You can have your marriage license when you pry it out of my cold, dead hands!

It’s all over but the shouting (specifically, that of Anne Cools in the Senate Chamber). C-38 has passed third reading in the House of Commons, and same-sex marriage will soon be legislated nationwide. While Harper vows that a Conservative government would try to repeal the legislation, it seems that the issue will be settled for the time being. Marriage will be legally defined as the union of two persons to the exclusion of all others, and same-sex couples will be able to choose to access the same laws that opposite-sex couples can.

Except, of course, in Alberta, where some people have soured on the whole ancient enterprise at the prospect of sharing it with them. Premier Klein has mused about having the provincial government cease issuing marriage licenses at all, and having the province only formalize civil unions. The government, it would seem, would be degraded by printing licenses and certificates for same-sex couples, so best to just scrap the whole thing and start from scratch.

We see laid bare now that which was thinly veiled before, that opposition to same-sex marriage among many conservatives in this country is not based on rational arguments, but a visceral disdain for gay and lesbian persons. “Same-sex marriage makes it official state policy that there will be children growing up without mothers and children growing up without fathers… Getting out of the civil marriage business would keep us from doing that,” said MLA Ted Morton. Yet how in the world does discarding the entire civil institution, with its centuries of history in our legal system, affirm the superiority of opposite-sex couples?

The proposal seems to be about as well thought-out as it is petty and spiteful. In Canada, the provinces have the sole legislative authority to regulate the solemnization of marriage, so complete disengagement from the institution is not really an option. Marriage is an institution recognized by federal and international law, and can not be simply substituted with a parochial civil union scheme. Without a clear marriage licensing system, Albertans would be at a tremendous disadvantage federally and internationally.

Not that there wouldn’t be benefits. Extra-provincial weddings would become the norm for couples who wanted to ensure the legal validity of their unions, so Albertans would have reason to travel more. Lloydminster would have a pleasant prospect for becoming the Gretna Green of the prairies. And of course it would be easier to get out of those weddings one did not wish to attend, since the required trip would provide a dependable excuse.

In truth, I’m sure Klein is merely outlining the outlandish in order to not appear complacent to socially conservative MLAs. By floating the idea now and waiting for the inevitable backlash, he is effectively sabotaging the proposal so as to avoid pressure to actually implement it. Such is not the case with Morton and some other hardline social conservatives. They are more than ready to take their ball and go home.

Watch your mouth!

Man, oh man. What is Stephen Harper doing? In a recent torrent of offensive diatribe (see A mid summer night’s ream and comments), Stephen Harper is quickly making any idea of a summer makeover a lost cause.

I defended his earlier comment as an understandable anger toward the actions of the Liberal government regarding the final vote on Bill C-48. The comment was not right, it was extremely ill advised, but it was understandable. However, you would think that after receiving the response that Harper’s comment produced, one would be convinced to watch their mouth during future meetings with the press? But oh no, Steve couldn’t stop there. His recent comment on Bill C-38 is an unfathomable move toward complete and utter self destruction:

“I think because this bill is only being passed with the support of the BQ, I think it will lack legitimacy with most Canadians. The truth is most federalist MPs will oppose this legislation,” – Stephen Harper

With each new offensive remark, I think Stephen Harper is loosing further “legitimacy with most Canadians” as a viable alternative for Prime Minister. Sadly, with each comment by Harper, poor Peter MacKay is left in the difficult position of attempting to justify his leader’s statement:

“It makes it an issue of Quebec versus Canada. Most Canadians have a skeptical view of Pequistes breaking up the country” – Peter MacKay

Unfortunately, these responses are only to the detriment of one of the Conservative Party’s few viable Prime Ministerial hopefuls. As a fellow conservative who would like to see the party, at the very least, remain official opposition after the winter election, I would suggest that Steve have his speeches and comments proof read prior to presenting them.

A midsummer night’s ream

“When push comes to shove, the Liberals will make any deal with anybody. And it doesn’t matter whether it’s with the socialists or with the separatists or any bunch of crooks they can find. That’s how they govern the country.”

Bravo, Stephen. You managed to insult, and further alienate, 65% of the electorate in one sentence. Perhaps you could throw something about the Greens in there next time and try to crack 70%. Also, remember your alliance with the Bloc? We do.

