Saturday, October 4, 2008

His love of the forces

A former adviser recalls surveys early in Mr. Harper's leadership that found five lenses through which Canadians viewed their country: health care, not being American, peacekeeping, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and multiculturalism/ immigration.

"It's not that Harper is per se against any of these; indeed, he has to try to identify his party with some of them such as multiculturalism/ immigration. But he is trying to search for new definitions that would be more akin to a Conservative Canada. The most obvious is defence, and what a more robust defence capability would mean for projecting Canada in the world."

The Canadian Forces are popular; spending more money on them is not necessarily so, according to opinion polls. Mr. Harper knows this, but he believes that the spending is both necessary and politically useful. After all, a Conservative minister notes, "we're the only conservative party in the world that isn't the party of patriotism."

It helps that support for the military is something emotional for Mr. Harper. "He thinks that it's intrinsic in the Canadian experience," a senior minister says. "That's not rhetoric. That is part of his makeup. ... I don't think he wears his religion on his sleeve, but he wears his love of the forces on his sleeve." And he wears the Canadian flag in his lapel. He will end a speech by saying, "God Bless Canada," or, more recently, "God keep our land glorious and free."