Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Will SSM be the next Conservative boondoggle?

As I watch the operetta shaping-up around the same sex marriage issue the question I have for Stephen Harper is this: why should the taxpayers of Canada spend potentially millions of dollars so you can appease the socially-conservative wing of the Conservative Party of Canada?

I have the feeling Stephen doesn’t really give a tinker’s damm if gay people can get married or not. Maybe he’d rather call it something else (I don’t think separate but equal has worked in the past) but it’s clearly not a priority for him. A sizeable portion of his party and caucus do care however, and he needed to toss them a bone so they wouldn’t spout their mouth off during the recent election campaign (I’m looking at you Cheryll Gallant!). The bone: a free vote on SSM.

Clearly, Stephen is hoping the vote fails and this issue dies so he can go back to handing out tax-cuts masquerading as social policy. But let’s follow this thing through to its logical conclusion. What if it does pass? The Globe and Mail has crunched the numbers and it looks tight. If it does pass, you can expect the Supreme Court to almost certainly overturn it, restoring the current status quo. And Harper has all but sworn on the bible that he won’t use the notwithstanding clause to overturn the court on the issue.

And that’s where the maddening, and expensive, futility of this comic opera is exposed. The only way SSM can be overturned long-term is by using the NWC, which Harper has promised he won’t do. Ipso facto, SSM is here to stay. So what in the hell are you doing then Stephen?

Let’s start the tab rolling. Anti-SSM groups are calling on Harper to delay the vote and have the government study the issue (until they can twist enough arms to get the vote to pass I’m sure). That’s study at taxpayer expense of course. Then the ball gets rolling in the House of Commons. There will be caucus researchers doing research and staffers writing speeches for all the parties for the many hours of debate in committee and in the HoC, all at taxpayer expense. Maybe the committee will even decide to go across the country and hold hearings. Again, more tax dollars spent. SSM is repealed, and off to the courts we go. The lawyers will get richer, the taxpayers poorer. Finally, the Supreme Court (surprise, surprise!) says no, that ain’t legal. Harper says ‘ah crap, OK then,’ and we’re back to square one.

Millions of taxpayer dollars wasted, not to mention valuable Parliamentary time that could have been spent debating trivial things like, say, Canada’s role in the world, Darfur, softwood, law and order, do Liberals really eat babies for sustenance…all so Stephen Harper can say to his so-con friends “see guys, I tried. But damm those activist judges!”

Seems a little expensive a price to pay to me. But I guess that’s the price of the new, Conservative-style accountability, isn't it Stephen?

Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers


Anonymous said...

What's with your use of "Boondoggle"? Is everything you're gonna bring up be one? And is every penny spent by Harper, that you don't agree with, likely to be labelled a boondoggle as well? When the majority of Canadians have reservations about SSM and Harper campaigned on it, I bet the you'd howl just as loud over broken promises if Harper didn't review it.

Also, he SC hasn't said a word on the constitutionality of the definition of marriage. It's a straw man to state the SC will strike down the law and then lambaste Harper for the consequences of your hypothetical.

A BCer in Toronto said...

I'm taking a play from the Conservative playbook. You may recall they labelled everything the Liberals did they felt wasted money a boondoggle. You'd think they got a nickel every time someone said the word. I won't bore you with the list. But spending millions of taxpayer dollars on what you know to be a useless exercise so you can appease your so-cons? If that's not a boondoggle what is it then, stupidwasteofmoney-gate?

Also, the SC hasn't said a word on the constitutionality of the definition of marriage.

101 constitutional experts can't be wrong. It's not called constructing a strawman, it's called looking at the obvious consequences of his stated course of action. Like in chess, in government it's useful to think past the first move.

Chris said...

101 left-leaning Liberal paid constitutional experts. Secondly, the Supreme Court stated that this was a matter for Parliament to decide. Has everyone forgotten that?

Finally, the Tories never said they would "overturn the law" right away. This free vote, if you look at page 33 of the Conservative platform, is a vote simply to see if Legislation should be tabled to bring back the traditional definition of marriage. Therefore, that would require 2 votes, not 1.

