Monday, January 16, 2012

On this and that.

Bits and bobs because nothing all that interesting is happening.

Lise St. Denis

After 10 years as a party activist, Lise St-Denis, MP for a riding the Liberals haven't come close to holding since Chr&233;tien, crossed the floor to the Liberal benches, apparently because she didn't agree with long-standing NDP policies -- including, one supposes, its policy on floor-crossing.

When you get it all together in one sentence like that, it doesn't make the slightest bit of sense, does it? It's only when it comes out in dribs and drabs that you can fool yourself into thinking this is a sign of something greater -- the birth of the "Liberal Democrats" as Stockwell Day darkly warned us last week, or the canary in the coal mine for the NDP in Quebec. (On that last point: Libs need to wake up and realize that if the NDP drops out of first place in Quebec, it'll be the Bloc that benefits. Don't cheer too loud, or we'll call you closet separatists.)

Very Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.

Liberal convention

Apparently, there's some sort of Liberal policy convention thingy going on. To my knowledge, it has (as of this writing) yet to produce any interesting policy, but that may be coloured by my general opinion that nothing that a Liberal Party says is actually sincere. Say what you like about Conservatives, but at least they mean the vile and hateful things they say.

There are some rumours, to be expected given the weakness of the Liberal benches, that Bob Rae might want to become actual Liberal leader instead of interim Liberal leader. If he does, I reserve the right to revise my immediately post-election claim that the Liberal Party of Canada is not dead, in order to reflect the Liberal Party of Canada's deliberate, calculated suicide.

Seriously, folks, you're nowhere near Official Opposition, let alone government. You're on life support in Quebec, likely to come back slightly, but nowhere near enough to challenge the NDP or the BQ. You're slipping in Ontario, and likely to slip worse once McGuinty's austerity budget hammer comes crashing down. And you're not a threat to the Conservatives' dominance in the West. Without at least one of those regions -- Ontario, Quebec and the West, for those who didn't see it -- you can't be Opposition; without at least two of those regions, you can't be government.

If the Liberals are smart -- and they may not be -- they'll scour every inch of the country in search of Liberals and liberals, whether MPs, activists, or just vaguely interested, who could sit in the leader's chair for a decade or more. It will be that leader's job to rebuild the riding associations, engage the public, and provide a vision that a significant portion of the citizenry can adopt as their own.

Bob Rae is too old and has too much baggage to do any of that. He's too vulnerable to Conservative and NDP attacks, he's too embedded in the party's factionalization to try to rebuild it, and he still isn't more liked than Harper. He's a great House leader, don't get me wrong. Whoever the party leader ends up being, if it's not a sitting MP, Rae should remain the party's voice in the House. But if he's the permanent party leader, then the party just shot itself in the head.

Harper and Same-Sex Marriage

Tempest in a teapot.

Okay, fine, I'll explain it. I finally read through the documents that Kady O'Malley made available on Twitter, and they didn't suprise me in the least.

The documents submitted were pretty standard legal arguments -- a lawyer's job is to advance every possible legal argument that they can think of in order to support the view of their client. Those, in this case, included the prominent view, widely accepted in international common law, that citizens of one country may not be married in that country, despite getting married legally under the laws of another country.

No one in his or her right mind objects to lawyers throwing everything, including the kitchen sink, at the opposing side. That's the point. If we expect our politicians to interfere and make sure that only politically appropriate legal arguments are advanced, then we should also accept that our politicans are going to lose a lot more court cases.

The sensible objection that can be raised is that our government is falling down on the job when it allows a principle of common law -- that is, judge-made law -- to step in to a statutory gap. In this case, it would be quite possible, even easy, for the government to rewrite the relevant statutes to make clear that, as far as Canada is concerned, any couple married here is legally married, period. (And thus can legally divorce here.) You can't blame lawyers, or judges for that matter, for trying their best to argue cases and reach decisions on matters where the statutory authority has decided it just can't be bothered.

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