Like many Canadians, I was closely watching what happened in the American election. I’m sure that Stephen Harper and Paul Martin were watching, too. But I’m not sure they will see the same things that many other observers saw – how decisive life, faith and family were to President George W. Bush’s re-election.

The political experts tell us that this presidential election was about turnout and Bush spoke directly to a clear majority of regular church-going Catholics (winning 55 per cent to 44 per cent) and evangelicals (an even more impressive 78 per cent to 21 per cent). The fact is, many of these voters stayed home or voted for the pro-abortion Al Gore in 2000, seeing little reason to support Bush. But, as president, he addressed their concerns on moral issues head-on.

Exit polling demonstrates that in many key states, Bush was the overwhelming favourite among the approximately one-fifth of voters who identified moral issues as their key concern in choosing a candidate to support. Were it not for Bush’s support of the pro-life position, his defence of the traditional family and his public demonstrations of faithfulness, Senator John Kerry would have been the president-elect. Kerry has voted against the partial-birth abortion ban, threatened to expand federal funding of embryonic stem cell research and vowed to rescind the Mexico City policy, which prohibits U.S. funding of organizations that promote abortion in the developing world. These ideas did nothing to excite the vast majority of voters, but Bush’s principled defence of moral values led many new voters to the voting booth and behind his leadership.

The American experience on Nov. 2 provides a lesson for Canadians: life and family issues are winning issues. You see, when social conservatives do not have a clear leader or candidate on the moral issues for whom they can vote, they go down the list of other concerns and vote on economics or health or education or whatever. The standard line from too many “deep thinkers” within so-called conservative parties in Canada is, “Who else will pro-lifers vote for – the Liberals?” Well, in fact, they do. Many pro-lifers vote on the abortion issue alone, but for others, if there is not a distinctive position by one leader or party and another, many pro-lifers will look at other issues. President Bush demonstrated that a platform of life, family, faith and freedom is not only viable but spectacularly attractive. Bush received more votes for president than any other candidate in history, including Ronald Reagan. Part of the reason for this was his reaching out to previously disenfranchised pro-life and pro-family voters, who had little reason to go to the voting booths before.

Canadian politicians should heed this lesson. While standing up for life and family might turn off a few narrow-minded voters, it will bring out many hundreds of thousands of new voters, as they finally find someone who proudly shares their views. Unfortunately, Stephen Harper has said that his Conservative party will not follow Bush’s example – no talk about moral issues, he insists. Paul Martin continues to believe Jean Chretien’s lie that there is “social peace” on this issue. What the political elite do not understand is that social conservative values are winning values. Most Canadians are longing for a principled leader and principled MPs. just take a look at the increased votes for pro-life incumbents in the last election.

Numerous polls show that Canadians overwhelmingly oppose the abortion status quo. If given the chance, many Canadians would reward a candidate, leader or party that made a clear defence of traditional values. President Bush’s success, despite the perception that the economy and the war in Iraq are a mess, proves that values attracts a huge number of voters. What are Canadian politicians waiting for?

Jim Hughes is national president of Campaign Life Coalition and vice-president of the International Right to Life Federation. This column is based on a longer analysis in the December CLC National News.