Tuesday January 13, 2009
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Is this politician too conservative to be successful in Canada?
Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours Column
Tuesday January 13, 2009
Too conservative for Canada?
By BILL TIELEMAN
"When I was crossing the border into Canada, they asked if I had any firearms with me. I said, 'Well, what do you need?'"
- Comedian Steven Wright
Imagine where a Canadian politician who held the following positions would fit in our political system:
This politician opposes legalizing same-sex marriages.
He has no problem with citizens owning handguns - but proposed limiting their purchase - to one per month.
This politician wants to send thousands more troops to Afghanistan - and to keep them there for years instead of withdrawing them in 2011.
He thinks Robert Gates, U.S. President George W. Bush's Secretary of Defence, has done an excellent job in the Iraq war.
The politician is willing to restrict late-term abortions for women and admits he's not sure at what point a human being gets human rights.
So who did he choose to deliver a prayer before a major political event?
A controversial fundamentalist Christian pastor who has called abortion "a holocaust" and who campaigned in California for the successful Proposition 8, which bans gay marriages.
This politician has described government-run public health care as "an extreme" that leads to high taxes and is "wrong" while supporting private health insurance as the best option.
And despite saying that he has done more than anybody to "take on lobbyists and won" - this politician just appointed one to a top position.
So, where would you place this politician on the Canadian political scene?
An elected representative with these policies that are so obviously way out of line with Canadian mainstream values and popular opinion would likely lead a fringe party far to the right of Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, with little hope of political success.
But in the United States - his name is President-Elect Barack Obama.
And with just one week to go before Obama is sworn into office in a $40-million extravaganza paid for by private donations, it's worth realizing that America has simply not become Canada-South with one election.
Obama, to be sure, is an enormous improvement over Bush and has many commendable positions on a wide range of public policy issues.
But Obama is a politician working in the context of a right-wing country with deeply held conservative values that are out of place in Canada.
We can all wish Obama well in changing that political landscape for the better and making us feel a lot better about our neighbours, top trading partner and good friends across the border.
Just make sure that you don't get caught up in next week's Obama-mania and miss the fact that the new American president is in many ways far more conservative than any of Canada's political leaders.