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The extreme views of Stockwell Day


Judy Rebick

Gloria

Steinem once quipped that she was going to ask for political asylum in Canada.

Michael Moore too talks about how much more progressive is Canada than the U.S.

And up until recently, they have been right. In the long shadow cast by free

trade and globalization, Canada is getting more and more Americanized. Nowhere

is this more obvious than in the rise of a right- wing party that deeply

resembles the Republicans and that openly promotes making Canada more like the

U.S.

This

ultra right-wing party, formerly the Reform Party, now called the Canadian

Alliance is the Official Opposition in Canada’s Parliament. Their newly

elected leader makes Newt Gingrich look progressive. Stockwell Day is a

fundamentalist Christian with a history in the government of the province of

Alberta of fighting abortion and gay rights.

In

1988, Stockwell Day said granting greater access to abortion would prompt a rise

in child abuse. “The thinking is,” he said, “if you can cut a child to

pieces or burn them alive with salt solution while they’re still in the womb,

what’s wrong with knocking them around a little when they’re outside the

womb.”

He

told the Ottawa Citizen: “I do believe life begins at conception. The very

first time I ran for election, I took out an editorial in the local newspaper

and said ‘look I am a democrat. (But) on this issue, because I see it as a

human rights issue, if you wanted me to vote to promote that I wouldn’t be

able to do that.”

Anti-abortion

groups who played a major role in organizing support for his leadership campaign

told the Vancouver Sun that they wouldn’t expect abortion to be banned under a

Stockwell Day government, at least not right away. They expect that the issue

would once again come to the forefront and that Day would work, as he did in

Alberta, to end funding for abortion services by pronouncing them medically

unnecessary.

Of

course the hopes of the anti-abortion groups don’t fit very well with Day’s

radical decentralist positions. Neither do the hopes of religious minorities

that Day will support public funding for religious schools. Nevertheless on CFRB

radio in Toronto, an orthodox Jew, fundamentalist Moslem and a Mormon all called

to say that Day had told their communities that he would support public funding

of private religious schools. Not even the most centralist Canadian Prime

Minister in history has interfered with primary education, which is provincial

jurisdiction, yet Day promises to do so.

Day

fiercely supports the rights of religious schools to teach whatever they want

and to hire whomever they want. He told Alberta Report in 1984, “Standards of

education are not set by government but by God, the Bible, the home and the

school.”

On

gay rights, he says he supports the Liberal position against gay marriage. But

it was Day who tried to get his government in invoke the notwithstanding clause

to overturn the Supreme Court decision writing protection of gays in the human

rights code.

I

was in the studio when BC talk show host Rafe Mair questioned Day about his

views on gay rights at the beginning of his campaign for the Alliance

leadership. After trying to dodge a series of hard questions, Day finally

explained that he felt similarly when a constituent asked him to make bigamy

legal.

“I

told him, said Day, “ if you want to live with two women, that’s your choice

but we cannot make it legal.”

“Are

you actually suggesting that a same sex relationship is the same as bigamy?”

asked Mair incredulously.

Stockwell

Day is a deeply conservative man reflecting views similar to the Moral Majority

in the United States.

Day

is trying to quietly shelve his views under the pressure of the desire for

political power in a country where more than 80 percent are pro-choice and a

significant majority support gay rights but that’s not what he’s done in

Alberta. At the very least his election will give new voice and energy to the

anti-feminist, anti-gay, fundamentalist religious forces who have been sidelined

politically in the 1990′s.

His

fiscal policies are just as right-wing as his social policies. He supports a

flat tax and radical decentralization of power, especially over social

programmes to the provinces. He is raking money hand over fist from Canada’s

corporate elite which had refused to fund his predecessor, Preston Manning.

Day

is being handled by very slick operators and he himself is both telegenic and

street smart. His television performance is reminiscent of Ronald Regan. The

corporate media in Canada, at first quite hostile to Day, has now taken a shine

to him as the new kid on the block. With a Liberal government that is starting

to look stale and arrogant in power and a social democratic party stuck at 10%

in the polls, there is a real fear that if Day succeeds in putting his extreme

social conservative views in the closet, he has a chance at significant

electoral gains.

There

is one silver lining in the cloud of Stockwell Day’s leadership bid. Having

such a strong opponent of women’s and gay rights in the position of leader of

the official opposition might just remobilise a women’s movement that has

lacked a central focus for while. It might also draw the attention of some of

those young who are taking to the streets to fight globalization to what’s

happening in party politics right here at home.   

 

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