Praise Prentice! Tory MP stands for liberty.












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Advocacy News - Praise Prentice! Tory MP stands for liberty

February 2, 2005

Praise Prentice! Tory MP stands for liberty
Former leadership candidate sets course for future

By Kevin Bourassa and Joe Varnell

"Yesterday the Liberal government introduced their much-awaited marriage legislation," begins a statement from Conservative Member of Parliament Jim Prentice. "The decision I have come to has been a difficult one. I have spoken to many hundreds in my riding of Calgary Centre-North. I have met with many community leaders including religious leaders from Calgary and representatives of the gay community. I have held an open Town Hall Meeting and I have done my best to understand the legal and theological issues that this decision has raised. For me, the marriage question is one of individual liberty - of constitutional liberty."

Prentice, who lost a bid for leadership of the Conservative Party, resulting in a takeover of the party by Alliance Party leader Stephen Harper, has staked out ground that indicates the diverging future paths of the Conservative Party and Stephen Harper.

"Fundamentally the question is this: what right do we as a society have to refuse gay Canadians something that the rest of us are entitled to - namely, a civil marriage license. Set aside the legal debate, and ask the very simple question. What moral or political authority do we have to deny gay Canadians the issuance of a government marriage license? The answer in my mind is clear," says Prentice. "We have no such right at all because whether two people of the same sex marry, and how and whether their gender enters into the relationship, is none of the government's business, providing they do no harm to anyone else."

"Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign."
- John Stuart Mill

'I am a conservative, and this is the philosophy that guides me in public life. Each of us has the right to fashion our own life to suit our own character without impediment from others, providing we harm no one else and providing we accept the consequences of our own decisions... These are the modern liberties of our western society. They are the very liberties that underpin western society, and they are owed to each of us equally and unconditionally."
- Jim Prentice

In stark contrast, Harper has played to the lowest common denominator of his old Reform Party/Alliance Party base. He has been less than honest about his attack on Charter rights, and he has stoked fears with irrelevant "slippery slope" arguments, saying gay marriage is a gateway to polygamy.

"I think this is as much for the internal election within the Conservative Party and the support behind Stephen Harper is not being "completely honest" about gay marriage strategyHarper," said Tom Axworthy, Historica Foundation, on CBC's Inside Politics, yesterday. "This is a red meat issue, particularly for the Alliance wing of the Conservative Party. Harper may be looking at votes ... he's certainly looking at his leadership within his own party ... this is an internal play as much as an external one."

"This [Harper's mishandling of the same-sex marriage issue] was a really dumb hail Mary pass by some of the people close to Harper," agreed consultant Robin Sears in the same CBC program. "He has to win among young moderate central Canadian voters and he just blew it."

"I think that's basically right," Rick Anderson, another consultant on Inside Politics concurred. "I think Mr. Harper is preaching to the choir on this thing and I don't think it's helping him in places where he needs help."

Analysts are predicting that the next election will be Harper's last as leader of the floundering Conservatives, thanks in part to same-sex marriage. Conservative leaders-in-waiting like Belinda Stronach and Jim Prentice, both supporters of marriage equality, point the way by which the Conservative party can chart a course to leading Canada in Parliament.

"I have come to the conclusion that I will stand in defence of the constitutional right of homosexual couples to civil marriage, even though their definition of marriage is not my own," says Prentice. "I will be equally vigilant in defending religious marriage and religious freedom, for it is equally clear that neither the Christian community nor the other communities of faith can be compelled to accept or perform same sex marriages."

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