Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer (The Canadian Press photos)

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer (The Canadian Press photos)

Scheer and Trudeau accuse each other of distracting from their records

Next week the leaders have two more debates, these organized by the new federal debates commission

Both the Liberal and Conservative leaders faced attacks Thursday that target the cores of their characters, as each accused the other of trying to distract voters from his record.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said he does not expect the Liberals to stop talking about his views on abortion, even after he decided Thursday to state explicitly for the first time during the federal election campaign that he is personally against abortion.

“It’s a historic Liberal strategy, that when a Liberal government was dealing with scandal and corruption, it tried to sow fear among Canadians. It tried to divide Canadians with false attacks,” said Scheer, who has been highlighting the SNC-Lavalin affair in his argument that Trudeau cannot be trusted.

“So, I expect Justin Trudeau to continue to sow fear and division among Canadians,” Scheer said in Upper Kingsclear, N.B., when asked if he thought sharing his personal beliefs about abortion would put the matter to rest.

The Liberals spent years, notably during the 2004 and 2006 federal election campaigns, accusing then Conservative leader Stephen Harper of harbouring a hidden agenda on things like abortion and same-sex marriage.

That theme returned when Trudeau, New Democrat Leader Jagmeet Singh and Yves-Francois Blanchet of the Bloc Quebecois all pushed Scheer to clarify his personal stance on abortion at the French-language debate hosted by Quebec private television network TVA on Wednesday night.

They demanded to know whether supports women’s having the right to choose to end their pregnancies.

READ MORE: Liberals, Tories, NDP stay in comfort zones as campaign hits halfway mark

Scheer did not answer the question about his personal views on stage, and he has evaded such questions since before the election campaign began.

On Thursday, Scheer decided to elaborate, while arguing he has been upfront about his position since he first ran for office 15 years ago. That includes during the Tory leadership race that saw many social conservatives vote for him after Brad Trost, a vocal abortion opponent, fell off the ballot.

“I am personally pro-life, but I have also made the commitment that as leader of this party, it is my responsibility to ensure that we do not reopen this debate, that we focus on issues that unite our party and unite Canadians,” he said.

“That is exactly what I will do and that is why I will vote against measures that attempt to reopen this debate.”

Later on Thursday, the Globe and Mail reported Scheer holds dual American-Canadian citizenship through his father, who was born in the U.S.

Brock Harrison, a spokesperson for the Conservative campaign, said in a statement that Scheer told the U.S. Embassy this summer that he was renouncing his American citizenship, something he decided to do after winning the leadership race in 2017. He is waiting for the embassy to confirm the process is complete, Harrison said.

Harrison said Scheer has never voted in any U.S. election.

Scheer was pressed to clarify his stance on abortion this summer after it emerged that his Quebec lieutenant, Alain Rayes, had told candidates in the province that backbench MPs would not be allowed to bring forward any bills or motions on the issue.

That goes against party policy, which created confusion until Scheer, a practising Catholic who has voted in favour of restricting abortion rights in the past, said he would oppose any attempt to revive the issue in the House of Commons.

As prime minister, Trudeau required all Liberal MPs to vote with his government on matters of reproductive health, and would-be candidates for his party are asked during the nomination process whether that would be a problem.

Trudeau, who is also a practising Catholic, told The Canadian Press last month that he disagrees with what the Catholic Church teaches about abortion. Before he became Liberal leader, he had said that he was personally against abortion, but believed women had the right to make their own choices.

Singh said Scheer should have elaborated on his position sooner.

“The fact that he said it today, but he didn’t say it during the debate when asked directly, certainly shows a lack of courage,” Singh said in Toronto.

Trudeau, meanwhile, accused the Conservatives of trying to distract from their own record on climate change by making hay out of the fact that the Liberals have two campaign planes — one for passengers and one for cargo.

Scheer had brought it up during the debate on Wednesday night, calling Trudeau a hypocrite on the environment.

The Liberals said the campaign is buying carbon offsets for greenhouse-gas emissions the planes produce, and did the same for two planes in 2015.

“What we’re seeing here from the Conservatives is a classic and desperate attempt to distract from the fact that they have zero approach on climate change — don’t even think it’s important,” Trudeau said Thursday in Montreal.

“It’s a well-established far-right tactic to try and discredit environmentalists and people who actually want to fight the environment, by distracting.”

The Liberals pointed to the example of a Fox News segment on U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, a Republican from Oklahoma, who called out people he described as hypocrites on climate change, such as those who fly to climate conferences instead of holding meetings via Skype.

They also took the opportunity to highlight similar arguments made by controversial right-wing Canadian media outlet The Rebel, which the Liberals noted was linked to Hamish Marshall, who is managing the 2019 Conservative campaign. Marshall cut ties with The Rebel in 2017.

