Courts - Canada
Senator Cools believes in the heterosexual family
June 11, 2004
The following debate is excerpted from
Across the Board, the National Post editorial board's blog:
Adam Daifallah: The defection of Senator Anne Cools to the
Conservative party is a pretty significant development. Cools
has been a bit of a Liberal maverick, opposing gay marriage
and hate speech legislation and championing such causes as
fathers' rights in child custody cases. But symbolically and
optically, at least, her defection is a big coup for Stephen
Harper. She's Canada's first black senator, a woman, and was
appointed by Trudeau. And until recently, she was a strong
For her to defect mid-campaign speaks volumes about the current
turmoil inside the Liberal party, and throws a stick in the
wheel of those claiming the Conservatives are anti-immigrant,
anti-gay, anti-woman, and all the rest.
Adam Radwanski: Umm, I'm not really sure wooing Anne Cools
is the best way to convince people you're not "anti-gay."
She's a stauncher social conservative than most members of
the Conservative caucus. She could also, depending on your
perspective, be labelled "anti-woman" for all her
fathers' rights stuff.
John Turley-Ewart: I disagree that the Conservatives don't
have much to brag about in persuading Cools to cross the floor.
She represents many in the Liberal party who feel that the
leadership has abandoned its balanced approach to social issues.
Child custody is one area where the Liberals' claim to balance
has gone off the rails. Cools has rightly advocated for shared
parenting -- a move away from the feminist-centred approach
courts now take to custody battles that discounts the importance
of dads and their role in the lives of children.
It's equally true that her position in favour of traditional
marriage and its recognition as a unique social institution
does not stand in contrast to what most Liberals believe.
Supporting gay marriage, a move Chretien made only a year
after he voted in the House of Commons in support of traditional
marriage, was a political ploy to distinguish the Liberals
from the Conservatives. That decision has come back to haunt
them, alienating a good many traditional Liberal supporters.
If gay marriage was put to a free vote in the House of Commons,
it's unlikely that a majority of Liberals would support it.
Cools' departure is important. It is emblematic of just how
arrogant and unrepresentative of its core supporters the party
A.R.: I never said that Anne Cools wasn't a valuable addition
to the Conservatives (although I may have thought it). I said
that her recruitment might not be the best way to convince
people that you're not "anti-gay" (and to a lesser
extent "anti-woman"). Bear in mind that she didn't
only oppose gay marriage, but also other gay rights legislation
including the extension of same-sex benefits.
I also have to dispute J.T.E.'s suggestion that Cools represents
a Liberal base that's deserting the party. On the contrary,
I think the Liberals are losing more of their left than their
Compare current public opinion to the popular vote in the
last election. The Liberals, now at 32% according to the latest
poll, received 40.8% in 2000. But the Conservatives, now at
31%, have actually fallen as well, if you consider that the
combined vote of the Canadian Alliance and the Tories was
37.7% in 2000 (though granted, not every former Progressive
Conservative has made the transition). So who's been gaining
at the Liberals' expense? Other than the Bloc Quebecois, it's
the NDP, which has gone from 8.5% to 16%, and the Green Party,
which has come out of nowhere to hit 7%.
This is a very simplistic statistical analysis with at least
a couple of caveats. But it shows fairly plainly that it's
not the Anne Cools of this world who the Liberals should be
most concerned about losing.
J.T.E.: Adam would have us believe that Paul Martin is losing
the Latte Liberal vote and that the real threat to the Liberal
power base is the left.
Alas, there are few Latte Liberals outside of the urban areas
that the Grits won in the 2000 election. Instead, there are
the traditional family types that live in the suburbs around
most Canadian cities and in rural areas.
Ask Liberal MPs from those areas where the real danger is.
It's not the NDP, but the Conservatives. What's driving this?
Might I suggest the Liberal party's hard shift to the left
on social issues is at least partly to blame, along with the
party's appetite for demonizing Christians in its attacks
on the Conservatives?
A.D.: Fact is, most Canadians don't know or care who Anne
Cools is. They don't know the first thing about her views
on gay marriage or father's rights. All that will stick out
here is that a long-serving parliamentarian who is Canada's
first black senator (appointed by Trudeau, no less) defected
to the Conservatives in the middle of an election. This is
the kind of press money can't buy.
As for the point that she's not the best person to help fend
off criticism that the Tories are anti-gay or anti-woman,
that may be true. But her defection also reinforces the idea
that the Conservatives are a more tolerant party, accepting
of a variety of viewpoints.
The full transcript of this and other Across the Board discussions
is available at http://www.national