Stockwell Day, an outspoken Pentecostal layman, has provided a breakthrough for conservative Christians by becoming leader of Canadian Alliance, the nation's biggest opposition party.The popular 49-year-old former treasurer of Alberta is expected to take on two-term Prime Minister Jean Chretien in national elections next year.On Monday, September 11, Day took another step toward prime ministerial candidacy by winning a rural parliamentary seat in British Columbia. With half of the votes counted last night Day lead by 71 percent.Concerned about Day's conservative and profamily views, opponents say there is no place in the Canadian Alliance for the religious right.Evangelicals in Canada are largely an unknown quantity, says Janet Epp Buckingham, legal counsel of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada. Evangelicals are less prominent in Canada (at 10 percent of the population) than in the United States. "A lot of people don't know evangelical Christians. They're easy to stereotype," she says.Some Canadians fear that fallen American televangelists will run the country, as Day's opponents suggest. Such anxiety is ironic since the Canadian evangelical tradition originated in the Great Awakening of 18th-century Britain and not in American televangelism.Brian Stiller, president of the evangelical Tyndale College in Toronto, toured Canada's talk shows during the 1980s and 1990s, countering stereotypes and providing an evangelical perspective. Stiller notes a sweeping change among average Canadians that pundits have yet to grasp."Spirituality is seen increasingly not only as legitimate but as essential to people's well-being," he says. Further, as evangelical churches grow, mainline Protestant churches are "falling like a stone."Day won the election as head of the Canadian Alliance despite big-business support for another candidate who had hired Mike Murphy, the so-called "merchant of mud," to sully Day's public image.To win the top spot in the Canadian Alliance, Day bested the well-known conservative and fellow evangelical Preston Manning, founder of the Reform Party. Canadian Alliance unites Reform Party members with other conservative politicians.But winning Canada will be much more difficult. Canadian Alliance is still a Western regional party and has little support in the more densely populated provinces of Ontario and Quebec.But Day has lived in several Canadian provinces and, unlike Manning, he is conversant in French.Several key Quebec conservatives defected to Day in August, providing him with a vital base of political support. Still, critics warn that some Canadian evangelicals may be fair-weather supporters of Day, withdrawing their support if he does not make progress on conservative policy initiatives.

Related Elsewhere

Visit the Canadian Alliance site to read up on the coalition's goals or on Stockwell Day himself.Read an online chat about Stockwell Day's political views .Learn more about religion in Canada from the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada .Previous Christianity Today stories about Canada include:Lawsuits Force Anglicans to Cut Staff and Programs | Abuse allegations cause the Anglican Church of Canada to scale back church support and overseas ministries. (Aug. 25, 2000) Canada Meeting Gives New Hope for Unity Between Anglicans and Catholics | Churches come closer together, but not close enough to share Eucharist. (May 26, 2000) Arctic's Anglican Bishop Looks for Priests to Brave the Cold | Nine vacancies in Anglican Communion's largest diocesan territory, but no prospects. (Jan. 27, 2000)Other media coverage of Canadian politics includes:Byelections Hint at Fall Brawl | The Canadian Press (Sept. 11, 2000) Penticton Indians Dismiss Day | The Vancouver Sun (Sept. 11, 2000) Pitting Clark Against Day in Commons a Good Idea, Mulroney Says | The Canadian Press (Sept. 10, 2000) Stockwell Day: Logger, Pastor, and Politician | The Canadian Press (Sept. 10, 2000) Battle for Canada's Conservatives Heats Up | Reuters (Sept. 10, 2000)

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