Monday, May 30, 2005

How many social conservatives does it take to change a light-bulb?

Only one. But while he's doing it, the others pray that the rest of us will see the light!

Just kidding. Let's try it again. How many social conservatives are there in Parliament, in the CPC, and/or the country? And how many will there be following the coming election?

In several earlier threads we tried looked at MPs' voting records. There are at least fifty Conservatives in Parliament whose voting has been perfect from the perspective of the Campaign Life Coalition, a prolife advocacy group; there are about a dozen Liberals. There are ten or so socons who can be identified among CPC nominees and more no doubt in the future. But not all these will be elected, and some of them are replacing retiring MPs who might be socons.

So how many are we talking about? After the dust settles after the following election there will probably be roughly 75 socon MPs, or about 25% of Parliament. Is that too many? Perhaps for some. But I suspect that something in the order of 25% of Canada's population hold similar views. So my guess is that there is not much to see here.

Socons flex their muscle

Towards the end of the Toronto Star article on tensions within the Conservative party is this little tidbit:
[Charles McVety, president of Canada Christian College] also made no apologies for Defend Marriage's political activism. The coalition and its members have signalled they will run independent candidates to oppose a trio of Tory MPs who voted for the government's marriage bill.
At the very least this shows that the Conservative Party and Defend Marriage are not coterminous.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Conservative MPs with perfect socon records

Campaign Life (a pro-life group) keeps the voting records of all MPs on the issues that matter to them--legislation about marriage, abortion, and stem cell research (see here). Here are the current Conservative MPs who have 'perfect' records:
  1. Abbott, Jim (Kootenay—Columbia)
  2. Ablonczy, Diane (Calgary-Nose Hill)
  3. Anders, Rob (Calgary West)
  4. Anderson, David (Cypress Hills – Grasslands)
  5. Benoit, Leon (Lakeland)
  6. Breitkreuz, Garry (Yorkton-Melville)
  7. Casson, Rick (Lethbridge)
  8. *Chatters, David (Westlock-St. Paul)
  9. Cummins, John (Delta- Richmond East)
  10. Day, Stockwell (Okanagan-Coquihalla)
  11. Doyle, Norman (St. John’s North)
  12. *Duncan, John (Vancouver Island North)
  13. Epp, Ken (Edmonton-Sherwood Park)
  14. Fitzpatrick, Brian (Prince Albert)
  15. Forseth, Paul (New Westminster-Coquitlam)
  16. Gallant, Cheryl (Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke)
  17. Goldring, Peter (Edmonton Centre-East)
  18. Gouk, Jim (Southern Interior)
  19. Grewal, Gurmant (Newton-North Delta)
  20. Hanger, Art (Calgary Northeast)
  21. Harper, Stephen (Calgary Southwest)
  22. Harris, Richard (Cariboo Prince George)
  23. Hearn, Loyola (St. John’s South)
  24. Hill, Jay (Prince George-Peace River)
  25. Hilstrom, Howard (Selkirk-Interlake)
  26. Hinton, Betty (Kamloops, Thompson )
  27. Johnston, Dale (Wetaskiwin)
  28. Kenney, Jason (Calgary Southeast)
  29. Lunn, Gary (Saanich-Gulf Islands)
  30. Lunney, James (Nanaimo-Alberni)
  31. Merrifield, Rob (Yellowhead)
  32. Mills, Bob (Red Deer)
  33. Obhrai, Deepak (Calgary East)
  34. Pallister, Brian (Portage-Lisgar)
  35. Penson, Charlie (Peace River)
  36. Rajotte, James (Edmonton Leduc)
  37. Reid, Scott (Lanark-Carleton)
  38. *Reynolds, John (Vancouver-Sunshine Coast)
  39. Ritz, Gerry (Battlefords-Lloydminster)
  40. Schellenberger, Gary (Perth-Middlesex)
  41. *Schmidt, Werner (Kelowna)
  42. Skelton, Carol (Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar)
  43. Solberg, Monte (Medicine Hat)
  44. Sorenson, Kevin (Crowfoot)
  45. *Stinson, Darrel (N. Okanagan-Shuswap)
  46. Strahl, Chuck (Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon)
  47. Thompson, Greg (St. Croix-Bellisle)
  48. Thompson, Myron (Wild Rose)
  49. Toews, Vic (Provencher)
  50. Vellacott, Maurice (Saskatoon-Wanuskewin)
  51. *White, Randy (Abbotsford)
  52. Williams, John (Edmonton - St. Albert)
  53. Yelich, Lynne (Blackstrap)

