About the Blog:

Guelph Politico is locally sourced and dedicated to covering the political and cultural scene in the City of Guelph. Est. 2008.

Monday, January 24, 2011

A Sliding Scale of Standards

Happy Fifth Anniversary to Stephen Harper and this Conservative Minority Government. Honestly, who knew we'd make it this far?
Certainly not me. The fact that the Opposition has been met with resounding indifference despite Harper's numerous guffaws (proroguing, economic recession, climate change), is not a testament to Harper's skill as a politician as much as it is a sign of fatigue, with Canadians, about their political leaders. A skilled political campaign machine with resources and a streak of opportunism is what Paul Martin faced during his brief tenure as a minority PM; Stephen Harper hasn't had that problem.
As it stands now, in the next election Harper will only have to win 12 seats to secure a majority. Given the numbers from the last election, gaining that majority is perhaps a small matter of Harper staying the course, doing what's worked for him in past elections, and keeping fingers crossed that the opposition remains too scattered to pose as an effective alternative.
Still, there's a matter of concern for me and other progressives that the shiny Harper government-for-all will quickly disappear in the face of that majority. Let's look at an article in today's paper, about how the federal government took a pass on giving Toronto Pride Week federal stimulus money under the Marquee Tourism Events Program. It got about $400,000 in money for the 2009 festivities, but the request for 2010 funds was denied in spite of the fact that organizers were told that their petition "looked good" and that it met "eligibility requirements." So naturally, last year's Pride Week got no money. 
The argument from Industry Minister Tony Clement was that there are other events in Toronto and it was up to him to spread the wealth, as it were. Luminato and the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair got $2.6 million and $1.9 million respectively. As everyone that's ever applied for an arts grant knows, you never get the full amount that you ask for, so what does it say that those two events got seven-figure cheques, while Toronto Pride was only asking for $630,000? 
Toronto Pride isn't just one of the biggest festival of its kind in the country, but easily one of the most well-known celebrations of Gay Pride the world over. Despite what Carl Paladino said, one simply doesn't "stumble upon" Toronto's Gay Pride Parade, it's all-encompassing cultural affair that can only be eclipsed by Caribana, or a Maple Leafs Stanley Cup victory, and one of those things is science fiction.  
The truth is that gays make some conservatives feel funny, again I quote Carl Paladino: "[T]here were men in Speedos grinding and doing things, okay, to each other on this tractor-trailer. And I just said that's not right." Was it a coincidence that after junior minister Diane Ablonczy gave Toronto Pride money that first year that the decision was taken out of her hands and given to her boss Clement for that second year? Maybe, but then again, it might a coincidence that I break my knuckles when I punch a brick wall. 
There's a constituency in Canada that expects the Conservatives to push the social agenda that they want, an agenda that the majority of Canadians would bulk at and make them think twice about putting their vote to the kinder, gentler Harper of the last five years. How do I know? Look at Saskatchewan, where all but one of the provinces 14 seats were won by Conservatives in the last election. 
Earlier this month, an Appeals Court in Saskatchewan said that marriage commissioners couldn't refuse to perform same sex marriages on religious grounds. These are government employees mind you, not religious figures, who refused to officiate marrigae ceremonies between same sex couples on the grounds of their personal religious objections. This is the kind of thing you usually hear about in the U.S. Bible belt where pharmacists refuse to sell contraception like birth control pills or "Plan B" based on personal religious bias.
 But in Canada, you say. Refusing to marry gay people because your religion says that's wrong? Sorry, that don't jive. And the high courts of Saskatchewan agreed. You took an oath to uphold the law and the law says that a couple made up of two adult men (or two adult woman if you like) can marry each other. You don't go deer hunting if you're a vegetarian, and you don't work as a hedge fund manager if you've taken a vow of poverty. 
There's been a lot of talk about elections lately, and though it flies in the face of everything that a modern political campaign is about, in the next parliamentary election, I want all the parties to be true to themselves. If it's the intention of the Conservatives to pursue a more "traditional" social policy, then say so. If you think that farm animals deserve more money that scantily-dressed, well chiseled gay men with water guns that's fine, but being sneaky about it is going to build more resentment than trust when it's all said and done.  

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