Wednesday, April 13, 2005

(Same) Sex Sells

Ladies and gentlemen, for those who think the next election is a fait acomplit, Stephen Harper has just given the Liberals an issue to run on. The only chance the Liberals have next election (and I'm not even talking about winning here, but of coming close) is to solidify their base. Poll after poll may show the Liberals falling, but few have showed the Tories picking up ground. Instead, votes are being parked with the NDP, Greens and undecided. That's a sign that a lot of voters aren't ready to give Harper the keys to 24 Sussex and if Martin could finally start "making history", he'd be able to lure a lot of the voters back. Perhaps a bold Kyoto plan would be that issue. At least it would make Harper run on a "pro-polution" platform. Personally, I think same sex might be the ticket.

Think about it, if we have a spring election, the same sex legislation will likely die and, even if it doesn't, Harper is on record as saying he'll bring in new legislation to support the 2002-traditional definition of marriage. I think SSM is an issue Canadians feel strongly enough about that it could give traditional Liberals and some NDP voters a reason to hold their noses and vote Liberal.

Right now, Harper is going to run on a "Liberals are corrupt" platform and Martin is going to run on a "some Liberals are corrupt" platform - that may not work out great for Paul. If he has some real left-wing issue to bring Liberal voters back to the fold, he stands a fighting chance. Otherwise, it could get ugly.

51 Comments:

  • CG,

    Do you disagree with most polls that suggest that the anti-SSM support is tied with pro-SSM at worst, or outright leading at best? (CBC Sunday poll from last weekend for example)

    Also, the private polling I've been fortunate to see suggests that SSM opponents are much more likely to make SSM their "ballot box issue" compared to SSM proponents.

    Do you feel that both theories are incorrect? Namely, that more Canadians would prefer no SSM and that opponents rather than proponents are prone to be more motivated by the issue?

    The Hack

    By Blogger The Hack, at 1:52 PM  

  • I have a hard time seeing the Liberals winning the election over SSM; the numbers just don't add up. Here are the recent polls on the issue that I've seen:

    Compas (Global/NP): 34% for, 66% against
    SES Research (CPAC): 49% for, 51% against
    Ekos (Toronto Star): 51% for, 49% against
    Environics (CBC): 46% for, 54% against

    (The CBC poll was released a few days ago, the others are from a couple months back. Note that for the latter three, I took the released numbers and factored out the undecided/no opinion responses.)

    The problem using pro-SSM as your winning issue is that even if you pick the friendliest poll (51% yes), that support has to be split between the Liberals and the NDP (and the Bloc), while the Conservatives have the other 49% all to themselves.

    To put it bluntly, if SSM were the only issue that Canadians considered when voting, the Tories would win a massive landslide.

    Furthermore, I have the general feeling that pro-SSM sentiment is, as the saying goes, "a mile wide and an inch deep." Or at least, it's considerably shallower than the feelings of the anti-SSM side. If this is correct, it means that the Liberals taking an aggressively pro-SSM stance would drive away more current Liberals voters to the Conservatives than they would gain from the NDP.

    By Blogger The Invisible Hand, at 2:39 PM  

  • I've said in the past that I thought it was a good issue for Harper to run on, but that was when Harper trailled in the polls.

    Now, the Liberals need to shift the focus away from corruption and I think this is the only issue with enough media play that can do that. A watered down Kyoto plan or a half-hearted daycare system simply won't overtake Adscam as the main issue.

    What the Liberals need to do right now is bring back NDP and Bloc voters to the fold. Yes, they may lose a few votes to the Cons but I think this is an issue with pottential. Harper is on really weak constitutional ground and can get raked over the coals for it. In short, a good sales pitch (other than "it's the charter") can win people over. I know a lot of people who were against SSM until they hear enough arguments in favour of it. "It's the charter" is not a good argument in favour of it so Martin is going to have to actually come out and say "I believe this is the right thing for the following reasons".

    Finally, bringing this agenda to the spotlight is going to inevitably lead to a bone-headed comment by a Tory backbencher.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 2:57 PM  

  • As an add-on, let me just say that I think public opinion trails the polls on this. This is an issue that I think the public opinion could swing on if they saw real leadership in one direction on it.

    Even though I was against missile defense, I think it was the same case with that. If Martin had signed on to BMD and argued effectively why he signed on, public opinion would likely have followed in his direction on it.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 3:02 PM  

  • Invisible Hand has some interesting points, but I disagree that pro-SSM sentiment is significantly shallower than opposition to it. I'd bet that alot of those anti-SSM poll voters really don't care all that much, but would prefer the status quo because the image of a married homosexual couple just "doesn't seem right".

    I think this could be a winning issue if Martin plays it right -- and that means not saying "SSM is lovely and wonderful and we should all accept it". It means saying to the public: "Look, no matter how we feel about it, SSM is a matter of Charter rights. I believe that the Charter is so vital to us as Canadians that I will never sacrifice it for political gain."

    Given some of the anti-Charter sentiment starting to creep out of the CPC, this is something that Canadians might feel a little more compelled to vote Liberal over.

    By Blogger JoshP, at 3:04 PM  

  • But even if the Liberals make SSM and issue and even if it is an issue that can work for the Liberals as CG argues, how does it get away from corruption and bring back NDP votes?

    Wouldn't the NDP say "great, SSM and the Charter are issues. We support SSM strongly, we've always supported the charter AND we wont steal public money."

    The Liberals are losing votes to the NDP because people see the NDP as having similar social values and are tired of Liberal corruption. Emphasising Liberal social values isn't going to win back people who have gone to the NDP because the NDP's record on those things is just as good.

    People vote Liberal instead of NDP, not over social values, but because they see the Liberal party as having more experience in leadership and more responsible economic policies.