Liberal MPs with perfect socon voting records

Campaign Life (a pro-life group) keeps the voting records of all MPs on the issues that matter to them--legislation about marriage, abortion, and stem cell research (see here). Here are the current Liberal MPs who have 'perfect' records:

  1. Matthews, Bill (Random-Burin-St. George’s)
  2. Bonin, Raymond (Nickel Belt)
  3. Karygiannis, Jim (Scarborough-Agincourt)
  4. Longfield, Judi (Whitby-Oshawa)
  5. McTeague, Dan (Pickering-Scarb East)
  6. O’Brien, Pat (London-Fanshawe)
  7. Savoy, Andy (Tobique-Mactaquac)
  8. Steckle, Paul (Huron-Bruce)
  9. Szabo, Paul (Mississauga South)
  10. Ur, Rose-Marie (Middlesex -Kent-Lambton)
  11. Wappel, Tom (Scarborough Southwest)
  12. Gallaway, Roger (Sarnia-Lambton)
  13. MacAulay, Lawrence (Cardigan)
  14. Wilfert, Bryon (Richmond Hill)
  15. Cannis John (Scarborough Centre)
  16. Chamberlain, Brenda (Guelph)
  17. Malhi, Gurbax (Bramalea-Gore-Malton)
  18. McKay, John (Scarborough Guildwood)

Do socon nominees matter?

Over at Flash Point Canada an important question is raised: so what?
These people are right out front with their beliefs that I find abhorrent, it's not hidden. They oppose same-sex marriage. They oppose pro-choice causes. That's fine, I know it, everyone will know if an election comes.
FPC is raising in the context of the alleged hidden agenda of the CPC and points out that here are people whose agenda is clearly not hidden. I agree with this completely ... almost.

But there is another point here that needs to be raised. The Reform party changed conservative politics in many important ways. One of them was an emphasis on freely-voting MPs, an emphasis that was taken over by the Alliance and now the Conservative Party. Does the party have a hidden agenda on (say) abortion? Not at all. The party's position is quite clear. It has no position. Its MPs can vote freely.

Having freely-voting MPs puts an additional burden on us voters, since we do not merely have to look at the party platform and leadership when we make our decisions. We now also have to look at the personal positions of the MPs, something that Canadians have not had to do previously. Otherwise we run the risk--at least in theory--that the next parliament has (say) an anti-abortion majority, even though abortion itself did not come up during the election.

So, who are these socons? and is there any threat that their influence in Parliament might grow larger than that in the population as a whole?

Which Conservative MPs are not socons

A problem that has arisen in our count of socons within different parties within parliament is one of definition--who counts as a socon? With some, the identification is fairly easy, since they self-identify. Kevin Serviss, for example, is a Pentecostal minister and his acceptance speech at the Sudbury nomination meeted was greeted with cries of 'amen', 'that's right!', etc. (see here).

Campaign Life has published a record of parliamentary votes about the issues that they care about (here), and someone whose voting record is perfectly in accordance with Campaign Life's preferences is at least a possible socon.

