I watched cpac for four hours last night to see what was being said about Stephen Harper's motion asking for MPs to decide whether or not to bring back the same-sex marriage question. What I found hard to understand was how few of the principals of any party were present for the debate. Jack Layton appeared for a few minutes while his wife was speaking against the motion, and the BLOQ had no need to be there, since they had already decided to vote against the motion, en masse. (Also true of the NDP; I'm not sure why they were there except possibly to try convincing a few more conservatives to vote against it.)
Notable was the lack of information on the part of the Conservative speakers. Backbenchers all, they gave roughly the same speech: 1. the traditional concept of marriage has served us well for millenia and should not be changed, 2. children do best in a family where they know both parents and where those parents are a man and a woman; children's rights have not been considered, 3. expanding the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples will weaken the institution of marriage and affect family life negatively over time.
On the other side, several more prominent Liberals including Hedy Fry argued most emphatically that 1. children were central to the same-sex marriage legislation in that children of same-sex couples could now hold their heads up and be proud of their parentage, 2. a reinstatement of the old marriage definition would be illegal since it would mean that those same-sex couples already married would enjoy a right future gay and lesbian couples would not have, and 3. the broadening of the marriage definition does no harm, and is therefore the right thing to do in the interest of equality.
There were other points made. Conservative members either did not understand the points being made by Liberals and New Democrats, or they had been instructed not to acknowledge the questions put to them if they fell outside pre-approved categories. For instance, various Liberals and New Democrats pressed the Conservative speakers to assert firmly that they would table new legislation if the motion being discussed were to pass. Ken Epp (Edmonton-Sherwood Park) did finally answer this in the affirmative, but it appeared the other Tories were afraid to enter into any discussion on process through which the constitution would have to be changed or on the need to invoke the notwithstanding clause.
I'm pretty sure Harper never intended this motion to pass. Having presented it, however, he can say to his electors that he kept his promise to reintroduce it. He's an intelligent person and even if his backbenchers are clueless on the constitutional implications of reversing the definition of marriage, Harper isn't. He hoped to catch Stephane Dion off guard after only a few days in office as Liberal leader, I'm sure.
I expect we will have seen the last of this issue. Harper can truthfully say that he gave the House of Commons and opportunity to make an earlier mistake right, and they turned it down. What a lot of hokey! Does he think the citizenry just fell off the turnip truck? He may be right, if he's judging by the parade of backbenchers prominent in yesterday's debate!