I just don't get it: how could Stephen Harper have been so scary in 2004 and not now? The shift in public opinion has been huge, and I fear that we're going to see major policy reversals that will change a great measure of what we tend to think of as Canadian values. I can think of a few possible explanations...
1. I have, along with the Liberal and New Democratic parties and much of the press, a skewed view of Canadian values. Canadians' tendencies really aren't as socially progressive as we might imagine. Those of us who live in the cities (I've only ever lived in Vancouver and Toronto) probably underestimate the how different the world-views held in much of the rest of the country are.
2. Canadians really aren't concerned about social issues right now. They don't agree with the Conservative position on same-sex marriage, for instance, but they're willing to put their differences aside in order to send a message that they will not tolerate what they perceive as waste and corruption. Other institutions of government, notably the courts, and public opinion will probably constrain a Conservative government, preventing them from significantly altering the country's path on sical issues.
3. Apparently, Harper has been much nicer to the press in this election. Last time, he didn't give them much time or access, but in this campaign, they say he's actually been friendly with them. As a result, his coverage has been much more positive and Canadians have decided that he must be an okay guy. In other words, we're a bunch of sheep.
I fear that the third explanation might be the most accurate.