In the wake of Canada’s recent national elections, which saw Prime Minister Brian Mulroney elected for a second term, Canadian evangelicals are counting the cost of election rhetoric that accentuated the free-trade issue at the expense of their own special concerns.

Following the 51-day campaign, Prime Minister Mulroney s Progressive Conservative (PC) government was returned for another term. The ardent free-trade booster became the first Conservative prime minister of this century to head two successive majority governments.

A large turnout (75 percent of eligible voters) reflected voter interest. Mulroney’s PCS got 43 percent of the popular vote to elect 169 members in the 295-seat House of Commons. The Liberal Party, led by John Turner, grabbed 32 percent of the popular vote to elect 83 members, while the New Democratic Party’s (NDP) 20 percent of the vote elected a record 43 members (the NDP is a moderate socialist party). Nine other parties and numerous independent candidates managed to garner 5 percent of the popular vote but elected no members.

Issues Facing The Church

The Christian Heritage Party (CHP), in its first electoral bid, fielded 63 candidates, though none placed higher than fourth in any constituency. Ed VanWoudenberg, CHP leader, maintained the free-trade focus had diverted attention from issues of concern to his party.

Prolife forces had hoped to make some gains in the election but emerged with about the same parliamentary strength. An estimated 74 committed prolifers were victors. The addition of several newcomers was offset, however, by the defeat of several supporters.

Campaign Life, a prolife coalition, targeted about 30 candidates for defeat. But Anglican minister Reg Stackhouse, former principal of Wycliffe College in Toronto, was infuriated by the prolife literature, which, he contends, falsely pictured him as a supporter of abortion. Defeated in his bid for re-election by a Liberal who was backed by pro-lifers, Stackhouse said he is considering libel action.

In the wake of the election, the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC) will resume its advocacy on a broad range of issues, according to EFC director Brian Stiller. He added, however, that he hopes the preoccupation over the free-trade issue does not simply shift to the abortion question.

“EFC’s call for a public commission to consider the broader range of human life issues [artificial reproductive technology, surrogate motherhood, use of fetal tissues, abortion, and organ transplants],” he suggested, “would elevate the debate and exchange light for heat.”

Other pressing concerns that evangelicals hoped would be addressed, he added, were child care and immigration.

The government’s term of office is normally up to five years unless the prime minister calls an election sooner.

By Leslie K. Tarr.

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