A CULTURE OF DEFIANCE: History of the Reform-Conservative Party of Canada
"For Harper, the courtship of the Christian right is unlikely to prove an electoral one-night stand. Three years ago, in a speech to the annual Conservative think-fest, Civitas, he outlined plans for a broad new party coalition that would ensure a lasting hold on power. The only route, he argued, was to focus not on the tired wish list of economic conservatives or “neo-cons,” as they’d become known, but on what he called “theo-cons”—those social conservatives who care passionately about hot-button issues that turn on family, crime, and defence.
"Even foreign policy had become a theo-con issue, he pointed out, driven by moral and religious convictions. “The truth of the matter is that the real agenda and the defining issues have shifted from economic issues to social values,” he said, “so conservatives must do the same.
"Arguing that the party had to come up with tough, principled stands on everything from parents’ right to spank their children to putting “hard power” behind the country’s foreign-policy commitments ... " (1)
Stephen Harper's exploitation of the Religious Right was planned and nurtured over many years. Even back in the Reform Party days, he tapped into many front groups, who were able to enjoy enormous tax benefits, while claiming to be religious, charitable or civic enterprises; when in fact they were highly motivated to get the Reformers elected. Many fell under the Northern Foundation (2), a group to which he was as founding member (3) and included the anti-feminist REAL Women of Canada. (4)
But it wasn't until Stockwell Day and Jason Kenney hit the federal political scene, that their armies became mobilized. This was going to be a culture war that not only pit Christian extremists against government, but "Bible-believing fundamentalists against their Christian brethren." (5) It was not merely an attempt to replace politicians at all levels with Christians, they had to be "born again" Christians. People who believed in the absolute, literal word of the Bible. Or at least how they interpreted that word.
And one of the people leading the charge was Charles Mcvety, a close personal friend and long time supporter of Jim Flaherty.
McVety .. turned to key strategists who choreographed the religious right’s takeover of the Republican Party to help ... In February of 2004, he imported Jerry Falwell for an “Emergency Pastors Briefing” to rally six hundred evangelical clergymen against a bill that included making denunciations of homosexuality a hate crime. In December of 2005, he helped to launch the Institute for Canadian Values with a gala dinner tutorial from Ralph Reed "the boyish tactical wizard behind Pat Robertson’s Christian Coalition, which succeeded Falwell’s Moral Majority and helped mobilize the South for Bush." (5)
Rondo Thomas and Equipping Christians for the Public Square
With nearly two million believers in his grassroots guerrilla force, Reed terrified liberal Republicans with his organizational stealth. “I paint my face and travel at night,” he once boasted. “You don’t know it’s over until you’re in a body bag. You don’t know until election night.”
... his appearance a day after the federal election call drew a sold-out crowd of evangelical and Conservative activists, including Senator Anne Cools and McVety’s old friend Jim Flaherty who, as Ontario’s attorney general, had once called for jailing the homeless.
But Reed also offered a lesson on how to take over a nomination contest or a riding. “He taught us all that only a handful of people actually go and seriously volunteer to get someone elected,” McVety says. “We’re talking about 150 people per riding. Tiny numbers! This is the size of a small church.” (1)
Working through another Flaherty supporter, Tristan Emmanuel, founder of a group called Equipping Christians for the Public Square; Mcvety began his covert operations. I don't know if he painted his face and travelled at night, but he set his sights on a few dozen ridings scattered across the country.
McVety himself zeroed in on one particular target: Mark Holland, the Liberal MP in his own riding of Ajax-Pickering, who had organized the pivotal caucus petition that convinced Paul Martin to push Bill C-38 [same-sex marriage bill] through before the Commons’ summer recess last year. (1)
McVety helped to engineer the nomination of Rondo Thomas, his longtime deputy at Canada Christian College, but then a video surfaced of Thomas that questioned his ability to function in the world.
A video has recently surfaced showing Ajax Pickering Conservative candidate Rondo Thomas whipping up his troops in the battle against equal marriage for same-sex couples. As the top lieutenant of Defend Marriage Coalition leader Charles McVety, Mr. Thomas played an active but mostly low-profile part in the
fight against passage of Bill C-38, the equal marriage bill.
