Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Five Years, Two Currents and Still no Stephen Harper

"Same sex marriage is not a human right. ... undermining the traditional definition of marriage is an assault on multiculturalism and the practices in those communities." (Stephen Harper, Hansard, February 16, 2005)

Isn't it interesting that Stephen Harper made this about an assault on multiculturalism?

I don't know what I find more offensive. The fact that he believes that equal marriage is not a human right, or that anyone with an ethnic background lacks tolerance.

So what was this really about for our grand defender of multiculturalism?

What it is always about ..... Votes.

One of the principles of neoconservatism demands that you find a wedge issue, add a bit of fear mongering and a healthy dose of religious fervour, and then beat it for all it's worth.

In 2005, Stephen Harper found his wedge issue in the debate on same-sex marriage and the passing of Bill C-38. And he had a lot of help.

Exploiting the Issue to Capture the Ethnic Vote

To the Reform Party under Preston Manning and Stephen Harper, the image of Canadians was extremely compartmentalized. Everyone fit into their own little box. Ethnics, Gays, Women, Jews, etc.

So when determining policy, they would pull out a box and frame that policy based on their stereotypical views of the people inside. Since they could already count on the undying support of the Christian fundamentalists, they had to take their message to one of the boxes.

A survey at the time had shown that 6% of Liberal supporters would leave the party over this issue, and despite the fact that there was no racial breakdown in the poll, Harper assumed that most non-whites would rally behind his party if it continued it's strong stand against homosexuality. He had been looking for an issue that would gain popularity with a voting sector that had up until then, been out of his grasp, and believed he'd found one.

I guess having a member of your party suggest that business owners should be allowed to demand that gays and ethnics move to the back of the store, if it meant that they could lose business; did not sit well with everyone.

According to an article in the Globe and Mail at the time:

Party officials concluded that the six-percentage-point drop for the Liberals was probably made up of small-c ethnic supporters, and decided at that point to begin running controversial newspaper ads opposing gay marriage. "We're the only ones who win under that calculation," said one Conservative member of Parliament, who asked not to be identified by name.

Struggling for years to find a way to crack into the immigrant voting marketplace, Mr. Harper and the party now believe they see a ready-made opportunity. Aside from the advertisements, which ask readers "Where do you draw the line?" the party leader began actively making his case at multicultural events, like at a Sikh meeting in Toronto a week ago. According to a senior party organizer, Conservatives believe they have potentially tapped into a well-spring of insecurity among ethnic groups, some of whose members feel the Liberal bill will force their clergy to perform same-sex marriage.
(my emphasis)
However, not all were amused.

Mr. Harper drew criticism not only from within his own party, but from some of the very people he had hoped to attract. "Mr. Harper is ignorant about immigration issues, and his statement reflects that ignorance," said Tarek Fatah of the Muslim Canadian Congress, a grassroots group with a membership in the hundreds. "What he's saying is that people can only be gay if they're white Anglo-Saxons." (my emphasis)

And as suggested in the Globe, it did draw criticism from within his own party. In fact, the Current ran a segment:
The leader of the Conservative Party, Stephen Harper, has emphatically promised to preserve marriage as the right of heterosexual couples only. The party recently launched a series of anti-gay marriage ads aimed specifically at ethnic and urban voters. As a result, Harper now faces opposition from his own caucus about the ads and about the party's stance on same-sex unions.
It's interesting that five years later, the Current once again ran a segment on the issue, not only of equal marriage but gay rights in general.
We started this segment with a clip of Olympic Gold Medal swimmer Mark Tewksbury. He's reacting to a news report from earlier this week that said that Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney blocked references to gay rights from the updated version of the government's citizenship study guide.

Charles McVety has a different view of the issue. He's the President of Canada Christian College in Toronto. And he thinks that dropping sexual orientation from the Citizenship Study Guide was the right thing to do.

To listen to the commentary, the casual observer might conclude that the issue had not been settled in that five years, or that Stephen Harper had won his battle. But that's not the case.

The issue was settled. Equal marriage in Canada is legal and has been for some time. And guess what? We did not fall off the edge of the earth.

As a nation we recognize that all citizens have merit, and we don't just tolerate our gay and lesbian Canadians, but we accept them as equals. They are not judged on their sexuality, which frankly is no body's business, but judged in the same way we judge everyone else.

It has not been an easy road that brought us to this place, but the destination of a country where we are recognized internationally as the respectful and enlightened people that we are, was worth the journey.

But we have no desire to take that trip again.

So Where is Stephen Harper?

Since this was such an important issue to our prime minister, where is he today? Why is he not defending Jason Kenney's actions? After all, he is only following party ideology. Were these candidates not chosen for their views on social issues?

Or if he no longer believes in marginalizing Canadians, why is he not standing up for them, when someone in his cabinet is doing just that?

But not to worry. He'll have the perfect solution. He'll go on a photo-op and all will be right with his world again.

We Need to Become the anti-Neoconservative

If neocons believe in wedge issues, we need to find unifying issues, and I believe this would definitely qualify as one. But in order to do that we must vote. And we must make sure that everyone we know votes.

One of the principles of the Reform Movement is to play to your base, while driving your opponent's base away from the polls. We can't let that happen.

We can set a trap for Stephen Harper, by demanding that he addresses this, and since he's currently trying to fool people into believing that he has moved to the centre, he will have no choice.

However, if he does denounce McVety's .. er .. I mean Kenney's decision , where will that put him with his fundamentalist groupies? They may not be so willing to promote a traitor to their cause.

Think about it. Do we really want to start refighting old battles? Battles we've already won.

Remember, this is what a Harper majority will look like, and Citizenship guides will be the least of our problems. It's time to put him out of our misery, and vote him out.

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