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This guy ‘gets’ Harper; hopefully we will as well.

I saw this fellow being quoted over at Impolitical’s blog this AM, but I think his analysis of Harper is well worth repeating:

Michael Behiels, a native of Alberta’s Peace River country, teaches Canadian constitutional history at the University of Ottawa. He says Harper’s approach to politics and governance is shaped by his Christian fundamentalism. “Harper is a fundamentalist ‘values’ conservative and his evangelical Christian views drive both his domestic and foreign policy agendas,” Behiels continues. “On foreign policy, Harper is a dyed-in-the-wool Republican who maintains that the U.S., Canada and the U.K. have a mission, a religious duty, so to speak, to impose an American form of democracy on the world.” On the domestic front, Behiels continues, the prime minister believes “every left-of-centre Canadian is a moral relativist, that is, immoral, and can’t be trusted to govern at any level of society.”

I’m not sure if Harper is a “dyed-in-the-wool Republican”, but there’s no doubt he’s imported Republican political methods of using personal attack ads and trying to use “wedge issues” to divide Canadians (with his goal being that he divides them more into his camp then the opposition parties). The partisan use of formerly non-partisan government agencies to brazenly promote the Conservatives is another importation of Republican methodology and ideology – both the Republicans and Harper’s Conservatives “hate” government, except where it can aid them in getting re-elected to power.

Some more from Professor Behiels:

..This is the wellspring for the prime minister’s contempt for “socialists,” for his treatment of Canada’s opposition parties as enemies to be destroyed, for his antipathy to “left-wing fringe groups” working on behalf of the disadvantaged, for his government’s crackdown on refugees and his willingness to spend hundreds of millions of dollars building new prisons to facilitate his “tough-on-crime” agenda. ..Behiels sees the next election as a “competition of values. There are values on the right which are deeply imbued with religious fundamentalism but you also have longstanding, deeply-entrenched liberal values in Canada that are just as important to people and must be defended.”

The columnist who wrote this column and was quoting Professor Behiels wrote that “The Harper Conservatives have introduced a whole new style of politics to Canada, and the opposition parties must adapt to confront it or see the country changed irrevocably.” I agree, and I’d like to see less of ducking and running from some of Harper’s core wedge issues and instead the Liberal leadership aggressively counter-attacking, if they are detrimental to Canada’s traditional liberal social ideals.

I like the focus that the Liberals have had on the Conservatives pork-barrel politicking they’ve shown to be engaging in with stimulus projects, which may be showing some resonance with the Canadian public, if Ekos’s poll from this AM is to be believed. They need to keep up the public pressure on that front, and extend that aggression to other Conservative core policies and make the case why those policies are so wrong for Canada.


21 comments to This guy ‘gets’ Harper; hopefully we will as well.

  • Roll Tide

    A good take on Professor Behiels confusion, written by
    David Haskell, associate professor of journalism and contemporary studies at Wilfrid Laurier University.

  • Big Winnie

    Here’s a link about the religious right and it’s hold on our “so-called” government (it’s a couple of years old but still relevant):

  • Big Winnie

    Cons, are you telling me that McVety has NO influence on the decisions Harper makes? If that’s what you think, time to wake up!! Moreover, what about the influence Flanagan had on Harper; he’s become “Republican lite”.

    As a Christian, does Harper condone, lies/distortion of the truth? He’s only in it for himself!!

  • KC

    “A black/white treatment of China, who are very much an authoritarian government, but do not resemble anything of a communist nation any more”

    I actually admire Harper’s principled stand against ‘authoritarian’ China. May not be in our best economic interests but it is the right thing to do. In any event I don’t see how it is influenced by his being an evangelical.

    “A complete reversal of the traditional multinational approach Canada has taken to international affairs by previous Liberal & Conservative governments.”

    Putting aside the fact that this statement is hyperbolic to its extreme (Harper has not “completely reversed” multinationalism, and nor were previous governments devotees to multinationalism), it has nothing to do with evangelical religious beliefs.

    “A reversal of the traditional neutral position which Canada has taken in the middle east to one of almost total support for Israel.”

    His religious beliefs may have something to do with this but given how blindly uncritical 95% of the world is in favour of the Palestinians its probably good for Israel to have one country in its court.

