Guest Post: Harper’s So-Con Problem

04/04/2013 / blog posts 

By Jonathon Van Maren

For better or for worse, it would appear that the last week’s “backbench revolt” has definitively proven that Canadians who hold social conservative, and specifically anti-abortion, views, have no political party to vote for that holds the slightest bit of sympathy for their worldview. Mr. Harper has made it crystal clear that his brand of “conservatism” (which seems to elude definition) does not involve the “conservation” of human life, or even, it seems, of his sizeable so-con voting base. His “conservatism” even precludes a discussion of issues carefully selected by pro-life MPs for their reflection of a Canadian consensus (aka sex-selection abortion).

The problem of the systematic disenfranchisement of social conservatives is one that is not uniquely Canadian. It’s not much of an American problem, certainly, but the Tories in our “parent” country Great Britain has certainly reacted to social conservatives in much the way that Mr. Harper has. I had the opportunity recently to interview the British Mail on Sunday columnist Peter Hitchens, and our conversation wandered over to today’s neutered and managerial brand of conservatism that seems to have replaced the conservatism that recognized that its success was inextricably linked to that of social conservative values.

The term “conservative,” Hitchens noted, “isn’t meaningless, but it’s misapplied to political parties who claim to represent it. The difficulty is that voting in universal suffrage tends to be tribal rather than rational. People vote for the party that calls itself conservative long after it’s ceased to be so, and as a result they do themselves great damage because they perpetuate a party that is in fact their enemy. Canada had sort of a revulsion against that when their Conservative Party more or less collapsed, but somehow it seems to have pulled itself together again. That’s partly because the substitute party didn’t really have any ideological coherence of its own. A revolt against rather than a revolt for, I think.”

This, of course, is what Mr. Harper is banking on: That anti-abortion voters will keep on marching to the polling booth and putting their x next to the big blue C, with a few tightly muzzled pro-life candidates to vote for to ensure Stockholm syndrome. Meanwhile, Harper’s opposition to any discussion on abortion is, unbeknownst to most, written right into his party platform (page 19, point 62) and enforced by the PMO. Even a motion with as much public support as Langley MP Mark Warawa’s request for a verbal condemnation of sex selection abortion doesn’t make it past the draconian anti-so-con Conservative gate-keepers.

Rather than keeping his base somewhat sated, Harper is instead earning the kudos of bloggers like Warren Kinsella, a Liberal Party loyalist who wrote happily that Harper, “has ruthlessly crushed any and all attempts to kickstart the abortion debate. Harper has been more resolute on the abortion issue, in fact, than any prime minister in a generation.” Kinsella’s enthusiastic advice for Harper is to “Throw a few of the nobodies overboard and make everyone watch as the sharks tear them to pieces.” Except, of course, Kinsella has not thought of the percentage of Harper’s voting bloc that those “nobodies” and their views represent. Then again, considering his loyalties, perhaps he has.

Pro-lifers aren’t stupid. We realize that Canada’s cultural attitudes towards abortion will have to change before tight abortion restrictions are possible. But we’re still about a quarter of Mr. Harper’s voting base—and if he will not even allow the minutest of discussions, if he prefers to kowtow to Canada’s aging feminist “movement” (none of whom are ever going to vote for him, anyway), then he leaves us in the uncomfortable position of not having any reason to stay in his party. Canada’s so-called pro-choice movement is almost completely dead—at this point it doesn’t constitute much more than a stagnant pond with a few bullfrogs letting off the occasional televised relativistic ribbit. Canada’s pro-life movement is young, growing rapidly, and dedicated to long-term strategies that are already shifting public opinion. As William Sprague once said, “Do not wait to strike till the iron is hot; but make it hot by striking.”

Mr. Harper may soon find it quite a bit warmer than he finds is comfortable.

Jonathon Van Maren is the communication director for

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