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English Debate

Last night was Debate Night in Canada.   The leaders of the NDP, Liberal, Conservative and Bloc Quebecois parties were on National TV last night.  The Globe and Mail coverage is in this morning’s paper, and the Globe also published live thoughts from the editorial board.  The Citizen  slanted the story differently from the Globe and Mail, painting Harper as a victor in the debate.  The National Post, surprisingly, declared Jack Layton the victor. 

What did I think?

There’s really no way I could vote for Paul Martin in the next election.  Everything he said lacked sincerity. It’s clear he’ll say whatever it takes to get elected. That leaves me the choice of Jack Layton or Stephen Harper. 

The NDP, frankly, scares me.  Aside from their predilection toward taxation and big government, Jack also said, regarding trade, the he believes a strong countervailing strategy needs to be used, “to show that we’re serious when our industries are under attack.”  Jack’s in favour of a trade war with the US.  Sorry Jack.  That’s a non-starter for me. 

That leaves the Conservatives.  Much of what Harper says rings true for me.  I believe very strongly in the Conservative stance that putting spending choices in the hands of individual citizens is a better approach than new government funded programs.  His tax cut targeted at families with children is a much better idea than the NDP and Liberal proposals to create scores of federally funded daycare spaces feeding off the federal teat. 

However, if Mr. Harper wants my vote in this election, he has to stop pandering to the Christian Right. I believe more strongly in human rights and our Charter of Rights and Freedoms than the Conservatives programs.  Harper’s pledge to reopen the debate on same-sex marriage is a complete non-starter for me.  As Bloc leader Gilles Duceppe said "We already had a free vote on that, so I think we shouldn’t have a free vote on a question that was resolved, every six months."  It’s too bad Mr. Duceppe doesn’t feel the same way on the question of Quebec Sovereignty.

There were a few good soundbites:

  • Duceppe on Government stonewalling during Question period: "Question period should be answer period."
  • Martin to Duceppe on National Unity: "You are not going to take my country away from me with some trick, with some ambiguous question."
  • Harper on Government accountability: "The only way to make sure a government is held accountable is to defeat it."

In the end, the debate didn’t help me at all.  Jack Layton is still a big spender; Paul Martin is still the leader of a corrupt institution which believes it knows what’s best for me; and Stephen Harper is still pandering to so-con’s.  Perhaps I’ll vote Green, or Libertarian.

Oh, and the new format — stultifying

{ 17 comments… add one }

  • Andrew December 17, 2005, 6:03 am

    Duceppe on Western alienation – "I think the best way to say it is that they want in, and Quebec wants out"

    Layton "Ed Broadbent, Ed Broadbent, Ed Broadbent, Ed Broadbent…"

    The only guy that has impressed me, is Jim Harris' interview on CBC (left out of the debate even though Greens had more votes than the Bloc in the last election nationally). If they would change there name to say the "Democratic Party of Canada" they would instantly get another 3-4% popular vote, repair Canada US relations by aligning themselves with a US interest, Green is just plain stupid, am I the only one that thinks that?

    They have a great concept of embracing whatever works, neither right or left.. this includes opensource software.. I would love to start deploying Asterisk nationally in every government office, talk about innovation.

    I don't think it is a wasted vote anymore.

  • Alec December 17, 2005, 6:16 am

    I'm going to have to learn more about the Greens, Andrew. There's a candidate running here in Manotick.

  • Andrew December 17, 2005, 8:54 am

    Of course, they have candidates in every riding in Canada.

    I believe your Ottawa West – so Neil Adair – btw a net entrepreneur, Silicon Valley type according to his profile. typical of most Greens – you would probably get along famously. :)

  • Brandon Erik Bertels December 17, 2005, 9:28 am

    Did anyone else think that Harper, almost stuttered the words "Liberal Garbage" when he was talking about the Gun Registry? It sounded like "This liberal gar… party…"

  • Alec December 17, 2005, 9:45 am

    I saw that too, Brandon, but what I heard was a correction from "Liberal Government" to "Liberal Party". I think, although I don't understand why, he's been coached to say "Liberal Party". It's typical of the kinds of things that PR handlers want you to do.