    Except that 'leadership' and 'experience' is now a huge liability. I don't know what the solution for the Liberals is but I think emphasising things like SSM and Kyoto actually plays to the advantage of the NDP.

    By Blogger Matthew, at 3:29 PM  

  • CG: bingo.

    Vote Liberal and get SSM. Vote NDP and watch the legislation die forever.

    Can't think of a better way to co-opt NDP voters, much less those that were Liberals a week ago.

    Plus, the media will run with this (see abortion last summer, healthcare in 2000).

    By Blogger matt, at 3:32 PM  

  • Martin should take a page from the Bush's strategy.

    Bush, despite scandal, lie and dead was re-elected running with "moral value".

    Martin should try to do the same thing: moral value.

    Since Canada has a fairly progressive view on those issues he should go that way.

    Try to persuade the elector that the Liberal represent the modernity. Pushing the Canadian identity with progressive values.

    By Blogger David, at 4:11 PM  

  • All we need is for Bush to take Harper's side on this issue. Can you imagine if Martin could run against Bush - I know a lot of Canadians who would vote for Castro over Bush. Tapping into Canadian fear and anti Americanism would be an excellent strategy (politically not morally speaking).

    By Blogger P.E.T., at 4:59 PM  

  • CG,

    Perhaps I'm not considering the mentality of the broader electorate here and just taking my own views into consideration.

    Personally however, my thinking on the issue (put simply) goes like this:

    I like to vote for the Liberals because they have values I can relate to and they will run the country well. In the past I've considered voting for the NDP because they share values with me, (and the Liberals) but I haven't trusted them to run the country well.

    However, the Liberals have proven they can't be trusted to run the country at all because they steal public money. Therefore I may as well vote NDP; they have similar values and they wont steal public money.

    As I said, I don't know what the Liberal solution is but they have to convince me that they are capable of addressing the corruption issue. Reminding me of their values re:SSM etc. just reminds me that there is another party who has similar values with no record or corruption.

    By Blogger Matthew, at 5:11 PM  

  • CG,

    Reading this blog and the ensuing comments, I now realize how absolutely outraged I would be if the Liberals were re-elected in the face of this scandal.

    The painfully pathetic part of it all is that Canadian voters actually *would* vote for a party that is morally rotten at its very core over a party that wants to keep marriage between a man and a woman.

    "Hmmm, yeah, I know they took my money, used it to make sure they would stay in power and threw away millions for do-nothing contracts ... but I really want Bill and Jim to get married."

    By Blogger reporterbrock, at 5:17 PM  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Blogger Mark, at 5:43 PM  

  • reporterbrock, I don't see how that's painfully pathetic.

    Equal rights issues are something I, personally, see as terribly important, especially considering what legislation the Conservatives plan to introduce as far as anti-same-sex marriage goes; a Conservative government would strip marriage licenses from same-sex couples that already have them, use the notwithstanding clause to prevent future marriages, and possibly even push for a US-style constitutional amendment to our Charter. It may even go further: In Stephen Harper's debate speech on the issue, he said that the Catholic school system, for example, should be able to fire gay employees! (Holy Crap!)

    That's a terrifying scenario, and I would happily vote Liberal to avoid that kind of sentiment in government; my feelings about the adscam is simply not worth selling out equality for Canadians.

    (Also, it's worth noting that the adscam wasted only 10s of millions compared to the almost 45 billion dollar defecit the last conservative government left us with)

    By Blogger Mark, at 5:49 PM  

  • Mark: IN response to your response to reporterbrock.. I cant agree more... The Liberals have disappaointed me.. but when I see the alternative offered me in Stephen Harper's party, his policies scare me (and revolt me) worse.

    Until the NDP becomes a viable alternate governing party for those of us on the centre-left, we will have to vote Lberal and hope Martin can reform his party rather then have the scary prospect of "Republican-lite" running Ottawa.

    By Blogger Scott Tribe, at 5:51 PM  

  • Calgrit:

    As a followup.. I agree they (being the Liberals) need a good issue to run on.. but I dont think its SSM... In fact.. I dont think its one issue. I think its several.

    - Pointing out to the country that upon being elected Harper would immediately ask Bush to re-open Ballistic Missile Defence Talks would be one good start.. thats a non-starter issue for most Canadians if there ever was one.

    - You've already mentioned Kyoto.. pointing out to voters in BC, Ontario and the East in general that Harper will kill Kyoto on being elected gets him more optential votes then he loses (the Liberals are dead in Alberta anyhow.. so why bother trying to appease the oilpatch?)

    - As for SSM... I disagree - mention the Charter loud and often is what I say. Mention that the only way for the Cons to override 7 provincial court decisions is to use the NWC. Canadians, regardless of their views on SSM.. by a large majority disagree with politicans using that, and they do hold their Supreme Court and the courts in general ability to rule on things in high esteem, I believe. The Cons whining about "activist judges" is a copy of the Republican tactic.. its not really working down south for those guys.. and it will work even less up here.

    - Lastly.. pledge loud and long to abide by whatever reforms or changes Gomery recommends.

    By Blogger Scott Tribe, at 5:59 PM  

  • Matthew; I think the logic would be - if Harper becomes Prime Minister, then same sex legislation dies. Just like the issue would be, if Harper becomes Prime Minister Kyoto is gone and BMD talks start up again (like Scott said).

    reporterbrock; I can see where you're coming from. I really do think that if the Liberals get re-elected, there's going to be a lot of REALLY angry people out there. I almost think the best thing for both parties would be a Tory minority - at least it would get anger out of the voters system and the Liberals could finally get some much needed rebuilding.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 9:37 PM  

  • I agree with the people who suggest that the Liberals will have a hard time beating the NDP on social values. The NDP has a much longer history of supporting progressive positions. I think the only reason that the NDP doesn't take more of the vote away from the Liberals is that a lot people have doubts about the NDP's economic policy, which I think might be further to the left than most people are comfortable with.

