Canada yesterday elected a minority Conservative government, sending Liberals home after 12 years in power.
The Conservative leader, now Prime Minister-elect, Stephen Harper, has no plans to privatize the Canadian health system, nor to open up the country to a flood of immigrants from the south. But he is closer to the U.S. than outgoing Liberal PM Paul Martin was, a fact which crippled Harper's last run in 2004.
Also at issue were some of the same social questions we're fighting over down here:
Martin warned that Harper would try to reverse last year's vote legalizing same-sex marriage, would seek to erode abortion rights and would pack the judiciary with conservative judges.
Harper stayed above the fray, insisting that those social issues were not on his agenda. Instead, he promised to slightly reduce the national sales tax, replace a sputtering national day-care program with direct payments to parents and increase penalties for gun-related crimes.
Yes, the Conservative wants to toughen gun laws. But let's wait and see about those social issues. I expect the next couple of years will see some fireworks in Parliament.
The biggest difference between the Canadian Conservatives and our Republicans is that the Tories really are free of significant corruption. In fact, the Liberals lost in part because of a campaign finance scandal, in which Federal money was used to fund pro-Federal advertisements in Quebec. This caused an outrage in Canada similar to the outrage felt over the U.S. funding scandal when...um...let me think about this...
Also of note, since Harper doesn't have a clear majority of Parliament, he has to work with the opposition. It's quite an interesting concept: the two biggest parties, duking it out on the floor, coming up with policies they both can live with for a while.