Friday, September 28, 2007

The Perils Of Victory

From CanWest:

OTTAWA — The head of a national pro-family organization [Institute of Marriage and Family Canada] says it’s time to ditch the fight against gay marriage and push instead for tax breaks and other incentives to make marriage and child rearing more attractive options

A win for Progressives, obviously, because if main the players on one side abandon the issue, then SSM rights are in the bag for a generation. As Mr. David Quist notes:

“No political party is likely to put that (restoring traditional marriage) as part of their platform, their agenda right now. I’m not even asking for that as an institute,” he said in an interview. “We have to pick our battles and where we are going to spend our time and energy.”

But, on the other hand, the battlefield now shifts and the proper strategy and tactics have yet to be articulated. Because lets face it, SSM was very very good for progressives. The political Right pushed a weak case, and did it will ill grace. In the new landscape, things are not so clear. For one thing, we have moved from a matter of civil rights to a matter of playing around with the tax code. What are the points of common cause, what are the points of disagreement? As a progressive, what is one's position to be?

You have to give Mr. Harper a certain amount of credit for this; he has advanced the Conservative cause by retreating. And, his political base has responded not by abandoning him, but by swallowing a few of their principles and moving on. Grown up behavior all around.

And I think the same dynamic is currently at work with the Liberal Party in Quebec. Put aside the internal bun fight for a moment. The deeper problem is: since the old policy stuff (fighting Separatists) doesn't work anymore, what can the party offer Quebec that is new and different, and will this new stuff involve (for example) rethinking Liberal views on Federalism? The answer is not yet clear.


Anonymous said...

I think your observations here are spot on.

Even personally, I have often wondered about this. I have no issue with tax policies that offer tax breaks for families with young children - particularly if they are progressive to benefit those families with lower incomes.

I have never seen this as "attacking singles" or "promoting pregnancy" as it is just recognizing the fact that helping families raise their children (regardless of their configuration - gay, straight, grandparents raising kids, etc) is a good thing.

So if policies were to come forward that recognize the legal standing of gays and straights equally in marriage and offer tax benefits in that fashion, I say go for it.

What will be interesting is whether that will be real take or will they fall back to the old path and somehow try to start skewing tax policy to "encourage" families with a mother and father or "discouraging" adoption by gay couples.

The moment they go there, I'll know what's really going on.

That's my personal yardstick anyway. I'm hopeful this announcement really does mean something . . . I truly am. But I'll be on guard.

My sincere belief and intense hope is that in another generation, this whole debate will be mute - much like the fights over interracial marriage reads like some distant culture although it was just a few decades ago.

Regarding the bun fight in Quebec (love that term btw), I think Dion should demand Carroll's resignation ALONG WITH the quoted sources who tripped over themselves to get to the media as fast as possible. "With friends like that . . . " comes to mind.

Ben (The Tiger in Exile) said...

Where are the perils of victory here?

Most progressives backed the right side (morally speaking) in a hot debate while most conservatives did not, and that side prevailed.

Harper's (outcome preordained) vote and this group's climbdown are ratifications of it -- ensuring that we don't spend decades arguing over something that even a majority of Conservative voters don't ever want to revisit.

Enjoy the victory. As for the other debate they want to push, who knows, you might not even oppose what they have to say. (Though I somehow doubt it -- there'll be something that rubs people the wrong way about it, and there's also a libertarian objection to using the tax system to promote a given social model.)

Reality Bites said...

Trying to get Harper to put in different tax breaks for married versus common-law?

Let's put it this way - I would be less surprised at Stephen Harper announcing his engagement to Scott Brison than I'd be at him doing this. And yes, I know Brison is married. So what I really mean is I'd be less surprised at Stephen Harper announcing that he, Scott and Maxime are going to challenge the polygamy laws.)

bigcitylib said...


I think these particular tax breaks are intended more as a "for instance". That said, I've argued that last year's Conservative "child care" initiative was pretty heavily skewed to the desires of families with stay-at-home moms (the alleged constituency of SoCon groups like Real Women). So who knows?

Reality Bites said...

Oh sure. However they're not talking about merely being skewed towards that type of family. They want active discrimination - so that in the example you're mentioning the breaks would be for stay-at-home married moms and exclude common-law families with kids.

It's so far-fetched that it won't even come up for discussion.