OTTAWA — Andrew Scheer said Thursday that the Liberals are trying to distract from their record of failure by dredging up divisive social issues and a government he leads would not re-open the debates on abortion or same-sex marriage.
But the Conservative leader did not rule out giving latitude to individual MPs seeking to express themselves on those issues by bringing forward private members' bills that may seek to restrict LGBT rights or the right to abort a pregnancy.
He did say he'd oppose them.
"As prime minister, I will always oppose measures that reopen these types of debates," he told a press conference in Toronto.
Both issues have been bedevilling Scheer for the past week, since the Liberals circulated a 14-year-old video of him explaining to the House of Commons why he was opposed to same-sex marriage. He said at the time that same-sex couples could not be married because they could not "commit to the natural procreation of children."
Scheer did not outright disavow his remarks from 2005. But he said Thursday that those remarks come from a chapter of Canadian history that is now closed.
"My personal views are that LGBT Canadians have the same inherent self-worth and dignity as every other Canadian and I will always uphold the law and always ensure that they have equal access to the institution of marriage as it exists under the law," he said.
Scheer said Canadians have also moved on.
"It's just the Liberals who are pushing this, trying to distract from their record of failure, corruption and scandal, trying to dredge up issues from long ago in attempt to divide Canadians and distract from their own scandal," he said.
It is his Quebec lieutenant, however, who has sown confusion over the abortion issue, telling Conservative candidates in the province that backbench MPs would not be allowed to propose private member's bills to restrict abortion access.
That appeared to fly in the face of Conservative policy, which was believed to allow MPs to bring forward private members' bills on whatever subjects they like.
Scheer insisted there was no contradiction. He said MPs know they are allowed to hold their own beliefs, but that they must also all work together.
"We work as a team, and the certainty that Canadians can have confidence in — a Conservative government will not reopen this issue."
The Canadian Press