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?


"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.


Anonymous said...

Bill, you old party pooper!

Anonymous said...

Much needed, Bill. The only hope is that a revivified left pulls him away from the centre-right a bit, as occured with FDR. (Though FDR was closer to the centre-left to begin with).

Anonymous said...

Hey Bill, your column went south.

Well down to California at least, to my sister who like so many down that way sort of equate Obama to God. Saving grace is he can't be as bad as Bush, hopefully.
People sort of forget that he isn't there to look after or consider us much. A political cartoon today shows Harper in the lef picture getting all excited about Obaman coming up this way. The other shows Obama saying to himself " Well let's get this over with". But the photo op for Harper is the thing. Too bad Gordo couldn't get to stand on the stage with the two biggies

Anonymous said...

So, at what point will Jack Layton be meeting with affable the new American president to outline the NDP's new improved trade proposals?

Anonymous said...

I, too, have sent this column south. Sometimes just a few words makes the point in a very compelling way.

Anonymous said...

Introduucing legislation permitting same sex marriage didn't help the Paul Martin government get re-elected, so maybe Obama is exactly the kind of leader Canadians do want.

Anonymous said...

This particular article should be circulated through every paper in Canada. I'm sick and tired of the damn Obama-love-in that seems to have taken hold in this country, culminating in that stupid CBC contest for songs for a mix CD for him. Sure he will likely be a better American president than Bush, but so would a rutabaga. That's no reason to stare at him in star-struck awe and hope he deigns to glance north. Nobody knows what this guy will do as president, and I would hope that the leaders of our country can see through the golden haze enough to treat Obama's administration the same as all American administrations should be treated...with respect and utmost caution, lest we get screwed in yet another trade deal.

Anonymous said...

Well put Bill. I agree in many respects with other commenters. We don't really know what to expect and frankly, I think people are expecting far too much from the guy.

After spending time in the US watching their politics as an outsider, it was clear that most of their Dems are really quite conservative. Thanks for the comment on my blog as well, you are right it is going to be quite the debate and only time will tell.

NRF said...

It's a good question but understand that Obama beat McCain with only 52.9% of the popular vote. Had he offered to U.S. voters positions that Bill Tieleman would love, we'd not have the first black President taking the oath. Politics always is the art of the possible.