In the video, Mr. Thomas was quoted as saying:
“There is going to be a clash of morality views between those who believe in righteousness and those who believe in immorality and when we collide there is going to be conflict…It doesn’t matter what the media says, it doesn’t matter what the government says — the facts don’t count. We are going to win this conflict.” Rondo Thomas is one of the top leaders of those against equal marriage and he is intimately connected with everyone from Charles McVety to Campaign Life Coalition to American Ralph Reed, founder of the Christian Coalition.”(6)
But McVety did something else that even more disturbing. He phoned Mark Holland, the Liberal candidate who went on to win the election.
“How are your constituents going to feel about you not being married?” Almost no one knew that Holland and the mother of his three children had never tied the knot in their fourteen years together. The MP was stunned. “To me it was a veiled threat,” he says. (1)
Emmanuel was a candidate in the 1997 federal election for the Christian Heritage Party, and has been a long time political activist for Canada's far right. He was behind a group called Canadians for George Bush, who rallied for Canada to join the Iraq War. Speakers included Jim Flaherty, Stockwell Day and Tim Hudak, who is Mike Harris's protegee.
Galloping Beaver discusses how Tristan Emmanuel and his Equipping Christians for the Public Square worked behind the scenes to get Stephen Harper elected.
If anything is not receiving sufficient attention during this election campaign it is the hard link between Stephen Harper's Conservatives and the likes of Tristan Emmanuel ... which should be a clear reminder that the Conservative Party of Canada is not the old Progressive Conservative Party. In fact, the CPC is rapidly becoming more and more like the US Republican Party and that is particularly so with respect to the influence of the dominionist bible movement or, the "Christian right".
He has been active in promoting "Christians" to run for the Conservatives who now have at least nine candidates sporting radical Christian credentials. All of them openly campaign against same-sex marriage, most want abortion made illegal and some are virulent racists. A good proportion of them have been or are leaders of the Canadian branches of organizations such as Focus On The Family and the Promise Keepers.
Emmanuel has some rather disturbing beliefs of his own. He praised Franklin Graham for his openly stated opinion that Islam was an "evil and wicked religion" and endorsed the belief that Christians and Muslims did not share the same God, which in Emmanuel's view made Muslims infidels. He has described gays and lesbians as "sexual deviants". Canadians have a reason to be nervous. The CPC is moving closer to the position in which the US Republican Party finds itself. If the Conservatives form government, the differences will be difficult to distinguish. (7)
It has been four years since that election and the Religious Right has actually become even more powerful, a force that is going to be very difficult to remove from "office".
Religious front groups now dominate the political landscape, and as Stephen Harper and his Reform movement work diligently to turn Canadians off politics, they will continue to strengthen their hold on Canadian governance.
Unfortunately, our media ignored this threat simply becasue they didn't want to attack someone's religious beleifs. But we are under attack now. And you have to remember that these Christian extremists are even going after mainstream Christians who promote a social gospel.
They only want fundamentalists like themselves.
1. Stephen Harper and the Theo-cons: The rising clout of Canada's religious right, By Marci McDonald, The Walrus, October 2006
2. Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper demonstrates continued ultra right wing affiliations by blocking pro social justice Toronto candidate, By Dr. Debra Chin, The Canadian
3. Preston Manning and the Reform Party. Author: Murray Dobbin Goodread Biographies/Formac Publishing 1992 ISBN: 0-88780-161-7, pg. 100
4. Of Passionate Intensity: Right-Wing Populism and the Reform Party of Canada. Author: Trevor Harrison Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1995. ISBN: 0-8020-7204-6, Pg. 121
5. The Armageddon Factor: The Rise of Christian Nationalism in Canada, By: Marci McDonald, Random House Canada, 2010, ISBN: 978-0-307-35646-8
6. Rondo Thomas: Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing: Campaign cover-up going on, Egale Canada, January 16, 2006
7. The Albatross Around Stephen Harper's Neck, The Galloping Beaver, January 2, 2006