This is another post that deals, in part, with being a Conservative, having an opinion, expressing one’s opinion and, hopefully, not being a horse’s ass …
John Ibbitson, writing in the Globe and Mail, explains, and I agree fully, that the immigration, refugee and migrant issue presents both challenges and opportunities for Canada’s two main political parties.
He says that “The tens of thousands of asylum claimants who have entered Canada illegally over the past year and a half pose a serious political challenge to both Liberals and Conservatives … [because] … In criticizing the government’s inability to keep refugee claimants from coming into Canada between official border crossings, Conservatives risk being labelled racist. But Liberals know that while Canadians generally support high levels of immigration, they are less welcoming of refugees, especially of refugees who arrive on their own and may not be genuine refugees at all … [and] … Each party seeks to minimize risk while exploiting the political opportunities of the situation. Each courts danger as well.” That’s exactly right the entire issue is a double edged sword for both parties.
Taken on its own, immigration should be easy. The Liberals are right and many, many, far too many Conservatives are wrong. “Immigrants, according to a Statistics Canada report,” Mr Ibbitson says, “establish new businesses at a higher rate than native-born; violence against Muslims is a far greater concern than violence by Muslims.” Further, he explains, “most Canadians support high levels of immigration out of self-interest. Thanks to low birth rates, immigrants are needed to keep the population from going into decline. Immigrants create and fill jobs. Carefully selected for their education, job skills, ability to speak an official language and ability to integrate quickly into Canada’s multicultural fabric, immigrants are a boon.” Bingo! All thinking Conservatives should support and even propose to expand the Liberals’ promise to increase legal, selected immigration to and beyond 300,000 per year … all thinking Conservatives should want our country to fill up quickly with hard working culturally sophisticated, entrepreneurial immigrants like the ones we get from China, India and the Philippines. But, he says, and again I agree, that “There’s always the suspicion that in their heart, conservatives are anti-immigrant. And the Conservatives feed that suspicion, with absurdities such as the “barbaric cultural practices hotline,” or leadership candidate Kellie Leitch’s proposed values test for prospective citizens. Appealing to immigrant voters while containing the anti-immigrant wing of the party is a Conservative leader’s biggest headache.” If the Conservative Party of Canada really wants to win a majority in 2019 then it needs, as I have explained, to win big in the suburbs around Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa and Halifax where many, many immigrants live and vote and also they need to pick up some seats in the immigrant heavy urban centres, too. They cannot, will not do that if they are perceived to be anti-immigration … and if they express themselves with the sort of racist vitriol that makes them seem like those horse’s asses I mentioned. This needs to be a priority for Andrew Scheer; a sound and generous immigration policy makes good economic sense; opposing immigration is political suicide … some Conservatives oppose immigration for a whole host of not very good reasons; that’s their right, of course, but if their voice prevails then Conservatives will lose … again and again.
I part company with both the Liberals and the Conservatives when it comes to refugee policy. I remain firmly committed to the notion that bringing refugees to Canada is always the third or fourth or seventh best solution. The best solution ~ always ~ is to remove the problem that made people run away from their homes and seek refuge in the first place … that means that the best solution to the Syrian refugee crisis is to defeat Bashar al-Assad’s forces and replace him as his regime, and if that means shooting down Russian aircraft, sinking Russian ships and killing Russian soldiers then that’s just an added bonus. The second best solution is to help countries like Jordan and Kenya who have, right now, hundreds of thousands of refugees in camps there. The Liberals get this all wrong; the Conservatives get it mostly wrong ~ but they listen tonCanadians and Canadians always want to take the easy way out. “Canada,” John Ibbitson says, “accepts refugees for altruistic reasons, to help those most at risk of harm. Altruism inspired Canadians to bring in Vietnamese refugees in 1980; altruism supported the Trudeau government’s decision to airlift Syrian refugees in 2016. It will surely prompt Canadians to welcome the Syrian White Helmet rescue workers, who were themselves rescued by Israeli forces over the weekend. Many of them are coming to Canada, and they will make wonderful citizens.“
This is the issue on which the Liberals are most vulnerable … to charges of bumbling and mismanagement, but this issue also poses dangers to the Conservatives. Following on from his comments about Canadian altruism and some refuges becoming exemplary citizens, he says that “altruism is limited in supply. After a certain point, it morphs into impatience and resentment. Altruism prompted European governments to take in millions of Syrian refugees, but public sentiment eventually turned, and now nativist movements and political parties are on the march across the continent … [and] … The Liberals know they must find a way to stem or at least control the flow of asylum seekers entering Canada, across a border that is no longer secure, before the public turns against the asylum seekers and the government. That is why Mr. Trudeau made former Toronto police chief Bill Blair his new Border Security Minister.” Mr Ibbitson notes, and of course I agree that “it isn’t racist to worry about refugee claimants entering Canada illegally. Conservatives have both the right and the duty to hold the government to account for, in their view, failing to manage the influx or stem the flow. (While the numbers entering Canada each month are starting to go down, the intake this year is on track to exceed last year.)” The Conservatives need to hammer the Liberals, relentlessly, for:
- Starting this influx because Prime Minister Trudeau could not resist trying to score a cheap political point off Donald Trump on Twitter;
- Failing to develop effective programmes to stem the tide; and
- Not knowing what to do now.
The migrant asylum seekers have legal rights which must be respected, calling them “illegal” when, after having claimed asylum, they are not, doesn’t help anyone … especially not the CPC. The problem is the not migrants, per se, it is the Trudeau Liberals. They, the Liberals, are vulnerable because they are poor leaders, planners and managers, not because they are being kind to unfortunate, sometimes desperate people.
Further, Andrew MacDougall, who was director of communications (public relations) for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, has written on the CBC News website that when Conservatives attack the Liberal government on the migrant issue they “need to be perfect. As conservatives, your motive for attacking the government will likely be scrutinized to a higher degree than the actions of the government you’re criticizing. Make one mistake characterizing the issue, and that mischaracterization becomes the issue. You’re not Trudeau, able to skip through an entire campaign on trumped-up claims about the state of Canada’s middle class; you need to be bulletproof because there is an army of fact-checkers and pundits ready to pound you. So for God’s sake, get it right.” Bingo, again. “This all demonstrates,” Mr MacDougall says, “why it’s important for conservatives to always lead with motive, i.e. literally spell out their reasons for acting, in order to avoid having a motive (e.g. “Conservatives are racist”) ascribed to them by their opponents … [and] … In this case, the motive should have been that legal immigration is absolutely essential to Canada’s future prosperity, that’s why — even in the midst of the worst global recession in generations — then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper kept Canada’s doors open. What’s more, Conservatives know that popular support for immigration depends on the integrity and fairness of the immigration system — both real and perceived.“
The bar for criticism of the Liberals on the migrant/asylum seeker issue might be set high, Andrew MacDougall says, but Conservatives (and their supporters, like me) have to clear it.
Immigration can be and should be a plus for the Conservative Party as both good economic policy and as part of a plan to grow Canada to 100 Million people by 2100. Refugee policy should be, essentially ignored in election campaigns, and the migrant issue should be treated from two aspects: as mismanagement by the current, Trudeau, government and as a border security/control issue … it’s not about race or religion.