Liberals push for abortion funding

The Liberal Party wants to financially penalize provinces like P.E.I. that limit funding for abortions.

Members voted in favour of a resolution put forward as a priority by the National Women's Liberal Commission during the party's policy convention in Ottawa over the weekend.

The resolution states that abortion is guaranteed under the Canada Health Act.

But "in certain areas of the country, women's access to reproductive health services is limited, being eroded or non-existent ... forcing women to travel long distances at their own expense," the resolution states.

It suggests the Government of Canada "financially penalize provinces that fail to abide by the provisions of the Canada Health Act with respect to ensuring complete access to these services, and/or covering costs related to their provision."

The resolution does not mention P.E.I. by name, but it was the campaign to bring abortion to the island that brought the issue to the national party's attention.

P.E.I. is the only province where abortions are not performed.

"I'm sorry to say the women in the rest of the country were not aware that the women in Prince Edward Island did not have the same access to services that the rest of the women have, so we felt that it was even more important that we reaffirm our support," said Mary Pynenburg, president of the National Women's Liberal Commission.

P.E.I. MP Wayne Easter, one of the Island's three Liberal MPs, said he wasn't in the room when the abortion resolution was debated and passed, but if he had been, he would have voted in favour.

"All those services need to be available and they should be available in P.E.I.," he said.

"As a second option, if those services are not available there for some time, the cost of getting to other public health-care institutions off-Island should be covered."

There is a precedent for withholding transfer money over the abortion issue. About a decade ago, the federal Liberal government withheld hundreds of thousands of dollars from Nova Scotia over funding for private clinic abortions.

Meanwhile, 77 per cent of Liberals also voted in favour of legalizing and regulating marijuana.

The resolution states that a new Liberal government would legalize marijuana and regulate and tax its production.

"The drug laws that we have in Canada are not working. And we are seeing more and more people, young people who may be just experimenting, and they'll have a criminal record and their lives will be virtually destroyed," said Easter, who was among those who voted in favour.

"What we are talking about is small amounts of marijuana. I think it is where the young generation is at. This strictly came out of the youth. They know what's happening on the ground with young people. They know how their lives can be destroyed."

The policy calls for strict penalties for illegal trafficking, grow-ops and impaired driving.

Interim Leader Bob Rae said the party would have to look into the practicalities of legalizing marijuana before it could became an official party policy.