Sunday, April 10, 2005

Harper's Achilles Heel

Just when I think that maybe a Conservative Minority might not be such a bad shakeup in Canadian federal politics, there's Harper back harping on same-sex marriage in the Globe:

Mr. Harper told the crowd Saturday that 95 of 99 Conservative MPs back the traditional concept of marriage.

He promised a Tory government would bring in legislation defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

"Liberals may talk about minorities," Mr. Harper said. "But undermining the traditional definition of marriage is an assault on the beliefs of all cultural and religious communities who have come to this country."

MPs are slated to vote Tuesday on a motion by Mr. Harper that Parliament refuse to give second reading to the bill.

"And if just a few more Liberals are persuaded to vote their conscience instead of their party line, we can kill Bill C-38 dead in its tracks," Mr. Harper said Saturday. (emphasis added)

Putting aside the unnecessary language - an "assault"? - what does Harper see in the recent reference on same-sex marriage that some 143 Canadian law professors have already told him is not there? Why won't he simply accept that any attempts to stop "Bill C-38 dead in its tracks" will last for all of about 1 minute? As the legal experts attempted to explain to him:
"If Parliament were to adopt your proposal and define marriage to exclude same-sex couples, this legislation would very quickly end up in court, and be struck down as unconstitutional."

For Harper, it should be simple. If he believes passionately in upholding traditional marriage (as he obviously does) and thinks it's a vote-winner, then why not come out in favour of using the Notwithstanding clause? If Harper refuses to accept that the Notwithstanding clause is required, then why not assuage those concerned about his party's perceived intolerance by promising not to invoke it if (and, inevitably, when) the Supreme Court eventually does rule on an official legal challenge?

I suppose it is a reflection of the recent Convention resolution, but surely he could at least assume a little lower profile on the issue at this crucial moment. Headlines such as "Harper links sponsorship scandal to same-sex marriage bill" are not the route to victory. His base is fired up enough to vote as it is.

And permit me a final thought, from a federalist point-of-view. Why oh why the fixation and rigidity on this issue just as an opportunity to expand the party in Quebec has opened up? Are we ever going to see the end of the Bloc Quebecois?


Blogger Jason Cherniak said...

Here's the problem. No matter how much you might be pissed at the Liberals, it's not worth giving the reigns of government to Harper. I think that a Con win is the worst-case scenario for Liberals and Conservative. The Libs will be pissed because they have lost, and the Cons will be pissed because they are stuck with Harper as leader.

10:02 AM  
Blogger James MacDuff said...

"No matter how much"

In four words, you have managed to capture almost everything that frustrates me about the current state of the Liberal party. It is about time the Liberal party gets humbled. I want them to be pissed, I am sick of hearing that they deserve to govern only because there is no alternative, ha ha ha on you, voters. When that's the message, even when faced with damning evidence of corruption, the party needs to take a step back.

And as long as it looks like the Conservatives will be held in check by the constraints of a minority, then I am happy to let the Liberals go through a period of substantial self-analysis. I imagine the Tories will be eager to portray themselves as especially moderate and capable of governing, so the risks of anything substantially different are minimal.

By the way, Harper has consistently been underestimated, and you have to respect his intelligence. If you think Conservatives will be pissed because Harper is their leader when he is the one who delivers the keys to 24 Sussex after 12 years in the wilderness, then you are simply wrong. I doubt there are many who wish they had Belinda "talking points" Stronach at the helm now.

11:48 AM  
Blogger Jason Cherniak said...

I think you miss my point. What are you pissed about other than Sponsorship? Do you oppose a national daycare program? Do you think we should have joined the American anti-balisitc Missile Defence program? Do you oppose same-sex marriage or the decriminalization of pot? How about underestimating the surplus so that the debt can be partly repaid before our parents retire?

What is the real complaint here? My opinion is that this Sponsorship stuff, as bad as it might be, should be put at Chretien's doorstep. Martin started the inquiry and wants to clean things up just as much as everybody else. Why should he be punished for that?

12:18 PM  
Blogger James MacDuff said...

I supported a National Daycare program the first 3 times the Liberals promised to introduce it as well.

I don't think a decision on the ABM defence program needed to be taken until the Americans asked us specifically for help, and the ultimate announcement ended up being terrifically botched, in our most important diplomatic relationship, making us look (unnecessarily) all the more foolish.

I continue to support same-sex marriage wholeheartedly, only to have watched Martin vote in favour of keeping traditional marriage, stand silent on same-sex marriage through a leadership campaign, until all of a sudden he found it necessary to wrap himself in the Charter to avoid defeat in the June election. The courts, not the Liberals, are responsible for this victory, regardless of how it ultimately ends. Nothing the Conservatives can do, short of notwithstanding, will stop it now.

I support the decriminalization of pot. I do commend the Liberals on this, too bad it was left to die on the Order Paper when Martin called the last election.

I also support Kyoto. Still waiting, after 7 years (is it 8 now?), for the Liberals to introduce the semblance of an overall plan to reach the targets.

I think it's disingenuous to purposefully underestimate a surplus and take that money out of the public debate. I do support paying off the debt, but holding a discussion on the proper amount would be a more legitimate way to proceed.

I suppose the real complaint is with the governing style of the Liberals under both Chretien and Martin. Announce support for ideas only when they become politically popular, as opposed to taking principled stands. Then drag your feet in the implementation of these issues, while putting yourself forward as their champion. And then have the gall to turn around and tell those who criticize them that, sorry, "no one matter how much you might be pissed at the Liberals", no else is fit to govern.

My point is that to make these claims even now, during the midst of what seems likely to turn into one of the bigger scandals this country has seen for awhile, is maddening. After 12 years, I suppose I'm ready to test the proposition of another party in power, if only to keep the Liberals honest and help return them to a sense that their policy ideas (and how they campaign on them and put them into practice) should make as much a difference to winning elections as their demonizing the opposition.

That all might sound unduly idealistic or naive. I guess it is the frustration of someone who sees himself basically as a Liberal, who has no particular love for this incarnation of the Liberal party.

Or maybe I just like rooting for the underdog.. :-)

1:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bravo James, especially re: wanting to see the Liberals humbled. I'm a conservative who has let my membership and party fealty to the CPC lapse due partly to distaste over their attitude towards gays. As my staunchly anti-Liberal mentor says, "We live in a world of second-best solutions" -- no party platform will ever precisely match our individual ideologies -- but at the moment, no party is looking even so much as palatable. - Linda (visitor via Jason's blog)

5:14 PM  

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