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Toews confirms a vote before Christmas

Best estimates give two-week window

Vic Toews says the Conservatives will introduce a motion to reopen parliamentary debate on same-sex marriage before Christmas, fulfilling an oft-repeated election promise. But calculating exactly when the vote will be held is a bit like solving a logic puzzle.

“The prime minister has made a commitment and he will honour that commitment,” the Conservative attorney general told Reuters Nov 21.

While the Conservatives pledge to act before Christmas, Parliament doesn’t sit all through December. In fact, the house rises Fri, Dec 15, leaving less than four weeks.

According to Globe And Mail columnist John Ibbitson that leaves seven days for a marriage vote: the house doesn’t usually vote on Mondays or Fridays; Harper is at a NATO conference during the last week of November; and two of the remaining nine days are owed to the opposition parties for their business.

But unless the Conservatives move the motion on Nov 23, that realistically only leaves non-opposition days in the first two weeks of December as possible dates for a vote — three days in the first week of the December and three days in the second week.

It appears likely that the motion will fail, but all eyes will be watching Harper to see what kind of language he uses following the vote. If he uses terms like “at the moment” or “this Parliament,” then he’s leaving room to readdress the issue again in the future, according to Laurie Arron, campaign director of Canadians For Equal Marriage.

“If that’s the case, it’s an election issue.”

Unlike previous governments, the Harper Conservatives have left reporters out of the loop on legislative issues, meaning reports on future parliamentary activity are a combination of guesswork and logical deduction.

Moreover, unlike full-fledged bills, Harper’s motion doesn’t require advance notice. He has always indicated that he would take a two-pronged approach to broaching equal marriage debates. First he would introduce a motion asking MPs whether or not they want to reopen same-sex marriage. If that passes, a full-fledged bill would be required to repeal gay marriage.