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Martin is hurting himself, not Harper, on 'social issues' Print E-mail
Written by Link Byfield   
Monday, 14 June 2004

Last week the election campaign shifted to the dreaded "social issues"--abortion, homosexual rights, multiculturalism, etc. Liberals were pushing this theme all last week, and started new "attack ads" showing Conservatives as favoring smog, guns, war and enforced pregnancy. As if to say, remember, conservatives are basically insane.

It worked against Stockwell Day and Preston Manning. Why not Harper? Anyway, it's all they have left.

I think it will fail.

I think it's beginning to dawn on eastern Canadians that the corruption of their federal government is not accidental. It was inevitable. It flows from a corrupted understanding the Liberals have of freedom and justice.

This is why they justify laws against free speech. It's why they end up ignoring and suppressing the rights of provinces and MPs. It's why they politicize the Criminal Code with useless vote-catchers like universal gun registration. It's why they steal public money in the millions and waste it by the billions.

And when all else fails, it's why they end up demonizing their opponents as intolerant, extreme and dangerous.

Eventually, however, their credibility runs out and their contradictions become ridiculous. For example:

In American-style "attack ads," the Liberals accuse Harper and his party of being too American.

Martin promises to restore democracy to Parliament while also promising that his government will somehow disobey Parliament if it passes a private member's bill he doesn't like.

The Liberals promise never to "opt out of the Charter," even though their right and duty to do so when judges screw up is written in the Charter.

They say only bigots and homophobes reject gay marriage, despite the fact they themselves all voted against it only four years ago, and a third of them say they still will.

Harper understands something the Liberals don't.

Most Canadians are distinctly more conservative than their governing class on "social" issues like abortion, free speech, minority rights and criminal law.

The Reform Party understood this, and swept the West. But it failed in the rest of the country, not because the new party was too conservative but because it was new, and because it added a new idea: government by referendum. This sounds just fine in the West, but wacky in the older parts of Canada.

Politics is driven in large part by history. Deep-rooted attitudes pass from generation to generation.

The history of eastern Canada, going back before Confederation, is one of two parties, Liberal and Conservative. Third parties usually aren't welcome.

There's also a lingering attitude that MPs should be allowed a lot of independence. In the old days, the MP answered to his home constituency more than to his leader. Parliament was free, and referendums unnecessary.

That's why, instead of populism, Harper is only talking about restoring the right of MPs to speak and vote more freely in the House of Commons.

As far as most eastern Canadians are concerned, that's democracy.

Martin is losing eastern voters when he waxes indignant about socially "extremist" Conservative MPs (like Elsie Wayne) and says he'd kick such people out of his caucus (even though he has several dozen of them). And Harper is winning voters when he just goes on smiling quietly and saying they have a right to speak their minds.

- Link Byfield

Link Byfield is chairman of the Edmonton-based Citizens Centre for Freedom and Democracy, and an Alberta senator-elect.
"Just Between Us" is a feature service of the Citizens Centre for Freedom and Democracy. The purpose of the Citizens Centre is to enhance freedom and democracy by enabling ordinary citizens to become active and effective on important issues outside the normal processes of party politics.

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