Canadian Mennonite
Volume 10, No. 03
February 6, 2006


New government’s agenda

With Stephen Harper now Prime Minister and the party he helped form as our new government, what’s ahead for our country from a Mennonite faith perspective?

I was glad to see Harper expressing strong support for the role of faith and religious conviction in politics and society in a recent Faith Today interview. The separation of church and state “does not mean that faith has no place in public life or the public square,” he said.

Jesus made it clear that worship of God in heaven and seeking justice and righteousness here on earth were both part of what it meant to follow him. He spoke of things we would now consider public policy in the synagogue. The Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective includes commentary on the church’s relationship to government that “Christians are responsible to witness to governments not only because of their citizenship in a particular country, but also in order to reflect Christ’s compassion for all people and to proclaim Christ’s lordship over all human institutions.”

In terms of specific policies, the major focus of the Conservative Party’s official election platform on transparency and accountability will provide new enforcement mechanisms for good governance. The new Canadian government’s continuing commitment to universal public healthcare reflects our church’s support of caring for the sick and wounded regardless of their ability to pay.

The possibility of legislation defining marriage as between a man and woman also aligns with our church’s position on marriage. In the Faith Today interview, Harper specifically addressed this issue: “Government must respect these convictions and not attempt to interfere in the free public expression of religious belief.... A Conservative government will be vigilant to ensure that freedom of religion is protected in Canada.”

In this issue’s Faith and Life section, we focus on how Paul’s teaching in Romans challenges us to have a “right-eous relationship with creation.” There is much less on this front in the Conservative platform. Amid stronger and stronger warnings from climate scientists about the dangers of rising levels of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere, the Conservatives do not support the international Kyoto Accord’s mandatory reductions in emissions. Instead, they propose vague language about a new “made-in-Canada” plan without any mention of binding emission reductions.

Harper has specifically identified Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) as a religious institution doing good work. However, MCC Canada has made the Make Poverty History campaign a major focus and the Conservatives were the only major national party not to endorse this effort. (Make Poverty History calls for more and better aid, trade justice, debt cancellation and the ending of child poverty in Canada.) Forty individual Conservative MPs (just one-third of their caucus) did state their support, compared to 100 percent of elected Liberal and NDP MPs according to Make Poverty History statistics.

On foreign aid, Conservatives only committed to “move towards” the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) “average level.” OECD 2004 figures show Canada’s foreign aid trailing—at 0.27 percent of Gross National Income (GNI)—substantially behind the OECD 22-country average giving rate of 0.42 percent of GNI. The 0.70 percent United Nations and Make Poverty History goal other countries have committed to remains far off.

—Tim Miller Dyck

Back to Canadian Mennonite home page