A few days ago, Conservative leader Stephen Harper launched into a fifty minute speech in the House of Commons detailing the history of the Liberals’ not-so-pristine record on human rights. He focused, unsurprisingly, on MacKenzie King, and his government’s anti-semetic policy of refusing to allow Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi persecutation sanctuary in Canada. How many Jewish refugees were good for Canada? “One is too many,” King’s immigration minister famously replied, putting a black mark on himself and Canadian history forever.

These are fair points to counteract the assertion that the Liberals, any more than any other party, are the party of human rights and progress in Canada. All parties have accomplishments they can be proud of, and all parties have things they should be ashamed of. Even the most diehard Liberal tells me that, despite keeping Canada together through the Second World War, MacKenzie King was basically a flake and an ass. Trudeau and Laurier are far greater Canadians in the same way Conservatives look to Mulroney and MacDonald with pride, while trying really, really hard to forget Robbie Bennett.

But my problem with Stephen Harper’s remarks is that they come at the beginning of parliament’s long debate over the acknowledgement of the legality of same sex marriages. And as such, they are wholly irrelevant to the debate.

Yes, sixty-five years ago the Liberals had an anti-semite as a leader who condemned nearly a thousand Jews to death. But what does this have to do about according same-sex couples the same rights as a married couple under the law?

The answer: absolutely nothing.

So, why bring it up?

The answer: to attack the Liberals, and not their policy. To make this personal and not about ideas. It is an acknowledgement that the Conservatives don’t have any substantive reason to oppose the same sex bill other than scoring cheap political points.

For this reason, Harper has taken it on the nose from various community groups, for playing cheap politics with history.

To raise this irrelevency seeks only to hide the fact that, on this issue, the Conservatives have put themselves on the wrong side of history.

Now, all that being said, here’s one thing I do feel sorry for Mr. Harper for. JimBobby points me to this Yahoo article on President Bush criticizing Stephen Harper for not pushing harder for Canada to join the Missile Defence Treaty. Here’s a quote from the article:

“George W. Bush scolded Conservative Leader Stephen Harper for his silence on missile defence and asked him to help secure Canadian involvement in the U.S. plan, The Canadian Press has learned.”

Now, you can tell the depth of the Liberal inside you if you catch yourself lunging at the computer to find a way to spin this story that makes Harper and Bush sound equally manipulative at once. I did it for about one second before catching myself, absolving Harper of blame (for now) and aiming my ire at Bush.

From the article:

“Please don’t play partisan politics with this.” / “I would hope you’re looking at this in Canada’s national interest and not in terms of partisan politics,” Bush reportedly told Harper.

It’s very interesting that George Bush would appear to equate support for missile defence as support for Canada’s national interest, and failure to provide support as being purely partisan politics. The implication is in these quotes: Canadians cannot oppose America’s missile defence treaty without being seen as being against America — despite the fact that a fair chunk of Americans think that missile defence is a bad idea as well.

It goes back to my old comment: Bush doesn’t see Europe or us Canadians as allies, he sees us as client states. He’s in charge, and we either agree with him, or we go to hell. So much for independent thought.

And then there is the profound political stupidity of Bush’s move. By making his interference in Canadian politics, going through the opposition leader rather than the prime minister, no less (I’m sure that’s a rare occurrance), even if Stephen Harper climbs on board missile defence out of an honest interest in what he saw as Canada’s national interest, Bush’s comments will forever mark Harper as a toady.

Or, as JimBobby so eloquently says:

Now that it’s all out in the public eyeball, ol’ Harpoon’s gonna have a tuff time talkin’ ‘bout the ballstick missile fence without everbuddy thinkin’ he’s a puppet on ol’ Bushfeller’s string.

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

Best thing that Harper could do right now is stand up to Bush and say “Canada’s national interest may not be exactly the same as America’s national interest. You can guarantee, sir, that I will examine this issue closely in Canada’s national interest, and my decision on how to proceed may not meet up with your wishes. But this is our right as an independent country.”

Even if he eventually turns around and says “we’re in”, he’s gone some way to getting the monkey off his back. Silence at this point hampers his options.

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