Back in June 2003, Canada's Stephen Harper wrote an essay on Canada as he saw it as leader of the very short-lived Canadian Alliance Party. This essay was posted on the Christian Coalition International (Canada) website, a conservative religious organization that had a strong anti-gay stance. This glimpse into the mind of Mr. Harper provides Canadian voters with a true, unvarnished, not quite ready for primetime vision of our current Prime Minister and helps us to better understand his core beliefs. For my readers from the United States, I appreciate your patience with these postings about Canada, however, with Canada entering yet another election season, there are some points that I feel that I need to make.
As a bit of background, Mr. Harper attends a Christian and Missionary Alliance Church, a relatively small Protestant evangelical and fundamentalist denomination that has approximately 440 churches across Canada, many of them in the four western provinces. They prioritize world evangelism through their missions programs and have a strong belief in the inerrancy of scripture and the imminent return of Jesus Christ.
Now, let's take a look at a few key paragraphs from Mr. Harper's 2003 essay. These paragraphs follow a brief discussion about a potential merger between the Progressive Conservative Party under the leadership of Peter MacKay and the Canadian Alliance (officially the Canadian Reform Conservative Alliance) under Stephen Harper, a merger that took place in December 2003:
"What is the “conservative coalition” of ideas? Actually, conservatism and conservative parties, as we’ve known them over the decades, have always been coalitions. Though these coalitions are complex and continually shifting, two distinctive elements have long been identifiable.
"Ted Byfield labelled these factions “neo-con” and “theo-con.” More commonly, they are known simply as economic conservatives and social conservatives. Properly speaking, they are called classical or enlightenment liberalism and classical or Burkean conservatism.
The one called “economic conservatism” does indeed come from classical liberalism. Its primary value is individual freedom, and to that end it stresses private enterprise, free trade, religious toleration, limited government and the rule of law.
The other philosophy is Burkean conservatism. Its primary value is social order. It stresses respect for customs and traditions (religious traditions above all), voluntary association, and personal self-restraint reinforced by moral and legal sanctions on behaviour.
The essence of this conservatism is, according to Russell Kirk, “the preservation of the ancient moral traditions of humanity. Conservatives respect the wisdom of their ancestors: they are dubious of wholesale alteration. They think society is a spiritual reality, possessing an eternal life but a delicate constitution: it cannot be scrapped and recast as if it were a machine.”
In the 19th century, these two political philosophies, classical liberalism and Burkean conservatism, formed the basis for distinct political parties that opposed one another. On the one side was a liberal party in the classical sense – rationalist, anticlerical but not anti-religious, free-trading, often republican and usually internationalist. On the other side was an older conservative party – traditionalist, explicitly or implicitly denominational, economically protectionist, usually monarchist, and nationalistic.
In the 20th century, these opposing forces came together as a result of two different forces: resistance to a common enemy, and commitment to ideas widely shared.
The common enemy was the rise of radical socialism in its various forms. In this context, Burkean conservatives and classical liberals discovered a commitment to a core of common ideas. Both groups favoured private property, small government and reliance on civil society rather than the state to resolve social dilemmas and to create social process. Domestically, both groups resisted those who stood for public ownership, government interventionism, egalitarian redistribution and state sponsorship of secular humanist values. Internationally, they stood unequivocally against external enemies – fascism, communism and socialist totalitarianism in all its forms...." (my bold)
Mr. Harper goes on to explain how conservatives need to respond to the new challenges that the world offers in the post-Cold War era since, according to him, "socialism is dead".
"The real enemy is no longer socialism. Socialism as a true economic program and motivating faith is dead. Yes, there are still lots of statist economic policies and people dependent on big government. But the modern left-liberal economic philosophy has become corporatism. Corporatism is the use of private ownership and markets for state-directed objectives. Its tools are subsidization, public/private partnerships and state investment funds. It is often bad policy, but it is less clearly different from conventional conservative economics than any genuine socialism.
The real challenge is therefore not economic, but the social agenda of the modern Left. Its system of moral relativism, moral neutrality and moral equivalency is beginning to dominate its intellectual debate and public-policy objectives.
The clearest recent evidence of this phenomenon is seen in international affairs in the emerging post-Cold-War world – most obviously in the response of modern liberals to the war on terrorism. There is no doubt about the technical capacity of our society to fight this war. What is evident is the lack of desire of the modern liberals to fight, and even more, the striking hope on the Left that we actually lose.
You can see this if you pay close attention to the response to the war in Iraq from our own federal Liberals and their cheerleaders in the media and the universities. They argue one day that there are no weapons of mass destruction, yet warn that such weapons might be used. They tell us the war was immoral, then moral but impractical, then practical but unjustified. They argue simultaneously that the war can’t be won, that it is too easy for the coalition to win and that victory cannot be sustained anyway. Most striking was their obvious glumness at the fall of Baghdad. But even previous to that were the dark suggestions on the anniversary of September 11 (hinted at even by our own prime minister) that “we deserved it.”
This is particularly striking given the nature of the enemy here, the bin Ladens and the Husseins, individuals who embody in the extreme everything the Left purports to oppose – fundamentalism, fascistic nationalism, misogyny, bigotry..."
Mr. Harper's statement that the political Left actually hopes to lose the war on terrorism is quite striking and goes a long way to explaining his government's introduction of Bill C-51 in the latest Parliament. His views on backing the United States in Iraq were well known as we can see in this video clip from 2003 showing a much younger looking Stephen Harper:
And, despite the fact that history has shown that American meddling in Iraq has led to the creation of a geopolitical vacuum that has fostered the development of ISIS, Mr. Harper still can't seem to get enough of Middle East politicking.
Let's close with this paragraph that completely sums up Mr. Harper's core beliefs:
"Conservatives need to reassess our understanding of the modern Left. It has moved beyond old socialistic morality or even moral relativism to something much darker. It has become a moral nihilism – the rejection of any tradition or convention of morality, a post-Marxism with deep resentments, even hatreds of the norms of free and democratic western civilization."
That is quite a statement and makes it quite clear why Mr. Harper seems unable to play well with Premiers Wynne and Notley.
Keeping in mind that Mr. Harper and his policies appear, in general, to be appealing to his evangelical base, it is important to remember than only 12 percent of Canadians identify as evangelical. This would suggest that the current agenda of the CPC represents a relatively small fraction of all Canadians but a significant portion of the 61.1 percent of voters who actually took the time to pick up a stubby pencil and mark an "X", 39.6 percent of whom picked the local candidate from the Conservative Party of Canada as their representative in Ottawa. This means that the Parliamentary process is being driven by 24.2 percent of Canadians, a significant number who share Mr. Harper's religious leanings, which can hardly be termed a "majority" in any sense of the word.