Friday, December 08, 2006

Tory Anti-SSM Balloon Pops

It was the last round-up as U.S. and Canadian cowboys might call it. To badly mix metaphors on same-sex marriage, let's just say the cows are out of the barn.

Yesterday in the Commons, the last-gasp effort to reopen the debate on legal SSM in Canada failed by 175 to 123. Wednesday's debate on it had very few attendants; reports "about 20 of 308 members" showing. Perhaps most telling, Prime Minister Stephen Harper did not appear or defend mixed-gender marriage, even though he was eager to suck in the most conservative voters in the last election with his promise to call such a vote.

According to the Canoe piece on the vote, after the predictable defeat, he claimed the honor of the process (we've heard that locally recently too). The shameless comments after were, "We made a promise to have a free vote on this issue, we kept that promise, and obviously the vote was decisive and obviously we'll accept the democratic result of the people's representatives. I don't see reopening this question in the future."

As an aside, it appears that as in the U.S., Canadian right wingers don't seem to mind being manipulated, so long as they can hold forth and moralize while it's happening. What a peculiar form of self-deception that is.

Wednesday, with Harper hiding, the thankless task of defending the anti-SSM position fell into the hands and out of the mouth of Conservative House Leader Rob Nicholson. He barely bothered to argue why they should rescind SSM.

Instead, he started with ''some members may question why it's necessary to engage this House on this matter.'' Then he concentrated on that promise to debate and vote on whether to reconsider the issue. He best he could do in his spot was to say, "Given the importance of marriage in our society and its importance to Canadians, we made a commitment in the last election to ask parliamentarians whether they wished to revisit this issue."

On the Liberal side of the aisle, motives were not all the pure either. Liberal Leader Stephane Dion released his members for a free vote -- but cynically enough only after he counted and realized the numbers were strongly in his favor. Now, he can claim this is in fact the uncoerced will of Parliament. Also, this marks the six time that Commons voted in some form pro-SSM.

The aftermath may be very short and short-lived. The wrap-up in the Globe and Mail includes some vague threat from righties couched politely. The executive director the Institute for Canadian Values , Joseph Ben Ami said, "I am afraid that the Conservative Party feels that they can take social conservatives for granted in this country. Mr. Harper and the Conservatives are going to have to explain, I think, what people in our constituency are going to perceive as a certain lack of leadership surrounding this question in the last few days."

Unlike unsupportable panicked predictions of doom to follow SSM, his forecast here has some currency. As the Globe and Mail article puts it, "The loss of those voters was likely weighed by the Prime Minister in recent days. But Conservative sources have said it was his plan to dispose of the issue so he could make a more moderate pitch to middle-class voters and diffuse attempts by the Liberal Party to paint him as a socially right-wing ideologue."

The short of it is that anti-gay and anti-SSM forces had their last stand. For Canada, it's over.

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