Okay, so it’s possible that ITQ may have been a wee bit too quick to arch her delicately sceptical brow at the notion that the Prime Minister’s newly appointed policy director – who, as of yesterday, is on the job, according to the PMO staff list – could possibly exemplify a new spirit of not-quite-as-zealously-partisanship at Langevin.
Paul Wilson may have spent years on the Hill working for three of the four incarnations of the modern Conservative Party, but this Ottawa Citizen article on the increasing presence of Evangelical Christian lobby and advocacy groups in Ottawa – first published in 2006, and reprinted by the Rockefeller Institute’s Roundtable on Religion and Social Welfare Policy – suggests that he made a conscious effort to avoid the big-C Conservative label when he left politics to take up a post with Trinity Western University:
Paul Wilson, director of Trinity’s Ottawa campus, is quick to point out the university’s presence has more to do with its educational mission — to groom active citizens guided by their faith — than with an overtly political agenda.
He bristles at comparisons between Trinity and Patrick Henry College near Washington, which has been described as a Christian college that trains young Republicans to become politicians.
“This is not a political training program. It’s about understanding citizenship and faith,” says Mr. Wilson. “Patrick Henry and the people who go there are Republicans. There is no sense of them being politically neutral or disinterested.” [...]
Mr. Wilson describes his students as having diverse political views. During their time in Ottawa, the students meet MPs of all stripes, including the Conservatives’ Stockwell Day, the NDP’s Bill Blaikie and former Liberal Dennis Mills. Former Reform MP Deborah Grey and Conservative MP Chuck Strahl — both Trinity alumni — have also been guest speakers.
“The students are not here to proselytize, they’re not here to be advocates, they’re here to learn,” says Mr. Wilson, a former research director for the Reform Party.
In addition to teaching, Mr. Wilson is organizing a national faith and politics conference sponsored by Trinity and the Manning Centre. The conference, to be held in Ottawa in February, grew out of a desire to promote the kind of sober-minded activism encouraged by Mr. Manning.
During his terms as Reform and Canadian Alliance leader, Mr. Manning took pains to draw a line between faith and politics. He shied away from directly targeting Christian voters, and rarely spoke at churches on political themes.
“It’s about encouraging Christians to be involved in politics, but it’s also about cautioning them,” Mr. Wilson says of the upcoming conference. “Our message (to Christians) is you need to be engaged properly, carefully and wisely because if you don’t, you’re going to blow up whatever cause or issue you’re working on. And you’re going to discredit your faith in the public eye.”
Mr. Wilson points to the conservative Christian community’s failed attempt to block same-sex marriage legislation as a cautionary tale. Though he won’t give examples, he criticizes the bitter, at times confrontational, tactics used during the campaign.
“We need to be temperate, we need to be restrained, we need to be respectful. Maybe the debate sometimes wasn’t held with that tone. And in a sense, we not only lost the particular legislative battle, we lost the broader battle by effectively being marginalized and just basically discredited.” [...]