Assertion, unsupported by fact, is nugatory. Surmise and general abuse, in however elegant language, ought not to pass for truth. Junius

2004/12/18

Stephen Harper's Problem

You have to pity Stephen Harper, sort of. The leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition has a tough job. He's desperate to bring the bullfruit elements of the old Reform Party into the 21st century. He needs to position the party in a firm centre-right position for the next election, and he has to convince the rest of us that a federal Conservative government won't look like a Canadian version of the great State of Mississippi.

With the same sex marriage issue now before Parliament, Mr Harper has a problem. And it isn't Ralph Klein, though his threatened perambulations are merely adding fuel to the fire. ("I wouldn't go now because it's too close to the holidays," Mr Klein was quick to amend after announcing his Magical Mystery Tour. After the holidays? "I'll see what the mood is." Weather forecast for the new year: bilious.)(Source: CTV News)

Even the flogging he's getting from the Liberals over pussy-footing around using the notwithstanding clause is nothing. After all, this is a guy who bore the daily contempt of Jean Chretien.

When Mr Harper after some days of foot shuffling and closed door meetings finally brought out his amendments to the same sex legislation, he was actually attempting a moderate compromise, a rear-guard action against what he must know to be an inevitability. Consider his proposals:

1. Recognize the traditional definition of marriage

2. Protect the rights of non-traditional unions so that they are afforded the same benefits as married couples

3. Provide substantive protection for religious institutions to be free from performing gay marriages

If the Conservatives had brought this proposal, this compromise to the table two years ago, it would have been justifiably seen as an exercise in prudence and moderation. But times move on. The problem for Mr Harper is that the same sex marriage debate has suddenly become a zero-sum, all-or-nothing game. Compromise at this point is not possible. And the rub is that the core of Mr Harper's supporters want nothing. They want the notwithstanding clause invoked. Even the language of "protecting the rights of non-traditional couples" is suspect. At heart, they want none of that either. Hence Mr Klein's querulousness, his ramblings on establishing a "registry" and holding a national referendum and the rest of it.

So Mr Harper is caught between two grindstones. His supporters and Ralph Klein don't think he's keeping to the true faith; the rest of country watches as his programme of moving the Conservative Party to the centre leaks like an old tramp steamer. Whether he can manage both competing interests at the same time remains to be seen.

0 Comments:

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home