    By Blogger Socialist Swine, at 10:50 PM  

  • CG,

    I really don't think same-sex marriage is going to be any sort of saving grace for the Liberal party. In Quebec voters who've drifted to the BQ have no incentive to switch their vote over the issue back to the Liberals. Thus the Liberals remain pummeled there.

    While in Ontario, public opinion polls have shown a majority of citizens even in Toronto are opposed to same sex marriage. 15,000 people showing up in Ottawa for a rally didn't materialize out of thin air. In fact its quite possible its a winning issue for Conservatives.

    Who are the Conservatives primary trying to shake loose anyhow? Right wing liberals who keep voting for people like Pat O'Brien, Derek Lee and the rest of them in southern Ontario. Its the predominately catholic voters whom have traditionally voted Liberal but who've the Liberals have drifted from, as well as minority groups that are being catered too. If Liberals think the minority groups are secure, then perhaps they should consider that there were hospitality suites being run by both Jewish and Muslim groups at the last Conservative convention which had never been the case during the previous Reform, Canadian Alliance eras.

    As for Kyoto, if anyone ever stopped to debate the substance of the accord rather than simply making a motherhood statement about "the environment is good and I like puppies", they would note that its a deeply flawed arrangement. The science has been subject to question, and the efficacy of an agreement that America, China and India haven't signed onto is dubious. Furthermore, is 0.5 degrees celsius over 6 years really worth $10 billion dollars?

    Frame the question that way and the majority of voters will say no. Its a plan rather like the gun registry, its designed to make voters who haven't thought about the matter feel good about "sending the right message" and accomplish nothing of substance other than throwing their money to the wind - perhaps to be caught by some Liberal friendly ad agencies who engage in issue advertising for the government.

    By Blogger Chris, at 11:07 PM  

  • a Conservative government would strip marriage licenses from same-sex couples that already have them,

    No, Harper has said that he would not move to annul existing same-sex marriages.

    use the notwithstanding clause to prevent future marriages,

    The Conservative leadership has not indicated that they would use the notwithstanding clause. (Although to be fair, they haven't really indicated that they wouldn't use it, either, just that they don't think it's necessary.)

    and possibly even push for a US-style constitutional amendment to our Charter.

    You mean to ban gay marriage? There's been absolutely no suggestion of this from Harper, and I don't ever recall even any backbenchers saying this. (If you know of a case, please post something to back it up.)

    It may even go further: In Stephen Harper's debate speech on the issue, he said that the Catholic school system, for example, should be able to fire gay employees! (Holy Crap!)

    WTF? He never said anything like that in the debate, and I highly doubt he said it anywhere else. (Again, in the unlikely event that you have any proof, please post it.)

    "When in doubt, just make stuff up!"

    By Blogger The Invisible Hand, at 11:20 PM  

  • How about running on the election itself? If one thing polling is showing consistently (and with the highest numbers) it's that people don't want a snap election. If Paul Martin can convince the public that the only reason the Conservatives provoked the election was because they thought they could win, he might do well to redirect a lot of the Gomery problems. I agree that he needs to paint Harper in a Bush-light, and run strongly on SSM, etc., but I also think he has to be aggressive with the inquiry.

    It really hasn't been proven that money actually went back to the Party itself, and the Liberals need to stress the Party's innocence over and over until proven guilty. The Conservatives aren't going to gain that many more votes either way. It's a question of whether the Liberals will lose enough votes to the NDP and Bloc to let the Conservatives slip in with a minority. And the issue with those voters is the inquiry.

    I hate to say it, but painting the NDP/Greens as potential Nader 2000 spoilers would likely be the Liberals best bet. It's the only thing holding onto my vote, and my big issue is the environment...

    By Blogger Andrew Rose, at 11:29 PM  

  • Oh, Mr. Rose, I hope the Liberals run on such a weak platform. I'd love the opportunity to eat them up as they whined about the election.

    People like myself could only wish that the Liberals would try and run their campaign on that grounds. If they did, the Conservatives would decimate them.

    By Blogger Mike Brock, at 12:12 AM  

  • Invisible hand wrote: WTF? He never said anything like that in the debate, and I highly doubt he said it anywhere else. (Again, in the unlikely event that you have any proof, please post it.)

    Sounds a little extreme to believe, I know. As for the proof: Absolutely, here you go. An exceprt from Harper's Hansard trasncript on Feb 16, 2005:

    [...] Then it will be religious charities forced to recognize employees in same-sex relationships as legally married. Then it will be religious schools not being allowed to fire a teacher in a same-sex marriage. Then it will be a hierarchical or synodal church not being allowed to discipline an errant priest or minister who performs a civilly legal but canonically illicit same-sex marriage. [...]

    Invisible Hand, I wish I were making all this stuff up--but the fact is that the Consevatives hold some downright scary policies.

    The Conservative leadership has not indicated that they would use the notwithstanding clause.

    The notwithstanding clause will have to be invoked for their amendments to pass. They've been avoiding outright saying they will, but it's necessary. (You can read an open letter from over 100 expert lawyers consulted on that matter here: http://www.law.utoronto.ca/samesexletter.html)

    You mean to ban gay marriage? There's been absolutely no suggestion of this from Harper

    There has. He has been quoted many times intending to introduce legislation that defines marriage, once and for all, as one man and one woman and introduce special "civil unions" for same-sex couples instead.

    No, Harper has said that he would not move to annul existing same-sex marriages.

    Harper has refused to say he won't annul them either. When asked by a group of lawyers and a same-sex couple in Victoria recently, Stephen Harper outright refused to answer. He's entertaining the idea.

    Like I said, scary, but true.

    By Blogger Mark, at 1:21 AM  

  • Invisible Hand; I think you hit the problem on the head right there. Harper won't use the notwithstanding clause and he won't annul the 1000 marriages that already happened. His argument is completely irrational since the only way he can stop gay marriages from happening is by using the notwithstanding clause.

    Harper's opposition is all symbolic and for that very reason, Martin could eat him alive on the topic.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 1:30 AM  

  • An anullment is simply a statement that a marriage never actually should have occured and therefore it does not. Logically all current same sex marriages would be converted into domestic partnerships, civil unions or whatever term is decided upon.

    That's right, the scary thought is that these people be denied access to ....a word! The shock! The horror! Someone cue the moral outrage!

    I'm sure every non-straight person in this country is currently living in fear for when Stephen Harper drags them off to his gulags by with the stroke of a pen altering their documentation so that they are "civil unionized" rather than married". Will attrocities never cease.

    Alot of people are attached to the historical and established understanding of the word marriage and fundamentally believe that courts are not impowered to overturn the breadth of human history on a Tuesday because they gazed into the vageries of the Charter and decided suddenly marriage was "unjust".

    The problem with supporters of same sex marriage is their so obessed with the righteousness of their position they fail to grasp that most people believe that marriage, family, and many other simple concepts that underlay the foundation of society are something they understand and ought to have a say in. The Liberal position that - the Court said so and its constitutional! Tends to be ridiculous in that blatantly wanders beyond any intended interpretation of the document, and has the court intruding into the jurisdiction of the legislatures in a way offense to anyone with the most basic of democratic values.

    Its questionable whether its even proper for the courts to be dealing with what is essentially a "political question". The only fight going on is over a label and I find it difficult to believe there is any concrete harm being suffered in that. Nor do I see any vast public outcry or demonstrable reason for the comparisons that are so often made to the civil rights movements.

    The legality of proposed Conservative legislation is certainly debatable. However, as anyone reading the judgement of the supreme court can tell you that there was no ruling on the constitutionality of the question. They said the legislation could go ahead, but no proposal to a) preserve traditional marriage in its traditional marriage or b) do so and incorporate civil unions is unconstitutional.

    Some Liberal academics have made predictions on what the Supreme Court would rule. I supose I haven't seen the course listing in law school labeled "Tarot, Palmistry and the legal system" maybe they only have that one at the U of T. On the other hand I am aware that there is constitutional backing for the traditional definition of marriage in Egan, and a long line of cases speaking to statute law requiring greater judicial deference than the common law. As such statutory provisions that propose marriages and civil unions legally should be looked upon in a different manner.

    Even hypothetically speaking should the academic partisans be correct in their assessment, they wholly neglected the possibility that it could be deemed acceptable under section one of the charter as a reasonable limitation.

    And if people disagree that that's not a tenable legal position well the Conservative response is - see you in court.

    By Blogger Chris, at 3:01 AM  

  • I wrote this a week back. "It looks like the party is content to let the sponsorship scandal wash over them. Why? To use an old cliché, the best defense is a good offense. One of the only respites the Liberals have had in the sponsorship scandal coverage has been the gay marriage debate. Why stop with gay marriage? The Conservatives did their utmost to avoid issues, such as euthanasia, at their party convention last month and, at least in the case of euthanasia, with good reason.

    The Liberals should send up a euthanasia trail balloon before the Terri Shivio retreats from public memory altogether. The days of polling for policy are over. The damage done by the Gomery allegations can only be tempered by bold policy initiatives (e.g. government sanctioned euthanasia and legalized pot). (I have spoken about the marijuana issue here. http://www.tblog.com/templates/index.php?bid=koby&static=427382) The Liberals have to take the fight to the Conservatives and try to turn the next election into a referendum on these issues rather than on what the Conservatives want it to be on, viz., Liberal trustworthiness. A side benefit of forcing comment on these subjects is that Gallant or some other Conservative will run their mouth off. After all, one of the storylines for the next election will be can Stephen Harper control the social conservative wing of his party?"

    Legalization of Marijuana is a big reach, but ethusansia is not. Another popular measure would be to offer Canadians more vacation time. Martin could talk about Canada needing to bridge the vacation gap between what Canada mandates vaction wise and what many European countries do.

    The Liberal nuclear option is to play the anti-Bush card and paint Harper as a Bush want to be. This would be remarkably easy to do. Conservative platform Tax cuts, military spending, "theo con" agenda, American like senate etc etch. Hell, Harper ended his Convention speech with "Thank you. God bless Canada."

    By Blogger Koby, at 5:55 AM  

  • Martin has to do stuff. Martin has to paint the Tories as scary: this comprises SSM and healthcare hidden agendas. Martin has to say "wait for the report so we can clean this stuff up."

    Harper has to say "you've done nothing for a year", "our policy convention has nothing scary" and "you called an election right before Gomery started."

    Harper will have to deal with crazy wingnut comments from his underlings.

    Martin will have to deal with Gomery testimony and stuff.

    On the face of it, evenly matched.

    This election (and there will be one: June 1 is my prediction) turns on whose message stays consistent, and whether that message penetrates the 905. The Tories need to hold their current seats and gain 10 more in Ontario. That means not letting the Liberals push the numbers down throughout the campaign. Traditionally Reform/CA/Cons get a small jump, ~5% in the polls between their start and finish number. So if their present ~30% is genuine, or even only mildly weak (i.e. they're really at 28%)all they have to do is business as usual to eke out a minority.

    Martin has his work cut out for him.

    By Blogger matt, at 9:34 AM  

  • Chris, it's not simply the legal rights of civil marriage that same-sex couples are fighting for; it's equality.

    The sole purpose of crafting a seperate "civil union" is to deny gays and lesbians proper civil marriage. Are you married, Chris? Would you have been satisfied being "civil unioned" instead, while others are getting "married?"

    If marriage is a "foundation of society," then people should ask them selves what gives them the right to exclude same-sex couples from that foundation.

    The notion that civil marriage is a sacred and unchanging institution is utter nonsense. It wasn't long ago that couples of non-white races weren't allowed to legally wed, nor was it long ago that, after a marriage, the woman was considered the property of the man and was written as such into the laws.

    (Speaking of women as property, I should also point out that, when the defintion of voter was changed to "one person" instead of "one man," we didn't create a seperate term "civil ballot caster" to define that. Those that claim this is any different are deluding themselves.)

    Giving the term "marriage" to same-sex couples doesn't destroy families. Opposite-sex couples don't all have children. Some adopt, others choose never to have children. Whether or not the couple chooses to have children is up to them -- and they're still allowed to get married.

    (Incidentally, same-sex couples can start families. Many lesbians have their own biological children through artificial insemination; other couples adopt. Their families are no worse off than any other, these techniques are used by opposite-sex couples to have children too, and the children are no more likely to be gay than any other).

    I think opponents to equal marriage need to stop acting like they're noble protectorates of a sacred and ancient institution and just admit the truth: they're not very fond of gay people. Maybe they think gays aren't capable of love at the same level, maybe they find the notion of gay sex digusting, maybe they think gay people are sick in the head -- whatever the reason, they feel it's necessary to discriminate (deny equality) at the law-making level.

    By Blogger Mark, at 10:27 AM  

  • Mark:

    If the NDP is leading in the Praries outside of Alberta and in BC.. its possible they could gain seats from not only the Liberals but the Tories as well.... you could end up with an election seat count similar to the 1972 result.

    By Blogger Scott Tribe, at 12:25 PM  

  • The likes of Mark are presumably discovering, as they study polls such as the recent EKOS/CBC one, that their ability to spin, dance, dangle and obfusticate on the issue of same-sex marriage is rapidly dissolving like the snow in the warm spring sun.

    To whit:

    - Neither the SCC nor any other appellate court has EVER said the Charter demands recognition of same sex marriage. All the SCC said was that the feds proposed legislation to redefine "marriage" was constitutional. All the appellate courts have ever done is hold specific legislation concerning various civil aspects of marriage to be contrary to the Charter to the extent such legislation "discrminates" against gays WITHOUT going one step further and ordering the government to redefine marriage as a remedy. It is false and misleading (though utterly predictable) for anti-traditional marriage forces to suggest otherwise .

    - the adamancy that Harper is wrong in maintaining it won't be necessary to invoke the "notwithstanding clause" as part of the legislation proposed by the CPC reveals much about the attitude of same-sex marriage proponents towards Canadians in general. To take this position is to ignore the fact the SCC was ASKED to rule on whether traditional marriage is constitutional and they refused to do so. This refusal is interpreted by the likes of the plethora (gaggle?) of law faculty denizens as code word for "of course it isn't constitutional, silly bunts - we just don't feel like saying so at this particular time, but don't make us slap you around by actually trying to legislate this". Or, alternatively, the refusal to rule on this point could be because even our most "progressive" SCCers are a little queasy about proclaiming an institution that predates our nation by several millenia and has provided the framework within which civilized society has evolved became illegal in Canada in 1984. And should the SCC do what the law professors predict and rule traditional marriage is unconstitutional, what will they and their supporters say in response to the inevitable curiousity on the part of Canadians as to why the SCC refused to so rule in the first place, thereby subjecting the nation to months of vitriolic and acrimonious debate that has unfolded in the last 6 months, not to mention the multi-million dollar costs of another SCC proceeding (not that Lieberals seem all that concerned about the cost of anything).

    - When examined in detail (or even not) the polling shows a persistance on the part of Canadians to reject the notion of same-sex marriage. As is always the case, the key is in the question. If the polling question is framed to accurately reflect the legal status quo of same-sex relationships, i.e. same-sex partners already enjoy every single substantive legal right as is enjoyed by married couples, and that the real debate has therefore become, as Chris so well put it, over access to a word, the results are invariably overwhelming opposition to redefining marriage.

    I'm with Mike Brook on this one - it is the highest hope of the CPC that the Lieberals might regard this issue as the one to make the central theme of their next campaign. Isn't it nice when we can all agree on something:)

    By Blogger schlumpster, at 12:49 PM  

  • Neither the SCC nor any other appellate court has EVER said the Charter demands recognition of same sex marriage

    But the provincial courts have. 8 of them, in fact.

    The reason the SCC refused to say the current marriage laws are unconstitutional was to avoid unnecessary intervention; the second a court overturns a law because it's unconstitutional, people start screaming "activist judges, activist judges!"

    The SCC firmly believes they should not have a say in the creation of laws. Therefore, on a topic as "loaded" as SSM, if the SCC can have parliament pass the legislation without their intervention, that saves them a lot of greif.

    If a SSM case is brought to the SCC, of course, they will overturn the current laws. Every lower court that has heard a SSM case has done that (and, contrary to what opponents tell us, it's not because their arguments weren't heard).

    A group of over 100 university law professors have confirmed that the notwithstanding clause is required to pass legislation restricting civil marriage to opposite-sex couples.

    I'm not sure why I can be accused of spinning facts when the observation is very simple: The charter guarantees equality; right now some couples can get married, and some cannot. That's not equal.

