Once again I’ve been experiencing severe lack of interest in all things blogging-related so I’m a little late to the “Armageddon Factor” party. But here’s a clip from the National last night, with Wendy Mesley talking to Marci McDonald about her book’s premise, the disturbing rise of the religious right’s influence in the corridors of Canadian political power :
I thought it was interesting that McDonald said the religious right has recently begun being referred to as Stephen Harper’s “base”. Harper’s perceived ties to the religious right are what drives the powerful “hidden agenda” paranoia that lost him the election in 2004, and has kept him from winning a majority in two subsequent elections. People don’t trust him. Yet.
In fact, Harper’s own personal religiosity was more overt 4 years ago than it is now — for example, closing speeches with “God Bless Canada” was a habit he shook off pretty quickly. Since then, Harper appears to have moved closer to the political center, and the results of the last election — a larger minority — would suggest that the electorate is grudgingly starting to see it that way. But appearances can be deceiving, and the religious right is known for slithering into positions of power and using “incrementalism” to affect public policy.
Harper himself has always been churlishly taciturn with regard to his personal views on social issues: after a “vote on whether to have a vote”, he pronounced marriage equality a closed issue, infuriating socons who’ve been jabbering about voting for fringe Christian parties ever since. On abortion, he positions himself as “somewhere between the two extremes” (that’s helpful). But his G8 Maternal Health initiative has a decidedly social conservative bent with its in-your-face exclusion of abortion services, something that provoked a humiliating public spanking from US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and caused escalating protest and debate here at home. What may have been intended as a little chunk of red raw meat for the slavering base could well end up re-opening the abortion issue in Canada. Why would Harper want to do this after studiously avoiding the issue for years? Ha. Just the thought of an abortion law, no matter how lame or ineffectual it might ultimately be, would corral and electrify recalcitrant socons in an instant. They’d be writing cheques and hitting paypal buttons so fast there’d be a nationwide epidemic of fundamentalist carpal-tunnel syndrome.
But who knows? I’ve never bought into the idea that Harper, basically a political opportunist who swings whatever way the wind blows, wants to establish some kind of raging theocracy in Canada or even that he’s particularly interested in social issues. But I’ve always found him even weirder and harder to read than most politicians, and the fact that he’s increasingly invited hard-core religious nuts into the corridors of power isn’t much cause for relief. Marci McDonald might be onto something.