Firstly, I should say that I haven't yet read Marci McDonald's The Armageddon Factor, but I have read the original Walrus article upon which it is based, and I've followed many of smartest writers on the intersection of Pulpit and Politics that Canada possesses. Furthermore, over the course of the years I myself have written frequently and extensively on many of the same people that appear in the pages of Ms. McDonald's book.
So, that said, when it comes to her main contention: that the Christian Right is "on the rise" in Canada, I have to conclude with Mr. Brian Lilley. It isn't, really:
While McDonald details the organizations that these two and others work with, she really fails to make the case that they are having an impact on government policy. There is an attempt to link the Universal Child Care Benefit which pays parents $100 per month for each child under six to the religious right by showing that social conservatives supported it. That's hardly a stellar case. She also attempts to show failures such as the Unborn Victims of Crime bill and an attempt to restrict government funding to some films, as victories for these socially conservative Christians.
Yet ask social conservatives what they have been given by this government and they are hard pressed to think of much since the cancellation of the court challenges program in 2006. Even the G8 maternal health initiative, controversial with some for not including abortion has not changed overall government policy, a point made clear by Margaret Biggs when the deputy minister at the Canadian International Development Agency testified before a Commons committee recently.
Yes, Charles McVety gets an inordinate amount of face-time with the current Prime Minister; and yes it is infuriating that whether or not the Toronto Pride celebration gets federal funding depends on bible-waving hill-folk like Saskatoon—Humboldt MP Bradley Trost. But Mr. Lilley is correct in noting that the quality of the Christian Right's "victories" has been very poor, consisting largely of private members' bills that failed or were never voted upon, and tiny sums shaved here and there from organizations that will survive the cuts, and whose funding can be restored at the stroke of a pen when Harper and his gang are finally sent packing.
Let's walk through a concrete example: take the Maternal Health initiative that the Conservative government intends to unveil at June's G-8 summit, and particularly the kerfuffle over their refusal to fund abortion in that initiative.
How big a victory is this for the Christian Right?
Well, as I've explained previously, the Canadian position on the face of it is simply not acceptable to our G-8 allies. Secretary of State Clinton's intervention back in March made that abundantly clear. But there is room for compromise, and the compromise that seems very likely to emerge in June is as follows: Harper will propose a "framework" for action on Maternal Health, with this framework being divided into discreet little pots (as it were) named names like "training health care workers", "contraception" "safe abortions", "micro nutrients", and so forth. G-8 countries will be invited to drop money into one or more of these pots, with Canada assiduously avoiding the one marked "abortions".
But here's the point: abortion will still get funded--it will still be one of items contained within the framework. In fact, you could probably argue that Canada will still fund it, at least indirectly, as who can say where a dollar originally placed within pot labelled "micro-nutrients" will finally wind up? The "victory" here is merely the construction of an elaborate artifice to cover over these two facts, to make the government's capitulation to the G-8 majority a little less obvious to its supporters within the Christian Right , or at least easier for them to swallow.
And that's the kind of victory you get in lieu of something more substantial that your "Christian Friendly" government is politically unable to give you. It is surely not a sign of increasing influence; if anything, it is a sign of the sharp constraints placed upon this government's ability to please its TheoCon supporters.
So I'm afraid I am not as worried as Ms. McDonald.