I will look forward to three things when I move back to Canada this summer: Tim Hortons coffee, poutine, and non‐judgmental access to birth control. Upon learning that I am Canadian, my American friends usually joke about my country’s love for hockey and all things plaid. But Americans can learn a thing or two when it comes to their northern neighbors’ stance on birth control – especially Newt Gingrich.
The Republican candidate has apparently taken a liking to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who Gingrich praised for being a “conservative and pro‐American”. If Gingrich, who’s lagging in third place, hopes to have a fighting chance of clinching the Republican nomination, he should seek advice from his new Canadian friend and end the nonsense debates on women’s sex lives.
It worked for Harper. The Albertan cowboy, who’s already embroiled in many political controversies, refused to cater to his conservative supporters and re‐open the debate on birth control and abortion last year during the Canadian national election. Harper was re‐elected with a majority government. So take note, Gingrich, as much you admire our prime minister and our Albertan oil, you should also admire our Canadian approach to winning an election.
After all, as friendly neighbors, Canadians have always been willing to share our good fortune. We don’t mind that Americans use our flag when travelling abroad. We are happy to lend some of our comedic talent – Jim Carrey, Martin Short, Mike Myers – for Hollywood movies. Justin Bieber? He’s all yours. Canada has made small but influential contributions to American culture. So here’s a bit of neighborly advice: “There’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation.”
Canadians were initially shocked by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau’s bold statement. But that was in 1967 and we’ve since gotten over it.
Forty years later, while I may live on the other side of the border, I am lucky to be a citizen of a country that, while not the richest or the strongest military power, doesn’t question my moral character when I ask my family doctor for my annual birth control prescription. I won’t be read the riot act when I go to the local clinic. And I won’t be called a slut by a Canadian equivalent of a political gadfly who, like Rush Limbaugh, huffs, puffs, and points a hypocritical finger from the safety of his radio booth.
This is Canada – we have yet to land on the moon but at least we’re not still debating an issue that belongs in the Mad Men era because sex isn’t as big of a taboo in Canada as it is in the United States. The cultural difference speaks for itself. The U.S’s teen pregnancy rate is more than three times higher compared to Canada’s. We also don’t parade our pregnant teens and young moms on television for entertainment. And Canadian politics is just as boring as you can imagine. Canadians rarely get to enjoy a sex scandal by way of a stained blue dress or an illegitimate child or an unfortunate wide stance in a Minneapolis airport’s restroom stall.
It’s been a tough campaign so far for the remaining Republican candidates. Millions of dollars have been spent, hundreds of thousands of miles travelled, numerous speeches made, yet the race continues with no clear victor in sight. And it’s just beginning, with the biggest fight against a tougher opponent, President Barack Obama, still months away. But if Gingrich hopes to survive against Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, he should call Harper and ask for advice on how to avoid isolating women voters.
As the 2012 election takes shape, women have emerged as the most important voting demographic. As past elections indicate, women tend to vote for Democrats, as they have since the Clinton days according to a Rutgers study. And, regardless of which party they support, women certainly won’t vote for a politician who insists on treating them as second‐class citizens.
It may be too late for Gingrich. He suffers from his own gender bias since women consider him to be their least favorable candidate. But there is hope. At least he didn’t fasten his family dog to the car roof on a trip to Canada.
(This piece was originally produced for Seth Lipsky’s opinion writing class)