  • Alec December 17, 2005, 9:46 am

    Andrew, I'm in Nepean South. Our green candidate is Lori Gadzala — http://ridings.greenparty.ca/article159.html?&amp…. She runs a tech marcomm firm from her home.

  • Brad Gibson December 17, 2005, 11:18 am


    I urge you to maintain your support for the Conservative party. I am in full agreement with your opinion on SSM, and while I realize that this is a minority view within the Party, it is also a minority view in the country. There is room in the Conservative tent for open disagreement on social issues. The other parties are not airing their internal disagreements but Conservatives often do.

    I don't think Harper is pandering, I think he is tied to the policy agreement of last March. (http://www.conservative-own.ca/documents/policy031905.pdf) That document, which he helped engineer to become less strident on social issues, represents a brokered compromise within the Party. Harper has a chance to form the next government but there is no chance of forming a majority. A Conservative government will follow through — "pander", if you wish — to the policy doctrine, hold a free vote and lose. That should put an end to it. The party needs social liberal/fiscal conservative participation, it needs the pragmatic realism of the 1980's Tory era and it needs the deliberation of old guard Stanfield/Camp PC's. What we don't need are allusions to or illusions of Mike Harris cronyism. I think Harper is aware of this, that's why the war room has an open line to Mulroney.

    Stephen Harper is not an exciting or compelling public figure. What Harper represents however, is a force for change backed-up by real policy content. The Conservatives have been pounding the Liberals on policy in this election, much like Chretien did to the PC's in the early '90's. The difference I think, though, is that Harper means it and Chretien "Red-booked" for expediency. There is only one way to find out. We have to elect Conservatives. Could they be any worse than the Liberals? The answer is a resounding NO.

    A new government will be given the keys to the Cabinet room, to Senate appointments, to HR decisions in civil service management, to executive power for creating inquiries, to records that have proven impossible to obtain — even by opposition MP's. A new government will appoint new Ministers who will be able to stand and fall on the policy pronouncements of their beliefs. New policy on trade and foreign relations will be possible. A new government will have to approach Quebec with a new attitude (They will, after all, have no seats there. How will Quebec be represented in the Federal Cabinet?). A new government could empower the West and the East. The Green Party and the NDP will not be able now or in the near future to form a government.

    If you choose on principle to focus only on SSM, to the exclusion of some very, very important issues that are much bigger in scope; that is your choice. The courts have, thankfully, spoken on SSM. We have it, it's working and we're not going back. I can respect your choice to vote Green, they need the money. What you need to consider however is whether your local Conservative candidate has the proverbial snowball's chance in hell of winning. In the last election, it has been posited that about 400,000 changed their minds in the last week and voted strategically for the Liberals. In this election, it is time to think about voting strategically for the Conservatives. We must not allow Martin to keep the keys to Sussex drive. A Conservative win opens the door to a new era in Canada; a Liberal leadership change, a different view of Federalism and more bucks in our pockets. Maybe it will only last a 10 or 12 months but that will be enough to mark the start of new era.

    Vote Conservative and then join the debate within the Party. Help the Party avoid a so-con train wreck. No voter likes every single policy of the party they vote for. I don't know why Canadians hold the Conservatives to such impossibly high standards and routinely give the Liberals a pass. Politics is crafted to be imperfect.

    There will be no social conservative revolution in Canada. I don't want it, you don't want, most Conservatives don't want it and most Canadians don't want it. It is, however, time for a change.

  • LS December 17, 2005, 12:10 pm

    Alec, a vote for the Green or Libertarian is in effective a vote for Paul Martin and the Liberals. Unless there is a significant shift to the Conservatives in Ontario, then the Liberals win by default. That sucks, but that's how it is.

    In the same way that one should not confuse marketing and selling, I believe that one should not confuse electioneering and governing. We as an electorate have thoroughly taught politicians that if they tell us something we don't want to hear (even if it is the truth — think back to Joe Clark's government and the 3 cents per gallon election), we will bounce them out on their ears. So electioneering has become an exercise in finding the "lowest common denominator" that the politician and the party can live with. For the Conservatives, that does include some of the "Christian Right".

