Two very different Catholics battle to be Canada’s PM

Catholic Herald, 19 September 2019

Canadians are famous for saying sorry. It’s the default setting for public encounters; a busy railway station or airport is a cacophony of competing apologies as people sort themselves out into the proper queues. It is often said that we even say sorry to bank machines, though I have not witnessed that. People certainly say sorry for delaying others who are waiting at the bank machine.

So it when Green Party leader Elizabeth May was asked, on the eve of the official campaign for Canada’s federal election on October 21, who her “personal hero” was, it was not surprising that she answered, “Jesus Christ, sorry.”

Was she just saying “sorry” as Canadians always do? Or was she genuinely sorry for mentioning the name of Jesus?

It turned out she was sorry for answering too “quickly and honestly” and not “self-editing” in time. It’s not exactly a shock that May might have led with her Christian faith. She was studying for the Anglican priesthood when she decided that she had to “save the world” and entered politics. But she doesn’t “like politics at all” and, if the world managed to get saved, she would go back to her divinity studies.

“Politicians in Canada should not put their religion on their sleeve,” May explained.

And they certainly don’t. When former prime minister Stephen Harper adopted, for a time, the custom of ending his speeches with “God bless Canada” it provoked a national debate over whether an American religious huckster and/or extremist had hijacked our national politics.

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