Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
November 14, 2005
MPs put their necks on the line
Canada's 38th Parliament will soon draw to a close. Maybe it will be this week if the opposition parties manage to pass a motion of non-confidence. Or, maybe it will take place in March after Justice John Gomery files his final report.
Whenever it comes, there will be few who will remember the 38th Parliament fondly. It was marked by a high degree of acrimony, the opportunistic defection of Belinda Stronach, and the anxious desire of Justice Minister Irwin Cotler to legalize assisted suicide.
Then there was the legislation to legalize same-sex marriage. This bill divided Parliament and divided Canadians. Its long-term consequences remain to be seen, but few who understand the importance of traditional marriage to a well-ordered community expect those consequences to be salutary.
Already, we have witnessed the defection from conscience of several cabinet ministers who only recently opposed same-sex marriage, but when ordered to support it or lose their seat in cabinet, put expediency first.
Contentious times, however, can also bring out the best in people. Some on the government benches made real sacrifices to speak out against same-sex marriage. Their witness should not be forgotten.
Topping the list is Joe Comuzzi, who surrendered his cabinet seat as secretary of state for northern Ontario so he could vote against third reading of the Bill C-38. Comuzzi had served in the House of Commons since 1988 and had only spent 18 months in cabinet before his conscience told him he had to leave. He gave up the perks of office, but he can sleep at night.
Thirty-five Liberal MPs voted against the bill to redefine marriage on second reading. In doing so, these members no doubt sealed their fates with the party brass. Probably every government MP wants to become a cabinet minister. It's unlikely these 35 MPs will be winning cabinet seats in the foreseeable future.
Long-time London, Ont., Liberal MP Pat O'Brien not only voted against the same-sex marriage bill, he left the Liberal Party because of its "headlong rush" to get the bill through Parliament. Last month, after 12 years in Parliament and at 57 years of age, O'Brien announced he would not run in the next election.
Then there was Edmonton's David Kilgour. Kilgour has been a man of integrity in the House of Commons for 26 years. His integrity got him booted out of the Progressive Conservative Party for opposing the GST. He made the switch to the Liberals and, because of voters' high personal regard for him, was re-elected several times.
Kilgour actually made it into cabinet under Jean Chretien, but was dumped by Paul Martin. In April, he quit the Liberals over same-sex marriage and the sponsorship scandal. When Kilgour held the deciding vote on a non-confidence motion in May, he used his leverage to get the Liberals to send more peacekeepers to Darfur. Kilgour will not run in the next election.
Finally, there is the case of northern Manitoba New Democrat MP Bev Desjarlais. The New Democrats whipped their caucus to vote in favour of same-sex marriage. Desjarlais would not do it. As a result, she lost her job as a party critic and had her seat moved to the back row in the farthest corner of the House of Commons. Last month, she lost her bid to win her party's nomination for the upcoming election. She quit the NDP and will run as an independent.
The vast majority of Conservative MPs, led by Vic Toews, stood against same-sex marriage. We appreciate their efforts too, but they were not forced to make choices that would adversely affect their political careers.
As for the 35 Liberals who voted against the bill, there are two views. First, these people are beating their heads against the wall and are in the wrong party. Second, they may be the vanguard of a renaissance in the Liberal Party. At least, we have their public witness and the hope that their presence may help forestall further efforts to demolish the foundations of civilized society.
- Glen Argan
Copyright © 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 -- Western Catholic Reporter
Our mission: To serve our readers by bringing the Gospel to bear on current issues in the Church and in secular culture through accurate news coverage and reflective commentary.