Finally, and this is what bugs me, Mr. Harper stated that he supports civil unions, not the change of the definition of a word. And that's what it is. "Marriage" is a social institution, not a right. Civil Unions address all of the rights issues, and if we look at the U.K. as an example which did NOT change the traditional definition but rather granted civil unions, it has kept everyone happy all the way around.

Let's not confuse this with the usual Liberal lie. This is about the definition of a word, not about rights. And it's a free vote to see if legislation should be tabled, not a vote to "overturn everything."

grendel said...

The Supreme Court did not exactly say the question was for Parliment to decide to the exclusion of the courts -- it said the definition of marriage falls under Parliment's proper jurisdiction. But it goes without saying (or it should) that defining Parliment does has to be consistent with the Charter of Rights. And the Supreme Court hinted pretty broadly that the equality clause requires equal marriage.

Ironically, the Supreme Court was clear about one thing -- Parliment does not have jurisdiction to legislate civil unions. So those who this isn't about rights, only definitions are wrong. If equal marriage is overturned, same sex couples will lose real, substanstive rights -- and Parliment has no jurisdiction to create civil unions to make up for that loss.

A BCer in Toronto said...

Chris, I ditto what Grendel said. And I don't feel better about it being two votes, not one. That's just more time and money being spent on a useless exercise. Also, let's be realistic, if the first vote passes the second one will as well.

And to the anon that posted potentially libelous accusations against Bill Graham at 10:20am. I was tempted to let your comment stand just because is so crazily stupid, but since I can't afford to be sued for disseminating libel I'm deleting it.

fiddlefaddle said...

Here's a solution that will take care of several things;

when it comes up for a vote, all the opposition members, all parties, abstain ....

think about it.

God's Brigade then gets to go up against the ....
Supreme Court.

Supreme Court eviscerates God's Brigade and God's Brigade, having spent billions on the exercise, are displayed in all their heavenly glory as ....
dirt bag, SOB's, who hold taxpayers/citizens of Canada as meaningless peasant annoyances to God's Brigade right to rule.

Scotian said...

It is also important to recognize that eight Provincial Supreme Courts recognized the Charter right as well as those Constitutional experts. Therefore it is quite reasonable to expect that the Supreme Court would rule so if this were to land back on their doorstep. As for the idea of civil unions working in the UK so why not here, the UK does not have the Charter to contend with we do.

As to whether this is a boondoggle or not, depends on what the CPC does. If they just do the vote the I wouldn't say that it is, but if they decide to restudy the issue, have new committee hearings around the country, that sort of thing then I'd say it is a true boondoggle worthy of the name. Whether the socons like it or not SSM is hear to stay until and unless either the Supreme court says otherwise (not a high probability given the experts, Provincial Supreme Courts, and the hints in the referral of a year or two back) or a PM Harper invokes the Notwithstanding Clause.

The day he uses the Notwithstanding Clause to do this is the day he brands his party in the minds of many Canadians as a extremist party. It will also be used against the CPC in terms of the respect for minority rights generally, not something the CPC and Harper can afford to have happen, especially since they campaigned as centrists/moderates this time and to have any hope of a majority will require a centrist record in Parliament and nothing too extreme on the social agenda.

Incidentally BCer, there is a (as of yesterday) lengthy thread at Free Dominion on this very issue, while at times a rather disturbing read there is also a lot to be read referring to the tensions between the socons and the fiscons. I linked to it yesterday at my blog in the title of my most recent entry. Not trying to blogwhore, but since it is relevant to this thread topic I thought I’d mention it to you. Besides, not many progressives like cruising FD, not that I can blame them given some of the more extreme positions some of their users have.

gwilliamjr said...

God's Brigade??? Cool. Now being religious in a Liberal world is a bad thing. God's Brigade?? I love that....same as the folks on the left demeaning Harper for saying God Bless should start a movement having the word God removed from the Charter and from the National Anthem...and of course it's a show...and the best part is the Conservatives have started to learn how to play...and the thing that bothers most its a two party game now!! Long Live Democracy and free votes.

