The Harper Effect: Why conservative politicians in Canada are so terrified of social issues

By Jonathon Van Maren

It is always amusing to me that Canadian left-wingers enjoy referring to Stephen Harper as an arch-conservative, a man so right-wing his very name is apparently supposed to send shivers down the progressive spine. In reality, his primary impact on the political landscape was one progressives should be thanking him for. It was Stephen Harper’s aggressive silencing of social conservatives and his repeated insistence that such issues are untouchable that has persuaded center-right parties across Canada that electoral victory is only possible when social conservatives—who have proven time and time again to be one of the most active and invested factions of the conservative coalition—are kept in the tent but off the platform.

As Pierre Lemieux’s leadership campaign proved, there are many social conservative policies that would enjoy broad support throughout the Canadian electorate. The vast majority of new Canadians are very socially conservative on issues like abortion, euthanasia, and parental rights, among others. The primary reason progressives don’t mind an enormous influx of people like these is because they know conservatives will not campaign in immigrant communities on these issues, and that a dozen years of public school will largely eliminate any socially conservative tendencies the parents have passed down to the children. In fact, a recent poll by Public Square Research with over 1,500 respondents found that Canada is a country that would be considerably more amenable to socially conservative policies than Harper and Trudeau would have us believe:


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