Sunday, April 10, 2005


The ever-insightful Angry in the Great White North ponders whether the Liberals would dump the same-sex marriage bill just to stay in power a little longer:

(T)he Conservatives could make it known that the price to have the Conservatives defeat an early Bloc Quebecois attempt to bring down the government (the first such attempt could come as early as next Thursday) will be to pull the legislation immediately.

This puts the Liberals to a test. Are they in government in order to push a vision they believe in, or to just to have their hands on the levers of government? The ejection of the Kyoto legislation makes it clear that power was more important than this evironmental legislation. Now the test will be between power and same-sex marriage. Assuming that the Liberals leadership does not really care about this legislation (and I will cynically assume this to be true), they need to figure out if the damage they suffer from capitulating on this issue (loss of support from to social left-wing in this country, who will move their support to the NDP or the Greens) is more or less than the slow repair of the damage suffered from the Gomery Inquiry, that damage being repaired with the passage of time. The Liberal leadership may believe that if they can just hold on long enough, they will win back more votes from angry Liberals furious over Adscam than they will lose from stripping down their legislative agenda to merely governing.

As I see it, the Liberals will do anything to keep the SSM bill alive for two reasons:

1. Paul Martin needs a legacy.

He's spent 15 years campaigning for the job and reflecting on how history would judge his premiership. Addressing the democratic deficit within Parliament might have made future backbench MP's grateful, once freed from the power of the whips and PMO, but left the general public indifferent.

No one believes that he has fixed, or could fix, healthcare for a month, let alone a generation. Passing Kyoto would do nothing to clean the air, but would poison the party out West. Nor could he resolve the fiscal imbalance without destroying the Liberals' image as the only party that believes in a strong federal government that has the money to spend to make everyone equal (in prosperity or penury).

Same-sex marriage, on the other hand, is something he couldn't help but be remembered for. Whether as the great defender of the Charter of Rights and sexual equality, or as the great destroyer of the Canadian social fabric, he would at least be remembered.

2. The Liberals are running out of ammunition for the next election.

The latest Adscam revelations have destroyed whatever hopes Martin might have had of distancing his government from his predecessor. His policy promises have been sacrificed, one by one, to keep his minority alive. The Conservative Party he faces now is not the jury-rigged one he faced ten months ago, but one with a confident leader, well-defined policy agenda, and an election-ready machine.

The only effective tactics left to the Liberals are scare tactics--rather, scare tactic. The Grits must keep shouting about "subversion of the Charter", "taking rights away" and "bigotry" in order to deflect attention from their corruption and inaction.

Paul Martin may not prefer to fight on this hill. But he has retreated so far that SSM will be the hill he wins or dies on.

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