Conservative party leader Stephen Harper addresses a crowd in Edmundston, New Brunswick on April 20, 2011.
Credits: QMI AGENCY
ST. JOHN'S - A Conservative government won't re-open the debate over abortion, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Thursday.
"This is not the priority of the Canadian people or of this government," Harper maintained at a campaign event in - ironically - Conception Bay South, N.L.
"The priority is the economy. That's what we're going to focus on."
He also nixed the suggestion his party would support any private members bills seeking to toughen Canada's abortion laws.
"Government will not bring forward any such legislation, and any such legislation that is brought forward will be defeated as long as I am prime minister."
Late Wednesday, a speech made by a Tory backbencher left the Conservative campaign scrambling to clarify its stance on abortion, with a party spokesman calling a last-minute news scrum at 1:30 a.m.
The Liberal war room had gotten its hands on a copy of the mid-April speech made by by Saskatchewan Tory MP Brad Trost to a provincial pro-life group and had distributed it to journalists.
Trost claimed Planned Parenthood, which provides sexual and reproductive health programs worldwide, had lost federal funding due - at least in part - to pressure by anti-abortion groups and pro-life MPs on the government.
"My office was involved in spearheading that, along with a few other things, and I had many members of Parliament helping me," Trost said.
"These last couple years, even though we are still not with you quite the way we want to, we stopped losing and actually had a couple small, emphasis on small, small and real victories."
Responding to questions on Trost's comments, Harper said: "As you know, in our party, as in any broadly based party, there are people with a range of views on this issue."
The Conservatives also deny Planned Parenthood was defunded.
"If Planned Parenthood submits an application that falls within the government's parameters for the G8 Muskoka Initiative, there will be funding," the party said in a statement.
Planned Parenthood has been waiting to hear whether a Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) grant had been green-lighted.
The Harper campaign pauses in Ottawa on Friday before heading out on its final sprint.