Paul Tuns
The Interim

Two key votes in May kept Bill C-38, the government’s proposed legislation redefining marriage, alive.

On May 4, C-38 passed in Parliament 164-137. But despite the 27-vote margin, pro-family groups were optimistic that the bill would still be defeated, because of the political turmoil that looked likely to sink Paul Martin’s government. The CBC reported that at least 41 bills, including C-38, would die on the order paper if an election were called.

Pro-marriage and religious groups congratulated the 138 MPs from the Tories, Liberals and Bloc Quebecois – as well as the three independents – who voted against the government’s anti-marriage bill. At the same time, the Defend Marriage Coalition vowed to defeat MPs who supported Bill C-38. At the time of the marriage vote, it appeared the country was just weeks away from an election call and the opportunity was present to not only prevent the bill from passing in the House, but to replace many anti-marriage MPs with pro-traditional marriage representatives.

Pro-family groups eagerly anticipated the May 19 budget vote to see whether or not it would be defeated and consequently, forced an election or change of government. But in the intervening two weeks, Ottawa was a whirl of political intrigue and maneuvering. In order to secure the vote of independent MP David Kilgour (Edmonton – Mill Woods – Beaumont), Martin announced a meager aid package of 100 technical advisers and $172 million in humanitarian relief and technical assistance to alleviate suffering and prevent genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan. It was obvious to all the pundits that Martin was trying to buy Kilgour’s vote, but in the end, it was not enough, as evidenced by the fact that Kilgour voted against the government on one of the two budget votes May 19.

The week before the budget vote, the official opposition attempted to have an obscure amendment to a committee report ruled a confidence motion. While the amendment passed, the government refused to acknowledge it as a confidence issue and continued to govern. In protest, twice the opposition Tories and Bloc Quebecois voted to adjourn the House of Commons immediately upon its opening in the morning. Three times in the week before the budget, Conservative Leader Stephen Harper demonstrated he had the votes to defeat the government — until May 17.

Two days before the budget vote, Paul Martin called a press conference with the intention of making a cabinet announcement. Most journalists thought Martin was going to bring back pro-abortion former Immigration Minister Judy Sgro to the cabinet, after the Toronto MP was cleared by federal ethics counsellor Bernard Shapiro of two allegations of conflict of interest. Instead, however, Martin announced that Tory MP and former Conservative leadership contender Belinda Stronach had crossed the floor and, in joining the Liberals, was named the new minister of human resources and skills development.

Stronach’s vote on the Liberal side of the ledger on budget day was the difference and the election was no longer imminent. That day, Globe and Mail columnist John Ibbitson wrote that many parliamentarians were cognizant of the fact that if the government went down to defeat over the budget, an immediate election call would scuttle the same-sex “marriage” bill. Stronach, a supporter of the gay rights agenda and advocate of moving the Tories “to the centre” of the political spectrum by jettisoning socially conservative views when she was part of their caucus, may have switched to the government side to help ensure passage of C-38.

As of this writing, the bill was before a special parliamentary committee for review. The committee has been stacked by Martin, and the leaders of the Bloc and NDP, with MPs supportive of the legislation. Many experts expect the committee to conclude its proceedings quickly to ensure passage of the bill before other political wrangling results in the bill dying before getting House and Senate approval and royal assent.

Dr. Charles McVety, senior director of Defend Marriage and president of Canada Christian College, said: “The Defend Marriage Coalition is determined to take this fight to the people and to ensure the defeat of as many anti-marriage MPs as possible in the next federal election, regardless of party affiliation.” Likewise, Fr. Alphonse de Valk, editor of Catholic Insight magazine, urged his readers to defeat any MP who supported C-38.

Jim Hughes, president of Campaign Life Coalition, which is a member of the DMC, told The Interim that the second reading clearly identified the MPs who are seeking to destroy marriage and that they should be targeted for defeat whenever an election finally is called.

But Hughes warned pro-marriage Canadians not to make the mistake of punishing all Liberals or automatically supporting Conservative candidates. He noted 35 Liberal MPs voted against their own government on Bill C-38 and that three Conservative MPs supported it (James Moore of Port Moody-Westwood-Port Coquitlam, B.C.; Gerald Keddy of South Shore-St. Margaret’s, N.S.; Jim Prentice of Calgary Centre-North, Alta.). Belinda Stronach (Newmarket-Aurora, Ont.) also voted with the government on May 4, before joining it two weeks later.

Also, seven members of the Bloc Quebecois and all three independents voted against the legislation. All the NDP MPs voted to support the bill, except Bev Desjarlais (Churchill, Man.), who abstained despite saying previously she would vote against the legislation.

Pro-family groups still say Canadians should let their elected representatives know they expect them to defeat C-38 and that they will vote against and work to defeat MPs who do support it.