A BCer in Toronto said...

Thanks for the tip Scotian. I took a look through the first four pages of the FD thread before it got too tedious and I gave up.

I can understand the other side of the abortion debate. I don't agree with them, I'm pro-choice, but I can see the logic in their argument and where they're coming from, and respect it. But when it comes to SSM I just don't get it. As long as no one os going to make me marry a guy, what do I care?

And frankly, it's not a debate I want to have. It's over. We've moved on. I just wish the so-cons would.

As for the 'god brigade' all I'll say to one and all is this: God bless us, everyone.

TonyGuitar said...

MSM - C-38 is a faded item for the near future. It was a handy diversion away from things Gomery but it was the Fear Harper trick that returned 103 seats when 65 or 70 would have been normal.

No point in defending the Danes publishing cartoons. The National Post, [ better than average btw], could publish one or two small examples or just say nothing.

Not publishing any Muslem cartoons in these dangerous times is my preference, and here is my reason why.

It plays directly into the hands of Iranians, Syrians and Jihadists.

This friction helps to keep things off balance for the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. It slows the progress of democracy.

That is all these countries who enjoy iron- fisted absolute rule want. To hold off the advance of democracy.

No wonder they are printing more counterfeit cartoons to add to the madness.

This may help you avoid a black day tomorrow February 3rd 2006.…. This Trojan is stupid. It only destroys files and delivers nothing profitable to the virus vandals. TG

Sophos urges calm as panic over Friday’s Kama Sutra (Nyxem-D) worm attack spirals Thursday, February 02, 2006 at 14:35 by Kathleen Hill

Scotian said...


I read all 16 pages worth before I wrote my comment on it, so I can understand what you mean about tedious. Still it is important to understand the mindset of those one is opposing and to see their perspective as well as one's own. Then again I am a fan of multiple perspectives and multiple viewpoints examination anyway. As to your having no trouble understanding the argument against abortion while being completely at a loss on the SSM one, I know exactly what you mean.

This fight against SSM is one I have never seen a good secular argument against. Every argument I have seen against it relies on religious premises, false premises about the history of marriage itself, or is based on personal discomfort with homosexuality itself. That is one of the reasons this movement as opposed to the anti-abortion movement really unnerves me. I am forced to conclude that in far too many cases the opposition to SSM is not rational but emotionally driven, and the emotion driving it is fear.

Fear of the different, of the unknown, of those that four decades ago were still considered the scum of the earth. Something most Canadians do not know for example is that the RCMP in the 50s and 60s were routinely spying on homosexuals and compiling dossiers on them as a threat to the nation. Especially if the person worked for the government in any area. Then they were usually told they could resign or be outed and fired as a security threat. So there is a pretty strong history of fear and exclusion in this country where homosexuals are concerned, so it is hardly a shock that they are fighting so much to be seen as and treated as equal citizens under our laws.

I cannot understand how someone else's marriage affects anyone else's. If two women get married it doesn't affect the marriage between my wife and myself. Nor is it affected if two men get married. The only change SSM brings is the recognition that homosexuals are equal citizens in this country and deserve the same protections as everyone else. I fear it is that which is the problem for some, they do not want to have to treat homosexuals as equals deserving of equal respect. They want to be able to look down on them for whatever reason applies to them from personal discomfort to the belief they are doomed to Hell because of their sin. That is not something I consider acceptable in our society and something I will fight to my dying breath.

Anonymous said...


Just because you don't agree with, or understand the reasoning behind opposition to SSM (or abortion)doesn't mean that reasoning is invalid. Me, I'm a fiscal conservative but I am married to someone with a very (VERY) religious family. I can see that to them marriage has always been a thing of Church and God. That the government somehow got into the marriage business with licences is strange to me. I assume that licensing began as an attempt to normalize Christian views on marriage, you know, who can marry, no incest, no polygamy, etc. Anyway, now the government is defining marriage, something many religious people see as a sacrament, as something anathema to their beliefs (Whether you agree with their point of view or not you should respect these honestly held beliefs).

