Monday, February 21, 2011

Is Harper selling out the Christian right in hopes of a majority?

The western based Refrom movement of Preston Manning invigorated a long ignored constituency in this country, that of socially conservative Christian voters. Abortion on demand and same sex marriage were two of the issues that galvanized support for the western populist party under Manning's leadership. And he was able to ride their support all the way to becoming leader of the official opposition in Canada's parliament.

But it wasn't enough.

Canada is and was a socially progressive nation, and even though the Reform party was able to supplant the Progressive Conservatives at the ballot box, their appeal wasn't broad enough to win them seats in eastern Canada.

Not until the Reform movement under a new moniker, the Canadian Alliance, merged with the Progressive Conservatives to form the Conservative Party of Canada.

Now with two consecutive minority mandates under their belt, and under the guiding hand of Stephen Harper, the CPC is tantalizingly close to that elusive majority. But to do it they need to do two things.

Keep the socially conservative base happy, while selling out on the ideals of their Reform roots in an effort to broaden their appeal.

And they're not doing a bad job.

Thanks to Harper's Conservatives being handed a balance sheet flush with surplus after surplus, Canada has been able to weather uncertain economic times better than most. The Conservatives have thus created the illusion of strong fiscal stewardship despite huge increases in spending in tandem with ill advised tax cuts that have led to record deficit spending.

And on issues near and dear to social conservatives, Harper has steered the CPC away from policies that first helped propel the Reform party to prominence. A prime example was our Prime Minister voting against a bill designed to criminalize coerced abortions, and further stating that he would oppose any attempt to introduce any new abortion legislation.

To fundamentalist Christians Harper must appear like a real Judas, but I don't think they should be surprised. In fact, like George Bush, I think Harper's religion is more of a prop than a deeply held conviction.

It appears (at least to this blogger) that our Prime Minister is hoping things stay as quiet as possible on any contentious issues that might erode his base. Canada doesn't have vice presidential running mates to broaden or shore up a shaky base of support. There's no Sarah Palin in this country looking out a northern kitchen window dreaming of high elected office in the nation's capital.

Harper has to play both sides all by himself.

For those wrapped up in fundamentalist Christian theology and seeking a party and a leader that reflects their desire for a politician to literally embrace the Bible, there is after all the Family Coalition Party...which could only serve to erode Conservative support at a time when Stephen needs every vote he can get.

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