HALIFAX – Conservative leader Andrew Scheer reiterated his promise not to reopen the abortion debate, hours before the party members voted to maintain the existing policy at the Saturday national Torie convention in Halifax.
One of the 74 resolutions discussed on Friday at the Congress suggested deleting any reference to regulating abortion from the official policy of the party, but the resolution was narrowly defeated on Saturday.
The party policy says at the moment that a conservative government does not support legislation to regulate abortion, and Saturday's vote from 53 percent to 47 percent means that the policy will hold.
In an interview with The Canadian Press earlier in the day, Scheer said he would not introduce legislation to reopen divisive issues such as abortion, even if a majority of the members voted in favor of the resolution.
"I made it very clear that as Prime Minister I will not re-open this debate, I will not introduce legislation to re-open divisive issues or to re-address issues that have already been resolved by previous governments," he said.
During the policy plenary session on the final day of the convention on Saturday, several controversial decisions were approved by the general membership, including two other resolutions on abortion – both of which were adopted.
One is that abortion must be explicitly excluded from the financial assistance of mothers and children that Canada provides to developing countries. That resolution passed easily, so an electronic number of votes was not necessary.
Another resolution to support legislation to ensure that every living child is given every opportunity to support life has also passed by a margin of 63 percent to 37 percent. That resolution was supported by the anti-abortion lobby group the Campaign Life Coalition.
Before the votes were even held, Scheer said that although he welcomes open debates and discussions among members, he will remain "unambiguous" in his position that he will not accept social problems with divisions, including abortion.
But abortion was not the only controversial social issue raised in the policy resolutions, each of which was led by electoral riding clubs from across the country.
Another resolution, which opposed the expansion of "euthanasia and assisted suicide" against minors, people with a mental illness or "people who are not competent", went 62 percent to 38 percent.
Another, which described pornography as a public health risk that required government regulation to reduce exposure and addiction, was defeated.
The debates sparked much heated debate about the ideology and ability of the Conservative party to meet the views and policy proposals of more socially conservative members within the party.
On Friday, some delegates even issued handouts that dictated how "conservatives for real conservative values" should vote on the more controversial resolutions on social issues.
For those who are unhappy with the outcome of some of the votes on Saturday and do not feel fair, Scheer said he would like to work on areas where they can reach consensus.
"It is the job of a leader to find a common base," he said.
"I am not going to introduce legislation, make any proposals that would divide our caucus, divide our own party and distribute Canadians."
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