Friday, October 05, 2007

The Opening Shots in a Long War

I have this feeling that Harper has managed to shed the scary "hidden agenda" tag in the eyes of a great many Canadians once he got his free vote on same-sex-marriage handily defeated in the House of Commons. Perhaps it's too much attention paid to the American culture wars, but we in Canada have come to equate the term with gays and abortion. Harper made a half-hearted run at the former and has not touched the latter.

Not only have we adopted a very narrow view of a culture war, we have also grown accustomed (especially in Ontario) to Conservatives governing in a hurry. Mike Harris rushed through reems of legislation in the first couple years of his first mandate. I suspect this is in part because hard right-wingers seem to be aware that they do not enjoy much of a natural constituency in Canada - and that's according to their godfather, Tom Flanagan:
"Canada is not yet a conservative or Conservative country. The [Conservative] party can't win if it veers too far to the right of the average voter."
Harper and Flanagan seem to have taken the view that this political dynamic means that Conservatives need to go slow rather than try to rush through things in a term or two before the Liberals regroup.

For these guys this is a long war to remake Canada as a conservative country (not how Flanagan says "not yet"). They may well be anticipating that this will be a 20-year process. They are starting small, killing the Court Challenges Program and launching a war on drugs. Taken individually, you might have an austerity measure and a crime policy. Taken together, in the context of things that Flanagan and others have said, these are part of a long culture war, a conservative push-back. I suspect that the average voters isn't even aware of the Court Challenges Program (though they may have benefited from it) and the anti-drug policy can be sold as "tough-on-crime" or something of that ilk.

Expect a long, incremental attempt to build a conservative consensus on whole range of cultural and economic issues. These are not individual policies tacked together, these are pieces in a much larger puzzle for Harper.

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