Friday, January 20, 2006

Uh Oh, Canada!

Come Monday night or sometime Tuesday, we should know whether the Conservatives up Ottawa way win enough seats to form a government. The Tory leader, Steven Harper, played and replayed his anti-SSM card. His reactionary supporters will expect some action, which he almost certainly will not be able to deliver, if he takes charge.

This has not stopped otherwise sensible people from acting out nervously. For example, a Winnipeg wedding planner, Rita Leonard at Bride Pride, reports a 40% increase in calls about SSM ceremonies.

"People are definitely concerned," she said. "Couples are calling and asking us what we think. They are saying if the Conservatives win, they want to get married right away."

The truth of it has several angles, in the light of which Harper's bluster looks like so much wind. First, note that the Bloc Québécois (BQ) and the New Democratic Party (NDP) will want influence and their own agenda if they join in forming a government. Neither seems to care a wit about the (to them) settled issue of SSM.

More to the point, Harper would have to trash the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which the Canadians love and respect even more than we do our Bill of Rights.

He's pretending that a free vote (free of restraints from the parties of record for MPs) will 1) rescind same-sex marriage, and 2) the Supreme Court justices will look away while talking about snowshoes or lumber instead of declaring the vote unconstitutional. Fat chance, Stevie!

Before he even starts, he is also looking at court decisions in eight provinces declaring that forbidding SSM is unconstitutional. He has also received an open letter from over 100 constitutional-law experts warning him that he'd better trot any proposed bill before the Supreme Court before trying to pass it. During this election, he has chosen to downplay or ignore a clear consensus against his legal position.

"Mr. Harper is suggesting legislation that legal experts agree is unconstitutional," said Laurie Arron, director of advocacy for Egale Canada, which represents gay and lesbian issues. "Ultimately, it won't hold up in court, but it will be messy, costly and pointless in the meantime."

So, let's assume that like nearly all politicians, Harper did what he needed to win the election. He's going to fail in trying to deliver on what became his major promise. He's going to end up with disgruntled folk right, center and of course left. Will that ensure Tory losses the next time and perhaps a short tenure this one?

Meanwhile, Harper is telegraphing his big excuse. If only the bureaucrats and judges were not appointed by Liberals, I could have delivered. As the Ottawa Sun quotes him:
“I'm not sure there's such a thing as a true Conservative majority. The reality is we will have, for some time to come, a Liberal Senate, a Liberal civil service – at least the senior levels have been appointed by the Liberals –— and the courts that have been appointed by the Liberals. So these are obviously checks on the power of a Conservative government ... and limits on our ability to operate that a Liberal government would not face.
That's pretty pathetic kvetching.

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