OPINION A minor issue could turn the 2004 election, says Paul St. Pierre. Spitfire guns taught politics
In one of his serious moments, which were not all that numerous, the late Hamilton McDonald, senator, once confided to me that he learned about politics by flying a Spitfire in the Second World War. Hammy had had a drink or two at the time and I cannot say whether the alcohol had produced double distilled truth or wit instead, the stuff has both effects on some people, but his words keep echoing as you watch politics.
Hammy’s story was that before becoming a senator, before he had led the almost invisible Liberal party of Saskatchewan in the 50s, he flew Spits in Britain. He shot down three German planes and he was himself shot down three times so, as he was wont to remind us, he and Hitler ended up in an even tie and the war would have come out exactly the same way if he had stayed home in the wheatfields at Moosomin.
But I digress. Fond memory makes you do that. How did this farm boy learn about politics by dogfighting with Messerschmidts?
“It is always the plane you do not see that shoots you down,” he said, “It’s just like politics. Your splendid intellectual grasp of the important issues of the day often don’t matter a damn. It’s the issue you failed to recognize which brings you down.”
Such can be argued. The greatest Conservative debacle in Canadian history, over which B.C.’s Kim Campbell presided, may have owed much to her Conservative Party campaign organizers who thought they could win the votersâs
Could homosexual marriages, something equally peripheral and unimportant to the lives of almost all Canadians, be the fatal and unexpected issue of the election of 2004?
It could be. It’s a small issue. That helps. Voters prefer small issues like ad campaigns and casual remarks in Parliament.
It’s minor because, unlike the abortion issue, it does not involve the killing of humans or the almost-humans. It’s minor because a tiny percentage of Canadians are in homosexual unions and they are denied no rights except, until recently, a piece of paper from a priest or government agent.
It’s minor because more than half the heterosexuals don’t take out marriage licenses any more before forming sexual unions and in Quebec more than half the babies are now born to people who still haven’t got around to a wedding ceremony.
So heteros are showing their preference for what used to be called living in sin, while homosexual men and lesbian women are insisting they simply must have a marriage document before they can feel right about it all.
It’s one more good reason that so many people do not want to go into politics.
For all that, it seems unlikely to be one of Senator McDonald’s deadly hidden issues, one mighty enough to knock the Liberal party out of office in Ottawa. Prime Minister Jean Chretien and PM-in-waiting Paul Martin are both Christians, practising Christians, we are told, but both men have said they won’t let their religious beliefs intrude on their lawmaking.
At the end of the day, the hidden issue may have its impact not in the political arena but in the religious one. The Roman Catholic Church, biggest of all the Christian sects, has gone much, much further here than even in the abortion matter and is sternly instructing Roman Catholic legislators around the world to vote as Rome says. It is a bold action for a church which is trying to free itself from continent-wide homosexual priest scandals.
The authority of the church, the moral authority, call it the genuine authority, has weakened decade by decade for the past fifty years. Can it now effectively demand that its elected people follow its directions?
Possibly when the homosexual marriage affair has been settled one way or another and we all wonder why the newspapers made such a fuss, the political parties will go along much as they had before, unscarred, but the biggest Christian church may find that it has been successfully defied, yet again and for all to see, this time by an issue which dove in upon it out of the sun, unrecognized.