Covering another cultural shift, eh?

harpesCanada made some news earlier this week by electing a conservative government for the first time in about a dozen years. The conventional wisdom says that it all came down to a well-run campaign and a corrupted liberal party government as the new prime minister Stephen Harper moved to the center by avoiding issues like abortion and gay marriage.

It’s hard to believe, but Canada seems to be following in the United States steps as this Los Angeles Times story suggests with the rise of the red and blue zones. And it seems that Harper even campaigned in a style similiar to President Bush’s 2000 campaign:

But the Conservative Party victory was well short of a landslide, and the party’s failure to win a majority in the House of Commons will ensure that the country does not undergo dramatic change too quickly. Still, the new government is a symbolic change for Canadians, who traditionally have thought of their nation as a healthy rival to the American way.

Canada’s election echoed the “red state/blue state” struggle to its south. Western provinces leaned toward the Conservative Party and eastern population centers generally favored the Liberals, although Conservatives made inroads. Canada’s identity became a key issue in the election, with Liberals openly warning against a step toward U.S. values.

“A Harper victory will put a smile on George W. Bush’s face,” a Liberal ad aired late in the campaign said. “Well, at least someone will be happy, eh?”…

Harper’s positions are closer to those of the Bush administration. Harper has said he will reconsider Canada’s rejection of the U.S. missile shield, withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol on climate change to establish Canada’s own environmental controls, and try to work through a bitter trade dispute over lumber.

Although he campaigned from the center — as President Bush did when he first won the White House — he suggested he would reexamine the legality of same-sex marriage, and is known to oppose abortion rights and to favor changing the national healthcare system.

jesuslandHere at GetReligion, we’re wondering if Harper is on record as a Christian. The Wikipedia article on Harper says he is part of the Christian and Missionary Alliance. Could someone get us some solid information on that? None of the stories I’ve read over the last month have suggested one way or another and this Wikipedia article is the only confirmation I have at this point.

A New York Times analysis says that this is only a gentle shift to the right and due to the conservative’s lack of a majority, practically this is true, and thus, it’s the conventional wisdom. But there is more than one way to build a coalition.

Here’s a solid piece of analysis from The Washington Post on the culture wars up north:

A step to the political right will be a change for Canada, which has grown increasingly more liberal on social and political issues than its southern neighbor, to the point that Martin attacked Harper as being “pro-American” in the campaign.

The Conservative Party and its political predecessors have in the past championed such positions as outlawing abortion and banning gay marriage, views that polls show are inconsistent with the more tolerant tilt of Canadians.

“I think we have to give it a try. But I am very afraid that it will be too far right,” said Florence Koven, 72, emerging from the polls after voting — reluctantly, she said — for the Conservative Party. “The unknown always concerns you. Mr. Harper says he is a changed man; we’ll see how much he has changed.”

Ultimately, Harper will show his true political stripes and the voters will have ample opportunity to voice their concerns, if Canada is indeed as liberal as is the conventional wisdom. Issues like gay marriage and abortion will define Harper’s job at the helm because that is what it ultimately comes down to, right?

Print Friendly

  • Peter T. Chattaway

    Canadian evangelical journalist Lloyd Mackey has literally written the book on “the pilgrimage of Stephen Harper“, and he talks about attending Harper’s C&MA church here.

  • revdrron

    I found this link yeasterday: The story line seemed to address your question: Theocracy, Eh?
    23 January 2006

    Pilgrim Harper brings the culture wars north.

    By Kathryn Joyce

    Worship & Enjoy

  • Amy H

    Letter to the editor in this morning’s Globe and Mail:

    “Stephen Harper had quite some nerve to state “God bless Canada” at the end of his victory speech. … Now that he’s the leader of a secular federal government representing all Canadians, Mr. Harper has no right to put religious phrases in his public speeches.”

    A little further down the page, from another letter writer:

    “Are we all now on the verge of Stephen Harper’s Common Sense Evolution?”

    This is a double reference to a recent conservative provincial politician’s platform, the Common Sense Revolution, and to Mr. Harper’s recent comment that his thinking on many issues had changed because he has “evolved.”

    You can see how well Mr. Harper’s Christianity (yes, he is one and, horrors!, goes to church every week and generally did not campaign on Sundays) is going over in some quarters here in the Great White North.

    The next 18 months (the expected life span of a minority government) are going to be interesting. We’ll have to see whether the Canadian press get religion.

  • Michael

    Canadians don’t get nearly as wrapped up in abortion and gay rights as the people to the South. In a country that writes religious pluralism into its Charter of Rights and Freedoms and is still trying to shake of the perceived shackles of 1960s and ’70s Catholicism in Quebec and the Maritimes, religious conservatives have a very small voice in Canadaian politics. Thus the difficulty of pinning down Harper’s faith, as opposed to both Democrats and Republicans in the U.S. who wear their faiths on their sleeves.

    Harper didn’t talk about gay marriage because polling says that one of the strikes against the Conservative government was its opposition to gay marriage. Most Canadians view it as a fait accomplis and just want to move on. Abortion has never rankled Conservative the way it has the U.S., in part because of greater tradition of group rights and the minimal role religious conservatives play in politics.

  • Elliot

    As a Canadian Christian, my impression is that we’re mostly too polite to argue about these things politically – perhaps it’s a combination of the mainline Erastian and evangelical pietistic impulses. The history of Protestant/Catholic English/French tension has something to do with this contemporary hands-off approach.

  • http://BUSY Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    I’m surprised (or maybe not considering the mainstream media’s bias) that I have seen no articles tieing together all the countries the U.S. media was clearly hoping leaders more friendly to the U.S. and especially President Bush- would lose. Weren’t Bush-bashing and anti-American policy leaders in England, Australia, Germany, and now Canada supposed to do a lot better?? And aren’t Chirac and his political cronies in France in trouble??

  • Paul Canniff

    The best meme I have encountered for the Canadian election came from Liberal commentator Warren Kinsella, who described the campaign as a divided between customers of Tim Horton’s (a coffee/doughnut chain like Krispy Kreme) and Starbucks. The cleavages were not strictly East/West or rural/urban, in the manner of red and blue states. The statistics show a break in political culture between suburban Canada and the three metropolises of Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal.