Attempts to treat elections in separate countries as part of an international trend are usually foolish if not downright misleading. So the Conservative Party victory in yesterday’s Canadian election should not be interpreted as either a followup to last November’s Republican victory in the United States or a foreshadowing of a GOP win in 2012. All politics is local, and Stephen Harper’s big victory is strictly a Canadian deal.
The reasons for that victory are complicated. After several years of leading a government with only a minority of seats in parliament, Harper finally convinced Canadians that it was time to trust the Tories with a majority. The Liberals were undercut by the rise of the leftist New Democratic Party, and the Liberal leader, former Harvard professor Michael Ignatieff, fell flat. Ignatieff lost his own seat as well as the national election. Perhaps Canadians agreed with William F. Buckley, who once said he’d rather entrust the government of the United States to the first 400 people listed in the Boston telephone directory than to the faculty of Harvard University.
In Canada, the Conservatives aren’t very conservative, at least not by American standards. And even Harper, who is very conservative by Canadian standards, wouldn’t be considered much of a right-winger south of the border. But unlike many Canadians who seem to define themselves primarily as non-Americans, Harper is a true friend of the United States and someone who understands the importance of the West’s standing up for its values and collective security. He is also a good friend of the State of Israel, an increasingly rare commodity in international affairs.
So even though the Canadian vote has nothing to do with our own political battles, Americans should be cheered by Harper’s victory. As their anthem says, under his leadership Canada will remain the “True North, strong and free.”