    By Blogger Mark, at 1:41 PM  

  • "All the appellate courts have ever done is hold specific legislation concerning various civil aspects of marriage to be contrary to the Charter"

    Justice Prowse wrote that the “common law bar against same-sex marriage is of no force or effect because it violates rights and freedoms guaranteed by s. 15 of the Charter and does not constitute a reasonable and demonstrably justified limit on those rights and freedoms within the meaning of s. 1 of the Charter. I would also reformulate the common law definition of marriage to mean ‘the lawful union of two persons to the exclusion of all others.’”

    If the Conservatives take the old common law definition add a little spit and polish and resumit it, no justice will think differently

    By Blogger Koby, at 2:29 PM  

  • Oooh, one hundred law professors, well colour me shocked that liberal academics offer the most liberal interpretation of the charter imaginable. I know several of the people on the list and I wouldn't call them impartial arbitors of fact. Taking it a bit further, I even ran the lot of them through the elections Canada website and came up nearly 20% of them being Liberal/NDP donors.
    Its not exactly a non-idealogical assessment your getting there.

    Furthermore, marriage has nothing to do with equality. Yes, there are some benifets that they should have rights too which acrue to married couples. But they have no right to have acess to the word. The word has a commonly understood meaning - marriage being one man and one woman, essentially for the purpose of raising a family.

    Marriage isn't about "social acceptence" or any sort of balarney like that. That argument is simply the ridiculous sentiment of an activist fringe that's perpetually agrieved. Its the foundational building block of the family. Quite frankly despite what efforts they may make, two gay men, or two lesbian women are not through any natural course of action going to be able to procreate.

    "Marriage" is simply the human term for the biological understanding of mating - a pair formed from two members of the opposite gender for breeding purposes. This has been human practice for thousands of years. The definition of marriage in these terms is not religious, its simply factual with a strong imperical basis and historical record to back it.

    No matter what a homosexual couple would like due to their very nature they can't be married. That's simply the way things are whatever some activist judge might choose to say.

    By Blogger Chris, at 3:13 PM  

  • "Marriage" is simply the human term for the biological understanding of mating - a pair formed from two members of the opposite gender for breeding purposes.

    Many disagree. And, supposing that was the true definition, what interest, praytell, does the government have in assigning this word to couples? If that definition is correct, then we should have scrutinizing interviews and medical examinations of engaged couples to ensure they can procreate; and, if they can't, give them a "civil union" instead.

    If that definition is what the government intended, then elerdly couples should be unable to re-marry. Adpotive parents should have their licenses revoked -- if a married couple fails to have biological children in x number of years, their marriage anuled.

    Look, the simple fact is that many married couples do not or cannot have children. And, as long as that's the case, there is no logical argument for same-sex couples to be excluded from the same institution. Civil marriage is not about children. Perhaps some religious marriages have a different emphasis, but from the government's point of view, that argument is utter poppycock.

    By Blogger Mark, at 3:27 PM  

  • Even if the "traditional definition" legislation Harper would bring is in constitutional, he'd still need to overule the lower court decisions. To do that, he'd need to bring in the notwithstanding clause.

    If Harper wants to keep same sex marriage illegal in two provinces, his legislation would likely do that. But, to overturn it in the other 8, he'd have to use the notwithstanding clause.

    To be honest, he should have just come out and said he'd use the notwithstanding clause. It's in the freaking charter after all - that would innoculate him against the "it's the charter, stupid" argument.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 5:24 PM  

  • Yes, Mark and that particular practice of treating the instution frivolously by Liberals is building towards a population crisis which Europe is about to experience. If you have an aging tax base but no children as you've failed to reproduce which is essential to the ongoing surival of society the whole system of entitlements will collapse into economic chaos.

    And no CG, he does not need to invoke the notwithstanding clause to overturn Appellate Court judgements. They could strike the new law down claiming it is simmilair to the old one. However, a common law duty, is not a statute, nor are the provisions the same. Thus the new legislation would need to be challenged and go through the court system again. And I have no reason to believe that a Conservative government would not exhaust its appeal process before contemplating the notwithstanding clause.

    By Blogger Chris, at 5:48 PM  

  • Chris, you're not seriously suggesting that allowing same-sex marriage will lead to a population decline, are you?

    Like it or not, gay people exist. Allowing them to marry won't magically spawn more gay people, and disallowing them from marrying won't make them go away.

    This is exactly the sort of nonsensical rhetoric that opponents resort to when all their other arguments are exhausted and discredited. Some people just don't want to face the fact: this is an equality issue, and there's no justifying the current state of things.

    By Blogger Mark, at 6:39 PM  

  • Mark wrote:
    Sounds a little extreme to believe, I know. As for the proof: Absolutely, here you go. An exceprt from Harper's Hansard trasncript on Feb 16, 2005:

    You are a liar. Those aren't Harper's words; he was quoting someone else!

    Furthermore, you also lied by claiming that the quote was about the "Catholic school system" as opposed to private religious schools. (Official Catholic schools are subject to greater government control.) And no, a private religious school should not be forced to have a gay teacher, just like a church shouldn't be forced to have a gay preacher (or a gay rights group forced to have a fundamentalist Christian working for them, and so on).

    The notwithstanding clause will have to be invoked for their amendments to pass.

    As Chris explained, this is not the case.

    They've been avoiding outright saying they will, but it's necessary. (You can read an open letter from over 100 expert lawyers consulted on that matter here:

    Oh, bwah hah hah. First off, they weren't some of random sample of experts who were "consulted", they're a group of like-minded people who are advocating for a particular position. Second, their opinion is far from unanimous among legal scholars.

