Hey look, the sky didn’t fall at all

Before I get to the media analysis today, I want to take the opportunity to have my say on the issue of the day. Forgive my self-indulgence.

A strange thing happened to me this morning. I was listening to CBC Radio on my way to my morning media analysis job as the hourly news came on, and the first item was (no surprise) the results of the same-sex marriage vote. And as I listented to the roar of applause from the gallery that accompanied the yes votes, I felt a surge of pride. My normally jaded and cynical heart (at least for all things Parliamentary) withered and I actually teared up a little bit. Despite the best efforts of fear-mongering Conservatives, and despite the bungling and missteps of an ineffective minority government, Canada became only the third country in the world to legalize same-sex marriages.

Fucking ‘eh.

I don’t know if I buy into the whole “It’s the charter, stupid” argument. To me, this is more about saying gays are people too. It’s about saying what happens between two consenting adults who love and treasure each other is of fuck all business to anyone else. If two guys want a state-sanctioned certificate that says they love each other, who are we to say they can’t have it?

It’s about saying to the world, in Canada, you can be who you want.

I’m not one for melodrama and grandoise declarations of nationalistic pride, but today, I am honestly really fucking proud to be Canadian. I’m glad that despite the best (and worst) efforts of many, this morning any two loving adults in Canada can march into a civic office and say “marry us.” I’ll say more about the coverage of this in a second, but I think Globe columnist John Ibbitson summed it up the best.

“After the certain, swift passage by the Senate, and royal assent, it will become the law of all the land. And Canada, once again, will have stumbled to the front of the pack of civilized nations. … So, enjoy the summer while it lasts. And congratulate yourself. You are part of the most diverse, tolerant and open-minded place on Earth.”

The debate was ugly, the performance of many MPs sub-par. But at the end of the day, it got done. I’m going to go crank up the Dead Milkmen’s “Stuart” and celebrate the fact that, at least on this issue, Canada got it right.

On to the analysis
Okay, back to business. The coverage of the vote was, for the most part, predictable. The Globe tended to focus on the need to move on from the sourness of the debate, while the Toronto Star celebrated the vote in an editorial. The surprise was the acceptance, begruding as it was, of the vote by the National Post. Their front page contains a point-counterpoint wherein Andrew Coyne actually argues that the vote was a good thing and it’s time to move on to protecting religious freedoms. It’s as close to a pro-same-sex argument as you’ll get from the Post. Beyond that, there was little in the way of commentary on the matter at all, save for a “let’s move on” editorial that argues that few Canadians will actually be affected by the vote (interesting, given their opposition to it in the past, but whatever, we’ll let them turn tail with some dignity).
The general consensus is that the whole debate was messy, nobody performed particularly well, and at the end of the day, it’s probably best that it’s over. Not really the triumphant dawn of a new era that you might expect it to be, but it’s all very Canadian.

So if the Post wasn’t gay-hating. . .
Don’t worry, they were still proudly displaying their right-wing prejudices in their comment section. I want to discuss three of their columns today: Barbara Kay’s name-dropping praise of her cottage in Maine (she lives near George Bush Sr., let’s all be impressed), George Jonas’ patronizing take on the Trudeau/Almrei affair and Rachel Marsden’s attack on Paul Martin, which the Post was kind enough to make available online. It’s here.

I’ll save Marsden for the last, because there’s a lot to say. These are three great examples of types of columns that piss me off. Kay’s piece is basically a self-indulgent rant about how great her cottage in Maine is, how close she lives to the Bush family retreat and how she can totally see why Bush likes it. What’s your point? Yay, you can afford to holiday in Maine, who really cares?

Jonas offers up a variation on the “kids today with their rock-and-roll music” theme so beloved by himself, SunMedia’s Peter Worthington and the like. He criticizes Alexandre Trudeau, Avi Lewis and Naomi Klein’s support for security-certificate victim Hassan Almrei (read more in the Globe article here) by dismissing them as well-intentioned but misguided kids who don’t realize how dangerous terror is. He even recounts meeting Trudeau and Lewis as kids, as though he needed to reinforce the patronizingly parental nature of his column. At least the Post’s editorial on the same subject comes right out and calls them all “terrorist-huggers.” It’s one thing to criticize their actions, but it’s even more condescending to pretend they’re just misguided kids who would do differently if they knew better.

And Marsden. Oh Rachel Marsden. Canada’s Anne Coulter. Rebel of the Right. If you didn’t read the column, do so here. I’m going to pick this bad boy apart pretty liberally, so you’d do well to read it first.

Okay. Line One. Yes, Martin used to be Chretien’s “right-leaning counterpart” and now he’s gone more socialist. But there’s another explanation. He used to be finance minister, now he’s PM. See, the finance minister is in charge of finances, and therefore must be the “right-leaning counterpart” to other elements of cabinet. That’s why Ralph Goodale said he opposed the NDP budget amendments. It’s the finance minister’s job to scrutinize spending. The PM, however, is supposed to lead the country. Opinion poll after opinion poll said that Canadians rank healthcare, education and the environment ahead of tax cuts. The government now has money to spend (thanks to Martin’s work as finance minister) and Martin is spending it. To suggest that he is “indulging in political cross-dressing with his new socialist comrades” ignores that fact that the Liberals, Bloc and NDP MPs together outnumber the Conservatives. In our great parlimentary system, a majority of votes reflects the will of the nation. Flawed as the system may be, that’s the way it works. If those MPs agree to vote on spending initiatives, then theoretically, Canadians do too.
Don’t get me wrong, there are reasons to criticize how Martin has spent the money. But to suggest that it’s all “a desperate power grab” is disengenuous.

