First and foremost, child pornography is indefensible. The issue falls under the realm of social conservatism yet it is non-partisan and virtually all Canadians will find themselves on one side of the issue.
Therefore, did Stephen Harper gaffe when his war-room sent out the email “Paul Martin Supports Child Pornography?” and was this gaffe underscored by Harper’s refusal to apologize for it?
Many may rush to the conclusion that the answer is “yes”. Many in the media are drawing parallels with Jack Layton’s assertion that Paul Martin is personally responsible for homeless deaths in Toronto.
While one might criticize Harper for politicizing the recent guilty plea of the murderer of Holly Jones, Harper did raise the issue earlier in the English-language debate concerning the use of the not-withstanding clause. Stephen Harper said that he would use the not-withstanding clause to protect children from the societal ills of child pornography.
If Paul Martin seeks to attack the Conservative Party on social issues such as a woman’s right to choose and gay marriage (issues that not all but many conservatives support), here is an issue put into play by Stephen Harper; it’s an issue which he can win. There is no logical argument that supports child pornography whether for “artistic merit” or for “public good”.
Did Stephen Harper gaffe? The deeper answer is no. Now the issue is under debate in the media and within the campaign. Stephen Harper has directed the final week of the campaign towards an issue that he wants to talk about rather than the issues that have dogged him. How can Paul Martin or Jack Layton differentiate themselves from Stephen Harper on this issue? While the media will initially report it as a gaffe (on a Saturday by the way), the rest of the week will examine the issue in-depth. In fact, Global and CBC are already reporting Paul Martin’s voting record on the issue.
Paul Martin voted against a motion prohibiting creation or use of child pornography (House of Commons, April 23, 2002)
Paul Martin voted against a motion calling for legislation to protect children from sexual predators (House of Commons, April 23, 2002)
Paul Martin voted against making the age of sexual consent higher than 14 (House of Commons, April 23, 2002)
Paul Martin voted against establishing a national sex offender registry (House of Commons, Feb. 5, 2002)
At the end of the week, who gets more exposure? Stephen Harper for being personal or Paul Martin’s personal voting record on child pornography?
The only direction of attack that the Liberals can take is the method by which the message was delivered. The Conservatives, on the other hand, have opened the issue for discussion (and have distracted the media from the other issues such as the Klein miscommunication) and many Canadians will examine Paul Martin’s voting record defending something viewed as indefensible by most Canadians.
With that being said, as a voter I am appauled by the negative tone of this campaign set by the Liberals and now reciprocated by the Conservatives. I’d like to vote for a party instead of against one.