Justin Trudeau unveiled another piece of his Liberal Party’s platform on Wednesday in Ottawa – a private members’ bill aimed at reforming Canada’s information laws.
“The ability of a citizen to access information on what a government is doing with their tax dollars, in their name, is one of the fundamental tenets of building confidence around government,” Trudeau said.
“Looking at the access to information system is a very easy and clear way, updating it, is a clear way to actually improve that bond of trust.”
The 42-year-old leader of Canada’s third-place federal party released details of the bill – now called the ‘Transparency Act’ – as a proposed amendment for the country’s Access to Information Act, and as a preview for the Liberal Party’s federal campaign, for an election tentatively scheduled for October, 2015.
“What I most want out of this piece of legislation is to update our Access to Information Act and allow it to function in a more 21st century way,” he said. “There’s only so much that can be done within a private members’ bill and I look forward to doing a lot more if one day I have the chance to do so in government.”
Trudeau also spoke on his much-discussed stance on abortion – specifically, his previous statements that any MP running for the Liberal Party in 2015 will have to be pro-choice.
“I don’t know that there’s anyone in this country that is in favour of abortions,” he said. “But what I am very much in favour of is a woman’s right to make that determination on her own, in consultation with the medical community, in consultation with whoever she chooses to consult.
“It is not for a room full of predominantly male legislators to take away those rights from women.”
Trudeau has been criticized for his stance, with some feeling it is both alienating to MPs who hold a different opinion and with others feeling it was against the spirit of religious freedom.
“It is another troubling attack on freedom – and it’s coming from the son of the prime minister who brought in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which explicitly guarantees Canadians freedom of religion,” wrote an editorial from the Langley Times, a Black Press newspaper.
“Trudeau the Younger has shown that freedom is only selectively guaranteed by his party.”
In May, Conservative MP Stella Ambler – from the Toronto-area riding in Mississauga, Ontario – said Trudeau’s stance could help her party nab Liberal voters.
“This could make the difference, because people who vote Liberal must be thinking to themselves, How can I vote for someone who’s not going to be able to follow their conscience?” Ambler said.
“You don’t even have to be pro-life to think that – you just have to think, What kind of party legislates political expediency over an MP’s conscience?“
Another Toronto MP, the Liberal Party’s John McKay, was also (reportedly) heard on tape ripping Trudeau for his declaration, calling it a “bozo eruption” and a “toxic issue”. McKay then called the tape a practice in “gotcha” politics.
Not surprisingly, Trudeau was also called out by robed members of Canada’s religious community, specifically Bishop Christian Riesbeck, who questioned the politician’s Roman Catholic faith.
“It’s the fact that he considers himself to be a devout Catholic but then adheres to, or advocates for, abortion,” Riesbeck said in May. “That is scandalous.”
Riesbeck then said Trudeau had “undermined” Canada’s values of freedom of conscience and religion, and said the only way for the Liberal leader to correct what the Bishop viewed as a mistake would be to publicly retract his views.
“My role is to stand up and defend all Canadians and my role in terms of that is separate from any personal religious views,” Trudeau said.
“I look forward to sitting down with any and all faith leaders to talk about issues that are important to them. But the Liberal Party is unequivocal. We stand up for women’s rights.”