So, what we are talking about here is a word and certain civil rights. Personally I'd like to see the government move towards a German model where all unions are civil unions and all couples enter that union in a civil office like city hall. Then, if one wishes to have a marriage ceremony according to their religious beliefs they are free to do so without government involvement (and many religions will marry same-sex couples). A marriage without a civil union has no rights under law, and a civil union, open to both homo and hetero couples, would carry the same rights under law. The definition of marriage would be left to individual churches.

It seems to me a reasonable compromise could have been made, one that respected the charter of rights and religious sensitivities. It also seems to me that Martin and his Liberals went for the solution that marginalized the Conservatives (and especially so-cons) in order to score political points, and so doing they did a disservice to Canadians.

I will admit that this solution may not make the radical gay lobby happy, but short of the utter destruction of the christianity, I don't think they would ever be happy. The same for the most conservative of the so-cons, whose real hatred of gays betrays a deeper and sadder disease that isn't supported by their religion. That's the nature of compromise.

Dana said...

Scotian, your comments regarding the equality of homosexuals brought to mind an interview I read somewhere or other a couple of months ago on the subject of race relations in the US.

The comment was made, by an African American, that a white person can conceive of a black person as inferior to them (poorer, less education etc) or superior to them (better educated, richer etc)- but not exactly like them.

That resonated with me as having something of the truth about it and I think it applies in this context.

grendel said...

2 points:

First, the Supreme Court was crystal clear -- Parliment does not have the jurisdiction to create civil unions. Other parliments in other countries may, but the one we have does not. In Canada it is marriage or nothing. So please, quit with the civil union thing already.

Second, marriage existed long before christianity sanctioned it. In fact for the first half of christian history -- a thousand years or so -- churches didn't marry anyone -- the early church actually disapproved of marriage. Is is not and never has been a "christian" institution.

The whole marriage debate is odd for me -- I mean christians don't have a problem with the state redefining marriage to allow for divorce -- and I'm pretty sure divorce is not allowed in the New Testament. Yet people are not up in arms that the law of civil marriage does not mirror the law of christian religious marriage on this point. Perhaps those who clamor to restore marriage to its true religious nature should spend more time banning divorce among hetrosexuals than marriage among homosexuals. But that of course would entail sacrifice on the part of hetrosexuals. It's far easy to demand others live up to your religous code than to live to it yourself.

Scotian said...

"I assume that licensing began as an attempt to normalize Christian views on marriage," Anonymous at 5:42 PM

Assumptions are dangerous and often wrong. If this is of interest to you why not actually find out instead of assuming it?

"I will admit that this solution may not make the radical gay lobby happy," Anonymous at 5:42 PM

Yes, they are so radical for wanting to be treated as human beings with the same respect that heterosexuals take for granted. Your use of "radical gay lobby" demonstrates an appalling lack of information beyond what your trusty Conservative rhetorician provides you. Again, this is a myth, just as in the 50s-60s in America those blacks wanting equal rights were a radical lobby in the eyes of many whites.

As for the civil unions business, why have you not bothered to do some research to learn enough to understand that this is not a viable option in this country because of both the Charter and the way Fed/Provincial spheres of authority/responsibility are divided. In other words it sounds like a wonderful compromise except it is near impossible in practice to actually obtain.

Then there is this statement of yours: "It also seems to me that Martin and his Liberals went for the solution that marginalized the Conservatives (and especially so-cons) in order to score political points" an assertion unsupported by any actual evidence. Did it ever occur to you that this was taken because of the Provincial Supreme Courts rulings in the various eight Provinces that legalized SSM left Martin with little other choice? Did it even occur to you as an explanation instead of this persecution style explanation you claimed to believe was the case? Remember, it wasn't than many years ago that Martin among other Liberals voted to uphold the "traditional" (boy is that a weasel description btw, traditional as of when, what culture, etc like when interracial marriages were legalized many said the traditional definition of marriage had been destroyed then) definition of marriage. The change was because of the court rulings that were remarkably consistent on both how they ruled and why they ruled as they did. Indeed, one of the courts, I think Ontario rejected civil unions under the separate but equal idea precisely because such a doctrine has never been in practice equal, one is always less to the other in reality.

