ND ReSource: Major changes unlikely with new Canadian leader

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Though Stephen Harper, Canadas newly elected prime minister, is considered to represent a more pro-business, pro-Bush and pro-American strain of thinking than his predecessor, Americans shouldnt 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 thatwhile not especially extreme by the political standards of theUnited 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 Harpers 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 sayingIt is the Canadian people we get our mandate from, not the U.S. ambassador,referring to Wilkinsassertion that waters of the extreme Arctic wereneutral,not part of Canadas territorial waters.

Christiano, who joined the Notre Dame faculty in 1983 after receiving his doctorate fromPrincetonUniversity, is an expert in society and politics inQuebecandCanada.He has served as a visiting scholar in theCanadianStudiesCenteratDukeUniversityand is a member of the boards of The American Review of Canadian Studies and Mens: Revue d’histoire intellectuelle de l’Amérique française.

* Kevin Christiano * is available for interviews and can be reached at Christiano.1@nd.edu or 574-631-6463.

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