12/11/2016 08:36 EST | Updated 12/12/2017 00:12 EST

Tory leadership hopeful Lemieux pledges to end sex-selective abortion

OTTAWA — A candidate for the Conservative party leadership says it's time for Canada to have a free and open debate about sex-selective abortion.

Pierre Lemieux says in a statement that if he wins the leadership the Conservative platform will include a pledge to take action against sex-selective abortion.

The former Ontario Tory MP, who is one of the lesser-known hopefuls in the 14-candidate race, also says as prime minister he would work to end the practice.

The issue has stirred up controversy for the Conservatives in the past — in 2013, about 20 Tory MPs were infuriated when fellow MP Mark Warawa's motion condemning sex-selective abortion was blocked. The dispute eventually led MP Brent Rathgeber to quit the caucus.

Speaking in a new campaign video, Lemieux says it's wrong to end a pregnancy based solely on the belief that a baby girl is worth less than a baby boy and that politicians should have the courage to discuss the issue.

Conservative strategist Michele Austin says while Lemieux's position is consistent with his social-conservative views, she contends that it's a strategy for him to get noticed and she fears his announcement could open old wounds within the party.

Austin also hopes the fact his announcement is coming so early in the race doesn't hijack a competition that she says has been a positive story for the party.