by BJ Siekierski in Saskatoon
Conservative MP Kellie Leitch proclaimed her “common interests” with U.S. President-elect Donald Trump in the party’s first leadership debate Wednesday night, as several of her opponents pushed back against her immigration policy.
“I have common interests with Mr. Trump, screening being one of them,” Leitch said several times, picking up where she left off in a fundraising email Tuesday night that told supporters Trump’s anti-elite message was one she was hoping to bring forward with her own campaign.
A Mainstreet Research telephone poll conducted on November 5 and 6 showed Leitch to be the preferred candidate in the race, with 19 per cent support among Conservative supporters — ahead of Andrew Scheer with 14 and Michael Chong with 12.
Leitch aggressively pushed her wedge issue — screening immigrants for their grasp of “Canadian values” — to draw a sharp contrast with her rivals.
“I will protect our Canadian values,” she told the audience, estimated to be around 500. “I am the only candidate who will require face-to-face interviews of new immigrants and screen for Canadian values.”
As he did earlier Wednesday, Chong pushed back.
“Stephen Harper’s government let in three million immigrants and refugees during the 10 years they were in power. Every single one of those immigrants and refugees was screened for security purposes, terrorism, war crimes, crime against humanity, and for health and economic reasons,” Chong said.
“He would not have let in one of those persons if they had not been properly screened.”
Chong also spoke passionately of his mixed-race children, calling them the “new face of Canada.”
It was Deepak Ohbrai, however — a Tanzania-born Indian-Canadian immigrant and an MP since 1997 — who took Leitch on most directly about her fondness for Trump’s approach to politics.
After saying he didn’t “give two hoots” about a woman wearing a niqab — a controversial subject in the last federal election — he momentarily started trending on Twitter.
“Donald Trump’s divisive policy on immigration and social policies have no room in the Canada that I believe in. Unfortunately one of my colleagues admires Donald Trump, but let me tell you as parliamentary secretary for international human rights, I will not stand for any erosion of any human rights of anybody whether in U.S. or in Canada,” he said.
All twelve official candidates took the stage in Saskatoon in an attempt to appeal to Conservative members. The long list of candidates include former Tory MPs Chris Alexander and Andrew Saxton, physician Daniel Lindsay, and current Conservative MPs Maxime Bernier, Leitch, Deepak Obhrai, Erin O’Toole, Lisa Raitt, Andrew Scheer, Brad Trost and Steven Blaney.
Chong touted his economic policy, repeatedly noting that it has been endorsed by four economists. The plan includes income tax cuts and a revenue-neutral carbon tax, which the other candidates all opposed.
Blaney suggested that Chong’s economic ideas are “Liberal.”
“No wonder that the Pembina Institute endorsed your scheme, Michael,” he said. “They endorsed in 2008, in a very kind of same move — the green shift Liberal. That was what it is. They pretended it was revenue-neutral. Well, a tax is a tax is a tax.”
Blaney also attacked Bernier for opposing supply management.
“I like free trade but I love my Canadian milk,” he said. “How can a libertarian oppose a great system that costs zero dollars to taxpayers, (and) offers Canadians quality foods and products at an affordable price.
“Maxime, your plan … it is a disaster blinded by ideology. Why do you finance your campaign on the back of hard working families from our riding who feed our country? Intellectual short cuts.”
Andrew Scheer, who has more caucus support than any of the other candidates, occupied the middle ground, appearing at ease attacking Trudeau’s policies.
He got the best laugh of the night by making fun of himself.
“I will not be taking my shirt off as often as Justin Trudeau does. He may have a yoga body. I have a dad body.”
Raitt, who entered the race just last week, took a folksy approach, referring often to her Cape Breton roots and her experience in Harper’s cabinet.
Erin O’Toole, who served as a Sea King pilot in the Royal Canadian Air Force, referred to his military experience and told Conservatives that he has a style that allows him to connect with people across the country.
Chris Alexander highlighted the economy in his comments, suggesting that the party struggled in the last election because it lacked “a strong agenda for the new economy.”
Trost said he was the only candidate who encompasses all aspects of the Conservative movement, but failed to mention social Conservative issues, choosing instead to say he doesn’t believe that climate change is caused by humans.
“When I become prime minister, the war on gas and oil and coal is over,” he said.
- With files from Janice Dickson, Stephen Maher, and Kelsey Johnson. Published under arrangement with ipolitics.ca
by Andrew Griffith, Robert Vineberg & Richard Kurland
1. What advice would you give an incoming minister of immigration and multiculturalism?
Griffith: Don’t neglect citizenship.
