The New Democratic Party has taken aim at two Okanagan Green Party candidates for comments made regarding abortion rights that were published in an online political outlet earlier this week.
In an Thursday news release, the NDP pointed out several instances of anti-choice rhetoric from Green Party candidates across the country, including Robert Mellalieu (Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola) and Marc Reinarz (North Okanagan-Shuswap).
According to an exclusive report by PressProgress, Mellalieu refused to identify as “pro-choice” or “pro-life” because “it is inappropriate to dilute the very complicated question of abortion to a simple binary answer.” He then summed up his thoughts: “I believe there should not be a need for abortion.”
The report also contains a comment from Reinarz, who said: “abortion must not be a means to birth control.”
In an interview with Black Press Media, Reinarz said his sentiment is being misconstrued.
“This is not anti-abortion,” he said.
“My standpoint is absolutely not anti-abortion… I openly state that I don’t think its right to use abortion as a primary (method of) birth control. But who am I as a man in his 60s to decide what the consequences are if (a woman) doesn’t follow her mind?”
Mellalieu could not be reached for comment but the Green Party candidate from the neighbouring riding of Kelowna-Lake Country provided his thoughts on the issue.
“(Mellalieu’s) statement is pretty politically neutral,” he said.
“I think what he might be saying is that if there were better social services in place, better ability for single moms to access affordable housing and they could make the decision to bring a child into this life knowing that they’d be well taken care of, maybe there might not be such a need for abortion as there is now under the current system.”
Robert Mellalieu, Green Party candidate for Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola, reached out to give his comments on the issue after the initial Black Press Media article published Thursday afternoon.
He said the statement he made in the report by PressProgress was misinterpreted.
“I will never waiver from a woman’s right to choose,” he said. “That’s sacrosanct, absolute, never changing that.”
He clarified the statement he made saying he believes “there should not be a need for abortion” was in reference to the lack of systems in place to help women in extreme situations.
“I hate abortion,” said Mellalieu. “So I want to make sure there’s everything we do as a society to prevent the need for a woman to exercise that right.”
He went on to explain that more services and education are needed so that abortion can be a last resort option.
“But at all times, it’s still her right to do that,” he said.
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May called the NDP’s attempt to point fingers at candidates “desperate.”
“It’s not the case,” she said. “We are looking for details. We have no details about what they claim. We just know it is not true.”
When asked about what freedoms Greens will have when it comes to speaking about abortion, May said the party is asking candidates to “ascribe” to the party’s “core values” and its policy and platform.
“There is a lot of room for people to move around on some issues,” she said.
But if would-be candidates have problems with abortion, she said they cannot run.
“As leader of the party, I don’t have the power to whip votes… we think whipping votes is anti-democratic. But I am quite confident that our candidates support the party’s position, which that we mustn’t retreat on a woman’s right for a safe and legal abortion.
“The bad old days of women dying in back-alley abortions must never return.”
May said the party did out would-be candidates because of their position on abortion.
“We actually had one person nominated, who we had to ask to stand down.”
May said she felt bad about that decision because she was a very impressive candidate.
“But she said that she couldn’t go along with it…so we did have some people removed well before the NDP tried to pretend that there was an issue. And they have candidates who don’t always agree with their positions. They whip votes; we don’t.”
Abortion policy was a focus of Wednesday night’s french debate. Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer spent Thursday clarifying that he has no plans to reopen debates on abortion law, despite being “personally pro-life.”
May called the abortion issue a media one, calling it “manufactured.”
“I don’t hear it all from the public,” she said.