In fact, Mr. Scheer just said that nothing has changed in the Conservative Party: a Conservative government is not going to reopen the debate on abortion or same-sex marriage. But he will not prevent his members from proposing private bills on such moral issues and allowing members to vote according to their conscience on these bills.
One thing is certain, a Scheer government will not criminalize abortion again or ban same-sex marriage.
But what ended the debate would have been that Mr Scheer indicated that it had become a question of principle for him.
The reconciliation of personal, moral or religious beliefs with politics is as old as the world. But for at least half a century, one principle has prevailed: politicians must not govern according to their moral or religious beliefs, so sincere they may be, but according to the interest of all citizens .
Probably the best summation of the situation was John F. Kennedy, a Catholic and presidential candidate of the United States – it was a big controversy at the time – in a famous speech in Houston before an assembly of ministers. Protestants, in 1960:
I do not speak on behalf of the Church on matters of public interest, and the Church does not speak for me. Whatever issues I will have to decide as president … I will do it according to what my conscience tells me is the national interest, regardless of religious pressure or belief.
Since then, it has become almost the norm. When politicians had to explain these issues in democratic societies, they held similar speeches.
In Canada, a recent example is former Prime Minister Paul Martin.
A practicing Catholic, he voted against same-sex marriage in a free vote at the beginning of the debate, concealing that it went against his religious beliefs.
He was a few years later the first minister who passed the law legalizing gay marriage saying that the only thing he had to consider was to give everyone equal rights before the law.
There are several examples of politicians who have made a clear distinction between their personal values and the general interest.
But that's exactly what Mr. Scheer chose not to do last Thursday. He never said that the reason why a Conservative government would not reopen the debate on abortion or same-sex marriage is a matter of principle for him.
These issues are settled, he says, and Canadians have moved on. Which is, basically, a mere acknowledgment that it would not be in his political interest to return to it.
What is in his political interest, however, is not to alienate his supporters from the Canadian religious right, which has strongly contributed to his election as Conservative leader.
The laws will not change, but a member could force Parliament to debate a bill restricting access to abortion or giving a new definition of what a fetus is.
The mere fact of holding such a debate would be considered a great victory for the pro-life movement.
Mr. Scheer had a choice, he could have said that he was going to use his power of leadership to prevent such a debate. He would have avoided this issue coming back to haunt him in the election campaign. He decided otherwise.
Seeing that this whole debate was not working to his advantage, Mr. Scheer, in an interview with The Presssaid on Friday that he would personally vote against any proposed abortion law and that he expected his ministers to do the same.
This is a very small concession that has a perverse effect: under the circumstances, it is almost inevitable that, under a Scheer government, it is necessary to prepare for a debate in Parliament on abortion. In any case, the leader of the party is already considering it.