I'm not talking about the attack ads. I'm talking about Paul Martin getting right into it on CBC's Townhall Meeting with Peter Mansbridge in Guelph tonight.
First, I have to admit I tuned in a bit late. But luckily not too late to see Martin answer a woman's question about the wisdom of his sudden promise in last Monday's debate to do away with the Notwithstanding clause, at least as far as Ottawa's power is concerned. Why should an unelected group of judges have final say over elected representatives?
Suffice it to say, the man had a ready answer.
He prefaced it by pointing out that sometimes majority governments are voted in by less than 40% of the voting public (as in 1997), and that in a country made up of minorities, the Charter is the only protection we have to thwart a bullying majority from enforcing its will against them.
He then explained his reasoning by planting a seed about the Harper braintrust's true intentions, referencing Stockwell Day's anti-abortion stance, and the CPC President's road-map for enacting legislation against minority rights, (in particular, taking away a woman's right to choose). He didn't even have to mention Cheryl Gallant, saying that the plan is for a private member's bill to be brought to a vote in the House, which a Conservative majority would then enact, making abortion illegal (even though doing so is not a part of their official platform; and like so many other controversial items on the well-known right-wing agenda, Harper's stock answer is that he categorically has "no plans" to do so, or that it isn't part of party policy.)
Then it would be: hey, what do you know, we made abortion illegal (my words, not Martin's).
Connecting the dots, Martin went on to say that court challenges would likely follow, and eventually, the Supreme Court would be asked to decide on the constitutionality of the legislation. (All this time - presumably years - the law of the land does not include a woman's right to choose, remember.) Assuming the SC eventually struck down the new law, the government could then use the Notwithstanding clause to overrule the Court (and the Charter) to stop women in Canada from "being able to choose" as he put it. And this could be done for many other rights protected by the Charter, of course.
Hence, as a true believer in minorities' rights, he has concluded the Notwithstanding clause must not be a tool for the federal government.
So he as much as said a Harper majority government would result in abortion becoming illegal in Canada. The look of the faces on the women in the audience was telling - you could see they were thinking this all through, that a seed had been sown. And I actually found myself cheering Martin on - both for his deft answer and for his new willingness to clearly spell out what Harper and the wingnuts on his team are hoping to achieve.
The polls aren't looking good for the Liberals right now, but if Martin keeps putting in performances like this, I'm not ruling him out yet. The gloves are indeed off.
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Big time "Tip o' the hat" to Dave at The Galloping Beaver