Lay Preacher Heads Canada's Emerging Right ; Clinton-Gore Style Politics Arrived with Stockwell Day's Election on July 8

Article excerpt

Quick - in what North American country has an election occurred that's had potentially big repercussions for the party in power for years?

No, not Mexico. Canada.

The center-straddling Liberals, the only party capable of forming a government since 1993, suddenly face an opposition leader who may give them some, well, opposition.

The right-of-center Canadian Alliance has elected a hip, telegenic new chief: Alberta provincial treasurer Stockwell Day. He ran a hard campaign - and jogged it and rollerbladed it, too. It catapulted him from a provincial Cabinet ministry to the leadership of the opposition in Ottawa. The era of politician-as-fun-loving- celebrity, like the Clinton/Gore team on their rock-star bus tour during the 1992 campaign, has come to Canada.

Mr. Day's bio includes periods lived in many parts of Canada, including Quebec, where he learned passable French. He has been a jack-of-all-trades - auctioneer, trawlerman, interior decorator, sometime chicken breeder - rather than a career politician. And the voters, or at least the 114,000 party faithful casting ballots July 8, have demonstrated that they like the messenger - even if it's not quite clear what his message is.

He's a fiscal conservative, that's clear. On a couple of hot- button social issues, however - abortion and gay rights - he holds views so conservative that even his fellow party members scold him. It's not clear that he intends to translate these views into policy, however, or could if he wanted to. Says pollster Michael Marzolini of Pollara in Toronto, these topics are "not political issues - they're image issues."

Even on fiscal issues, however, Day is likely to have a polarizing effect. His big policy proposal is a 17 percent flat tax. And paradoxically, by attacking from the right he could push long- serving Prime Minister Jean Chrtien to the left - in ways Washington would not be happy to see. …