I have no problems respecting honestly held beliefs, until they start insisting that these beliefs must be accepted by others in terms of the limits they have within them. Marriage is a term the religious community does not own exclusively and has not owned exclusively despite the rhetoric to the contrary. As well, no one is telling your wife's family or their fellow believers that they must have gay marriages or their Church/Faith must recognize them. What they ARE being required is to recognize that their religious beliefs are not and can not be the defining standard in a multicultural society that believes in both equality of ALL citizens as well as the primacy of the rule of law.

Sorry anonymous, but your complaints are not well thought out, nor are they well researched. As for my not understanding the arguments on SSM, if you red what I wrote you will note I said outside of religious grounds as well as personal discomfort, which should have told you I recognize that argument, just not as one that is sufficient to win the argument when we are talking about secular legal frameworks as opposed to religious ceremonies. I do incidentally understand the arguments against abortion that are not religious based, what I was saying though is I have yet to run across a sound secular argument against SSM, and you have not changed that at all.

BTW, I do not compromise where civil rights of minorities are concerned, either a right exists or it does not, it is not something open to compromise.

Scotian said...

Dana said:

"The comment was made, by an African American, that a white person can conceive of a black person as inferior to them (poorer, less education etc) or superior to them (better educated, richer etc)- but not exactly like them.

That resonated with me as having something of the truth about it and I think it applies in this context."

Unfortunately I fear you may well be correct. It is not something I am able to understand, I simply see human beings, be they white, black, Asian, gay, straight, or whatever. Everything else comes after that for me. I grew up with the belief that there is one race, and one race only, the human race. All other subdivisions are arbitrary and subjective, they do not alter the underlying humanity of each person. The only thing that causes me to wonder about a person's humanity is the actions they take in their lives, not their skin colour, not their sexual practices, but in how they treat their fellow human beings or whether they even recognize the inherent humanity of their fellow human beings of all varieties.

A BCer in Toronto said...

I have no problems respecting honestly held beliefs, until they start insisting that these beliefs must be accepted by others in terms of the limits they have within them.

And I think you've hit the nail on the head right there Scotian. That's really what's at the crux of this.

The churches are protected, they will never have to perform or sanctify a marriage they don't believe in. Some seem to like to pretend that is in doubt, but it's not. So why should the church care what happens outside their walls?

As I said before, as long as I don't have to get married to a guy what do I care if someone else wants to? How does that hurt me, or my family?

To borrow a phrase from what used to be one of my favourite shows (it's just gone on too long), 7th Heaven, just "let go and let God."

Anonymous said...


The definition of marriage is up to the federal parliament, right? That's what you keep saying. Well, I guess researching other's thought prevents you from having one of your own. Parliament can remove the definition of marriage altogether. Then, by a simple step of logic, all unions would be civil, and equal, regulated by the provinces, should they choose to do so. Kinda kicks the crap outta both the "parliament can only define marriage" argument and that pesky but specious "separate but equal" one. I know, I know, that takes an effort to think outside of the thoughts already handed to you but it is worth it.

And thanks for the history lesson, I'm glad that course in "Europe: form the fall of the Roman Empire to the Reformation" didn't go to waste on you. I guess I got just a touch more out of my education in that I learned that much of how people think and feel is not supported by history. But compromise often requires one to see things from both sides. It does little to just assert correctness and reassert when others dare disagree.

As for the use of the word "radical", how else do you describe those in the gay community who go far beyond what most gays want, only to make a point? Just like the most right of the so-cons go way beyond what most so-cons want.

What I find most amazing in this discussion is how people get so caught up in what the charter says and fail to see that the charter is not the end all and be all of fair and reasonable civil discourse. Other nations have found compromise on these issues. Only in Canada are we told we must not think because "research" and the charter tell us how things must be.

A BCer in Toronto said...

The charter is a fact and can't be ignored. It codefies a set of values and principles that we as a people hold to be self evident, to borrow a phrase, and from which all laws should flow.

