Whenever a politician starts talking about “values,” you can rest assured whatever they say next won’t be particularly valuable.
Take Angry Tom Mulcair, for example, the hapless leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada (please). Last week, Tom got angry again, and started taking swings at evangelical Christianity. He was upset that an evangelical Christian aid group, Crossroads, had formerly called homosexuality a “sin,” and that it had received $500,000 or so from the federal government for its work in Uganda.
“It goes against Canadian values. It goes against Canadian law,” said Tom, who then went on to suggest that Crossroads — and, by extension, the Conservative government — somehow favoured categorizing homosexuality as a “perversion,” and necessitating capital punishment.
Now, it should be noted that Crossroads has since removed the web page containing the “sin” statement, and asserted that it loved “all people unconditionally.” Meanwhile, International Cooperation Minister Julian Fantino ordered that the funding of Crossroads would be reviewed — and Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird angrily told a Commons committee that the government “categorically rejects” the notion that being gay is in any way a sin.
Angry Tom, however, was in high dudgeon. That wasn’t nearly enough for him. In a scrum outside the Commons, he said: “It’s shocking to hear Minister Fantino defending the indefensible — standing up today and defending a group that on its website is attacking something that’s recognized and protected by Canadian law. So it goes against Canadian values, it goes against Canadian law and he can’t defend that.”
It’s unclear what Angry Tom, aflame as he was about values and whatnot, would like to see happen instead. Julian Fantino (who was formerly the Toronto police chief, a position in which he attended Pride parades, hired a high-level gay liaison officer, and was regularly lauded by the LGBT community) ordered a review of Crossroads’ funding (and has since decided to maintain its grant). John Baird categorically condemned anyone who would call homosexuality a sin. Even if you aren’t a fan of the Conservatives — and I’m not — that’s not a bad response, on either count.
Angry Tom, however, was dissatisfied. He is after something else, you see. The NDP leader, dropping in the polls as he is, is attempting to style himself as the defender of “Canadian values.”
In that way, he figures, he can depict the Conservatives as un-Canadian in the depths of their tiny black hearts.
Politicians, as noted, blather and yabber about values all the time. I know — I’ve recently published a book on the subject, called Fight The Right. Therein, I note that politicos have been claiming for years that their party’s values and Canadian values are interchangeable.
So, right after the 2011 federal election campaign, Stephen Harper made his annual visit to the family friendly Calgary Stampede. There, beneath a Stetson, he bashed his opponents (as expected) and insisted his Conservatives are super-duper winners (ditto).
Then he said this: “Conservative values are Canadian values.” And: “Canadian values are Conservative values.”
Liberal leader Bob Rae — whose party Harper described as relevant as “disco balls and bell bottoms” — declared Harper was sounding pretty arrogant, which was true. One of The Globe and Mail’s resident greybeards, Lawrence Martin, agreed it was arrogant, and the Globe would certainly know arrogance when it is sees it. So did a Saskatoon Star-Phoenix columnist, who opined it reeked of “annoying arrogance.” In the Winnipeg Free Press, Frances Russell — no Harper fan — agreed the Stampede tub-thumper was a lot of triumphalism, hubris and arrogance. There you go, “arrogant.”
But what is really arrogant, instead, is any politician — previously Harper and now Mulcair — declaring that they have cornered the market on Canadian values. When nobody does.
Fantino and Baird did the right thing in response to Crossroads’ stupid statement. Angry Tom Mulcair, meanwhile, did what he always does.
He added nothing to the debate that was, you know, valuable.