The Liberals accused Andrew Scheer of observing a “lifelong boycott” of gay Pride events, challenging him to march in Ottawa’s weekend parade, in a pre-election-campaign attack on the Conservative Leader’s personal views on homosexuality.
As part of a social-media campaign Thursday, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale circulated an edited video of Mr. Scheer arguing against the bill that would legalize same-sex marriage in the House of Commons in 2005. In the speech, Mr. Scheer maintains that even if same-sex marriage becomes legal, it can never truly be marriage because the couple can’t naturally procreate.
The Conservative Leader has repeatedly insisted he won’t change that law now – but he has not directly addressed whether his own personal views about same-sex marriage have changed, or why he hasn’t participated in Pride events.
Mr. Scheer’s speech was highlighted by the Liberals as they try to regain their footing after the Ethics Commissioner ruled that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau broke the conflict-of-interest law while pushing for SNC-Lavalin to be granted a deferred prosecution agreement. It also signals how the Liberals hope to define the Conservative Leader ahead of the Oct. 21 election.
The video, tweeted by Mr. Goodale, shows Mr. Scheer, then 25 years old and less than a year into his tenure as an MP, in the House expressing his moral objections to the same-sex marriage bill. Mr. Scheer voted against the law.
“Just because a tail is called a leg does not make it a leg. If Bill C-38 passes, governments and individual Canadians will be forced to call a tail a leg, nothing more,” Mr. Scheer said, applying an old Abraham Lincoln analogy to his arguments on same-sex marriage.
Mr. Scheer was not available for an interview Thursday, and in a statement the Conservatives did not address whether Mr. Scheer’s personal beliefs have changed since 2005. “Mr. Scheer supports same-sex marriage as defined in law and as Prime Minister will of course uphold it,” spokesperson Daniel Schow said.
Mr. Scheer’s 14-year-old speech argues that same-sex marriage isn’t legitimate, whether legal or not. “They cannot commit to the natural procreation of children. They cannot therefore be married,” he said.
The Conservatives did not answer questions from The Globe and Mail about whether Mr. Scheer has ever marched in a Pride parade, and whether he will if he becomes prime minister.
Mr. Goodale, who was not available for an interview Thursday, opposed same-sex marriage in 1999 but supported it in 2005. On Twitter, he challenged Mr. Scheer to end his “lifelong boycott” of Pride events and march in the Ottawa Pride parade to “defend every Canadian’s human rights.” In a subsequent statement, he said the Tory’s promise to keep the current law is “not enough” and said Mr. Scheer needs to “reinforce” the gains on LGBTQ rights already made.
Liberal MPs John McKay, Bill Casey (at the time a Conservative MP) and Scott Simms voted against the law in 2005 and did not reply Thursday to questions about whether their views have changed.
Liberal MPs Francis Scarpaleggia, Lawrence MacAulay and Rodger Cuzner, who voted against same-sex marriage in 2005, all said they now support it. Mr. Cuzner said if he could redo one vote, it would be that one.
The Conservatives maintained that there are “many ways” to support LGBTQ communities and that Mr. Scheer “will continue to stand up against hatred and discrimination in all its forms.”
In a statement, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh called Mr. Scheer’s speech “disgusting” and “very painful for many Canadians.” He said the NDP will not support the Conservatives if they try to form government in the event that no party wins a majority in the fall election, but he also criticized the Liberals for not going far enough to support LGBTQ people while in government.
Mr. Trudeau, who is the first sitting prime minister to ever march in a Pride parade, is missing Ottawa’s event for the Group of 7 meeting in France. Mr. Singh also won’t be at this weekend’s Pride parade, but his office noted that he has already marched in four Pride parades this year.