And this in the Summer of Steve, which was to be the dawn of a warmer, funnier leader. Rather than a goodwill tour, Harper’s summer plans are sounding more and more like a threat, describing a sort of roving BBQ bogeyman appearing unbidden at community fĂȘtes, tossing the pigskin for a bit in his shirt and tie, and then telling off two-thirds of the guests. And you thought the mosquitos were a nuisance.

Bushwhacked!

In a night of Parliament that left me wondering “Is this right?”, the Liberals, apparently noticing that 6 Conservative MP’s were nowhere to be found, called a snap motion to end debate on C-48 at 11:45 p.m. and proceed to straight to 3rd reading vote. With the 6 Conservative members absent there was no challenge to bill C-48, which passed 152 to 147.

Now whether you supported C-48 or not you still have to ask yourself “Is this democracy?” Is it appropriate for the government to take such action in an obvious bid to remain in power? It’s mind-boggling to think that Paul Martin campaigned on resolving the democratic deficit. The Conservatives are livid, and Canadians should be too. Not because bill C-48 was passed, but because of how it was passed.

The end is near

The end is near, not of the minority Liberal government, but of this spring sitting of Parliament. In an evening exceeding even the excietment of May 19th, the Liberals appear to have pulled the rug out from Conservative early-election posturing by passing, first, a time allocation motion on C-48, then the NDP budget bill itself. This move prevents any Conservative hopes of defeating the government next week, and will surely allow for a speedy passing of bill C-38 early next week, greatly increasing the chance you will be bumping into your MP at a local Swiss Chalet.

The Conservatives are crying foul, claiming the Liberals have shown their true, desperate stripes, as the Liberals, NDP, and everyone’s favorite dark-lord of Parliament Hill (the Bloc) all voted to avoid further obstruction by the Conservative Party. The Liberals have been criticized in the past, and rightly so, for using ‘time allocation’ and ‘closure’ measures, but I don’t anticipate the Liberals losing a public relations battle over tonight’s events after having watched the low quality of debate the Conservatives have been offering this week with respect to bill C-48.

Despite the angry faces tonight, Conservatives will be glad to escape to their ridings without boxes full of election propaganda. I doubt they were ever really serious about taking down the government next week, however, that they won’t have an opportunity to shows how badly they have been out played yet again.

Is the end near?

Could the end be near when everyone least expects it? Following a week of intense filibustering by the Conservatives in an attempt to push bill C-38, the same-sex marriage bill, and if possible C-48, the NDP-budget bill, into the fall sitting of parliament, the Government has tabled a motion to put an end to it. Motion No. 17, which would extend the sitting of the Parliament indefinitely into the summer, has formally put a kink into the Conservatives mission to postpone the passing of these bills. Although the Conservatives can still continue their filibuster, the meaningfulness of the delay has evaporated.

Irate at Motion No. 17, the Conservatives have renewed their threats to take down the government. This is somewhat strange, as the Conservatives had the ability to do just that on Tuesday June 21, only 2 days ago, during the second reading of bill C-48. The absence of as many as 6 Conservative MP’s from the vote (at least 1 whom was in the house earlier that day) ensured that the bill they so adamantly opposed passed.

Can these new threats be taken seriously? Would the Conservatives risk an early election now, before any indication that their support has rebounded since Grewal? With voting on the 3rd reading of C-48 expected late this week or early next, I guess we will just have to wait and see.

You can check out any time you like

Loyalty. Reliability. Steadfastness. According to the Conservative party, these words represent the qualities Canadians most desire in a Member of Parliament. To encourage MPs to adhere to these cardinal virtues, the Cons have introduced a private member’s bill which would trigger an automatic byelection after 35 days if an MP left the party he or she was elected under.

“If they’re not going to continue to get what they voted for, then they should have the right to have what they want,” said Helena Guergis, a co-sponsor of the bill, who won her seat by 100 votes in 2004. It is unclear whether she was speaking for the 59% of her constituents who did not get what they voted for last June.

Here’s a few more words: self-serving, petty, reactionary. That’s pretty much the optics here. The Conservatives lost the support of a star MP, and now are trying to ensure that our elected representatives are straight-jacketed into toeing the party line. An MP’s duty is foremost to his or her constituents, not party. The Conservatives’ bill, by saying that an MP’s ability to represent his or her riding is conditional on obeying a party leader, gets this backwards. It gives party leaders a greatly increased threat to keep their members in line: do as I say, or you are campaigning tomorrow. As a party which has a pretense of a grassroots tradition, the Conservatives should think such things through more carefully.

