Canada 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.
Here 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?