Thursday, February 17, 2005

Gay Marriage - Second Reading

Just when you thought things couldn't get more interesting, they have. First, on Monday night, Belinda Stronach comes out with a strong defence of gay marriage on Rick Mercer's Monday Report. (Sidebar: This show is one of the reasons I love this country, and the CBC for showing it. Jon Stewart would kill to get top level politicians and celebrities to do the things that people will do for Rick.)

Then we have a kerfuffle involving that pinhead Jason Kenney arguing that gays and lesbians can marry, as long as they marry straight people. Well Jason, that will certainly improve the state of marriage, and lower the divorce rates. Tens of thousands of unhappy couples, eventually divorcing, many of which with children that will have to suffer through that transition. If I were Stephen Harper, I would be vetting my members' statements as well.

And now we have the debate moving into the House of Commons. Paul Martin, for once, gave a decent speech in support of same-sex marriage, the text of which is here. It actually uses the words "gay" (6 times) and "lesbian" (4 terms), words which he has always shied away from in the past. It's taken him a long time to come up with a strong statement in favour of gay marriage, but this is a good one. He (and his speechwriters) should be proud of it.

On the other hand, in today's Globe and Mail you can find Stephen Harper pointing out the legacy of the Liberals' misdeeds towards human rights, including a refusal to accept Jewish immigrants in the 1930s, interning Japanese Canadians in World War Two, and invoking the War Measures Act during the October Crisis. Clearly, he is trying to show that the Liberals are not the defenders of human rights that they want to be perceived as. Way to play into Martin's hands. Cite several examples of abuses of human rights from the past that seemed acceptable at the time but are embarrasments now, to justify supressing gay rights now, which will similarly seem unacceptable in the future. He might also want to read the history books to see how his own Conservative party supported the same immigration and internment policies.

I really do hope that more Liberal backbenchers come around on this issue. I'm still cautiously optimistic. I also hope that Stephen Harper allows his own mouth to run away with him on this point, so that it comes to back to bite him when a clever researcher can point out the many instances of his hypocricy.

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Thursday, February 10, 2005

Labouring in Quebec

At long last, the strike at the SAQ is over. Workers will return to stores on Friday at noon, and quality wine and spirits shall flow once more. Prices will continue to be higher than those offered across the border at the LCBO, so I have not cancelled an order for wine that I placed with an Ottawa friend coming to town this weekend. For all the hoopla, it doesn't seem to have been worth much. There will be more guaranteed minimum hours for part-timers, wages will rise somewhat, and more permanent positions will be created. But the whole "working at multiple outlets" question, apparently so crucial to the union, seems to have been decided in favour of management. Ah well, the part time workers can chew on their $14/hour wages while they contemplate that. As a point of comparison for you, teaching assistants at the Universite de Quebec a Montreal were earning $12.50/hour a few years back. But wine is available again, and this makes me a happy camper.

Less encouraging is the fact that Wal-Mart has decided to close down the store in Jonquiere that unionized. While I may rail against unions from time to time, there are certainly some cases that demonstrate why they are needed so badly. Wal-Mart and McDonalds are at the top of the list, with their willingness to close outlets rather than negotiate with the unions. One would think that someone, perhaps a government, would see this as the flagrant abuse of workers' rights that it is, and shut those companies down completely in the jurisdictions that they do this in. But no, they are giant megacorporations that governments are afraid of. It's truly disheartening.

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Tuesday, February 01, 2005

139 MPs have a spine and a heart

Apparently 139 Members of Parliament are willing to openly state their support for the federal government's same-sex marriage legislation. 118 are openly homophobic, and the rest are chickens. At least the balance is currently tipped in favour of the "yes" side.

I'm not surprised that most of the Conservative caucus is opposed. They have been opposed since day one. I'm proud of those, like James Moore and Belinda Stronach who are willing to stand up for their convictions and see this as an equality/human rights issue.

I'm fully in support of Jack Layton whipping his caucus on this issue. The NDP ran a campaign in support of same-sex marriage, and views this as a human rights issue that should not be decided by the whims of the majority. Good for him. If Bev Desjarlais does not develop a sudden cold on voting day, and shows up to vote against the legislation, she should be severely punished for her actions, and lose her critic portfolio. A woman who doesn't believe in equality for gays and lesbians is not someone that I want formulating the party's health care critiques. Perhaps doctors should be able to refuse to treat gay patients, eh Bev?

Good on the Bloc for supporting the legislation. I may not like their vision of Canada and federalism, but I tend to like their stance on social issues, and their justice critic was one of the most eloquent speakers on the day that the Supreme Court decision came down.

As for the Liberals, this is why I switched my party allegiances. I cannot support a party that will not support me. Hiding behind "the will of my constituents" as people like Derek Lee and Byron Wilfert are doing, is a crock. It masks their own opinions, voting records and public statements against same-sex rights. A good leader leads on moral and human rights issues, and does not let prejudice and bigotry of the masses guide their stance. These MPs are failing to do this.

Hopefully more MPs will grow a spine, or, if they are leaning no, develop a bad case of spring flu.

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So predictable, it hurts

Today's post is about the Gomery commission. My title does not refer to the obvious fact that Gomery, backed by the Martin government, is not stepping down from the inquiry. What I am referring to is the story in today's Globe and Mail that the inquiry has now cost $60 million, a good $20 million more than the annual cost of the sponsorship program. Who didn't see that one coming a light year away?

I have never been able to get myself riled up about the sponsorship scandal. Yes, they should not have done it. But as government graft goes, it seems like small potatoes to me. Politicians of all stripes, in all periods, routinely engage in political favoritism when doling out contracts. It seems to me that the only reason that this case is getting such attention is because the program that got the funding was such a spectacular failure, and that those who benefitted (if the allegations are true) were for the most part Quebecois, which is always a surefire way to get the dander up in Ontario and Western Canada.

Trot out the sacrificial lambs, and let's get this over with.

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