With another major debate behind them, the federal party leaders were scattering across the country Wednesday.

They are all hoping that when the dust settles after the French-language debate, they will have broken out of the stasis the polls keep showing, despite three weeks of each party working hard to convince Canadians to support them in the Oct. 21 election.

Trudeau stayed in Montreal, where he met with local candidates and supporters. Scheer took his campaign to Atlantic Canada, with stops in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

Singh was Toronto, returning to areas where he is hoping to take seats back from Liberals after an extended sojourn in British Columbia.

The Greens’ Elizabeth May and the People’s Party’s Maxime Bernier were also their respective home turfs — May on Vancouver Island and Bernier in Quebec’s Beauce region.

Next week the leaders have two more debates, these organized by the new federal debates commission.

Joanna Smith, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Dastkar, a new furniture store in Vernon, features handmade, unique furniture carved from wood and inlaid with brass in the Chiniot style. The business located on 43rd Avenue was started in December 2020 but is currently unstaffed due to COVID-19 staffing shortages. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)
PHOTOS: Vernon’s hidden handmade furniture store

Owners of Shahi Pakwan Indian restaurant opened the South Asian furniture store in December 2020

Vernon’s Heron Grove retirement facility. (Good Samaritan Society photo)
Resident of Vernon’s Heron Grove retirement home tests positive for COVID-19

Interior Health has not declared an outbreak at the facility

(Vernon Search and Rescue/Facebook)
Vernon Search and Rescue responds after family gets UTV stuck on SilverStar trails

The family activated their SOS beacon around 3 p.m. once they realized they could be facing a night alone in the mountains

The organizer of a Kelowna protest against COVID-19 restrictions was fined by the RCMP for the third time Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021. (File photo)
COVID-19: Organizer of Kelowna anti-restriction protest ticketed for third time

The individual’s latest ticket for $2,300 was handed out by RCMP at an anti-lockdown rally Saturday

Mount Boucherie Secondary School is one of three Kelowna schools with confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to an update from the school district Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021. (File photo)
COVID-19 confirmed at 3 Kelowna schools

Interior Health has confirmed exposures at Mount Boucherie, Springvalley and South Rutland schools

A scene from “Canada and the Gulf War: In their own words,” a video by The Memory Project, a program of Historica Canada, is shown in this undated illustration. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Historica Canada
New video marks Canada’s contributions to first Gulf War on 30th anniversary

Veterans Affairs Canada says around 4,500 Canadian military personnel served during the war

A 17-year-old snowmobiler used his backcountry survival sense in preparation to spend the night on the mountain near 100 Mile House Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021 after getting lost. (South Cariboo Search and Rescue Facebook photo)
Teen praised for backcountry survival skills after getting lost in B.C.’s Cariboo mountains

“This young man did everything right after things went wrong.”

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa on December 10, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
No place for ‘far right’ in Conservative Party, Erin O’Toole says

O’Toole condemned the Capitol attack as ‘horrifying’ and sought to distance himself and the Tories from Trumpism

A passer by walks in High Park, in Toronto, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. This workweek will kick off with what’s fabled to be the most depressing day of the year, during one of the darkest eras in recent history. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
‘Blue Monday’ getting you down? Exercise may be the cure, say experts

Many jurisdictions are tightening restrictions to curb soaring COVID-19 case counts

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
COVID-19: Provinces work on revised plans as Pfizer-BioNTech shipments to slow down

Anita Anand said she understands and shares Canadians’ concerns about the drug company’s decision

Tourists take photographs outside the British Columbia Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday August 26, 2011. A coalition of British Columbia tourism industry groups is urging the provincial government to not pursue plans to ban domestic travel to fight the spread of COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. travel ban will harm struggling tourism sector, says industry coalition

B.C. government would have to show evidence a travel ban is necessary

(Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
‘Targeted’ shooting in Coquitlam leaves woman in hospital

The woman suffered non-life threatening injuries in what police believe to be a targeted shooting Saturday morning

Half of the most expensive homes are on 2080 Mackenzie Crt, which is across the street from Revelstoke Mountain Resort. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)
The 10 most valuable homes in Revelstoke for 2020

Combined, the properties are worth more than $35M

Lake Country native Evan-Riley Brown is in the cast for the new film Journey To Royal: A WW II Rescue Mission to be released on video on demand and streaming services on Feb. 2. (Contributed)
Okanagan actor lands role in WW II movie

Evan-Riley Brown, from Lake Country, cast in production labelled as hybrid of a feature film and documentary called Journey To Royal: a WW II Rescue Mission.

Most Read