My conservatism (social libertarianism)

Theres’s an interesting five minute long video on YouTube, posted by a group called The Progressive Canadian Voice, which says that the upcoming Conservative Party of Canada convention will be “a showdown on same-sex marriage.” The Video:

  1. Singles out the Campaign Life Coalition as the driving force behind the faction that wants to ban same-sex marriage; and
  2. Suggests that Rona Ambrose is amongst those senior Conservatives who want the party to renounce its current position of being against same-sex marriage.

Anyone who has followed my ramblings in this blog will know that I am a social liberal, in fact, I suppose I really am a social libertarian: I think government has little if any business in the private affairs of individuals … and I mean that there is no need for any government involvement, even remotely, in any form of regulation or even definition of marriage.

Until about 1,000 years ago marriage in Christendom, at least, was a strictly private, contractual affair. In Western European Christendom, the church didn’t much care who married who or how, unless it was a dynastic matter or a marriage that might, fairly directly, impact the church’s vested interests. There was no formal sacrament of marriage until about the 15th or 16th century and the custom of marrying in a church didn’t even start until about the 11th or 12th century when fairly large stone churches become more common. Then, as now, young brides wanted to be married 2013-03-09 15.36.05in a “special” spot ~ just as my son and daughter-in-law were married, in Sydney, Australia, in a park with the iconic Sydney Opera House as the backdrop ~ and the large, imposing stone church was the “special” spot in a village of mud and wattle huts and it became customary for young couples to make their marriage ‘official’ ~ to publicly affirm the contractual arrangement made between the bride’s and groom’s families ~ on the church steps. It looks, to me, like it was in the 14th century when priests began to solemnize marriages inside the church … and to charge for that service, too.  The state didn’t get deeply involved in marriage until the 19th century when social pressures required European governments to regularize a combination of social mores (against polygamy, for example) and religious conventions and social interests, like prenuptial-agreement-premarital (1)the protection of minors. But even with written laws, many of which are religiously based, the “contractual” element of marriage remains important to the individuals concerned. How else to classify prenuptial agreements which are, I contend, older than religiously solemnized marriages.

The Canada Revenue Agency asks me each year if I have a spouse. It shouldn’t. It should ask me if I have any sort of support arrangement with any other adults and/or children and then it might recognize the financial implications of a multi-person household versus a single-person household. It shouldn’t matter if we are spouses or just ‘partners’ of some sort. Let me use an example which is known to me: two ladies of a certain age (mid to late 60s), one widowed the other a spinster, have shared a home and most everything else for several years. One was a civil servant, the other was employed by a large private sector firm. Each wanted to ensure that their life insurance and pensions would benefit the other; both had problems. Employers and pension plan managers cited laws and regulations about marriage … the two ladies acknowledged that they were not married. “Well,” said one bureaucrat, trying to be helpful, “we’ll just say it’s a ‘common law’ marriage.” “No,” said the ladies, “we want to be honest, we are just good friends who support one another, who live together, who share everything and who want to leave our estates, including pension benefits to one another. We don’t want to lie about our relationship.” Eventually, they got most of what they wanted, but not without a fair amount of expensive legal help and a lot of time and worry. It shouldn’t have been that way: the thick, tangled forest of government laws and regulations that focus on ‘marriage’ as the key to our social structure should be burnt down and a new, small, neat orchard of laws that protect individuals in whatever relationships suit their needs (and protects children and the mentally handicapped, etc) should be put in place.

In other words, I agree with the position that the video says Ms Ambrose takes. The party, per se, should be silent on the issue.

Now I’m going to repeat myself.

I expect the Conservative Party of Canada to be led by serious, political people, not by a public relations firm that does nothing but analyze poll results. “Real,” serious, “honest” people have strong, principled views; sometimes those views are agnostic but, very often, they are informed and founded upon deeply held religious lessons. Sometimes those religious views will lead good, principled people to disagree with the decisions of our courts. A would-be leader has two choices:

To reconcile his/her own principles with the reasoned judgement of our courts and explain downloadto Canadians how and why some level of compromise is necessary. (Even our most fundamental right ~ life, liberty and property as defined by John Locke in 17th century England and privacy as defined by Brandeis and Warren in 19th century America ~ have limits and sometimes clash with one another.) or


Thousands gather for pro-life rally

Abandon parliamentary politics and move to the “direct action” part of the political spectrum and make his or her case that way, all the while recognizing that these issues end up being decided by judges, in law courts because we, the people, and elected politicians are unable to craft compromises that can satisfy enough people on the various sides of the issue and the principles of law and justice at the same time.

So, I suppose, the next leader of the CPC must be someone who can and will reconcile his/her beliefs with the principle of respect for the rule of law and allow public and parliamentary debate on important “hot button” issues …


 … but the next Conservative leader, while being someone who (unlike Prime Minister Justin Trudeau whose party prejudges moral positions on social issues like abortion) respects the right of all Canadians, including MPs, to discuss and debate and even proselytise on those “hot 622659-1278060979665button” issues, must lead a government that, in the best utilitarian fashion, tries to do the “greatest good for the greatest number,” which governs, in other words, for all Canadians, including those who disagree with her/him and whose views (s)he might find, personally, abhorrent.

The courts have provided guidance on the limits of political/legal actions on some important social issues. We must all respect that guidance even when we believe it to be misguided.

Deciding for others, as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals have done, what they must believe on social issues is wrong … and it’s wrong when we Conservatives try to do it, too. All Canadians, governors and governed alike, should be expected to obey both their conscience and the law of the land; when there is a conflict then, for party leaders and ministers of the crown the law must prevail.  The Conservative Party of Canada should take no formal position on abortion or same-sex marriage but the candidates for party leader should all pledge to respect the laws as written and interpreted by the courts.

I have frequently suggested that if we want to win the next election, and the one after it, we have to be a Big(ger) Tent Party ~ not, perhaps with quite as big a tent as the Liberals have, we don’t want to welcome the irresponsible big spenders into our tent ~ and we cannot grow our base to 40%+ if we insist upon having social policies that alienate too many younger, better educated, suburban Canadians, including many who are “new Canadians.” It is true that some “new Canadians” have some socially conservative views on some issues, but they are not a “match” for the social conservatism of, say, the Campaign Life Coalition.

I do not wish to alienate or even marginalize the ‘religious right,’ but I do believe, firmly, that the Conservative Party of Canada should abandon firm, fixed policy positions on divisive social issues.

Published by Ted Campbell

Old, retired Canadian soldier, Conservative ~ socially moderate, but a fiscal hawk. A husband, father and grandfather. Published material is posted under the "Fair Dealing" provisions (§29) of the Copyright Act for the purposes of research, private study and education.

8 thoughts on “My conservatism (social libertarianism)

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