The Unbearable Lightness of Stephen Harper
What to do, Stephen? Oh, what to do?
As the hysterical reaction to legalized civil gay marriage continues to force the Conservative Party further down the logic hole, Stephen Harper is faced with a tricky dilemma. As leader of a party which has repeatedly been rejected by Ontarians for their dicey social conservatism, does he continue to push the anit-gay marriage issue, satisfying his 'base' (I.E. rich people, single, white males who substitute their careers for any meaningful human interaction in the hopes of becoming rich people and/or dogmatic christians) while further alienating the citizens he needs to win an election?
It appears he has made his decision.
He claims that the majority of Canadians oppose gay marriage, apparently relying on some preter-natural conservative sixth-sense for divining public opinion (as opposed to, say, conducting polls or reading a newspaper). Thus, he is charging boldly ahead, preaching his gospel of blocking gay marriage without imposing the notwithstanding clause, and lauching a new series of ads without consulting his caucus, inlcuding his deputy leader Peter Mackay. Shades of Stockwell Day, anyone?
Let's deal with the fallacies here in order. First, public opinion. All reasonable evidence suggests this is a divisive issue, although there is nothing to suggest widespread public support for the 'nay' side. The fact that many of Harper's own party members support gay civil unions--like Belinda Stronach, one of the few Conservatives who managed to win a seat in Ontario--supports the idea that many Canadians may actually support the idea. Moreover, support for Gay Marriage is typically higher in Urban regions, a demographic group the Conservative Party must win over to shed that pesky 'backwoods lunatic' image. Also, support for civil unions is higher in British Columbia and Ontario. The former is an important part of the CP's legislative success. They vote for conservative candidates to salve their 'regional alientation'--not to support a social agenda. Push gay marriage, and a lot of that support may erode. Further, the simple fact is that the CP will never win an election without Ontario. The gay marriage is hurting, not helping, their quest for voters.
Second, Harper was blasted by no fewer than 134 law professors, exhorting him to "tell the truth" about his plans. Namely, the absolute legal necessity of using the nothwithstanding clause to pass any legislation banning gay marriage. Read more about the legal issue here
Given that whole Quebec stigma, the NWC may be a politically disastrous move for the Conservatives.
A rock and a hard place, indeed. I'd almost feel bad for the guy, if the problem hadn't been created by trumpeting an intolerant, outdated and unconstitutional view.