Seven in 10 Canadians believe Justin Trudeau is wrong to exclude candidates from running for the Liberals based on their abortion views, but the party appears to be suffering minimal fallout over the issue, according to a new poll.

The exclusive Ipsos Reid poll for CTV News found that 70 per cent of Canadians believe that “even as party leader, Justin Trudeau has no right to exclude potential candidates from running for the Liberal Party based on whether or not they are pro-choice.”

Three-in-10 Canadians said that as party leader, Trudeau “has the right to decide if he only wants pro-choice candidates to run for the Liberals in the next election.”

Last month, Trudeau announced that potential candidates wanting to run for the Liberals in the next election must support a woman’s right to have access to an abortion in any vote on the issue. Anti-abortion activists and the Roman Catholic Church were quick to criticize the decision, and the Archdiocese of Ottawa has invited Trudeau to meet with Archbishop Terrence Prendergast to discuss the issue.

John McKay, one of a handful of anti-abortion Liberal MPs, acknowledged publicly that he expects to have some “awkward moments” in caucus, and was secretly recorded suggesting Trudeau’s announcement was “a bozo eruption.”

Trudeau has held fast to his position, and told reporters Wednesday he is “very much in favour” of a woman’s right to make her own decision about whether to have an abortion.

“It is not for a room full of predominantly male legislators to take away those rights from women,” he said.

Despite the controversy, Liberal support appears to be suffering minimal damage.

About 22 per cent of Canadians said that Trudeau’s position makes them more likely to vote for the federal Liberals, while about 27 per cent said it makes them less likely to support the Grits, “meaning the net impact on likeliness to vote for the Liberals is only slightly lower,” the poll states.

Half of respondents said the announcement had “no impact” on their voting intentions.

Ontario voters less enthused than in Quebec, B.C.

While Trudeau’s announcement gave his party support a slight boost in Quebec and British Columbia, it had a negative impact on support in vote-rich Ontario.

According to the poll, Trudeau’s announcement:

  • Makes 31 per cent of Ontarians say they are less likely to support the Liberals, compared to 19 per cent who say it would make them more likely to support the party, “resulting in a -12 net impact on Ontarians likelihood to vote for the Liberals.”
  • Makes 25 per cent of Quebecers more likely to vote for the Liberals, compared to 21 per cent who said it makes them less likely to do so, leading to a net impact of +4.
  • Makes 27 per cent of British Columbians more likely to vote Liberal compared to 22 per cent who said they were less likely to, resulting in a net impact of +5.

Minority says lack of abortion law ‘unacceptable’

Canada has been without any kind of national abortion law since 1988, when the Supreme Court struck down the country’s law governing the procedure.

According to the poll, about 33 per cent of Canadians find the lack of an abortion law “unacceptable,” which is down three points from 2010. About 40 per cent of Canadians find this “acceptable,” up 13 points from 2010, while 27 per cent said they “don’t care one way or another,” down seven points from 2010.

A slim majority of respondents, 52 per cent, said there should be no restrictions on a woman’s right to choose and that abortion “should be permitted whenever a woman decides she wants one.”

Among the remaining respondents:

  • 24 per cent said abortions “should be permitted in certain circumstances, such as when a woman has been raped.”
  • 9 per cent said abortions “should not be permitted under any circumstances, except when the life of the mother is in danger.”
  • 4 per cent believe abortions “should not be permitted under any circumstances.”

Meanwhile, Canadians’ appetite for reopening the abortion debate is low, the poll found.

One in three Canadians believe the federal government should “reopen the issue of abortion,” while 52 per cent believe it should “leave things the way they are.” One in five respondents said they “don’t care one way or another.”

The poll was conducted between June 2 and June 4 and includes responses from 1,008 Canadians from Ipsos Reid’s online panel. The poll is considered accurate to within +/- 3.5 percentage points.