stats
globeinteractive.com: Making the Business of Life Easier

   Finance globeinvestor   Careers globecareers.workopolis Subscribe to The Globe
The Globe and Mail /globeandmail.com
Home | Business | National | Int'l | Sports | Columnists | The Arts | Tech | Travel | TV | Wheels
space


Search

space
  This site         Tips

  
space
  The Web Google
space
   space



space

  Where to Find It


Breaking News
  Home Page

  Report on Business

  Sports

  Technology

space
Subscribe to The Globe

Shop at our Globe Store


Print Edition
  Front Page

  Report on Business

  National

  International

  Sports

  Arts & Entertainment

  Editorials

  Columnists

   Headline Index

 Other Sections
  Appointments

  Births & Deaths

  Books

  Classifieds

  Comment

  Education

  Environment

  Facts & Arguments

  Focus

  Health

  Obituaries

  Real Estate

  Review

  Science

  Style

  Technology

  Travel

  Wheels

 Leisure
  Cartoon

  Crosswords

  Food & Dining

  Golf

  Horoscopes

  Movies

  Online Personals

  TV Listings/News

 Specials & Series
  All Reports...

space

Services
   Where to Find It
 A quick guide to what's available on the site

 Newspaper
  Advertise

  Corrections

  Customer Service

  Help & Contact Us

  Reprints

  Subscriptions

 Web Site
  Advertise

  E-Mail Newsletters

  Free Headlines

  Globe Store New

  Help & Contact Us

  Make Us Home

  Mobile New

  Press Room

  Privacy Policy

  Terms & Conditions


GiveLife.ca

    

PRINT EDITION
How the cabinet mishandled the issue
space
space
By HUGH WINSOR
  
  

Email this article Print this article
Friday, August 22, 2003 – Page A4

NORTH BAY -- Spooked into reacting too quickly to an Ontario Court of Appeal ruling that legalized same-sex marriages, Prime Minister Jean Chrétien and his cabinet are now paying a steep political price for their mishandling of the issue with members of the Liberal caucus.

The deeply-held differences among Liberal MPs about accepting same-sex marriages were no secret well before the June 10 Ontario court decision moved the issue onto the front burner.

It has been bubbling through the lower courts for a couple of years and the Commons justice committee has been holding hearings across the country at the request of Justice Minister Martin Cauchon. The committee was so evenly divided on what it should say in its report that chairman Andy Scott had to vote to break a tie. (He opted to support same-sex marriages.)

But by referring a draft bill to accept same-sex marriages to the Supreme Court days after the Ontario decision and before ordinary MPs could have any further say, the cabinet has effectively pre-empted Parliament.

The Prime Minister assured his MPs at a caucus retreat here yesterday that they will still have their say and their vote when the draft bill is tabled.

But the offer is disingenuous because if the Supreme Court does say the proposed bill conforms to the Charter of Rights, the government will not accept any substantive changes in the parliamentary debate for fear of offending the court.

The debate will have all of the relevance of the debate in Parliament on the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement. Former prime minister Brian Mulroney said MPs could debate until the cows came home but not one comma of the treaty could be changed.

Prime Minister Chrétien and Justice Minister Cauchon have not been quite as blunt, but both signaled yesterday that while they are prepared to study suggestions put forward in the emotional two-day discussion, they have no intention of modifying their course.

This means that whatever the merits of its policy, the cabinet is now vulnerable on process and has given opponents a whole new avenue of protest.

Why wouldn't MPs be angry knowing they will likely face a fait accompli and thus have been deprived of input until the government's course was set? No wonder they want the Prime Minister to introduce the draft bill in Parliament before the court vets it.

Mr. Chrétien and Mr. Cauchon have an explanation of sorts for their hasty action in June. They were taken aback by the speed with which Ontario began implementing the Court of Appeal decision and the fact the decision explicitly said there was no reason to delay giving same-sex couples their rights. Cabinet decided it had to act quickly.

The decision was released the week Parliament rose for the summer and there was no time to take the planned response to caucus. Moreover, the Ontario Court of Appeal judgment was the fifth adjudication in favour of recognition of same-sex marriages.

Better to accept the inevitable, the cabinet decided, but by taking the initiative with a Supreme Court reference, it could add protection of religious freedom /to the mix.

The Prime Minister also argues that MPs have had lots of input through the justice committee and previous caucus discussions.

All this said, however, the cabinet did have the option of going to Parliament first and the Supreme Court second. So the course Mr. Chrétien adopted has an air of arrogance about it and underlines how little weight he gives to caucus sensibilities.

The caucus will get another shot in September at persuading the Prime Minister and his cabinet colleagues to bring the bill forward, but it is likely to have about the same impact as the pleadings of the last two days.

The practical impact of all this is that the Chrétien cabinet has put off parliamentary debate on the issue until a new leader of the party is chosen and in all likelihood an election is held. That's what scares Liberal MPs who fear the issue could impair chances of re-election in close ridings.

hwinsor@globeandmail.ca


Huh? How did I get here?
Return to Main Hugh_Winsor Page
Subscribe to
The Globe and Mail
 

Email this article Print this article

space  Advertisement
space

Need CPR for your RSP? Check your portfolio’s pulse and lower yours by improving the overall health of your investments. Click here.

Advertisement

7-Day Site Search
    

Breaking News



Today's Weather


Inside

Rick Salutin
Merrily marching
off to war
Roy MacGregor
Duct tape might hold
when panic strikes


Editorial
Where Manley is going with his first budget




space

Columnists



For a columnist's most recent stories, click on their name below.

 National


Roy MacGregor arrow
This Country
space
Jeffrey Simpson arrow
The Nation
space
Margaret Wente arrow
Counterpoint
space
Hugh Winsor  arrow
The Power Game
space
 Business


Rob Carrick arrow
Personal Finance
space
Drew Fagan arrow
The Big Picture
space
Mathew Ingram arrow
space
Brent Jang arrow
Business West
space
Brian Milner arrow
Taking Stock
space
Eric Reguly arrow
To The Point
space
Andrew Willis arrow
Streetwise
space
 Sports


Stephen Brunt arrow
The Game
space
Eric Duhatschek arrow
space
Allan Maki arrow
space
William Houston arrow
Truth & Rumours
space
Lorne Rubenstein arrow
Golf
space
 The Arts


John Doyle arrow
Television
space
John MacLachlan Gray arrow
Gray's Anatomy
space
David Macfarlane arrow
Cheap Seats
space
Johanna Schneller arrow
Moviegoer
space
 Comment


Murray Campbell arrow
Ontario Politics
space
Lysiane Gagnon arrow
Inside Quebec
space
Marcus Gee arrow
The World
space
William Johnson arrow
Pit Bill
space
Paul Knox arrow
Worldbeat
space
Heather Mallick arrow
As If
space
Leah McLaren arrow
Generation Why
space
Rex Murphy arrow
Japes of Wrath
space
Rick Salutin arrow
On The Other Hand
space
Paul Sullivan arrow
The West
space
William Thorsell arrow
space





Home | Business | National | Int'l | Sports | Columnists | The Arts | Tech | Travel | TV | Wheels
space

© 2003 Bell Globemedia Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Help & Contact Us | Back to the top of this page