On to your assertion that “we didn’t actually elect [Mr. Layton] to govern.” You’re right, Rachel, but I don’t see where Layton said we did. What he said was “when you elect New Democrats, you get better government.” Which is his right to say. Canada did elect more NDP MPs last election than the election previous. “Hand these socialists 16% of the popular vote, and they’ll take the crushing defeat as a mandate to run the place,” you say? Well, that 16 per cent is more than they got before, how is that a “crushing defeat?” The Conservatives were glad to use the NDP to suit their agenda when they tried to topple the government, why can’t the Liberals use them to support it? Coalition governments are in power all over Europe and have been for some time. But we’re not allowed to cite European examples are we, no, you’d be happier with a U.S.-style two-party system.

On to the same-sex thing. Ipsos-Reid president Darrell Bricker pointed out that “only about a quarter of Canadians thing that same-sex marriage is a great idea,” did he? If I know polls, there are usually more options. How many Canadians thought it was a good idea? Or didn’t have strong feelings one way or another? It seems to me that if the numbers still added up to a majority of Canadians being opposed to same-sex marriage, you would’ve presented it that way. Now let’s compare that to what you argue a few paragraphs later, that a recent poll that showed Canadians supported decriminalizing pot was “torqued,” or misleading. Yes Rachel, it IS disenguous to present misleading poll results isn’t it.

Okay, this post is already getting too long, so I’ll stop there. Needless to say, I don’t much care for Ms. Marsden.

But don’t let that ruin your day. It’s a great day. A gay day. Go revel in it. Pump your fist, raise your glass and bask in the homosexual glory of it all. Somewhere, Stephen Harper is crying.


  1. I felt that same surge of pride sitting there last night, watching the vote go down. It felt damn good that – kicking and screaming aside – Parliament did the right thing. Any kind of love is alright.

    Your little shot at the end was kind of cheap, but it’s minor in the success of an otherwise really great post. I will make a brief pause to address this issue, then go into a hopefully debate-starting rant.

    (I want you to say it with me, Joe: Stephen Harper is not the Anti-Christ. Remember, folks, people are not subhuman simply because they espouse positions we disagree with.)

    Right. Back on topic.

    One of the reasons I feel a little weird about the way this went down, though, is because I don’t really like the idea of using closure to limit debate on a moral issue (in principle), but the end result was something I firmly believe in.

    Furthermore, if I may be so bold, I think fewer Canadians (particularly those our parents’ age) actually support the idea than say they support it in opinion polls. Here’s my theory – it applies to any sort of moral debate.

    Canadians think of themselves as generally tolerant, nice people. But the fundamental question posed by same-sex marriage is not one of rights, it’s sort of a question on the whole gay issue.

    All else being equal, when it comes to uncomfortable issues, many people will lie about their true beliefs to make themselves seem more tolerant.

    And if you’re a pollster asking someone if they believe in same-sex marriage, people don’t want to answer yes because they don’t want someone to see them as prejudiced.

    However, if the entire process were done in the secrecy of, say, a national referendum, I think the results would have been much closer. I honestly believe it could have gone either way. But 60 or 70 percent of people would have SAID they voted for it.

    But still, in the end, we end up with what I believe to be the moral decision, so I’m proud. In the words of the really bad commercials I see far too often:

    Go, go. Canada, go.

  2. You’re right, Joe, this is more about respect for same-sex couples than it is about the Charter. I was damn proud to see that legislation pass, but I look forward to the day when same-sex marriage is mainstream enough that we can stop treating it like an issue of rights, which it isn’t really.

    I’m not certain that anyone, gay or straight, has a natural right to be married. Marriage is the recognition of a loving union by a community, so the right inheres in the churches and public officials who grant the marriages, not the people who wish to be married. That was my biggest problem with the old definition of marriage as a strictly heterosexual union. Churches who wished to recognize same-sex unions in the eyes of God could not get the same recognition in the eyes of the state. Now, whoever wants to marry a gay couple can do so; and the religious groups who don’t aren’t going to be coerced into doing so, nor will they lose charitable status because of their stance on the issue.

    An equitable solution for one and all, I think.

  3. There is a fantastic comment piece in the Globe (not available online) by Peter Short, a moderator of the United Church.

    His piece is the “moving on” that all the basic coverage talks about, and some. Get your hands on a Globe if you can and read it.

    “Marriage was made for human kind, and not human kind for marriage,” he writes. Love, tolerance and respect trump a written tradition of marriage in Short’s mind.

    Conservatives would do well to understand the spirit of the Bible and not stick plainly to its letter.

  4. TKOB, I concede your point, Harper is not the devil and this time, for once, that’s not what I was celebrating with my last (admittedly) cheap shot.

    I want Harper gone because he is no longer an effective voice of opposition. He has become a polarizing force thanks in large part to something SGS hinted at – the Tories became the refuge for all anti-gay-marriage forces. The bible-thumpers, the homophobes and (if they exist) those genuinely concerned about the institution of marriage all turned to Harper to lead them.

    But Harper picked the worst and most dangerous of those forces and made them his raison d’etre. His hypocritical insistence that Bloc votes aren’t legitimate further damaged the federalist cause in Quebec, and his appearance at some fundamentalist and evangelical religious rallies against same sex alienated him from more moderate, fiscal-type Conservatives.

    For all her windbaggery, Marsden was right about one thing. The Liberals have allowed themselves to be run over by the NDP. I personally think it’s a good thing, and I think it has brought a lot of Liberal policy inline with what most Canadians actually believe, but it’s not a good long-term formula for government. Canada desperately needs a strong opposition from both side. Harper isn’t going to provide that.

  5. In other news, my father is planning to send back his Canadian Decoration because he is now officially embarassed to be Canadian.

    I can honestly say I see how he feels about being affiliated to a body whose views he finds repugnant, as I find myself in the same embarassing situation of being his progeny.

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