A Free Vote on Same-Sex Marriage Will End the Discussion

The Conservative promise to have a free vote on same-sex marriage has many in an uproar and acting as if the sky is falling:

TheStar.com - Are Tories leading more gays to wed?:
"Fear of a Conservative government with a hidden agenda and the threatened reopening of the same-sex-marriage debate is pushing many gays and lesbians to the altar, activists say." Bill Taylor, The Toronto Star, 19 January 2006.
Even George Smitherman, Ontario Minister of Health, is more concerned about getting married fast than in getting a Hamilton guy his skull back, while, as usual, Kyle Rae is in histrionics over the whole thing. Why?

Some people really do have flea-brained memories. Brian Mulroney won his first majority even though there was a much bigger hue and cry over his promise to hold a free vote in the House of Commons about bringing capital punishment back than there is today over Stephen Harper's promise. That was a much bigger deal than same-sex marriage now is because capital punishment had been stricken off the books for almost 10 years, if memory serves correctly, unlike same-sex marriage which was brought in less than a year ago. Capital punishment was even more of a done deal than same-sex marriage is today.

When Mulroney went ahead with plans for a free vote, despite the fact he personally was against capital punishment, the entire country was appalled that the so-called rednecks out west were running the agenda. People everywhere were talking about it, no matter who they were, what age, or where they lived. Even Q-107, a rock station, had a call-in show for its listenership to vent their opinions.

Politicians gave impassioned speeches, and tension filled the House of Commons at voting time. I rarely watch a vote in the House, but that one kept me glued, as it did most Canadians I'm sure. When the vote resulted in a defeat of capital punishment -- again -- joy was palpable across the land. That vote was the final nail in the coffin of capital punishment. Except for the rare and odd diehard, one never hears about resurrecting capital punishment today. This is what the chicken littles don't get. A free vote will reflect the majority view of Canadians, which is usually fair and thoughtful. A free vote will make the majority OK with the final result, even if that result is to keep the situation as it is now, and allow the controversy to melt away.

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geoff said…
"A free vote will reflect the majority view of Canadians."

I don't know about that. Parliament, though elected by (some of) Canadian citizens, does not proportionately represent it. The First-Past-the-Post electoral system exagerates regionally concentrated parties and parties with over ~40% of the vote.

Which MP represents me? My own? Certainly not. Is there one out there? I don't necessarily know. Are NDP supporters adequately represented by seat count? No. What about the Bloc? I'd say they're overrepresented by seat count.

If Canadians were voting strictly by their views on same-sex marriage, your claim would carry more weight. However, as we all know, that's simply not the case.
"Which MP represents me?"

Theoretically, your MP represents you, but more probably the people who voted for him/her as his/her views most closely coincides with theirs.

I agree the Bloc is over-represented, but maybe not in the new Parliament. Things are afoot next door, as they say. And the Green Party isn't even represented at all, although they have about 6% of the vote. But given the turn-out for the advance polls, I don't think we can assume anything anymore about percentages and seat counts.

"If Canadians were voting strictly by their views on same-sex marriage, your claim would carry more weight."

Even elections using proportional representation may not reflect our views on same-sex marriage accurately, because, as you say, we vote for different reasons. Thus a referendum would be the most accurate, but you know what the pundits say about those!

In the end, the capital punishment vote did swing the way of the majority of Canadians, even though the Conservative majority government seemed to reflect regional factions, hence Central Canada's conniptions at having the free vote, and I don't recall this promise being a deciding issue in the election itself. Same situation as today.