    There has. He has been quoted many times intending to introduce legislation that defines marriage, once and for all, as one man and one woman and introduce special "civil unions" for same-sex couples instead.

    Nice bait-and-switch, you dishonest prick. Everyone knows that Harper wants marriage to be opposite-sex only, but you claimed that he wants a "US-style constitutional amendment". And now when you're called on it, you try to weasel out by pretending you were only talking about regular legislation. Pathetic.

    Harper has refused to say he won't annul them either. When asked by a group of lawyers and a same-sex couple in Victoria recently, Stephen Harper outright refused to answer. He's entertaining the idea.

    Hmm... I distinctly recall Harper being quoted as saying that if he successfully reinstated the traditional definition of marriage, he would not annul existing same-sex marriages. However, I can't seem to find the story online.

    I'm not sure why I can be accused of spinning facts when the observation is very simple: The charter guarantees equality; right now some couples can get married, and some cannot. That's not equal.

    The Charter don't say that "couples" are equal, it says that individuals are.

    By Blogger The Invisible Hand, at 10:00 PM  

  • "All the appellate courts have ever done is hold specific legislation concerning various civil aspects of marriage to be contrary to the Charter"

    Bullocks. Justice Prowse BC “COMMON LAW BAR [not legislation] against same-sex marriage is of no force or effect because it VIOLATES RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS GUARANTEED BY S. 15 OF THE CHARTER AND DOES NOT CONSTITUTE A REASONABLE AND DEMONSTRABLY JUSTIFIED LIMIT ON THOSE FREEDOMS WITHIN THE MEANING OF S. 1 of the CHARTER. I would also reformulate the COMMON LAW definition of marriage to mean ‘the lawful union of two persons to the exclusion of all others.’”

    You may not like the fact that every court asked to deliberate on the issue of whether the COMMON LAW definition of marriage is constitutional have found that it is not, but not liking it will not magically transform the situation. Stand up for your beliefs; say that you oppose gay marriage regardless of whether it is Constitutional.

    "Marriage" is simply the human term for the biological understanding of mating - a pair formed from two members of the opposite gender for breeding purposes. This has been human practice for thousands of years. The definition of marriage in these terms is not religious, its simply factual with a strong imperical basis and historical record to back it."

    Bullocks. “Marriage” is the name of a legal contract. As with other legal contracts, the reasons for entering into a contract differ from person to person; the reasons people have for entering into such a contract in no way define it.

    What does it mean for two parties to come to a “biological understanding”? Does it mean the same thing as mery comming to an understanding. If so, your statement is empirically false. People get married in Europe. And as you said yourself, it does not name such an understanding there.

    By Blogger Koby, at 11:00 PM  

  • Actually no Mark, I'm not saying gay marriage is going to lead to less children in an of itself. I simply see the acceptence of gay marriage as being symptomatic of larger societal problems which are invariably leading towards population decline.

    Its simply a factual statement to say that a country cannot be sustained without the population replacing itself. In Canada and Europe a narcistic culture of entitlement and reliance upon the state has undercut the importance of family, and virtue of that marriage.

    One can cite any number of reasons for this, absurdly high taxes, the necessity of two parents working, extensive state pensions, the more radical strains of feminism, and the general treatment as luxury items as opposed to necessities. However, the reasons itself aren't as important as the fact that the population pyramid is coming to rest in a reversed manner which will strain the tax base beyond its ability to provide for.

    The reason for this will be a nihilistic regard solely for the self without having considered the consequences of one's actions, and a neglect for those instutitions which has served a foundational role for humanity.

    By Blogger Chris, at 1:03 AM  

  • Chris, the American birth rates are higher than Canada and certainly higher than in Europe and there is a reason for this. The US has a higher percentage of poor people. It is the American underclass that is producing a mini baby boom. Fear not, if Stephen Harper gets elected, there will be plenty more poor Canadians and perhaps we too can undergo a mini baby boom. (In Canada the poorest ethnic group in Canada, Native Canadians, also has the highest birth rate.)

    By Blogger Koby, at 4:56 AM  

  • Koby wrote:

    "You may not like the fact that every court asked to deliberate on the issue of whether the COMMON LAW definition of marriage is constitutional have found that it is not, but not liking it will not magically transform the situation. Stand up for your beliefs; say that you oppose gay marriage regardless of whether it is Constitutional."

    I don't care to burn up bytes debating whether comments like those of Justice Prowse are obiter or not (a reluctance not shared by same-sex marriage proponents eager to dismiss, for example, Justice La Forest's decision in Egan). Suffice it to say, I take from the above you concur with my having characterized Canadian court rulings on same-sex marriage as essentially distilling to the proposition that traditional marriage became illegal in Canada in 1984.

    Accordingly, and in response to your admonishment to have the courage of one's convinctions, I trust you'll concur the following would make an EXCELLENT poll question:

    Do you agree with court rulings that heterosexual marriage is illegal because it offends the Charter?

    And perhaps this as a follow-up question to married couples:

    Given traditional marriage has now been established as illegal in Canada, how do you feel about having lived in sin throughout your marriage and do you intend to continue to break the law?

    I look forward to your future obfustications.

    By Blogger schlumpster, at 12:02 PM  

  • Invisible Hand, It's a shame you've abandoned civility in your arguments, for I am neither a "pathetic," "dishonest prick," nor a liar. Personal attacks are unfounded.

    The beauty of Hansard transcripts is that they're publically available. If you don't think those words are Stephen Harper's own, please, by all means, read his debate speech yourself.

    As for whether he'll really introduce a US-style constitutional amendment; I don't know for sure -- all I can say is that's probably the case. To disallow equal marriage would require the notwithstanding clause, as 8 provincial courts and countless law experts have verified. Since the notwithstanding clause must be used every five years to override the charter, the only way to permanently have his way would be to amend the charter; which he has not yet denied he'll do.

