May 4, 2011
Each morning, as I drive into Washington, D.C. along the John Hanson Highway from Annapolis, I read the road sign that says Bladensburg, Upper Marlborough, Washington. Most commuters, Im sure, dont pay much attention. We all know the route.
But I never fail to be reminded of the engravings outside the Library of Parliament in Ottawa, Canada. They list the same three names. And they are monuments to British victories in the War of 1812. Our Virginia and Maryland militiamen ran away when the British fired off their Congreve rockets. And the British burned the White House, the Capitol, and the Library of Congress. Former President Thomas Jefferson had said that conquering British Canada would be a mere matter of marching for the far more numerous Americans. Not so fast, Mr. Jefferson. Its not one of his better predictions.
Thanks to British victories in Canada in the War of 1812, our northern neighbor is a very different country. For starters, their Conservatives are blue and their Liberals are red. Now, thats the way it ought to be. And they can stage an election whenever the Prime Minister thinks it would be advantageous to do so.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the first Conservative Prime Minister in a generation is arguably the first truly conservative party leader since the 1960s. He probably didnt think when he chose his May 2nd election date that his great victory would be almost completely overshadowed by the Royal Wedding and the dispatch of Osama bin Laden.
Still, despite being nearly eclipsed by other world news, Canadas election is a big deal. For one thing, Canadas political system has been beset by odd quirks of multi-party factionalism. At least five partiesConservatives, Liberals, New Democrats, the Bloc Quebecois, and the Green Partyhave seats in Parliament. Stephen Harper has had to govern for the past five years with a minority government. Thats always unstable in a parliamentary system.
This weeks election saw the Liberal Party nearly collapse. This party ruled Canada for most of its history. Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff was defeated in his own riding (district). Thats like Nancy Pelosi being defeated in San Francisco! He resigned as leader. He had no choice. Liberal MP Ken Dryden also lost. Yes, in hockey-mad Canada, this Hall-of-Famer, this six-time Stanley Cup winner with the Montreal Canadiens, lost his seat as a Member of Parliament. Now, thats a shellacking.
Also ousted on Monday was Gilles Duceppe, the longtime leader of the separatist group, the Bloc Quebecois. This party routinely sat in the federal parliament while formally committed to Quebec secession. Try to imagine Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee sitting as members of the U.S. Senate! Maybe M. Duceppe will now reconsider the big bash he threw to celebrate his twenty years of causing mischief in Ottawa!
The Bloc nearly collapsed in Quebec. Voters there apparently tired of these manipulators. They didnt go for the Conservatives, though. They also dumped the Conservatives in their French-speaking province and went heavily for the New Democratic Party (NDP).
Jack Layton, the NDP leader, was Mondays other big winner. If Stephen Harper is happy to have a majority government for the first time, Layton is happy to win the coveted title of Leader of the Opposition, as the Liberals sink to third place in Canadas House of Commons.
The NDP is unapologetically socialist. Can this be good? It does clarify the choices that voters must make. Conservatives generally do better when voters realize what the stark alternative is. And so it seemed on Monday in Canada.
The Harper government controlled spending, kept down taxes, and stressed competent and clean governance. Stephen Harper went to the New Canadiansthe large immigrant populationand pitched common sense values of conservatism to these hard-working voters. It paid big dividends on election day.
Prime Minister Harper has pledged no radical moves. Thats almost reassuring. But the prior Liberal Party majorities, when they werent busily enriching themselves at public expense, made plenty of radical moves. Will Stephen Harper even try to scale some of these back? He pledged no change on abortion. That cannot be good news. He also has not promised to roll back Canadas radical laws on marriage.
Still, there have been small but important changes in Canadas direction under Stephen Harper. He braved liberal scorn when he ended his speeches with God bless Canada.
Good grief, they cried, another George W. Bush! Harper has announced a pullout from Afghanistan, but there, too, he has marched with his U.S. ally. The Harper government has promoted a compassionate aid effort in Africa to help young mothers combat dangerous diseases.
How do social conservatives south of the 49th parallel know Mr. Harpers policy is a good policy? Thats easy: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton went to Ottawa and publicly attacked the Harper government for not pushing abortion on the Africans.
Finally, some of the socially liberal Conservative Party members were defeated. Do they call them CINOs, like we have RINOs? These social liberal losses were made up for by True Blue Conservatives elected in other ridings, in other provinces. This could be the most pro-family Conservative Party in Canada, ever.
We who are American social conservatives need friends across the border and around the world. We care about faith, family, and freedom. And in praying for our Canadian friends, we show that a conservatism of heart and hearth is truly international.