2 min

Oh no!

What's that awful smell?

DISREGARDING HUMAN RIGHTS. Stephen Harper favours free votes to take away human rights, but not to protect them. Credit: Jake Wright

Can you say Prime Minister Stephen Harper? Yikes!

Not even the Conservatives themselves were prepared for their impressive results in polls leading up to the Mon, Jun 28 federal election. The most recent poll at Xtra’s press time, from CPAC and SES Canada Research, gives Harper’s Conservatives 34 percent of the decided vote, ahead of the governing Liberals at 32 percent. The New Democrats clock in at 20 percent, while the Bloc polls at 11 percent.

The CPAC poll, from a sample of 600 interviews, is startling because it was conducted on Jun 6. That’s right – Conservative support increased after Harper and the Conservatives finally exhibited some of their unsavoury attitudes toward queer issues.

• On Jun 3, Harper said his government would withdraw the reference to the Supreme Court Of Canada on same-sex marriage. Then he’d have a free vote in Parliament. If the Supreme Court doesn’t cooperate and still rules that gay and lesbian people are entitled to marriage under the Charter Of Rights And Freedoms, Harper says he’d consider using the notwithstanding clause. One way or another, it’s his way or the highway

• When gay activists were attacked in front of him at a Conservative rally in Guelph on Jun 3, Harper laughed

• On Jun 5, Conservative MP Cheryl Gallant said she has caucus support to remove sexual orientation from the list of groups protected from hate propaganda. “The danger in having sexual orientation just listed, that encompasses, for example, paedophiles,” Gallant said.

All this before the CPAC poll. What’s even creepier is that Harper first distanced himself from Gallant’s comment – and then a couple of days later supported it, minus the paedophile bit. On Jun 7 he said that protecting people from hate propaganda based on sexual orientation “may have gone too far in endangering freedom of religion or freedom of expression.” He wants to roll back hate protection.

The irony is that the Conservatives (formerly Alliance and Reform) have always hidden their disregard for human rights behind claims that they want to increase democracy by holding more free votes, giving same-sex marriage and abortion as examples. Yet the hate propaganda law that Harper wants to tinker with was a private member’s bill, introduced by New Democrat Svend Robinson, that passed a free vote in both the House Of Commons and the Senate.

Now we get it – free votes for what Harper doesn’t like, Supreme Court end-runs for what he does.

* For more on the federal election and queer issues, see the next item.