This particular form of automatic recall vote shares the faults of its populist cousins; it treats MPs as children, who are under constant and immediate supervision of the electorate. MPs have a tough job, and getting elected earns them some time to prove themselves. They get a chance to tackle complex issues and situations without having their decisions second-guessed in real time. This is necessary because some of the real virtues of an MP require time and reflection to appreciate: critical thinking, openness to change, and a willingness to do what is right over what is popular.

It’s still weird

Well Gurmant Grewal has been cleared, if only by a technicality, of wrong-doing in his recent airport fiasco, but that definitely doesn’t take away from its bizarreness. An attempt to make fools of the Liberals, the results of the Grewal’s tape scandal have only been to make a fool of himself and foil his party’s mission for an early spring election. If there is only one Conservative MP that is now nervous about an early election, Grewal is it. Will he run again in the next election? Will the Conservatives even want to risk allowing him to run for their party at the risk of losing his seat? Whether next fall or after Gomery, the next election will be too soon to forget this incident, and I would be surprised if his constituents will forgive him.

This affair has been weird from the get-go. From the suspicious and questionable nature of the taping (who contacted whom?), the delayed release to the public, the heavily conflicted “edits”, the airport fiasco, and finally Grewal going on stress leave, Grewal’s scandal has successfully done what the Liberals could not do, push Gomery out of the limelight and take center stage for much of the spring.

Most surprising is Nina Grewal’s ability to keep her distance from her husband’s scandal. I have seen only a few articles that even mention her name when discussing the tapes and straight from the beginning she has asserted that she had no part in it. I commend her on her judgment in staying clear even when her party leaders have chosen otherwise.

A lot can happen in a month

It is amazing what can happen in only one month. You can go from flying high on the shirttails of scandal, to being yanked down by the shirttails of scandal. If only the Conservatives would have focused on one scandal at a time they might have still been raring to force an election during this weeks confidence votes.

With the recent polls indicating that the Conservative piece of the pie has fallen well below that of the Liberals, and only a few points away from the NDP (yikes), the idea of forcing an early election has quickly come and gone. With the defeat of the government now on the backburner (at least for the time being), the Conservatives are forced to press last minute negotiations or filibuster legislation in order to present themselves as still having some amount of control over the House. A far cry from the control evident only a month ago when House confidence in the government was all up in the air.

So can we expect to see a return of nail-biting politics this fall? I sure hope so, as I have never been more entertained by Canadian politics, but it will really depend on what the Conservatives can accomplish over the summer break. If a lot can happen in a month, then a lot can happen over a summer, and from the sounds of it the Conservatives will be working hard on their public image. Summer is the season for makeovers (I think?), and the Conservatives are planning a big one for Stephen Harper. It really is long overdue. I’d personally would like them to work on his hair. I’m not sure exactly how to describe what is wrong but it definitely needs some work.

Ill judgment

I view today’s Supreme Court Ruling as welcome news. After Election Watch ’05 ran dry, I finally have something interesting to write about. All other aspects of the ruling may lead me to seek medical attention. My symptoms are nausea, depression, and NAFTA inspired nightmares starring American HMOs.

Soon Quebecers will be able to purchase comprehensive private health insurance. With this insurance they will increasingly access private health services. The private sector will certainly grow in Quebec, and many predict that similar rulings in other provincial jurisdictions will lead to a flourishing of private health services across the country. And although a majority on the Supreme Court does not foresee it, public health care across the nation will suffer at the expense of it’s rival tier. That is, unless Government acts to remove the threat long wait times pose to ones life, liberty, and security of person. And they must act quickly, it will not take long for insurance companies in Quebec to design comprehensive insurance plans, the blueprints are already in existence south of the border. Thankfully this ruling addresses Quebec, where both the governing Liberals and the PQ government in waiting will respond with measures to strengthen the public system.

It is an abomination for the Court to conclude that only the very rich being able to access private health is a greater injustice than the creation of an underclass of public health care users. When top doctors and other health care workers are siphoned into the private sphere only those young middle-class, working poor, unemployed and the elderly poor remain to leach of the public purse. Can the Government of Alberta be trusted to ensure that an individual will receive care at a public hospital in northern Alberta equal to that of a private clinic in Calgary? Or will Conservative governments across the country view the purchasing of private insurance as an invitation to further de-list their duties, abandoning the ‘fundamental justice’ that comes with knowing that each person one passes on the street is guaranteed a standard of care worthy of a society committed to universal, accessible, comprehensive, and portable health care?

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