When a former Tory MP announced he would run in his old Nova Scotia riding for the Liberals, the first thing political journalists focused on was not the party-jumping involved in Bill Casey seeking the Liberal nomination in Cumberland-Colchester-Musquodobit Valley, but whether his views on abortion meshed with Justin Trudeau’s.
In May, the Liberal leader said all Liberal candidates would have to be pro-abortion. On Nov. 19, Casey told the CBC he would “defend a woman’s right to choose” and claimed to always have been pro-abortion. But Conservative MP James Moore, the Industry Minister, took a jab at Casey and the Liberals, tweeting, “J. Trudeau said those who are pro-life can’t run for him & disagree on issues of conscience. Bill Casey is pro-life.”
Casey said he did not know where the Conservatives were getting their information, because “I am on the record” supporting abortion and he remembered “very distinctly” voting against Bill C-43, the Mulroney government’s abortion bill in the early 1990s.
He told the CBC, “as I recall, I voted against the government bill back in the ‘90s. It was my own government’s bill. It restricted abortion and I voted against it … I voted against the bill because it restricted abortion.”
The record, however, contradicts Casey’s claim.
Most pro-life MPs joined their pro-abortion colleagues in the House of Commons to oppose C-43, which the pro-life movement said did not restrict abortion because of its large loopholes; the pro-abortion movement opposed it because they wanted an unfettered license to abortion.
Casey voted for C-43 at second reading but was absent from the final vote. However, he rose in the House of Commons on Nov. 28, 1989, to speak against the government’s abortion bill, saying that he believed life began at conception and “it is my hope that at committee stage amendments will be made to recognize this principle … and protection can be given to all unborn children.”
Bill Casey is a former Progressive Conservative, Conservative, and independent MP from Cumberland-Colchester-Musquodobit Valley (and its various predecessor ridings). Casey was an MP from 1988 to 1993 and again from 1997 through to 2007.
CLC files from the late 1990s and early 2000s on the former MP indicate Casey told their representatives in both Ottawa and Nova Scotia that he was pro-life but that he refused to sign the questionnaire and did not want to become “actively involved” by speaking about the topic, attending the Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus, or sponsoring pro-life legislation.
In 2003, he voted against M-83, a private member’s motion by Garry Breitkreuz that called on the Standing Committee on Health to examine and report to Parliament if abortion was medically necessary. Also that year, Casey was absent on the vote for C-13, the Liberal government’s reproductive technologies bill that allowing experimentation on embryonic humans and the creation of animal-human hybrids.
Casey said that voting against the Mulroney government’s abortion bill was the most difficult decision he made as an MP, even more difficult than voting against the Harper government’s budget in 2007.
In 2007, Casey was kicked out of the Tory caucus after voting against the budget. He ran and won as an independent in 2008 before resigning the following year. Conservative Scott Armstrong now holds the riding. Armstrong gets a red light from Campaign Life Coalition due to two votes against pro-life pieces of legislation (M-312 which would have studied Canada’s 400-year-old definition of human being and M-510 which would have outlawed coercive abortion).
Casey told the CBC that when he met with Trudeau, his views on abortion did not come up, “and I’m surprised it didn’t come, but I just never thought of it and he obviously never thought of it.”