    By Blogger Mark, at 12:21 PM  

  • "Do you agree with court rulings that heterosexual marriage is illegal because it offends the Charter?

    And perhaps this as a follow-up question to married couples:

    Given traditional marriage has now been established as illegal in Canada, how do you feel about having lived in sin throughout your marriage and do you intend to continue to break the law?"

    I look forward to your future obfustications.

    Come again. Talk about obfustications. The common law definition was unconstitional as stated and needed to be made less restrictive. Therefore, marriages entered into before the expanding of the defintion are illegal! Man. I assure you, CIVIL marriages entered into before the definition was made less restrictive are not now void. As for that sin thing, do you really think I care?

    By Blogger Koby, at 2:14 PM  

  • Kobe wrote:

    "The common law definition was unconstitional as stated and needed to be made less restrictive."

    When do we get to see your little semantic dance that "unconstitutional" doesn't mean "illegal".

    "As for that sin thing, do you really think I care?"

    It surprises me not at all that you don't. Soliciting your feelings, however, wasn't the point of the post. Feel free, of course, to correct me if I'm wrong, but I've been under the impression the gist of this post and resulting comments is "how much support is there for same-sex marriage in Canada" and, in particular, do polls on this issue imply it's a winning hand for the Lieberals.

    Hence my original comment suggesting the only polls that indicate anything other than overwhelming opposition can be dismissed on the basis of flawed methodology, for example, questioning people on whether they think gays should have the same rights as heterosexuals, when, in the context of Canadian legislation, gay couples already have the same substantive legal rights as heterosexual couples.

    On the other hand, if the polling question more accurately reflected what has actually transpired, i.e. activitist courts have, notwithstanding a profound lack of substantive evidence, taken "judicial note" that discrimination has occurred and "read in" grounds of protection that had specifically been left out of legislation by the framers and have conjured out of the ether a "right" to enter into an institution that pre-dates those courts by millenia.

    So prey tell, Kobe, how do you think the noble Canadian citizenry would come down if polled on the basis of my previously posted question? Do you think your average Tim Horton-quaffing Joe Canadian would agree with our esteemed judiciary that the institution of marriage became unlawful in Canada when the Charter was enacted? If you truly believe they would, I hope and pray you're a federal Lieberal election strategist.

    By Blogger schlumpster, at 3:57 PM  

  • Let us back it up a bit. You claimed that since the common law definition was found to be unconstitional, marriages not formed under the new definition are illegal. Man, that is good material. That one had me laughing for awhile.

    As for so called “activist judges”, this is just a way Harper uses to comfort his social conservative base, who are only now coming to realize that their views on homosexuality are intellectually bankrupt. The justices are finally starting to reflect what has long be common in places of learning etc.
    As for public opinion, the battle may not be won, but opposition to gay marriage is dying of literally.

    By Blogger Koby, at 8:39 PM  

  • Kobe wrote:

    "You claimed that since the common law definition was found to be unconstitional, marriages not formed under the new definition are illegal."

    Did, or did the courts not decide the traditional concept of "marriage" as being between a man and a woman was unconstitutional? Is not the constitution a form of law? Is something that is contrary to the constitution therefore "unlawful"? Does "unlawful" not essentially mean "illegal"?

    Perhaps you don't grasp the subtle difference between "breach" and "sanction". I will give you the benefit of the doubt and assume your confusion derives from your mistaking my comments to mean "the courts ruled "marriage" was unconstitutional and one of the resulting sanctions was a declaration all existing marriages were therefore void."

    Of course, the courts said no such thing, but it doesn't make it incorrect to describe what the courts have done is to declare "marriage" unlawful. My only point in beating this drum is to demonstrate support for gay "marriage", or lack thereof, as reflected in polls, is essentially a function of how you frame the question. Hence, when you state "(a)s for public opinion, the battle may not be won, but opposition to gay marriage is dying of literally", you signify your faith lies in the types of polls that ask ridiculous questions like "should gay people have the same rights as others". As more and more Canadians come to understand we stand on the verge of fundamentally reshaping our society in response to a jurisprudential house of cards, the only thing "dying of" will be what's left of Lieberal re-election prospects.

    By Blogger schlumpster, at 1:00 PM  

  • Mark: Invisible Hand, It's a shame you've abandoned civility in your arguments, for I am neither a "pathetic," "dishonest prick," nor a liar. Personal attacks are unfounded.

    If you don't want to be called a liar, then don't lie.

    The beauty of Hansard transcripts is that they're publically available. If you don't think those words are Stephen Harper's own, please, by all means, read his debate speech yourself.

    I have read them. And the quote that you carefully snipped out was prefaced with this: "As Catholic priest and writer, Father Raymond de Souza wrote last year in the prestigious religious journal First Things..."

    The quote was de Souza's words, not Harper's.

    I have to wonder whether your continued claims of this falsehood are due to a complete lack of reading comprehension, or that you respond to being caught in a lie by simply lying more aggressively.

    As for whether he'll really introduce a US-style constitutional amendment; I don't know for sure -- all I can say is that's probably the case.
    ...
    the only way to permanently have his way would be to amend the charter; which he has not yet denied he'll do.


    He hasn't denied that he'll have all gays executed or that he'll blow up the moon, either. You're arguing that Harper should be presumed to hold any possible position that he hasn't explicitly denied, which is beyond ridiculous.

    (By the way, I doubt that Martin or Layton have explicitly denied that they'll bring in a constitutional amendment against SSM, so by your logic I guess they support it.)

    By Blogger The Invisible Hand, at 3:28 PM  

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