How religion cuts into politics in B.C.

December 11, 2017

By Douglas Todd, Vancouver Sun |

Did Christy Clark increase her popularity by 10 percentage points when she stopped attending Vancouver’s giant Pride parade?

That’s one of the more spicy possibilities raised in a new book that delves into how religion makes a big difference in politics in Canada, even in unusually secular B.C.

The authors of Religion and Canadian Party Politics, from UBC Press, devote a chapter to the ways conservative Christians have been a crucial factor in B.C.’s political dogfights, with a glance also at Sikh influences.

The University of Toronto’s David Rayside and Carleton’s Jerald Sabin and Paul Thomas explain how Clark, who had been happily attending Pride parades, stopped doing so in 2012.

With Clark painting herself as more socially conservative, her polling numbers went up and those of the then-robust B.C. Conservative party plummeted by 10 percentage points.

The ex-premier did more than snub Vancouver’s Pride parade to cement the “religious vote” in the pivotal 2013 B.C. election, however.

Clark’s advisers obtained an endorsement from Stockwell Day, a preacher and former Conservative cabinet minister. Clark also appeared on the evangelical TV show of David Mainse, host of 100 Huntley St. In addition, the book cites my report on her speech to the Christian organization, City in Focus, in which she said it’s “tragic” more people don’t worship God.

Perhaps most importantly, Clark aggressively propped up private religious schools, and not only because her son attended Vancouver’s St. George’s, an upper-class, nominally Anglican institution.

Religion and Canadian Party Politics cites how B.C.’s private schools, which are mostly conservative Christian, with some Sikh and Muslim, are growing to the point they now educate 13 per cent of all the province’s young students.

The tactics of Clark, an Anglican, were not only aimed at white Christians, but also B.C. Filipinos (95 per cent of whom are Christian), Koreans (64 per cent Christian) and ethnic Chinese (22 per cent Christian, 59 per cent not religious).

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