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ND ReSource: Major changes unlikely with new Canadian leader

Author: Arts and Letters


Though Stephen Harper, Canada’s newly elected prime minister, is considered to represent a more pro-business, pro-Bush and pro-American strain of thinking than his predecessor, Americans shouldn’t expect any sweeping changes in Canadian/American relations – at least not in the near future – according to Kevin Christiano, associate professor of sociology at the University of Notre Dame and past president of the American Council for Quebec Studies.

Harper, who was sworn into office Monday (Feb. 6), has a long record of involvement in movements that “while not especially extreme by the political standards of the United States, placed him very much on the rightward edge of opinion in his home country,” Christiano said. “At one time he headed the National Citizens Coalition, an officially non-partisan organization that advocates low taxes, limited government, free enterprise and strong national defense. Harper himself described it as `on the sort of libertarian side of the conservative spectrum.’”

Despite Harper’s relative conservatism, portions of his campaign strategy and a surprising comment he made during a recent press conference indicate that he may be distancing himself from the Bush administration.

“Harper spent much of the eight-week-long national contest moving strategically to the political center and reigning in some of the more extreme voices on his flanks,” Christiano said. “The candidate went so far as to write a letter to the editor of the Wall Street Journal to emphasize his policy differences from American conservatives.”

At his first news conference after the election, Harper responded sharply to a comment by David Wilkins, U.S. Ambassador to Canada, by saying “It is the Canadian people we get our mandate from, not the U.S. ambassador,” referring to Wilkins’ assertion that waters of the extreme Arctic were “neutral,” not part of Canada’s territorial waters.

Christiano, who joined the Notre Dame faculty in 1983 after receiving his doctorate from Princeton University, is an expert in society and politics in Quebec and Canada. He has served as a visiting scholar in the Canadian Studies Center at Duke University and is a member of the boards of The American Review of Canadian Studies and Mens: Revue d’histoire intellectuelle de l’Amrique franaise.

Kevin Christiano is available for interviews and can be reached at or 574-631-6463.

Originally published by Susan Guibert at on February 06, 2006.