2 min

Make gays a priority, make the Cons look crazy

How our issues could reignite the progressive parties

Credit: John Webster illustration

I wonder. Given that Canada elected a minority yesterday — with three progressive-ish parties splitting the majority of seats in the House of Commons — can we lobby the government? Or should we shove our laundry list of policy priorities into our collective back pocket and wait for the next Liberal government three, five, possibly 10 years down the road.

Can we afford to wait five years or more for a more stable government?

Opposition bills come with some heavy caveats. They’re easily gummed up. There are too few to go around. And there’s the question of cash. The opposition parties can’t spend government cash; even when amending bills, they can only make them less expensive, not more so. Bills don’t have to be free, as in, with no implied costs. They have to be revenue neutral on their face. And example is a bill that criminalizes something; it’s free to do, even though there are implications for Corrections Canada.

Well, let’s look at some bills that are “free:”

  • Repealing Canada’s bawdyhouse laws
  • Repealing Canada’s polygamy laws
  • Changing the policy of the CBSA to stop censoring gay material at the Canadian border
  • Reversing the criminalization of HIV in our courts
  • Lifting the gay blood donor ban
  • Adding gender identity to the Canadian Human Rights Act

Of those issues, Libs and dippers have both spoken about changing the riles for blood donation. But because it’s a policy, not a law, it’s hard to change legislatively. The most likely path is the legislating-by-shaming motions Canada’s House of Commons sees from time to time. We’re short one ally on the blood ban, after Liberal health critic Robert Thibeault lost his seat. But there are others, especially among New Democrats.

Cleaning up the CBSA’s gay-censoring ways was a platform plank for just one party: the Greens. With no Green MPs in the house, that doesn’t mean the issue is dead, of course. And since the Libs aren’t above taking good ideas from their Green competitors, perhaps we can hope that this’ll is one idea that bleeds across party lines. Again, we should be lobbying to make sure that happens.

Canada’s bawdyhouse and polygamy laws could be repealed by a ten-word bill. They’re both extremely straightforward legislatively. As is adding “gender identity” to the Canadian Human Rights Act — something officially supported by the NDP in their policy

I think introducing more gay-positive bills could provide the kind of wedge issue that turns Harper’s mum backbenchers into frothing, angry, SoCon True Believers. It’ll divide Harper’s caucus and unite Canada’s left. And it’ll make soft-Con Canadians squirm — and we can’t let that particular voting block get too comfortable. In other words, it’s good politics for gays, good politics for Liberals and the other progressive parties — and, of course, all of the above are good policy.

I also wonder if there aren’t gay issues — especially where they intersect with civil liberties — where we couldn’t lobby the Conservatives. Certainly censoring books at Canada’s border should be something that some Cons can wrap their mind around. On the other hand, with censor-the-internet loonies like Winnipeg Tory MP Joy Smith back for another go, I can only shake my head at what that caucus discussion would look like.

So, let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work.