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Politics Elizabeth May clarifies position on abortion, says Green Party screens out candidates who disagree

The Green Party of Canada and Leader Elizabeth May, seen here, are now backing away from comments she made about MPs being able to reopen the abortion debate.

Cole Burston/The Canadian Press

After saying she wouldn’t control how her MPs vote on abortion, Green Party Leader Elizabeth May now says MPs risk being ousted if they move to reopen the debate.

Ms. May said in a CBC interview broadcast Monday that MPs would be able to reopen the issue because the Greens don’t whip votes, echoing a statement from her party last month. But the Greens released another statement Monday saying “there is zero chance an elected representative of our party will ever reopen the abortion debate.”

In August, the Conservatives sparked confusion over their position on abortion and whether the contentious debate would be reconvened under a Tory-led government. Leader Andrew Scheer later clarified that while his government would never reopen the debate, his MPs could raise it in the House of Commons and would be allowed to vote their conscience on the issue.

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At the time, the Green Party, in a statement to The Globe and Mail, suggested it had the same policy. Ms. May made a similar statement in an interview with the CBC, released on Monday.

“I could talk to them. I could try to dissuade them. I could say it would be unfortunate ... but I don’t have the power as leader of the Green Party to whip votes, nor do I have the power to silence an MP,” Ms. May told the CBC.

However, the party and Ms. May are now backing away from those comments. In an interview with The Globe on Monday, Ms. May said while the party’s policies do not allow the leader to whip any vote – on any issue – the Greens have screened out candidates who don’t agree with party policy on the issue of abortion.

“We don’t have people who would want to reopen the abortion debate," Ms. May said.

She said the party has been vetting candidates based on whether their views align with Green policy for two election cycles. And if an MP voted against party policy on abortion, then Ms. May said she would recommend the party oust the parliamentarian from its ranks. Two-thirds of its national council would have to agree with her.

The Green Party’s policies, described Monday, are similar to the Liberal position that all candidates must vote to uphold abortion rights if the issue comes up in the House. Ms. May said she personally believes in a woman’s right to have an abortion.

How the policies that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau brought in for the Liberals square with his personal views on abortion are unclear. In 2011, he told the Canadian Press that he is personally opposed to abortion but that he believes in a woman’s right to choose. Asked Monday whether Mr. Trudeau’s views have changed, the Prime Minister’s Office didn’t directly address the question.

“The Prime Minister’s personal view is that every woman has the right to choose whether or not to have one,” spokeswoman Chantal Gagnon said.

The NDP supports same-sex marriage and abortion and has said it would whip all votes on the issues.

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