    The real issue is how will they govern. All voters (and many politicians) have the fantasy that once elected, the Prime Minister and the party will indeed be able to dramatically move the country this way or that. The reality is that the "ship of state" has enormous inertia and it takes a lot of time and effort for politicians or anyone to significantly shift course. And so that ship rarely strays from the middle course to flirt with the extremes fantasized by the "Christian Right" or the socialists or the tree-huggers or any other special interest group you care to label. I guarantee you that no matter who wins the election, a year from now they'll ALL be whining and complaining that somebody didn't keep their promise to do X, or not do Y, etc…

    So ignore the froth of the electioneering and focus on the key underlying premises — I, like you, strongly affirm the Conservatives' basic premise that people (and private enterprise) have a better idea of what's best for them than does any government. That's why they'll get my vote.


  • Alec December 18, 2005, 7:07 am

    Brad, LS

    First, let me say I appreciate the pragmatism of your viewpoint.

    For most of my life I have known, been friends with, or worked with gay and lesbian people. Some members of my extended family are gay or lesbian too. So, I've been exposed to enough gay people to have seen through the discrimination at a very early age.

    I've taken hard stances against those who discriminate as well. For instance, for many years while my family lived in the United States, I was a substantial contributor — financially, as a fundraiser, and a leader — to the Boy Scouts of America, which was an institution my children joined, and enjoyed. When they announced a policy which shut out gay members, leaders, and their supporters, and it was clear that they would not change that position, I withdrew my support. I still participated at the local level where my children were involved, but I no longer wrote cheques, nor encouraged others to do so. It cost them thousands of dollars, and a very dedicated volunteer.

    I've also worked hard to educate my children on issues of equality. I was especially proud when recently one of my high school aged son's best friends came out of the closet, and it wasn't an issue for my son. It was for other kids, but not for my boy.

    I like Harper's platform, generally. I think the GST cut is wrong, but Brad, as you point out, it's a big tent, and there's room for disagreement. L, as you point out, the "ship of state" has inertia, and it's especially hard to change direction in a minority.

    Bottom line: I am willing to have Stephen Harper cool his heels on the Opposition bench for another 17 months, or however long it takes to bring down the next minority government, rather than compromise on this issue. If he doesn't see this as a fundamental rights issue, then he's not ready to lead or govern. It's kind of like sending a promising rookie back to the AHL farm team because their skills aren't quite good enough for the NHL.

    I encourage you to read what else I've written on this issue. You will see I have a history of speaking out about same sex marriage. Click here: http://saunderslog.com/tag/same-sex-marriage.

  • Alec December 20, 2005, 9:31 am

    Don —

    "Same sex marriage is not a human right". This is a thought provoking assertion, given that the courts have granted most gay rights over the past two decades in the context of human rights. So, what is the definition of a human right? This turns out to be an excellent question. We have a made in Canada definition in the Canadian Human Rights Act of 1976.

    The preamble to this act reads: — The purpose of this Act is to extend the laws in Canada to give effect, within the purview of matters coming within the legislative authority of Parliament, to the principle that all individuals should have an opportunity equal with other individuals to make for themselves the lives that they are able and wish to have and to have their needs accommodated, consistent with their duties and obligations as members of society, without being hindered in or prevented from doing so by discriminatory practices based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, family status, disability or conviction for an offence for which a pardon has been granted. —

    Section 5 of the Human Rights Act reads: — 5. It is a discriminatory practice in the provision of goods, services, facilities or accommodation customarily available to the general public (a) to deny, or to deny access to, any such good, service, facility or accommodation to any individual, or (b) to differentiate adversely in relation to any individual, on a prohibited ground of discrimination. —

    Denying "services available to the general public" on the basis of sexual orientation is therefore a discriminatory practice, and within a Canadian societal context, a violation of Human Rights. Constitutionally, marriage is a federal government matter. The legal framework of Canada, which defines marriage, is a service provided by the Government. Further to that point, Section 66 of this act explicitly states that it shall be "Binding on Her Majesty in Right of Canada", ie. The Government.

    IF the government is going to be in the marrying business, then by it's own laws, it must offer marriage equally to all Canadian Citizens.

    Despite what Stephen Harper claims, it’s hard to understand how it is possible to enact one set of laws for gay people, and another for straights, or to exclude gay people from one set of privileges in law (marriage), without encouraging a Human Rights Act challenge, or a Charter challenge.

