By Gudrun Schultz

MIRAMICHI, New Brunswick, December 15, 2005 ( – Charlie Hubbard, Liberal Miramichi candidate and incumbent MP, said in the Moncton Times Tuesday that the Liberal Party will lose votes in rural Canada if same-sex marriage becomes a major campaign issue.

“Let sleeping dogs lie,” said Hubbard. “It is an issue that is going to cost us votes in rural areas. The more talk there is, the more concern there is about whether or not or if you can turn back the legislation.”

Hubbard wants Liberal strategists to stop using the topic as a major campaign issue.
  The Liberals have launched an attack on Conservative Leader Stephen Harper to define his plans for addressing the issue if he is elected prime minister. Prime Minister Paul Martin has made the topic a campaign issue, questioning Harper on his intention to use the notwithstanding clause to override the Constitution and reverse legislation allowing same-sex marriages. Harper has said if elected, he would hold a free vote in the House on the issue.

Hubbard was one of 32 Liberal MPs who voted against bill C-38, the same-sex marriage bill, on June 28, 2005. Although he would not say which way he would vote if the legislation came up for vote in the House of Commons, he promised to listen to his riding as he did in June’s vote. “It is not a popular thing in our riding, and it passed narrowly in Parliament,” said Hubbard.

Liberal party spokesman Marc Roy said the campaign will continue to raise the same-sex marriage issue as a challenge to Harper. “We are going to continue bringing up the lack of commitment from Mr. Harper to express what he is going to do and how he would go about the issue.”