Saturday, December 17, 2005

One Harper Harping

Even the allegedly very smart Canadian Tory leader Steven Harper nods and stumbles. In the current campaign, some of our Northern neighbors thought he did the bright, if not the right, thing in putting the same-sex-marriage issue out to air.

Lately though, he is sputtering along with his campaign. His party is trying to claim that a majority of Canadians want a vote in the Commons to revisit the issue. Without evidence, he says SSM has damaged the nation. Oddly enough tough, poll after poll reveal that what the majority want is to get on with their lives, to leave homosexual couples to do the same, and for the government to deal with pressing issues instead.

That all sounds like Massachusetts.

In his efforts to unseat the Liberals, led by Paul Martin, in next month's election, Harper has had to soft-pedal his absurd promises of overturning SSM. Apparently the only legal way to do that is to overrule a portion of the nation's Charter of Rights and Freedoms. That would be akin to picking one of the U.S. Constitution's Bill of Rights Amendments say stopping using it (think no freedom of religion, for example). Canadians are as fond of the Charter as we are of our Bill of Rights. Even hinting at playing with it has burned Harper.

Now he has been reduced to courting the right-wing voters by continuting to promise SSM action, while saying he'd never use the opt-out clause of the Charter. That's basically impossible and to many, he looks like an ass.

In an effort that makes him more moke-like, Harper also tried the inane tactic the anti-SSM folk here in Massachusetts have taken. He claims to be thoroughly opposed to same-sex marriage, but he'll make sure that any existing ones remain. Huh? That is as risible in Boston as in Montreal.

In theory, Harper could win without raping the Charter. He might also fly with his arms. To do the former, he would have to win votes in both houses of Parliament, including the Liberal-controlled Senate. Next the national Supreme Court would have to support the vote and reverse its previous position that SSM is legal. When Tory leaders fly unaided...

Now there are 37 days before the election. The minor parties are scampering about, nipping first at Martin, pointing to the financial scandals from the previous Liberal administration. Then they turn to attack Harper. We can be assured that behind the displays they are seeing what deals they can get if they align with either party. Liberals would need only one of these parties to have a scant majority.

Martin has his other problems, particularly the trade rift with the United States. He is vulnerable. If Harper is as smart as he claims to be, he'll leave the SSM issues alone and go after the biggies. So far though, he seems to think the anti-gay vote is crucial. Whether he has already alienated them by promising to leave the Charter alone remains to be seen. We're betting he has. Meanwhile Martin gets to play the card that, unlike Harper, he'll never try to divide the citizens.

For final giggles, Harper got caught a couple of times in recent debates. In Vancouver, he responded to how he could react if one of his two children were gay. He said, "It's the job of a parent to always lover our children. I love mychildren and will love them for all their life." Hmmm, hard-line it is not. Then he must have made his handlers shake when he called French the nation's second language.

Canadian politics is simply more fun.

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