Well this week the New Brunswick legislature and Canadian parliament are in recess for the March Break and I am battling a bad case of the flu. I may not post much this week but I am going to try to finish up a fairly comprehensive post about the U.S. presidential election I've been working on on-and-off since late January.
Also, some discussion has erupted over at Spink About It and To Be Announced (a good blog I've been reading more often lately and you should check out) about the New Brunswick Tory bill that would allow provincial officials to opt out of marrying same-sex couples. The Tories proposed the same bill in 2005, with Liberal support, and though it passed second reading, they allowed it to die on the order paper when House business was reset with the fall 2005 throne speech. The Tories did not bother to re-introduce the measure in the 2005-2006 session of the legislature.
I was going to reserve comment on this until after the second reading debate, which won't be until next Wednesday, March 14, and will comment with more detail then but for now, here are my preliminary thoughts.
1.) The optics of Tory MLA David Alward, a devoutly religious pastor's son, introducing this bill, whose Agriculture & Fisheries critic portfolio cannot be construed to have anything to do with gay marriage, instead of the Justice critic is bad.
2.) The Liberals supported this bill in 2005 when debate was still hot on this issue about the same time the federal parliament was voting on Bill C-38 to give national recognition to the court decisions in seven provinces legalizing gay marriage. I know for a fact that at least a few cabinet ministers are uncomfortable with this and with the topic being less controversial and a new election over 4 years from now, will they still back it? It would be hard for some members of that caucus to oppose it and a free vote would all but ensure it would pass (assuming all 25 Tories voted for it) which would be pretty embarassing if a majority of the government caucus/cabinet was opposed.
3.) This bill is bad policy. Like it or not, same-sex marriage is the law of the land and it is the job of government officials to implement the law of the land. Period. Full stop. Spinks suggests that this is a good thing because it protects ministers from having to perform marriages, however that is not what this bill is about, religious folk are already protected by federal statute.
4.) This bill has dangerous concequences. It just says, "a person who is authorized to solemnize marriage ... may refuse to solemnize a marriage that is not in accordance with that person's religious beliefs". What if that person's religious beliefs are that interracial couples cannot get married? They are free to turn them away under this law.
One thing I forgot to mention which certainly doesn't qualify as "slow" is the Moncton East by-election tonight. The results will appear at the Elections NB site once all polls are reporting. If I can find poll-by-poll results sooner, I will post them but encourage anyone reading that may have them to post them in the comments.