It might be better, however, to remove those MPs whose record is not 'perfect'. Here are the Conservatives who in one way or another disappointed Campaign Life:

  1. Gerald Keddy, South Shore; voted for C-250 to include sexual orientation under hate speech; voted against M-83 to study the necessity of abortion; recently has voted for same-sex marriage

  2. Peter Mackay, Central Nova; voted for C-250; voted against M-83; voted for C-13 on reproductive technologies

  3. Loyola Hearn, St. John's South; voted for C-250

  4. James Moore, Port Moody-etc.; voted against M-83 (and recently for ssm)

  5. Bill Casey, North Nova.; voted against M-83

  6. Rahim Jaffer, Edmonton-Strathcona.; voted against M-83

  7. Inky Mark, Dauphin-etc.; voted against M-83

  8. Jim Prentice, Calgary-Centre.; (voted for ssm)
These Conservatives, we can perhaps assume, aren't socons. (Or can we? Hearn is disqualified for voting for C-250, which made hate-speech towards homosexuals illegal. But one might believe that homosexuality is morally wrong--a socon position--and still support such a law.)

(We shouldn't assume, however, that all the rest are. More on this later.)

How many evangelical-swallows make up a takeover-spring?

Yesterday's G&M articles (archived here and for the google link, try here) raise the question of whether CPC nominations are being captured by evangelical activists. A few examples are cited. But as several commentators have noted, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with evangelicals participating in politics, or in them organizing their own community politically. They are merely doing what many ethnic communities have been doing in urban centers for decades.

Is it a question of proportion? I'm sure many people would express dismay if every successful Conservative nominee were closely associated with groups like the 'Equipping Christians for the Public Square Centre', 'Focus on the Family', or the 'Defend Marriage Coalition'. Or even if it were 50% or even 33%.

But, frankly, so far something less than a dozen such nominees have been identified (here), and not all of these necessarily belong in a list of evangelical activists. (I have my doubts about Weston, for example.) So far, I suspect, there is no clear pattern. Some nominations are being won by evangelical 'machines'; in other ridings where evangelicals had carried the CPC-flag in recent elections (Meneer in London; Penell in Burlington), this year's nominees are coming from the 'mainstream'.

So, although I think this phenomenon bears watching, I don't think there is anything of concern yet.

[edited for clarity: Sat 12:16 pm]

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Who is a socon, anyway?

As you probably know, we've been constructing a running list of socon nominees. I've spent the last day or two trying to construct a similar list of MPs. But who counts?

A method that I've always subscribed to is to let someone else do the work. The good people over at the Campaign Life Coalition track voting of Parliamentarians on the issues that they care about--abortion, gay marriage, reproductive technology.

They list there five bills of recent years that are important to them.
  • The 1999 Definition of Marriage Vote.

  • The 2003 Definition of Marriage Vote.

  • Bill C-250 adding ‘sexual orientation’ to hate crime.

  • Motion M-83 asking for study on medical necessity of abortion.

  • Bill C-13 Reproductive technologies bill.
One would assume, I think, that anyone who would vote in keeping with the directive of the Campaign Life Coalition should count as a social conservative. (Of course, we should update the lists with those who have voted against same-sex marriage.)

Running list of so-con nominees

The story in the Globe & Mail about the success of social conservative activists in winning battles for Conservative nominations raises some interesting issues. The first point, of course, is that everyone should agree that so-cons are perfectly within their rights to organize politically. By the same token, of course, others are free to express concern about their influence and to decide whether or not to support them or their party.

It would be worth knowing how many ridings are affected. So this post will keep a running list, with references.
  1. Andrew House in Halifax

  2. Rakesh Khosla in Halifax West

  3. Paul Francis in Sackville-Eastern Shore

  4. Darrel Reid in Richmond (past president of Focus on the Family, Canada). On his nomination and its aftermath, see here and here

  5. Cindy Silver in North Vancouver (Legal Consultant (Public Policy) for Focus on the Family Canada)

  6. Marc Dalton in New Westminster-Burnaby (former pastor of a community church in Burnaby)

  7. Kevin Serviss in Sudbury (pentecostal preacher) here and here

  8. Ron Cannan in Kelowna

  9. Rondo Thomas in Ajax (VP of Canada Christian College)

  10. David Sweet in Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough (founding president of Promise Keepers Canada)

  11. Harold Albrecht in Kitchner-Conestoga (pastor of Pathway Community Church in Kitcher and organizer of anti-ssm-marriage rallies [here])

[Note: this post was originally posted at Buckets of Grewal. I decided, however, that Buckets should focus exclusively on the Grewal Affair. Several of the out-takes from that site are now here.]

