Winnipeg Free Press, Friday, June 3rd, 2005
Christians capturing Tory party
by Frances Russell
Christian. Jew. Muslim. Hindu. Buddhist. Agnostic.
Under Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms, all have
equal right to sit at the table of political power. But
only if they respect democratic pluralism and the rights
of others to hold different beliefs and values.
What worries a clear majority of Canadians is a
peculiarly American strain of Christianity that clamours
for its own religious freedom and rights, but squelches
them for others.
It seeks political power for the express purpose of
remaking the nation in its own rigid and authoritarian
It has taken over the Republican Party. Unless aware
Americans act soon, the U.S. risks becoming a right-wing
Christian theocracy along the lines of the
fundamentalist Islamic states it most fears.
President George W. Bush's administration has now
moved on one of the last major outposts of critical
journalism, the Corporation of Public Broadcasting. The
administration has stacked its board with appointees
determined to stamp out that deadly American crime,
"liberalism". To do so, it's trampling balance, too.
Canadians are acutely aware of this. Like witnesses
to a fatal crash, they watch, appalled, as the Christian
Right seizes ever-greater control over political debate
and thought in the Great Republic.
It sends chills up the spine.
This destruction of everything liberal democracy is
supposed to stand for is a key reason Stephen Harper's
Conservatives are sliding in the polls even as the
Liberals plumb new depths of ethical and possibly
Last week, the Globe and Mail carried several
articles on the Christian Right's successful capture of
at least eight Conservative nominations in B.C., Ontario
and Atlantic Canada. These candidates all have ties to
the U.S. evangelical Christian movements now commanding
the heights of the Republican Party. Focus on the Family
and Promise Keepers talk glibly about openness and
caring. But what they are really about is enforcing
discrimination and patriarchy.
In the lead-up to last March's Conservative
convention, Craig Chandler, a prominent evangelical
Christian and social conservative, publicly urged Mr.
Harper to follow the Bush Republicans.
"The re-election of U.S. President George W. Bush is
a testament to the political activity and clout of
evangelical Christians," Mr. Chandler, a prominent
Conservative, said. "President Bush did not waver in his
unequivocal support of social conservative positions. He
was clearly pro-life and in favour of traditional
marriage. He was not ashamed to proclaim his born-again
Christianity in the public forum."
Mr. Chandler also reminded Mr. Harper that it was
social conservatives who had "organized to ensure he
defeated Belinda Stronach, a well-known liberal who has
successfully infiltrated the Conservative Party."
The week before the evangelicals' nominations were
reported, Ms Stronach switched to the Liberals, turning
her erstwhile love interest, Deputy Conservative leader
Peter MacKay, into an instant media darling deserving of
enormous public sympathy.
"Poor Peter" was shown with a too-new shovel and a
too-clean white shirt, digging potatoes in his father's
potato patch. "At least dogs are loyal," the sad-eyed MP
said, sitting beside his border collie.
Ask David Orchard about real loyalty. And real
betrayal. He thinks Mr. MacKay betrayed Canada by
subsuming the Progressive Conservatives into a U.S.
Contacted by phone at his Saskatchewan farm, he
wouldn't comment on Mr. MacKay's lovelorn state. "I want
to talk about the bigger issues."
Mr. Orchard was the 2003 Progressive Conservative
leadership contender who put his rival, Mr. MacKay, over
the top on the strength of the latter's "firm
handshake...and his oral and written promises" not to
merge the PCs with the Canadian Alliance.
For Mr. Orchard, the bigger issue is that Mr. MacKay
betrayed the Canadian people by denying them a second
centrist, Big Tent, governing party.
"Does this man have no memory of his firm handshake
with me, of his oral and written promises to build the
PC party as a viable alternative and not to merge it
with the Canadian Alliance?" Mr. Orchard asked. "So that
betrayal led to the destruction of Canada's oldest
political party. It led to a denial of a moderate
alternative to the voters of Canada. I don't think we've
yet come to grips with the magnitude of what's happened
in giving the great party that founded Canada away to
the Canadian Alliance."
Today, he said, "Mr. Harper and the group around him,
including University of Calgary political scientist Tom
Flanagan and others, are in complete control and
determined to integrate us deeper into the U.S...
"The last election showed us that the votes just
weren't there for Mr. Harper," Mr. Orchard continued.
"As night follows day, there's got to be a reappraisal
unless the party simply wants to stay in the wilderness
As more Christian absolutists capture Conservative
nominations, the party's choice between wilderness or
reappraisal becomes stark.