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Young Canadian voters not concerned with Harper rise

REUTERS/Andy Clark

Kate and I were married last year in Vancouver, and I remember the bed and breakfast host laughed at the idea of Conservative Party head Stephen Harper and his ilk ever coming into power. She said he was a clown, an empty suit, and a far-right nut that had no base of real support — and that she couldn’t see any reason that he’d have a political future other than as a noisemaker. She said that people thought he was a laughingstock — a lot like Bush in many ways.

Well, I wonder what she’s thinking right about now — Harper’s lead in the race for Prime Minister is up to 11 percentage points, and young voters don’t have a problem with Conservatives taking power. (The Canadian Press):

Canada would not lurch to the far right under a Conservative government led by Stephen Harper, says The Canadian Press election youth panel.

While there is uncertainty surrounding what a Harper government would mean for the country if the Conservatives are elected Jan. 23, the novice voters say uncertainty is to be expected in any period of change.

“Harper has demonstrated during this election campaign that he is not the ‘extreme right-winger’ that the Liberals have made him out to be. The Conservatives have developed a lot since the last election and are really in tune with most Canadians.”

— Alanna Mayne, 23, of Halifax, NS – and a recent grad in public administration, about marriage equality foe Stephen Harper

That observation would surely be music to the ears of Conservatives, who were badly burned during the last campaign in 2004 when Liberal attacks painted them as extremists and pulled a minority victory away from Tory grasp.

Among other things, voters worried the Conservatives would reopen the sensitive same-sex marriage debate and turn back the clock on abortion rights. Panel member Jonathan Lumer, however, said he wasn’t so sure those fears have been allayed.

I expect a Harper government to act as they have said they will act: I expect them to make it more difficult for homosexuals to feel equal,” said Lumer, 22, a customer-service representative in Montreal. In addition, Lumer said a Tory government would “make life easier for corporations and the very rich” by cutting corporate taxes, easing environmental regulations and making a push to privatize health care.

Much of this is about a desire for “change,” as the Liberal government, which has ruled for 13 years, has been knee-deep in corruption — a clean sweep/party change is due in these young people’s minds, which is not surprising

They should be careful for what they ask for. We had millions of voters (plus just enough Diebold-generated ballots, depending on who you talk to) put the current buffoon into office back in 2000. Many of these voters wanted a similar clean sweep after Bill Clinton’s Oval Office Hijinks (how quaint that all looks in hindsight compared to the criminal Bush Administration, huh?) It was all convincingly skewed and pitched well by the Rove machine then and again in Round 2 (2004). The Dems, inept in so many ways, have yet to unleash an effective way to campaign against an easy target.

The Canadian Conservatives are taking a page out of the GOP book and promising reform, and that is what is attracting more voters. One of the alarms that should be going off for those that think the fear of a rollback on gay rights or abortion is overrated might want to check out more quotes from young voters.

“We must keep in mind that before we can take a leading role on these issues, there must be restoration of trust in the Canadian government and some much-needed house cleaning,” said [Adam] Guiney, a political science student in Edmonton.

“Harper’s government will fail to provide the necessary leadership, but they can certainly restore legitimacy to the federal system.”

Bryce Barfoot, 22, a business student in Peterborough, Ont., said he expected a Harper government would act similarly to former Ontario Conservative premier Mike Harris. “When the Tories led Ontario, they made some hard decisions that people may not have liked but were necessary,” said Barfoot.

“(However), I expect that gay rights will become an issue which is bad – the federal government has many, many more issues more trying than that.”

Yes, as it was here, for some voters civil rights are a secondary issue — it’s something that can be cast overboard in exchange for promises of vague “change” or “restoration of values” or “honesty in government,” etc. The sad truth is that the Liberal Party has allowed its corruption to jeopardize the very values that need to be upheld.

One can only hope that whatever power the Conservatives attain in the election will be tempered by the country’s parliamentary system.

Canadian Blenders, please jump in and tell us what’s the real scoop on this apparent sea change.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding