Looking for Skeletons in Harper’s Closet

By Jason Menard

Could this be it? Could this be the moment we’ve all been waiting for? Prime Minister Stephen Harper has announced that a free vote on same-sex unions will be held in the fall. But by opening that particular closet, will this be the time that a few right-wing skeletons come tumbling out?

Remember, this ain’t your father’s Conservative Party. The Conservative Party of Canada, as helmed by Mr. Harper, is the (some would say unholy) union of the Progressive Conservative and Alliance Party – the old Reform. And let’s just say the past has been peppered with some interesting comments.

For example:

  • Garry Breitkreutz, MP for Yorkton-Melville was quoted in a press release saying, “ In the 1950s, buggery was a criminal offence, now it’s a requirement to receive benefits from the federal government.”
  • Art Hanger, MP for Calgary Northeast uttered these bon mots, “Homosexuality, to anyone who has not been brainwashed by the last decade of effective propaganda by the gay lobby, is unnatural. It is a repudiation of nature. … Homosexuality is nihilistic. It protects nothing, it defends nothing, it continues nothing, and it sustains nothing.” Now, admittedly, that was back in 1995 – so maybe a decade has tempered his views. You think?
  • And how about Mr. Stockwell Day, who followed the natural train of thought when discussing why the protection from discrimination from religion, ethnic origin, and gender should not extend to same-sex couples… “What about the next step? Those who lobby for sex with children?”

Yes, is there any wonder why Mr. Harper’s running the government like an Orwellian Ministry of Truth? Now, to be fair, these quotes – and others like them – are compiled on the official Web site of Egale, a national organization which aims to advance equality and justice for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans-identified people and their families across Canada. But we these quotes out there, Harper, when considering his own political future, must be thinking, ‘With friends like these who need enemies?’

And that’s the problem with this debate. The Conservatives know it too, which is why some members of Harper’s own party have come out recently with concerns about not letting sleeping dogs lie – even if they choose to lie together despite having the same genitalia.

You’ve got to have the feeling that the more right-wing members of Harper’s Caucus (is that too homoerotic for them?) have been patiently sitting on their hands, allowing the Prime Minister to go his way knowing that their position as a minority government is precarious at best. But will the bait be too tempting for them not to slip up? Harper, like a frantic plate spinner, has been taking on all the responsibilities himself to ensure that nothing leaks from the back benches. He’s running ragged, desperately trying to ensure that not one plate falls, shattering the silence, by assuming the brunt of the public responsibility himself.

This will be the test. There are many out in Canada believing that old habits truly do die hard. And they’ve been waiting for any sign of the sheep’s clothing to slide off these presumed wolves. The gay marriage debate may just be the issue that does it.

One has to wonder if Harper even has an interest in fighting this battle, knowing that he’s probably going to lose. The NDP and Bloc are certain to vote against rescinding the existing legislation that permits same-sex marriage. And the majority of Liberals will probably do the same. But in an attempt to showcase his good points – the willingness to live up to his promises, he’s running the risk of showering his party with negativity.

In provinces such as Ontario and Quebec, where the Conservatives are desperately trying to show their compassionate Conservatism can mesh with the left-leaning tendencies of these provinces and their major, vote-rich, urban areas, Harper can’t come across as a discriminatory Redneck.

In the end, even if he loses, he can come out better than when he went in. If Harper’s willing to engage in a respectful debate, avoid name calling or downright offensive behaviour, and keep the chatter from the back benches to a dull whisper, he can come out of this debate as a better facilitator. Harper can stand up and say that he’s a willing representative of the will of the people, and that he was able to keep his promises.

But that’s only if those skeletons stay in the closet. And right now, the door’s wide open.

2006© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

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