Erin O’Toole is now the Leader of the Conservative Party, after a competitive leadership race that featured two strongly pro-life candidates. Pro-life candidate Leslyn Lewis also had a high profile, winning almost 21% of the available points on the first ballot. It was a reminder that many voters care deeply about social & family issues, including abortion and euthanasia.
Where does Erin O’Toole stand on these issues? He has made statements on some pro-life topics, but we can also look to his voting record, since he has been in politics since 2012.
Inconsistent Record on Abortion
He’ll be the first to tell you: he’s pro-choice. “I won the leadership of the Conservative Party as a pro-choice Conservative MP, one with a strong mandate. That’s how I’m going to lead as the leader of the Opposition,” he told media in the days after the leadership results.
He has emphasized his willingness to accept other points of view, especially amongst other MPs when it comes to votes on moral issues. In an email to his supporters, he said he would allow MPs to vote according to their consciences on “moral issues” if he were to lead the government. Earlier this year, he told the Toronto Star that he would permit MPs to bring forward bills about issues such as conscience rights. However, he said that bills explicitly restricting abortion were a “line he wouldn’t cross.”
However, he did vote ‘yes’ in 2016 to Cassie & Molly’s Law, a proposed bill that would have made it a separate offence to kill or injure a preborn child while committing a violent crime against a pregnant woman. (The bill did not pass.)
Pro-life Canadians may be encouraged by his stance on overseas funding of abortion. In an interview during the leadership race, he said, “I do not think abortion services should be part of our foreign aid funding in any way.” Noting the limited resources that we have to offer, he asked, “Why would we ever earmark some of those funds for something that is not only divisive, but it’s almost a condescending foreign policy? We’re allowing an agenda to be advanced rather than advance direct help for the well being of people.” He noted how much good can be done by funding child and maternal health programs overseas, saying that adding abortion funding is “more politics than compassion.”
However, when it comes to abortion, he has said that he will not bring forward government legislation on the issue. In interview with the media, he has re-iterated that he believes abortion is a right, yet promises to work together with members of the party who have pro-life beliefs.
Strong Message on Euthanasia
When it comes to the issue of euthanasia & assisted suicide, his message is much clearer. He has been against euthanasia since it was first introduced to Canada, and voted against Bill C-14 (the 2016 euthanasia bill). In 2017, he told CTV News, “I do not think it is appropriate for society to make determinations on the quality of a life and to engage our public healthcare system to end that life.” He has advocated for better palliative care, and wrote a blog post warning about the slippery slope of euthanasia.
In his blog post, he emphasized the vulnerability of people who may be considering euthanasia, saying, “We must also remember that the citizen that may want to seek this final option is someone that is likely in a mental state of despair and fear from the pain and uncertainty that comes with a serious illness or debilitating condition.”
In his platform, he proposes conscience rights legislation for doctors and other healthcare professionals, ensuring they will not be forced to participate directly in euthanasia or make a referral. When a conscience rights amendment to Bill C-14 was proposed in 2016, he voted in favour of it, though it did not pass.
Support for Families
In his platform, O’Toole has proposed that the Canada Child Benefit should begin at the 7th month of pregnancy, rather than at childbirth, for a first child. This would allow new moms to prepare for their baby’s arrival by helping to cover first-time costs such as a car seat and crib.
In addition, his platform suggests that women who have experienced a miscarriage or stillbirth should receive two weeks of paid parental leave. He also suggests a bereavement leave for parents who have lost a child shortly after birth.
Canada Summer Jobs Grant
In the past few years, pro-life groups have continued to be prohibited from receiving the Canada Summer Jobs grant, which would be used to hire summer interns to do work in the pro-life field. O’Toole promises to pass a law that would stop discrimination when it comes to government grants and government-funded programs. He specifically notes that ‘religion or religious belief’ should not prevent people from receiving a grant, and it may be that this could be extended to pro-life beliefs as well.
What Can We Do?
With an election possibly coming in the near future, there is a great deal pro-life people can do! Erin O’Toole has promised to listen to the grassroots, so it’s a great time to let him know how important pro-life issues are to you. The Conservative policy convention will be held in 2021, and O’Toole has pledged to allow members to determine the party policies at the grassroots level. At the last policy convention, pro-life voices helped to put forward a number of policies, including that the party condemns discrimination against girls through gender-selective abortion.
It’s important for pro-life people to continue sharing the issues that matter to them with the party leadership and encouraging their MPs to vote pro-life. You can also keep involved if you’re a member of the Conservative party. One way is to attend the policy convention as a delegate for your riding. You can make a great difference with your voice!