Canadian Social Conservatism on the Rise?



March 19, 2010 news by guest writer Michael Zwiep: Writing in the latest issue of Maclean’s, National Affairs Columnist Paul Wells documents the rise of social conservatism in Ottawa and across the country, citing mounting evidence the Canadian Government and Canadians in general are incrementally moving to the right. Wells cites recent initiatives by the governing Conservatives on maternal health abroad, a federally sponsored Youth for Christ Canada proposal to build a youth centre in Winnipeg, the rejection of the Insite safe-injection site in Vancouver and a renewed national focus on family, law and order and traditional marriage. Noting the success of two recent Ottawa events, including the Institute for Marriage and Family Canada policy conference and Manning Centre for Building Democracy networking conference, Wells writes:

“Social conservatives have had to content themselves with incremental victory. But it had been many years since they could expect even that. Conservatives who vote on faith, family and criminal justice felt so left out by Brian Mulroney’s governments that millions of them fled to Reform and smaller groups like the Christian Heritage Party. Now they are back, rubbing elbows with power, not always running the show but never ignored. They have not had so much good news from Ottawa in half a century.”

The Ottawa insider points to recent Harris Decima polling indicating a subtle shift in Canadian voting patterns favouring traditional social values of family and morality, arguing Canada’s political establishment is taking note. Wells references a 2003 speech by Prime Minister Stephen Harper (then leader of the Canadian Alliance) arguing Canadian conservatives should push hard on such issues as “banning child pornography, raising the age of sexual consent, providing choice in education and strengthening the institution of marriage,” legislative initiatives that continue to drive the Conservative Party’s agenda in Parliament, as well as noting arguments in economist Brian Lee Crowley’s best-selling recent book, ‘Fearful Symmetry: The Fall and Rise of Canada’s Founding Values’, which calls for a return to the basic institutions of culture including family and faith-based institutions. Wells concludes:

“If the Liberals cannot begin to make a case for a return to larger, more activist – and more expensive – state-run social welfare, then Stephen Harper’s social conservative revolution will only accelerate.”

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