Friday, July 01, 2005

Nova Scotian on Same-Sex Marriage

Click on over to Salon for a solid analysis of the disparate Canadian positions on same-sex marriage. The author, Nova Scotia columnist and travel writer Barry Boyce, has a lot of good stuff online already.

Note: If you're not a subscriber, you'll get an ad before they feed the article.

Boyce compares the Conservatives –– an embarrassing blend of hicks from out West who hate the liberals back East (hmm) – with the tenuously empowered minority Liberals under Paul Martin. While a majority of Canadians, except those 55 and older, favor same-sex marriage, those who don't are much like the Bushies here. It's their version of a God who makes them put marriage in quotes if it's close to homosexual.

Canada's pending new marital reality "...offends the sensibility of those who believe that God is concerned about whom you sleep with and how. Some people believe he/she is; some people don't; some people don't believe in God at all. At this late date, one would think that God would not and could not enter into the matter, but the Canadian national anthem still contains the line 'God keep our land glorious and free,' which for many people means that patriotism and piety are one and the same. And we all know whom God speaks directly to south of the 49th Parallel."

Boyce gives us a perspective on the Conservatives.
The Conservative Party, which started as a regional party that catered to Canadian Westerners' alienation from the Eastern establishment, has strived mightily to make itself a national party, and it could be if it were located in the United States, because many of its members espouse the kind of social conservatism that's in vogue there. To become a national party in Canada, though, the Conservatives must hide this fact. But just when it looks like they've managed to do so, as if in a reverse Clintonian bimbo eruption, some member of Parliament from a God-fearing locale pipes up about moral depravity of one kind or another. At that point, Canadians cannot find a pole long enough to distance themselves from this bigoted brand of conservatism.
Perhaps the good angle to that and the lesson we might draw from it here is that the fundamentalists remain in the minority. (Fortunately for the Canadians, they have a smaller percentage.) Their self-righteous bluster there or here may make them feel good, but it won't be convincing the rest of the freedom-loving citizens to hate along with them.

I had a very crude boss years ago who described such futile displays. As he put it, "It's like peeing in a blue serge suit. It gives you a nice warm feeling, but nobody notices.


OttawaCon said...

Actually, Boyce's analysis is pretty poor. His sort of Liberal (party, not philosophy) is the yin to the social conservatives' yang as Canada slides toward the culture-war politics so beloved in the US.

As a pro-SSM Conservative, the last thing we need is the prima facie assumption that concerns are based simply in bigotry and hatred. Some are, but some simply aren't.

massmarrier said...

I'll reserve judgment on a culture war. It looks as though the Conservatives lost this battle, badly, a long time ago. If the party leader is to be believed, as a group, they refuse to accept this and deal.

Harper's reactionary comments were challenges not only to the Bloc, but also to the others making up the government. Above or below our shared border, politics in a representative democracy includes not being able to win them all, even if you care deeply. Can you pass that message along to Stephen?

Also, if you have good sources of analysis that you find superior, let us know.

OttawaCon said...

Boyce's analysis has recognizable Liberal talking points in it, and not much else. I generally distrust articles on the Democratic Party that appear to closely reflect Karl Rove's views.

What his article most critically obscures is the level of division there really is. The polls noted are at one range of the population, others suggest 60-40 against rather than for, and some fall in between. The only really reliable number that emerges is that Quebec is strongly for SSM, fairly consistently at 80/20 for. Given that Quebec is 23% of the total, even the most pro-SSM poll is not suggesting anything higher than a rough 50/50 in English Canada.

In electoral logic, that is enough to win a majority when the other 50% is split between 3 parties and the Bloc Quebecois owns Quebec. So to suggest that the battle was lost badly sort of obscures how divided Canadian society could be.

Boyce further glazes over this division by obscuring where the opposition in Parliament came from. His wonderful narrative about the Conservative Party which you quoted approvingly would suggest that only Conservatives voted against.

While only 3 Conservatives voted for it, indicating they are indeed the most 'opposed' party, the Liberals are clearly deeply divided - 32 of them voted against versus 95 for, on a vote that required Cabinet members to vote for. One actually left the party, and another left Cabinet, over the issue. Even a member of the NDP, a party of the social democratic left, voted against.

If Harper is to be blamed for keeping the issue alive, the Liberals owe an explanation for how cynically they have used the issue, and their failure to advance it for years until it became politically useful.

Much as I would like to believe that most Canadians share my libertarian inclinations, it is simply not the case. A social transition like this needs democratic discourse, and on that score, I think the entire political system has so far failed all Canadians. Boyce doesn't seem to understand that.

massmarrier said...

That's more similar to the U.S. side than the Canadian press presents. Here though, the status quo and reactionary sides drag out the old wagon of let-the-people-decide when it suits a particular battle -- and never at other times.

With the exception of a few rural and suburban areas that still have town meeting, we have a representative democracy. Our legislators and courts have to be a bit out front of the voters. Otherwise, nothings implemented or improved. It's easier for people to stay with what they know.

Many academicians and politicians suggest that if we used popular vote on social issues, we would not protect minorities at all. We got women's suffrage only when we went the amendment route. Neither courts nor Congress would lead that one. We let the poor vote, then let blacks vote, and much later allowed interracial marriage. Each of these would likely have failed again and again in a plebiscite.

Leaders have to lead. Yet, to be re-elected, they need to do so without terrifying the stagnant.