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Christian conservative takes over as Tory policy chief

Reid is former head of Focus on the Family

A recent shake-up in the Prime Minister’s Office has vaulted one of Canada’s most prominent Christian conservatives into a role as a senior adviser. The consistently controversial Darrel Reid has taken over as Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s director of policy.

Reid has worked in public life on-and-off since the mid-1990s and has delved into rightwing advocacy. He first served as director of policy and research to the Reform Party in Ottawa and then as chief of staff to Reform leader Preston Manning.

In the middle of his term as chief of staff, Reid entered politics as a candidate for the first time. He won the Reform nomination in the Ottawa-area riding of Lanark-Carleton and went on to finish second to incumbent Liberal MP Ian Murray — losing by 12,000 votes.

Reid was lured away from the Hill by Focus on the Family Canada, where he served as president for six years (1998-2004). During that time, he actively campaigned against same-sex marriage. He was hired into that role because he was concerned about “developing a uniquely Canadian approach” that differed from Focus Canada’s parent organization in the United States.

At the 1999 World Congress of Families in Geneva, Switzerland, Reid spoke to what he described as the decline of the modern family.

“If we were to step back only a generation, back 30 to 40 years ago, who would have thought that on the verge of the year 2000, a world congress would be held to discuss what can be done about the ‘decay of the natural family,'” he said. “What futurist in the 1960s looking ahead to this day would have predicted that marriage and the natural family, cornerstones of any healthy and civil society, would be facing decline as they do now?”

Reid told the Congress why he was worried about same-sex marriage: “It is nothing less than a bold-face lie to say it harms no one to extend the privileges bestowed on legally married couples to other relationships.”

Over the years, Reid continued to speak out against progressives.

In an editorial published in the Globe and Mail in 2002, Reid wrote that he hoped “to see social conservatives from all our parties and traditions begin to reinsert their most deeply held convictions into our nation’s political discourse.”

In an interview with Focus on the Family Magazine, Reid warned US evangelical Christians against “social radicalism” in Canada.

“The rest of Canada, it appears, could be following Quebec’s lead. When it comes to marriage, sexual mores and abortion, that’s not reassuring,” said Reid. He urged readers of the US magazine to “pray without ceasing… and perhaps the United States can avoid the rocky path walked by its neighbour to the north.”

When Reid left Focus Canada, he became vice-president of Current Corporation, a navigation-equipment company that specializes in the marine industry and is a member of the Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries — the Canadian military lobby.

Reid left Current and made a second foray into elected politics in 2006, when he challenged Liberal MP Raymond Chan for a seat in the Vancouver suburb of Richmond. The riding is seen as one of the more conservative ridings in the Vancouver region, and Reid hoped to appeal to that group. In the end, Chan won re-election with 42 percent of the vote, edging out Reid by four percent.

Several months after his second-place finish in Richmond, Reid returned to Ottawa to serve as chief of staff to then-environment minister Rona Ambrose.

In April 2007, Reid was sent to the Prime Minister’s Office to work as the deputy director of policy and research — the same title he had when he worked on the Hill for the Reform Party.