Thursday, June 10


When Richard Condon wrote The Manchurian Candidate in 1959, he was spooked by, and spooked, the Cold War zeitgeist to further frenzy with the notion of a brain-washed political insider--the ultimate Trojan Horse.

The recent musings by Conservative M.P.s on a variety of issues, from abortion to same sex marriage to minority language rights, to the role of the Church in government, to increased political control of the Supreme court, smack of an angst-ridden, chip-on-the-shoulder, regional protest party--exactly what the name change was supposed to erase.

The Conservatives were supposed to be more centrist, more national. And since Canadians vote parties out more than vote them in, methinks some folks out West misunderstand what current poll support really represents.

What we're seeing is the old serpent of politicized, religious fundamentalism sticking its head out of the Tory swamp, emboldened now by new political fortunes.

Many disaffected Liberals, of which I am one, would really like to see a change in government. But there seems to still be a problem with the structure of central Canadian power politics. This is where Ontario and Quebec call the shots. However now, Quebec has sided for a rejectionist, "Quebec First" platform under the regional Bloc, while the West tries its hand with its own regional disaffection/protest party--"Conservatives"; with a large provisional attempt to make the Conservatives "Ontario-friendly" in order to expand their regionalized roots.

The problem with reforming the reformers, and the reformation of the Conservatives, is that you can take the reform out of the Alliance, but you can't take the Alliance out of the Reform. However way you call it, it is still, in terms of its base political culture, a regional protest party.

The proof of this lies in the coded language used where the base understands, but where the rest of the media see oblique thrusts.

A case in point is abortion. Instead of Steve Harper saying, "An M.P. can introduce a private members bill and we can take it to a vote, but I, personally don't want it ... I, personally--as a leader--wish to avoid these divisive issues. I, personally, don't agree with abortion, but, as a political leader, I understand that this debate itself should be aborted. A woman has the right to choose."

Harper needs to express his political views, instead of hiding behind "the right of M.P.s to express themselves".

So, if you are in the political center, this is what any leader would say, more or less:

On Gay rights: "Apparently, God made queers too. Basically, religion and politics don’t mix. And, if a man has been with another man for 30 years and nursed him for 10 while he was dying, why should his no-good next of kin--that never saw him--get the preferential treatment just because he wasn't allowed to marry."

On The judiciary: "The Supreme court must interpret the laws under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. You know, Constitutional Liberalism has been called 'unjust' many times before. Like when the Supreme Court and the Executive Branch in Washington overturned the democratic will of regional politics in Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi in the early sixties."

On Iraq: "OK. I was wrong. I fucked up. I believed what the Bush team said about the imminent threat bullshit. Knowing what we know now, we should've let the inspectors do their job, then re-assess on the basis of more evidence, and then pursued Bin Laden with greater vigour. No Canadian boys should die especially when the predicate for the war is proved to be false."

Since our old friend Mulroney went to the political fringes of Quebec to gain a foothold there, and in the process creating Bouchard, there has been no "national" party except for the Liberals, who, are themselves now shut out of Quebec (according to polls).

I’ll be interviewing Steve Harper very soon. I will look him in the eye and he will not escape direct answers–-which will show whether he is really a national leader or a protest fringe player in his heart, and in the heart of his real political culture.

That's the question: is he a national leader? Or, culturally and politically, is he the Manchurian Candidate Trojan Horse of Alberta religious and regional values?

Come to Jesus, Stephen.

Come to me first.