    “The ‘Old Testament’ style approach to crime, thinking tougher sentences and bigger jails will somehow stop criminals …as if criminals think rationally?”

    … which all the other parties have supported.

  • TofKW

    KC, I believe you misread the commentary. No one is suggesting that Stephen Harper would turn Canada into some strange Christian version of Iran if given a majority. The question is if he were to win one, how would his evangelical background affect his decision making? We have already seen examples of this within his last four years:

    – A black/white treatment of China, who are very much an authoritarian government, but do not resemble anything of a communist nation any more.
    – A complete reversal of the traditional multinational approach Canada has taken to international affairs by previous Liberal & Conservative governments.
    – A reversal of the traditional neutral position which Canada has taken in the middle east to one of almost total support for Israel.
    – The ‘Old Testament’ style approach to crime, thinking tougher sentences and bigger jails will somehow stop criminals …as if criminals think rationally?

    And I can go on and on about some of the examples already commented on above. This has nothing to do with Harper installing some sort of bogeyman theocracy upon us, but it does have everything to do with his seeing the world in a simplistic, polarized, friend/enemy type way – and how that leads to very bad policy decisions.

    • Roll Tide


      “The question is if he were to win one, how would his evangelical background affect his decision making”

      Would you say that to a PM who was Catholic?

      Would you dare say that if the PM had a Jewish, Hindu, agnostic, or atheist background?

      • Jon Pertwee

        @Roll Tide, I would RT if their religion was colouring how they governed. Look at the increase in funding to religious organizations and how is that supporting everyone? Charles McVety represents a very small number of Canadians yet gets a disproportionate amount of funding and tax exemptions to his “organizations”. Maybe we should start taxing religious organizations the same as the rest of us then they have justification for their perks and influence.

        • Roll Tide

          @Jon Pertwee,

          McVety is getting the same tax exemption as any school would.
          The dollar amount would be reflective on the schools income.
          That would make it proportional.
          I actually have no issue with taxing any non profit organization, religious or not.

  • Roll Tide

    This author has absolutely no clue what he is talking about.
    I would suggest the above article detailing Canadian Evangelical voting patterns and why they have changed.

    I would suggest he verse himself in Canadian Evangelicalism.
    It is not “Fundamentalist”, a huge difference. Harper attends the Canadian Missionary Alliance Church. A very mainstream Evangelical Church. A church that does not, I repeat, does not involve itself politically from the pulpit.
    I know, because I attend one. Its members on the other hand are more active then the average Canadian.
    Canadian Fundamentalist Churches are a very very small strain of Protestantism, while Mainstream Evangelicalism is huge and growing leaps and bounds, drawing the unchurched as well as from the declining United Church. Most new churches today being built are Evangelical Churches.
    Fundamentalist churches are very inword, its members are rarely involved politically. They see all political parties as “worldly”. Some Orthodox Reformed members may be involved in the Christian Heritage Party. A political party of no significance. Most fundamentalist see all political involvement as “worldly”, almost sinful.
    Evangelicals on the other hand are more civic minded. They get involved particularity at food banks, sponsor third world children and reach out to those in need. Yonge Street Mission, and World Vision are both Evangelical Institutions. Evangelicals are active politically in all four parties.
    Evangelicals once drew gave support towards the Liberal Party, that has changed.

    The study I linked above detail a few instances that are indicative of the Liberal attitude towards Evangelicals.

    “During the 2000 general election campaign, Liberal Party representative Warren Kinsella appeared on
    Canada AM, a popular national television program, with a Barney the Dinosaur doll and mocked Stockwell Day’s
    creationist beliefs, saying, “I just want to remind Mr. Day that The Flintstones was not a documentary.” Evangelicals hold various views on Creation, but most
    understood this as an attempt to denigrate their faith.”

    “Second, before the 2004 general election the Liberal Party commissioned a push-poll that asked Ontarians,
    “Would you be more or less likely to vote for the Conservatives if you knew they had been taken over by
    evangelical Christians.”

    Can you imagine if the Conservatives commissioned a push poll that asked
    “Would you be more or less likely to vote for the Liberals if you knew they had been taken over by Islam”

    The Liberals never apologized for the push poll.

