Saturday, October 1, 2011

Hate to Say I Told You So...

"As I mentioned when I talked about that, I said there were a number of backbench MPs I believed existed in the Conservative Party who would not take the leader's advice and would pursue these issues anyways. Brad Trost was my number one choice to raise this banner, given that he's more or less known for abandoning Harper's attempts to appear centrist in order to appease social conservatives." - Me, April 2011

"I have no doubt in my mind that a Conservative Majority government would move quickly to pass legislation on these two issues; though, I will concede that they will not be government bills but private members bills.

I can, off the top of my head, name quite a few Conservative backbenchers who would introduce such legislation; but I won't go through the bother of naming them here, we all know who are the social conservatives in the Conservative Party caucus. From Saskatchewan alone, there's at least 4 names that come to mind that would draft and second a bill to repeal same-sex marriage and limit or restrict abortion.

As such, this is the scenario I imagine:

2 of the Conservative backbenchers will introduce and second a bill on these issues, and eventually it will go before a vote in the House of Commons. Stephen Harper, and a key few Cabinet Ministers, will either abstain from voting or vote against the private member's bill.

The few socially conservative members of the Liberal Party, as there are a few, will vote with the bill, and the rest of the Conservative caucus will be left to vote as they please. The bill will either pass or fail, depending on the number of Conservatives elected." - Me, April 2011

Source: CBC News: Planned Parenthood 'Conned' Government, Tory MP says

Sometimes, I really hate being right.

It's a fault that I don't admit to readily, if only because most people are overjoyed when they're proven to be right. Sadly, in this case, I wish I were wrong. I've included two quotes from prior posts on this blog to back up my point...

We're in the starting days of exactly what I predicted was going to happen; socially conservative backbench MPs are starting to buck the trends of party leadership and introducing bills and ideas that would normally be political suicide.

Harper was quick to dismiss the idea that his party would re-open the abortion and same-sex marriage debates; yet, I was quick to point out that there are many ways around that.

Allow me to explain again, in a nutshell:

It's no secret that the Conservative caucus is full of social conservatives who want to roll back social rights for dozens of minorities across this country (from women to homosexuals). As such, there are more than a few who would have the gall to put forward a private members bill that would support their socially conservative agenda.

And we've seen two step forward here in Saskatchewan: Brad Trost and Maurice Vellacott. The two have openly spoken out about international funding for Planned Parenthood (see my defence of planned parenthood here: LINK); and are rattling cages across Canada by promoting their social conservative agenda.

And now they've come together and are actively doing what I feared would happen in a conservative majority: a handful of narrow-minded MPs working together to pass bills passed on ignorance, hate and intolerance.

This is the opening salvo, and the silence from the Harper Government is more than telling. In the old days (the minority days), Harper would have been quick to snap Trost in line. In fact, it wouldn't have reached the point where Vellacott would have chimed in with his two cents on the subject as well.

So, why has it changed now?

It has because Harper is just as keen to pass socially conservative legislation, but he can't use the guise of government to get it done. As mentioned, it would be political suicide for his government to introduce measures like these (as it would alienate soft-C conservatives and socially liberal but financially conservative conservatives); but having a few members of the backbench put forward such legislation is more palpable.

After all, Harper can distance himself from the bills. He can stand behind the shield of them being private members bills, not government bills. He can even condemn them, if he wants, but still end up saying "It will be up to parliament whether or not these bills pass."

And of course, there's no telling how it goes from there...Harper could not attend the vote on the bills, allowing him to take credit with social conservatives but avoid the flak from soft-C conservatives. And whether or not such a measure would pass...Depends.

There's no telling how many members of the Conservative caucus would support such a measure. At best, it would be all but the cabinet ministers (who like Harper, would be pressured into abstaining whether than coming down on a side on the issues); at worst, it would be a small number of Conservative backbenchers.

But then there's the few socially conservative Liberals who would vote in favour of any bill which rolls back abortion and same-sex marriage rights.

As such, I don't know how a vote would go down...But I assure you, Harper and cabinet will make sure to distance themselves but not kill the bills.

I know, perhaps this is just worst case scenario...But the fact that Vellacott and Trost haven't been smacked down by the party whip or the PMO suggests that they're speaking with impunity...After all, Harper is known for controlling his caucus with an iron fist. It's doubtful that Trost and Vellacott have finally developed a spine over such a narrow-minded issue (after all, where was their defiance when the Harper Government was still considering allowing Saskatchewan based PotashCorp to be sold to BHP?).

As such, I think we can only assume that Trost and Vellacott are speaking with sanction from the PMO...It is the only way to explain how they haven't been knocked back into line by the party.

So, despite telling Canadians that his government would have no interest in re-opening these debates; it seems it was a campaign lie and the opening shots have been fired in this socially minded conflict that lies ahead of us.

I'm not a man who treads on conspiracy theories; nor musings that I can't back up with proof from a reliable source...But my instinct tells me that this is the scenario we're looking at. If Trost and Vellacott go unpunished for weeks, then we can only assume that they are indeed speaking with the blessing of the PMO on this issue.

And a lack of punishment is going to lead to action on their parts; and we will see bills introduced that are designed to roll back social rights across this country.

I don't know about you, but this is one issue that I'm damned ready to fight for. And that's what we all need to be ready to do; we need to defend our social rights in this country, even if they don't extend to us, because it will only be a matter of time until other social rights fall under attack by this government.

And social rights are well worth fighting for.

1 comment:

kirbycairo said...

Thanks for the post Scott. But I think it is political suicide for Harper if he lets such bill get to the floor or if he lets them pass. I don't think there is any way that a bill to repeal same-sex marriage would pass even if Harper let it get to the floor, because a) Harper knows that it would end up in the Supreme Court and that the court would overturn any such law (that is if Harper chose to actually contest it). And Harper would wear that loss very strongly with the public because it will been seen as not only regressive but a large waist of money and effort; and b) because Harper knows that a bill of such a contentious quality, regardless of it being a "Private-Members Bill," would be squarely laid at the foot of his government.

The same applies, to a degree, to a bill restricting abortion. Any such bill would have to be extremely modest - and even then if it passed, several provinces would take it to court and given yesterday's ruling on the safe-injection clinic, it is pretty clear that the provinces would have a good chance of winning. To make matters worse such rulings would probably come down right around the time of the next federal election.

So while I agree with your general assertion that there are numerous Conservative Back-Benchers who are looking to bring such bills forward, Harper's history thus far is to work on such things very gradually and by stealth rather than taking them head-on.

We shall see.