    You can read the entire act here: http://laws.justice.gc.ca/en/H-6/31147.html

  • Don December 20, 2005, 10:08 am

    I agree.

    Who will interpret this act for us in the case of marriage?

    Paul Martin? Egale? You and I?

    The Supreme Court will and Stephen Harper has said he will not overturn it's decision.

  • Don December 20, 2005, 11:56 am

    He’s got the party supporting a policy similiar to one in place in most of Europe. He’s stated that he won’t be using the Notwithstanding clause should the Supreme Court knock down the traditional definition of marriage if it was passed with a free vote.

    I suggest you read Harper’s speech from Hansard if you haven’t already:

    Some of the key parts:

    I have said I would not use section 33 to preserve the traditional definition of marriage because quite simply it is not necessary in this case. The Supreme Court of Canada has not ruled on the constitutionality of the traditional definition of marriage. The court pointedly declined to do so in the recent same sex reference case, despite a clear request from the Prime Minister that it do so. In fact, the court openly speculated on the possibility that it could uphold the traditional definition. Therefore, there is simply no reason to use or discuss the notwithstanding clause in the absence of a Supreme Court decision, especially when it involves precedent based only on common law judgments.
    Many legal experts, many of them coincidentally people who have been activists involved in these cases or who are close to the Liberal government, have said that the courts are likely to rule that the traditional definition of marriage is unconstitutional, but these same legal experts said that the Supreme Court would find the traditional definition of marriage unconstitutional in the reference case and they were wrong.
    We have no reason to believe that the crystal balls in the justice department or in the law faculties are operating any better after the reference case than they did before it. Furthermore, up until now the courts have largely been interpreting a common law definition of marriage; in other words, previous court judgments not statutes reflecting the democratic will of Parliament. The courts have indicated clearly that statute law requires greater deference than common law.


    The members of the House, starting with the Minister of Justice, should actually read the same sex reference decision. I ask, if the Supreme Court actually believed that the traditional definition of marriage was a fundamental violation of human rights as, say, restricting aboriginal Canadians or non-Caucasian immigrants from voting, do we really think the Supreme Court would have engaged in an analysis of the possibility that it could uphold such a law even hypothetically? The answer is, of course not.
    The government has also claimed and is still claiming that marriage between persons of the same sex is a fundamental right. That is another erroneous opinion and a totally specious argument the government wants to spread. Government spokespersons bring disgrace on themselves, however, when they wrongly try to invoke the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to cover up their threadbare arguments.
    I want to address an even more fundamental question. That is the question of the issue of human rights as it pertains to same sex marriage and the use and the abuse of the term “human rights” in this debate which has been almost without precedent.
    Fundamental human rights are not a magician’s hat from which new rabbits can constantly be pulled out. The basic human rights we hold dear: freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of association, and equality before the law, the kind of rights that are routinely violated by the Prime Minister’s good friends in states such as Libya and China, are well understood and recognized around the world. These rights do not depend on Liberal bromides or media spinners for their defence.
    The Prime Minister cannot through grand rhetoric turn his political decision to change the definition of marriage into a basic human right because it is not. It is simply a political judgment. It is a valid political option if one wants to argue for it; it is a mistaken one in my view, but it is only a political judgment. Same sex marriage is not a human right. This is not my personal opinion. It is not the opinion of some legal adviser. This reality has already been recognized by such international bodies as the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.
    Mr. Speaker, I refer you to New Zealand’s Quilter case. In 1997 the New Zealand court of appeal was asked to rule on the validity of the common law definition of marriage in light of the New Zealand bill of rights which, unlike our charter, explicitly prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation. New Zealand’s court ruled that the opposite sex requirement of marriage was not discriminatory. So the plaintiffs in this case made a complaint to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights that the New Zealand court violated the international covenant for the protection of rights to which New Zealand, like Canada, is a signator. But the UNCHR rejected this complaint in 2002, in effect upholding that same sex marriage is not a basic universal human right.
    If same sex marriage were a fundamental human right, we have to think about the implications. If same sex marriage were a fundamental right, then countries as diverse as the United Kingdom, France, Denmark and Sweden are human rights violators. These countries, largely under left wing governments, have upheld the traditional definition of marriage while bringing in equal rights and benefits regimes for same sex couples, precisely the policy that I and the majority of the Conservative caucus propose.
    Even those few countries that have brought in same sex marriage at the national level, currently only the Netherlands and Belgium, did not do so because their own courts or international bodies had defined this as a matter of human rights. They did so simply as the honest public policy choice of their legislatures. In fact, both the Netherlands and Belgium legislated some differences in same sex marriage as opposed to opposite sex marriage in many areas but particularly in areas like adoption.
    In other words, no national or international court, or human rights tribunal at the national or international level, has ever ruled that same sex marriage is a human right.