If a change in government, maintain increased integrity measures but reduce fees, drop knowledge and language testing for 14-17 year olds (and restore discretion for all), stop revocation for dual citizens for treason or terror, implement oral hearings for misrepresentation, prepare a new and more inclusive citizenship study guide (Discover Canada), set in place an all-party or broad consultative group to recommend changes to the 2014 Citizenship Act.
If no change in government, implement service standards with automatic publishing of results, provide reduced citizenship fees for low-income applicants (e.g., refugees), fully abide by any court decisions regarding citizenship admissibility and revocation and simplify the language in Discover Canada.
Vineberg: We need to return humanity to immigration. Building a nation is not simply bringing workers chosen by employers. Our immigration officers abroad need to be authorized to choose nation builders in addition to employees.
A pool of potential immigrants is a good idea but Express Entry is far too complicated.
Kurland: Get good advisors who know the facts and who don’t have an agenda.
2. Would you change the relative proportion of economic, family unification and humanitarian (refugee) migrants arriving in Canada every year?
Vineberg: Canada’s refugees dropped from 36,000 in 2005 to 23,000 in 2014. Canada can do better than that. Family Class is steady at about 60,000 or 25% of immigration over the past decade but is not meeting demand. If levels were increased to 320,000 the Family Class could grow to 80,000.
Kurland: That depends on the Minister’s needs.
Griffith: No strong views.
3. What's the ideal number of newcomers (including refugees) that Canada should take in every year (compared to the current average)?
Vineberg: One of the reasons we need more temporary foreign workers is that immigration has not kept pace with the growing population and economy. Whereas 250,000 represented .9% of population in 1993, it only represents 0.7% today. Immigration levels need to be raised to at least 0.9% or 320,000 per year.
Griffith: Set in place an advisory body, broadly-based, that would review the social and economic integration data, nationally and regionally, to provide recommendations to government for longer-term targets and assess whether current levels and mix are appropriate.
Kurland: No such thing as an ideal number.
4. Should multiculturalism be official policy? What needs to change?
Griffith: It already is (i.e., Multiculturalism Act, Charter s 27, employment equity and human rights legislation).
Consideration of whether a Multiculturalism Commissioner reporting to Parliament is needed to provide focus for reasonable accommodation discussions, equity and other related multiculturalism issues given lack of attention within CIC. Rebalance settlement funding to provide small additional program (G&C) resources for second generation integration issues. Maintain funding for police-reported hate crimes Statistics Canada annual report. Restore the mandatory Census and for the 2021 Census year, add a supplementary Ethnic Diversity Survey (last done in 2001).
Vineberg: The Multiculturalism policy is fine. The politically motivated multicultural grants undermine the program and ought to be eliminated.
Kurland: Don't know.
5. Should provinces and municipalities have a greater role in immigration? What role should that be?
Vineberg: Provinces have a Constitutional right to be involved in immigration and should be allowed to bring in more immigrants. Raising immigration levels to 320,000 would provide lots of room to do so.
As most immigrants settle in cities, municipalities need to be part of the settlement and integration planning process.
Kurland: No, there is no greater role required. The provinces and the feds both have jurisdictional responsibility.
Griffith: No strong views.
6. What can a new government do differently to enable "foreign credential recognition”?
Kurland: Go transnational. What is good in one country may be good in another country. So if Australia has accredited a person, see if that accreditation would be valid in Canada.
Griffith: Provide frameworks and tools to increase mindfulness of implicit bias and discrimination within certifying bodies regarding standards and qualifications to ensure that the criteria used are objective.
Vineberg: The federal government needs to create better incentives for the provinces and territories to create national standards for credential recognition and if they do not, as with the national securities regulator, the federal government should create national bodies to do so and encourage provinces to join.
Andrew Griffith is the author of Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias: Resetting Citizenship and Multiculturalism and is a regular media commentator and blogger (Multiculturalism Meanderings). He is the former Director General for Citizenship and Multiculturalism and has worked for a variety of government departments in Canada and abroad. His latest book is Multiculturalism in Canada: Evidence and Anecdote. He is also an advisor on NCM's board of directors.
Robert Vineberg’s career in the Canadian Federal Public Service spanned over 35 years, most of which were with the immigration program, serving abroad, in policy positions at national headquarters in Ottawa and, most recently, as Director General of Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s Prairies and Northern Territories Region, based in Winnipeg. He retired from the public service in 2008 and is now volunteering with immigration and cultural organizations and researching the history of immigration policy.
Richard Kurland is a Vancouver-based immigration lawyer and the Editor-in-Chief of Lexbase, Canada's largest immigration periodical.