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.

Just Posted

(File photo from The Canadian Press)
Red Deer down to 66 active COVID-19 cases

Red Deer has lowest number of active cases since last November

File photo
Wetaskiwin RCMP investigate fatal collision

One fatality in a serious collision on Highway 2A on June 18, 2021.

Participants in Rock Soup Food Bank’s fundraising drag race that took place on June 20, 2021. Shaela Dansereau/ PipestoneFlyer.
Rock Soup Food Bank fundraises with literal drag race down main-street

Participants ran in drag down Wetaskiwin’s main street as a fundraiser for the food bank.

Orange shirts, shoes, flowers and messages are displayed on the steps outside the legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Tuesday, June 8, 2021 following a ceremony hosted by the Songhees and Esquimalt First Nations in honour of the 215 residential school children whose remains have been discovered buried near the facility in Kamloops, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Alberta city cancels Canada Day fireworks at site of former residential school

City of St. Albert says that the are where the display was planned, is the site of the former Youville Residential School

FILE – Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, takes part in an event on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous Peoples Day must be a ‘call to action’, says Assembly of First Nations chief

Discovery of children at Kamloops residential school site must lead to change, Perry Bellegarde says

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
VIDEO: Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

FILE - In this Nov. 29, 2020, file photo, Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib leaves the field after an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons in Atlanta. Nassib on Monday, June 21, 2021, became the first active NFL player to come out as gay. Nassib announced the news on Instagram, saying he was not doing it for the attention but because “I just think that representation and visibility are so important.” (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)
Nassib becomes first active NFL player to come out as gay

More than a dozen NFL players have come out as gay after their careers were over

A pair of Alberta residents were arrested after police responded to a report of a woman who had allegedly been assaulted and confined against her will on June 20, 2021. (File photo)
Salmon Arm RCMP arrest 2 Albertans suspected in alleged assault, unlawful confinement

Firearms, stolen items seized including NHL hockey cards believed to be worth thousands

A man makes his way past signage to a mass COVID-19 vaccination centre at the University of Toronto’s Mississauga campus during the COVID-19 pandemic in Mississauga, Ont., on Monday, May 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Canadians encouraged to see mRNA shots as interchangeable as more 2nd doses open up

Doctors urge people not to hesitate if offered Moderna after getting Pfizer for their first shot

Chief of Defence Staff Jonathan Vance sits in the front row during a news conference in Ottawa on June 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Defence committee rises without report on Vance allegations

Committee had been investigating the government’s handling of complaints against former defence chief

Tl’etinqox-lead ceremony at the site of the former St. Joseph’s Mission in Williams Lake, B.C., June 18, 2021. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
‘We are all one people’: Honouring residential school victims and survivors

Love, support and curiousity: Canadians urged to learn about residential schools and their impact

Indigenous rights and climate activists gathered outside Liberty Mutual’s office in Vancouver to pressure the insurance giant to stop covering Trans Mountain. (Photo by Andrew Larigakis)
Activists work to ensure Trans Mountain won’t get insurance

Global campaign urging insurance providers to stay away from Canadian pipeline project

Investigators use a bucket to help recover human remains at a home burned in the Camp fire, Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018, in Magalia, Calif. Many of the missing in the deadly Northern California wildfire are elderly residents in Magalia, a forested town of about 11,000 north of the destroyed town of Paradise. (AP Photo/John Locher)
‘Forever War’ with fire has California battling forests instead

Five of the state’s largest-ever blazes seared California last year, as authorities tackle prevention

Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto and IOC President Thomas Bach, on a screen, speak during a five=party online meeting at Harumi Island Triton Square Tower Y in Tokyo Monday, June 21, 2021. The Tokyo Olympics will allow some local fans to attend when the games open in just over a month, Tokyo organizing committee officials and the IOC said on Monday. (Rodrigo Reyes Marin/Pool Photo via AP)
Tokyo Olympics to allow Japanese fans only, with strict limits

Organizers set a limit of 50% capacity — up to a maximum of 10,000 fans

Most Read