Harper says he has 'many differences' with U.S. conservatives

Tory Leader Stephen Harper appeared to distance himself from American conservatives Monday, saying he has differences with them on many issues.

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper appeared to distance himself from the U.S. administration Monday, pointing out that his positions on many issues differ from those of American conservatives.

Harper sent a letter to the editor of the Washington Times in response to a Dec. 2 column by Patrick Basham of the Cato Institute titled "Gift from Canada?"

Basham wrote: "Free-market economist Stephen Harper, leader of the opposition Conservative party, is pro-free trade, pro-Iraq war, anti-Kyoto and socially conservative."

"Move over Tony Blair," he continued. "If elected, Mr. Harper will quickly become Mr. Bush's new best friend internationally and the poster boy for his ideal foreign leader."

But Harper's letter said the "pro-free trade, pro-Iraq war, anti-Kyoto and socially conservative" characterization of his policy was an oversimplification of his positions.

He said that while he supports free trade, Canada would expand its trade relationships with Asian countries if the United States didn't pay the $5 billion in softwood lumber penalties.

On Iraq, Harper said he supported the removal of Saddam Hussein and applauded the "efforts to establish democracy and freedom."

But he said he would not commit Canadian troops to the country and added his "great disappointment" at not substantiating pre-war intelligence regarding weapons of mass destruction.

Regarding same-sex unions, he reiterated his position that he would vote to bring back the traditional definition of marriage. But he said those who already are married would continue to be recognized as legally wed.

Harper also pledged he would not initiate or support any effort to pass legislation restricting abortion in Canada.

"Despite my differences on many issues with some American conservative politicians, I look forward to a co-operative, constructive relationship with the United States as our principal trading partner and ally under a new Conservative government."