The courts are charged with interpeting the laws passed by Parliament to ensure they comply with the charter. If the court feels a law doesn't, Parliament can choose to withdraw the law or invoke the notwithstanding clause to override the charter. Or, ammend the charter, with the cooperation, of course, of the provinces.

So the charter cannot be ignored in this debate. Yes, Parliament is supreme, because it can override the charter with the NWC. Since Harper has said he wont't do so, then this debate must be considered within the context of the charter, and how the court is likely to interpet it on this issue. And how the provincial courts already have.

Anonymous said...


The charter can't be ignored but we can also have reasonable discussions without it. It's unfortunate that the charter has, in a mere 25 years, become another Canadian sacred cow. We sure have a lot of those.

I find it a little hilarious that scotian says that the church didn't push marriage until 1000 years ago, as if a thousand years of tradition is nothing, and then worships the charter, which less than 25 years ago explicitly left sexual orientation out. Our society has changed significantly in 25 years, but so has christianity in 1000.

And grendel, go to freedominion and ask the whackos there what they think started the terrible decline in society. Most will point to divorce and many want to repeal it, after SSM and abortion. You know, one fight at a time.

Scotian said...


You know what I find "hilarious"? Having someone lie about what I said in the same thread where I did not say it. You claim I said this: "I find it a little hilarious that scotian says that the church didn't push marriage until 1000 years ago", yet you do not quote me saying any such thing. There was a good reason why you did not quote me saying this, because you couldn't for I hadn't said this. Is it your habit to lie about what people said like this, or am I just a special case for you? Incidentally, Parliament was who passed the Charter after lengthy debates on it back in the early eighties. So the Charter is not something that can be dismissed with the unelected judges crap or courts being placed above Parliament crap I have seen time and again from Conservatives in one variation or another.

There is a reason why so many of us see the Charter with such respect, and that is because we remember the days prior to it where the Canadian citizen had zero protection against anything the government might choose to do from surveillance without case to imprisonment without charges to literally whatever it wanted to do. Ever hear of the War Measures Act, and have you ever looked into exactly what powers it gave the government over the citizens throughout the country, not just Quebec, when it was implemented in 1970? The Charter is our protection against such government actions as well as spelling out the rights and privileges and responsibilities of all Canadian citizens. So sorry if you find our respect for it so troubling.

As for it being a sacred cow, given the source of this criticism and on what topic it is, that seems to be a bit pot and kettle. So get off that high horse of yours, stop making claims someone said something only to have to put those words into their mouths, and either be honest in your discourse or do not bother. I do not tend to respond to liars and I really tend to ignore people that love to put words into other people's mouths and then use that to critique them with. It is dishonest as well as a straw man style of discourse/debate.

Anonymous said...

scotian, did you forget to take your happy pills this morning? In responding to you and grendel I erred in attributing what grendel said to you. Calling me a liar only tells me that you are a reactionary and inflammtory personality. I urge you to get heavily involved in the Liberal party. That's what they need; more passion. Howard Dean-like passion.

Red Tory said...

The arguments against SSM are almost always baseless and hollow. And, as was pointed out previous predicated on religion and nothing else. And that is a rather tenuous argument in itself.

Since it was enacted, the sky hasn't fallen... heterosexuals are still getting married, babies are still being born... the world hasn't collapsed.

Get over it.

Besides, why shouldn't homosexuals endure the "joys" of marriage like the rest of us?

Scotian said...


I guess making sure you were addressing the right person with the right critique before doing so was too much effort perhaps? You did notice this button called preview? As for being cranky about it, too many times I have had critics claim I said something I clearly did not. I tend to prefer if someone is going to claim another said something then it should be quoted from that person. It is inherently more honest, and it leaves no room for the argument that someone is putting words in their mouth.

If nothing else doing otherwise is sloppy workmanship in my view. One should strive when critiquing anyone/anything to make sure things are properly quoted and properly addressed. If this was a genuine honest mistake this time, well then I'll accept it and withdraw the comments I made regarding it, but that is all. I can only respond to posts as they are written and submitted by others, and what you did submit warranted the response it got.