    Alec – you may feel that traditional marriage is a violation of rights and freedoms but frankly – you’re not qualified to make that decision. I would ask you to allow the proper people – the judges of our highest court – to do it.

  • Alec December 20, 2005, 1:08 pm

    The whole argument that "the supreme court has not yet ruled" is a red herring. It cannot rule on a point of law until a case is presented. No provincial legislature has chosen to challenge the lower courts' rulings. Until such time as one of the provinces chooses to challenge the lower court, the lower courts rulings carry the same weight in their jurisdictions as the supremes rulings.

    That's the law.

  • Don December 20, 2005, 2:53 pm

    It was never up to the provincial governments. The feds decided not to appeal.

    You are right though when you say that the supreme court won't rule until there is a traditional definition statute. Why are you opposed to allowing the court to decide this issue?

    Personally, I don't think a traditional definition statute will pass but Harper is not pandering to socons with his position. He is representing 75% of the cpc delegates at the convention, his long standing position, and roughly half of the country.

    I may have wished, in retrospect, that Harper had of led the cpc to a ssm position but I think he deserves credit for the honesty of his position when compared to the other candidate for PM.

    I also respect your position but I get frustrated when normally conservatives become one issue voters and seem to eat up the 'socon' issue – crucify Harper – and might as well pound in liberal signs with joe Clark.

  • Alec December 20, 2005, 6:42 pm

    You are correct. The feds decided not to appeal. My mistake.

    I don't think this is a one-issue vote for me. My strong tendency is libertarian. Free markets, minimal governmental influence, and an informed and self-reliant citizenry are the values I espouse. It happens that the Conservatives are the closest I can find to my point of view. I also think that Harper could win Ontario by putting aside same sex marriage. People here are ready for change. It's up to him to grab for the brass ring.

    Regarding the issue of same sex marriage — I have simply no patience for anyone who would try to argue the morality of a position which affects nobody but two consenting adults. Those kinds of issues are best argued in the church of your choice. Making them public policy is the start of a slippery slope. It's a bit like George Bush arguing that the best way to keep America free is to enact the US Patriot Act and turn the country into a police state.

    I am not sure agree with you on the honesty issue. I certainly respect Harper's position. But I think the job of the Prime Minister may entail putting aside personal points of view on some issues. And in that respect I also can't fault Martin. Plenty of other things to fault him on, but not that.

    And I am not opposed to the court making a decision. However, my POV is that the decision has been made. Revisiting it is the same as the PQ revisiting sovereignty because they haven't been able to win a majority yet. How many times do we have to do this?

  • Don December 20, 2005, 7:10 pm

    I think I've made the points I wanted to but I'll say one more thing. If you think Martin has changed his view on marriage because he thinks the PM should put aside personal points of view on such an issue, you give him far more credit than I do.

    Don Martin captured my thoughts on CFRA this morning – he interviewed Martin and came to this conclusion – Paul Martin seems incapable of independent thought. He is now, and probably has been since the first Gomery fallout two years ago, a product of his Liberal strategists – he has lost any ability to see beyond their polls and focus groups, and is totally obsessed with holding onto power.

    I truly beleive the main reason for the current Liberal position is purely to place Harper in a position where Liberals can attack him on a social issue – build on the hidden agenda talk.

  • Alec December 21, 2005, 7:25 am

    That is a valid viewpoint, and I may be giving Paul Martin more credit than he is due pm this issue. Regarding the rest of your comment vis a vis independent thought: yup. I agree too.

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