Friday, May 27, 2005

Simpson (G&M): Why Stephen Harper is going to lose more sleep

Friday, May 27, 2005 Page A19

John Weston, federal Conservative candidate in West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast, has a bone to pick.

A recent column described his law firm as a "Christian law firm." It ascribed that description to the firm's website. These were wrong assertions. The firm's website makes no such reference.

Apology offered. The confusion arose, in the haste of writing, from articles that Mr. Weston had written that were posted on the Christian Legal Fellowship website -- articles he has since asked to be withdrawn from the site.

In one, Mr. Weston described the process of forming a "Christian law firm," including avoiding the use of the term in marketing in case "the label 'Christian' might backfire by embarrassing the Kingdom of God . . . and drive away clients who might be turned off or mystified by the spiritual connection."

His firm, Mr. Weston explains in an article, is distinguished from "other great firms where I have worked" by the "regularity and informality of prayer practised by the partners." Would everyone feel comfortable working in such surroundings? Mr. Weston says "we brought in the Christian head of a Christian development organization [who] suggested that hiring interviews could include allusion to the practices of professionals at the workplace such as prayer."

How Mr. Weston practises law is his own business and that of his partners. He's a Harvard graduate, after all. But he is a Conservative Party candidate, and his public religiosity illustrates a trend that is popping up elsewhere in Canada -- candidates from, or associated with, Christian faith movements or churches are winning more Conservative nominations than ever.

The result must be to give these religious conservatives at least greater influence in a party that already has several handfuls of such men and women in the parliamentary caucus. Their candidacies pose a difficult political challenge for Stephen Harper, who must give some solace to these conservatives on a few issues without appearing to be beholden to them.

Little could be more politically lethal for the party's chances of forming a national government than the perception that religious conservatives have disproportionate influence. But this sort of candidate has won nominations or is already a Conservative MP, so they cannot be utterly ignored.

Four such candidates, including Mr. Weston, recently won nominations in British Columbia's Lower Mainland. In Nova Scotia, three candidates with Christian affiliations have been nominated. And some are showing up as nomination winners in Ontario. The new candidates are interesting because they are not from traditional bedrock conservative rural areas, but from urban centres.

David Sweet, for example, is back as Conservative candidate in the Hamilton-area riding of Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Westdale. He won a sharply contested nomination there before the last election; this time, it was by acclamation. When he sought the nomination the first time, his website underscored his six-year presidency of the Canadian chapter of Promise Keepers. This time, his website says only that he headed a "national non-profit organization." Promise Keepers, a huge and growing movement in the United States, describes its vision "to challenge Canadian men to discover the incredible life quest that God has for them as revealed by Christ and the Holy Scriptures."

In Ajax-Pickering, Rondo Thomas just won a contested nomination for the Conservatives. He's an official with the Canada Christian College.

In Nova Scotia, the three nominated candidates with published Christian links -- including Paul Francis, a minister in Lower Sackville -- insisted that the links had nothing to do with their nominations.

Maybe, but at a rally three weeks ago organized by the Annapolis Valley Fellowship, the roughly 700 attendees were encouraged to back the three in their nomination fights. According to a report in the Halifax Chronicle-Herald, an information sheet circulated at the meeting stated: "We need strong Christian, pro-family people to become members of Parliament from our area to represent us in Ottawa."

The specific issue that animates these candidates and other social conservatives is gay marriage and, more broadly, what they see as an assault on the traditional family. They are furiously opposed to same-sex marriage on moral, religious and family grounds. Ultimately, they will discover that the only legal way to reverse gay marriage is using the notwithstanding clause in the Constitution. Mr. Harper must know this perfectly well, but he won't risk saying so.

In the last election, a handful of social conservative MPs blurted out comments that the Liberals seized on with telling effect. This time, Mr. Harper will have more of these candidates to worry about.