Anti-abortion activists preparing to support their preferred candidates in the fall federal election won’t be spending their time or money on Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party – even if they think he’s marginally more open to discuss social issues than Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer.
Jack Fonseca, a spokesman for the Campaign Life Coalition, said his organization is waiting to see what kind of anti-abortion candidates Mr. Bernier puts forward. But the group has already identified 80 Conservatives who fit that description – despite the fact it has been “terribly disappointed” with Mr. Scheer.
“Having said that, there’s still dozens of very excellent pro-life MPs in the Conservative caucus that we’re proud of and will continue to support,” he said.
Mr. Bernier has been a challenging politician for some social conservatives to grapple with. He has repeatedly said he would reopen the abortion debate if that’s what members of his party want – while never saying exactly where he stands on the issue. And despite voting for Bill C-16, the gender-identity bill, he later vowed to repeal it on the grounds that it threatens freedom of speech.
The leader of Canada’s newest political party has said he hopes to have a full slate of candidates in all 338 federal ridings by the end of May. Some Conservatives have worried about Mr. Bernier’s ability to split the vote among right-leaning voters, characterizing a vote for him as a vote for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
One People’s Party candidate Mr. Fonseca says he supports is former Christian talk-show host Laura-Lynn Tyler Thompson, who is anti-abortion and earned the nomination for the Burnaby South by-election, scheduled for Feb. 25.
Ms. Tyler Thompson has made a number of anti-trans and homophobic remarks online, has indicated she is opposed to gender-neutral washrooms and is against sexual education in schools. She ran for a school board position in Burnaby and campaigned aggressively against a provincial policy to teach sexual orientation and gender identity in elementary schools; she subsequently described that policy as “brainwashing” children into believing they can be a different gender.
But after her views were made public, she wrote on Facebook that Mr. Bernier’s party was for “all people.” “As Canadians we get to live as we please,” she wrote. “I love this land as you can be gay, lesbian, trans, pansexual, polyamorous, heterosexual or any of the many genders that some identify as.”
Charles McVety, a social conservative and president of Canada Christian College, praised Mr. Bernier for welcoming Ms. Tyler Thompson, whom he called a “strong opponent of gender dysphoria teaching.” But he is not taking it as a sign that Mr. Bernier has become a leader for social conservatives.
“[Mr. Bernier] is great on fiscal issues, but for me, he is on the opposite side on same-sex marriage and on most social issues,” Mr. McVety said.
He said he will support the Conservatives in the election, primarily because they are the best alternative to the governing Liberals, whom Mr. McVety described as being “hostile.”
The majority of Canadians support access to abortion services. A 2017 Ipsos poll showed that 77 per cent of respondents thought access to abortion services should be permitted, with only 12 per cent saying it should not. But anti-abortion groups still have some sway in elections. However, the issue is rarely debated in the House of Commons.
Scott Hayward, co-founder of RightNow, said his organization’s goal is to find the best anti-abortion candidates and win nominations for political parties that have a legitimate opportunity to elect members of the House of Commons.
At this point, he said, the People’s Party is not polling high enough across the country, with the exception of Mr. Bernier’s own riding of Beauce.
“For us pro-lifers, from Maxime Bernier, there’s nothing more additional he’s offering that we can’t find in other larger political parties,” Mr. Hayward said.