    The article points out several other reasons including a bizarre interview Michael Coran had with a totally misinformed Liberal Leader Stephan Dion. In fairness to Dion, he is obviously not the only one misinformed, this blog is an example of that.

    Another trend is that more Catholic voters,especially Mass attending Catholics, once a Liberal base, are moving towards the Conservatives. Evangelicals and Catholics are cooperating more and more on many issues. The old divides are passe.
    If Liberals continue to embrace Professor Behiels attitudes, they will not only continue to lose Evangelicals but Catholics as well. The fear mongering attitude will further erode any Evangelical support for Liberals.
    I urge the Liberals to consult Liberal MP John Mackay on this issue. I played Hockey with him in what Professor Behiels would probably call a “fundamentalist” church hockey league.

  • KC

    Harper is definitely conservative in some respects but I have seen very little far right, religious based, social conservativism (so common among the GOP) out of him during his years in office. He brought SSM back to the house for a vote and when he lost he let it go. His opposition to what he calls “left-wing fringe groups” seems to have more to do with the agendas of particular groups and their particular views on “rights” than a rejection of the notion that women/gay/minorities/etc. have rights.

    If I thought Harper was on the cusp of a majority I would probably do what needed to be done to prevent that from happen (i.e. voting for faux-Liberal Ignatieff). But I certainly am not all that concerned that he is about to institute a theocracy. If thats how the Liberals campaign in the next election they will lose.

  • Anon

    Leigh: I did not get the impression that Harper had said that he usually watches French Canadian news. Check out this story on the same topic that just appeared in the T.O. Star:–politicians-question-pm-s-claim-he-doesn-t-watch-canadian-news

    In fact, he seems to make it clear that he prefers American news.

    Interesting comments about Fox news — I am not surprised.

  • Grant

    And now trying to link Harper to American influence.

    Among Liberals, what was old is new again. Election 2004, 2006, 2008 – and even now.

    Pathetic. And no one with any credibility left is buying

    • Emilie

      @Grant, Reality, Grant. It’s all about reality. Try it but don’t be too upset when reality hits you between the eyes. :))

    • Jon Pertwee

      @Grant, who put up the cash for Harper’s Canadian Alliance nomination? That’s never been told but Im betting it was greenbacks not loonies.

      It’s pathetic that you openly buy all the Government’s talking points.

  • Leigh

    I think I may have heard a year or more ago that Harper doesn’t watch english Canadian news. Any Canadian news content he watched/heard was in French because he couldn’t rely on his anglophone aids to pass on to him what was happening in Quebec. Moreover the American news station Harper watches, according to this article (sorry can’t remember where) is Fox News. I remember being struck at the time that the Prime Minister of Canada spends his time watching Fox News. Yikes.

  • Anon

    I was watching Citytv around supper time last night. Harper was being interviewed when he stated clearly that he does not watch Canadian news and mainly follows American news. I suspect it will surprise some, if not many, Canadians that a sitting Canadian PM would be more interested in American than Canadian news. However, this would appear to fit in well with the narrative of Behiels about him.

    Behiels was very critical of Harper’s actions during the pro-roguation crisis and his interviews on TV at that time would be worth watching again.

  • Big Winnie

    We’ve learned Grant that the Religious right is something to be afraid of…

    Why else would women’s/disabled/gays rights be dismissed as “left wing fringe groups”?

    The government is supposed to care for all it’s citizens but its appparent that unless you fit in a certain mold, they don’t give a damn!!

  • If I am hearing you right, you are saying Ignatieff and Liberals in general should be standing up for Liberalism. Now there is a concept! And, in my opinion, a winning one too. Why Liberals are kowtowing to the conservatives in a shameful and apologetic manner, instead of being proud of our values and what we have always stood for, surprises me to no end. Ignatieff needs to grow a pair and remember his party’s legacy and heritage. We should be proud for who and what we stand for, and say so! Over and over again, as loud as we can, and even from the roof tops if we must!!

  • Grant

    Religious fearmongering – AGAIN.

    You Liberals will never learn.

    • @Grant, There’s no religious fearmongering at all… just a warning of the dangers of allowing right-wing religious fundamentalism and government mixing (which the professor said, not the Liberals by the way. I just so happen to be a Liberal supporter and i happen to agree with his stance – and I say so from being a left-wing Christian).

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