candidate in the next election, although that was not made clear at the time. He added that his policy was designed to prevent single-interest groups from taking advantage of the Liberal Party’s open-nomination process.
The NDP ridiculed the Liberal Party’s “two-tier” policy on abortion last month, and many journalists had reported the party had grandfathered MPs existing from voting pro-choice on any motions and bills, without any push back from Mr. Trudeau’s office at the time.