"We were committed at the time of the convention and through the last debate to put a free vote to the next Parliament on this issue [of same-sex marriage]," [Harper] said. "It will be a genuinely free vote when I am prime minister. I will not whip our cabinet. Cabinet can vote as they want."
Ministers in the new Conservative government have been warned they could be banned from travelling, publicly humiliated or even fired for verbal gaffes.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper is determined not to have his agenda derailed and his ministers have been made aware they will face punishment for loose-lipped indiscretions.
Harper's chief of staff, Ian Brodie, has given colleagues in ministers' offices stark warnings about varying sanctions for cabinet members who either embarrass or contradict the government in public, sources say.