09/09/2019 17:16 EDT | Updated 09/09/2019 17:21 EDT

Greens Say Abortion Issue Won't Be Reopened By MPs, Despite Policy On Whipped Votes

Elizabeth May told "Power & Politics" she would "dissuade" an MP from pursuing the issue.

Cole Burston/CP
Elizabeth May speaks in Toronto prior to a fireside chat about the climate on Sept. 3, 2019.

Federal Greens say there is “zero chance” any of the party’s MPs will reopen the abortion debate, even as leader Elizabeth May says she lacks the power to “silence” her colleagues on the issue.

Green Party spokesperson Rosie Emery said in a statement Monday that it has long been the party’s policy that all women should have timely access to legal, safe abortions.

“Although the Leader does not have the power to whip votes, all Green Party Members of Parliament must endorse the Green Party’s values, including a firm support of a woman’s right to choose. There is zero chance an elected representative of our party will ever reopen the abortion debate,” Emery said in the release.

“This is because, during our candidate vetting process, we ensure that all candidates wholeheartedly agree that the abortion debate is closed in Canada. Any who disagree are not allowed to run.”

The party also noted in the release that, while an “extremely rare occurrence,” would-be candidates have been disqualified in the past over their anti-choice views.

The statement comes on the heels of a clip from CBC’s “Power & Politics” that raised eyebrows online Monday. In the segment, host Vassy Kapelos asked May what she would do if a backbench MP wanted to reopen the debate on reproductive rights through a private member’s bill.

Watch the segment below:

May called it a “difficult question” because it is party policy that the leader not whip votes.

“Nor do I have the power to silence an MP. And frankly, I think that’s a good thing because democracy will be healthier when constituents know that their MP works for them and not for the party leader,” she said.

May said she and her caucus would seek to talk an MP out of pursuing a bill on the issue.

“I could try to dissuade them. I could say that it would be ‘unfortunate,’” she said.

Kapelos also asked May about her personal views on abortion. May said that she’s believed since childhood that “a woman has a right to a safe, legal abortion.”

Watch: Scheer says Conservative government would not reopen debates on abortion, same-sex marriage


Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has also faced questions in the lead-up to the election campaign on whether he would allow backbench MPs to table legislation dealing with reproductive rights.

Scheer told reporters in Toronto last month that while backbench MPs would be allowed to introduce anti-abortion bills if Tories form government, he will “oppose” any such measures. 

HuffPost Canada revealed in August that Scheer’s Quebec lieutenant, Alain Rayes, had incorrectly told candidates in the province that MPs would not be able to touch the issue.

Five years ago, Justin Trudeau said that no new Liberals candidates who hold anti-abortion views would be permitted to run for the party. 

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has called abortion a “fundamental right.”

New Democrats state in their platform that they will “enforce the Canada Health Act to make sure that the provinces make medical and surgical abortion available in all parts of the country, without barriers.”