Following the no confidence vote in the House of Commons that led to the fall of the minority government of Liberal Paul Martin, the Governor-General of Canada (who is the official representative of the Head of State, Her Majesty the Queen) has called for a parliamentary election on January 23rd, 2006. Ironically, that date is the day after the 33rd anniversary of the infamous Roe v. Wade decision by the United States Supreme Court, and the 33rd anniversary to the day of the equally infamous January 23rd, 1973 declaration of the New York Times that the Supreme Court had "settled" the abortion question.
Admittedly, abortion is not a political issue in this Canadian election. Abortion has been permitted (perhaps even encouraged) here since the equally infamous Morgenthaler decision by the Supreme Court of Canada, a decision that is roughly contemporaneous with Roe v. Wade. No Canadian politician has challenged that decisionyet. Nevertheless, a related issue has now been put before the voters by Stephen Harper, the leader of the Conservative Party, who will be the next prime minister of Canada if the Conservatives win enough seats in the new parliament to form a government. That issue is same-sex marriage.
Recently, and by a very narrow majority, the House of Commons voted to permit same-sex marriage throughout Canada (it having been permitted a short time before in some other provinces, most notably in the most populous province of Ontario, which has Liberal government). At the outset of the campaign, Mr. Harper stated that if the Conservatives are given the parliamentary mandate to form a new government, they will reintroduce the question of same-sex marriage in the House of Commons; and, unlike the previous Liberal government, they will allow all MPs to vote their conscience in a truly free vote.
Paul Martin, by way of contrast, demanded that all his cabinet members (all of whom are member of parliament), vote for same-sex marriage or lose their cabinet portfolio, including my own MP, Joe Volpe, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. Volpe had publicly promised his constituency, a large number of whom are Italian-Canadian Catholics and Orthodox Jews, that he would oppose same-sex marriage legislation. Sadly, he reversed himself. Apparently his career trumped his conscience. (I voted for him in the last election because of what he promised; I shall vote against him in this coming election because of what he has done.)
Predictably (but not "naturally"), the gay lobby and their heterosexual sympathizers lambasted Harper for raising an issue that had "already been settled" (by whom? for whom?). The Supreme Court of Canadamade up as it is of Liberals appointed by Liberal prime ministers and their Liberal ministers of justice (there is no parliamentary review of candidates for the Supreme Court of Canada as there is congressional review of candidates for the United States Supreme Court)might well rule that new legislation ending same-sex marriage is "contrary to the Charter" (that is, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Responsibilities, Canada's constitution since 1982), which might jump-start a campaign for a marriage amendment to the Charter.
Though it is quite possible a majority of the new House of Commons might vote against a repeal of the earlier state blessing of same-sex marriage, it seems probable that the House might reflect the opinion of a majority of Canadians that marriage is a union between one woman and one man. Harper's preemptive announcement was politically astute. By calling the question early in the game, he deprived the Liberals of an election-eve scare tactic that would accuse Harper of forcing his "religious beliefs" on the general populace of Canada. (Harper is a serious evangelical Christian, while Paul Martin seems to be an unserious Catholic.) Let us hope, maybe even pray, for more reasons than just the issue of same-sex marriage, that the voters of Canada will enable Stephen Harper to form a new government, one that is more respectful of the moral views of the people of Canada, as distinct from the views imposed by the Liberals and their academic advisors. Like their American cousins in the Democratic Party, the Liberals presume to know what the citizenry ought to believe better than the citizens themselves.
Stephen Harper has given us reason to believe that this election may be far less boring than those to which Canadians have become accustomed.
(Click here to email the author about this item. Rabbi David Novak is head of Judaic studies at the University of Toronto and a member of the FIRST THINGS Editorial Board.)
In addition to which:
"The Spirit of Abstract Art" is a penetrating examination by critic Algis Valiunas in the forthcoming issue of FIRST THINGS. For instance, there is this:
"In fact de Kooning did some moralizing of his own, in his finest painting, Excavation (1950). This is a finely ordered rendition of whirling chaos. Fragments of bodies, rarely distinct but somehow identifiably human, wheel around the corner like specks of ash around a pyre; rhythmic diagonals mark the upward surge and the terrible descent. These are bodies torn and bizarrely reconstituted according to some dire theology whose foremost principles are pain and insult. Macerating jaws or even teeth without jaws rend the meat as it flies by. Smears of blood register the devastation. Perhaps this is what bodies are when they have been transformed into suffering souls. In some places flesh has turned into something transparent and almost etherealone can look through certain figures drawn in outline to see the groundyet this substance clearly remains susceptible to physical torment. Forms are reduced to the pained and painful essentials, like the human stump disintegrating into a cloud of blood to the lower left of center or the gaping fish-maw in the lower right corner. It is hard to distinguish that which is broken from that which is doing the breaking." (To become a subscriber to FIRST THINGS, check out the "Subscribe" button above.)
"Sacrificial" may be putting it too strongly. You might be surprised, however, by the number of peoplemainly students and the elderlywho say their gift to FIRST THINGS is a sacrifice. Our survival depends upon subscriptions and advertisingand a generous response to the annual appeal. If you are not a subscriber and are not receiving the current issue each month, please check out the "Subscribe" button above. If you are a subscriber, may your tribe multiply, and may you be moved to respond to the annual appeal today. Thank you.