Andrew Coyne: Andrew Scheer rebrands his party and gets it right on immigration

Coyne’s take. The removal of Conservative MP Michael Cooper from the Justice Committee is an early signal that he may have learned from his earlier missteps and that the Bernier’s PPC will have less of an impact:

….The deficit about-face, it should be said, is only part of a larger project on which the Conservative leader is now embarked, the purpose of his current “My Vision of Canada” speaking tour. One part of it is to neutralize any issues on which the party might be vulnerable. The other is to establish himself as a prime minister in waiting and his party as a credible alternative to the governing Liberals.

That this is still necessary is in no small measure due to Scheer’s own actions: speaking at a rally organized by the dubious group known as the Yellow Vests, ranting about fictional plots to subject Canadian immigration policy to United Nations rule, enthusing about Brexit, refusing to say how he would reduce Canada’s carbon emissions. If he was trying to keep voters from straying to Maxime Bernier’s populist People’s Party, it was at the cost of too-closely resembling it.

The most immediate necessity, then, was to rebrand the Conservatives as the Conservatives. The first of the five speeches, on foreign policy, was a solid, if anodyne effort at presenting himself as a statesman; the second, on the economy, an opportunity to recite some familiar Conservative bromides on the virtues of low taxes, balanced budgets and free markets (the deficit climbdown was included in a supplementary effort).

But the third, on immigration, was the most important yet, and the most successful. Not every line rang true, but it was, in the main, an ode to immigration, and to immigrants, as the lifeblood of the country. That it was also an explicit renunciation of the sort of anti-immigrant or racist sentiment that has attached itself to conservative parties across the West was of course also welcome, if essential: not to do so, in view of the suspicions to which he has himself contributed, would have been disqualifying.

But Scheer went much further. At a time when conservative leaders elsewhere, responding to public fears, are demanding the gates be closed, it should be cause for some satisfaction that the leader of the main Canadian conservative party should make such an avowedly pro-immigration speech.

He will have to do much more to make the case for his election. But centrist voters, disenchanted with the Liberals but concerned at the Tories’ flirtation with populism, might be at least reassured enough now to give him a look.

Source: Andrew Coyne: Andrew Scheer rebrands his party and gets it right on immigration

On immigration, Scheer is trying to please two different audiences at once

Aaron Wherry’s take, noting his silence on the Conservative Party’s opposition to the global compact on migration :

Andrew Scheer’s immigration speech on Tuesday night rested its arguments on a debatable premise.

“With each passing day,” he said, “Justin Trudeau and the Liberals undermine” Canada’s “proud legacy” of immigration. “They have managed,” Scheer said, “to undermine the long-standing consensus that immigration is indeed a positive thing for this country.”

Public polling on this topic is mixed, but a recent survey by Environics suggested that general views on immigration have changed little over the last eight years. In 2011, 47 per cent of respondents said immigration made Canada a better place, while 16 per cent said it made Canada a worse place. In 2019, those numbers were 44 per cent and 15 per cent.

In 2011, 58 per cent disagreed with the statement that immigration levels were “too high.” In 2019, 59 per cent disagreed.

There’s a crucial partisan division in the 2019 numbers, however. On the question of whether immigration levels were too high, 75 per cent of Liberal voters and 70 per cent of NDP supporters disagreed. Just 44 per cent of Conservative voters disagreed.

It’s that breakdown of consensus that leaves Andrew Scheer trying to address two different audiences — to reassure the wide swath of voters who are basically happy with immigration, while also speaking to the sceptics who support his party.

The resulting tension was barely concealed in Scheer’s remarks on Tuesday.

How many is too many?

He expounded on the contributions that successive waves of immigrants have made to this country and explained the economic imperative for continued immigration. He promised that, if he becomes prime minister, his government would move to increase private sponsorship of refugees.

But Scheer made a point of declining to say exactly how many immigrants Canada would accept under a new Conservative government. He described the whole topic of setting a number as “a little bit of a red herring.” That seemed to be an excuse to avoid being pinned down.

Those calling for the current levels to be cut, he said, are making “rash promises.” But those who advocate for “high targets” are also doing so for political ends, he argued.

Scheer, apparently, would arrive at some kind of objectively correct number. But not unless or until he becomes prime minister. And even then, he said, “that number may change every year.”

The Conservative leader was more categorical in condemning racism and intolerance.

“I’d like to make something absolutely crystal clear,” he said. “There is absolutely no room in a peaceful and free country like Canada for intolerance, racism and extremism of any kind. And the Conservative Party of Canada will always make that absolutely clear.”

Polishing the party’s immigration image

That Scheer felt he needed to say so might be viewed as evidence of an image problem. If, for instance, he had not appeared at a protest attended by members of the so-called ‘yellow vest’ movement, and if his party hadn’t had to retract an attack ad about asylum-seekers that featured an image of a black man crossing into Canada, he might not have felt it necessary to clarify his position on racism.

But Scheer also condemned the Liberals for too harshly condemning their critics. “We should be able to have an immigration debate in this country without the government calling people who criticize its failure racists and bigots,” Scheer said.

Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen did once describe his Ontario counterpart’s language on the issue of irregular immigration as “not Canadian.” And Trudeau has challenged Scheer to condemn white supremacists.

But in the one case where Trudeau directly accused someone of racism, he was speaking to a woman in Quebec who had referred to “your illegal immigrants” and “Québécois de souche” — an inflammatory phrase that refers to the original descendants of French colonists. Scheer criticized Trudeau’s comments at the time.

On Tuesday night, Scheer dwelled on the issue of irregular migration along Canada’s southern border, just as his party has over the last two years. “The numbers are almost hard to believe,” he said of the more than 40,000 people who have come to Canada in that time.

Choosing to present that situation as a pressing problem might strike some as understandable. But it’s also a political choice — one that no doubt speaks to those who think Canada is currently accepting too many immigrants.

In that respect, Scheer’s speech was most interesting for what he did not mention: the UN’s global compact on migration.

Last December, Scheer publicly and prominently condemned the Trudeau government’s decision to sign the non-binding statement of principles that’s meant to frame an international approach to the emerging challenge of migration. Canada joined 151 other countries in ratifying the compact.

International opposition to the initiative was later traced to far-right activists. In opposing the pact, Scheer’s Conservatives found themselves on the same side with Donald Trump’s administration and several nationalist parties in Europe. Scheer said the compact was a threat to Canada’s national sovereignty. “It gives influence over Canada’s immigration system to foreign entities,” he claimed.

Chris Alexander, the former Conservative immigration minister, was moved to say that Scheer’s assessment was “factually incorrect.”

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has called Justin Trudeau’s immigration plan “irresponsible” and “broken.” So what would his approach be? David Cochrane breaks down Scheer’s latest policy speech leading up to this fall’s election. 2:13

The Conservative party’s website still features a condemnation of the compact and an invitation for Canadians to add their names to an online petition opposing it.

But six months after saying he’d pull Canada out of the compact, Scheer gave a 3,000-word speech about immigration without mentioning it once.

Maybe Scheer is ready to forget what he said in December. But if he’s still opposed to the compact, it’s an odd omission.

Scheer vows crackdown on those trying to ‘game’ Canada’s refugee system

As many have noted (see below), light on specifics but clear focus on dispelling the (Liberal) narrative that the Conservatives are anti-immigration, xenophobic and racist. Strongest message from him on inclusiveness and rebuking those who are. He has set the bar for Conservative candidates, and no doubt the media and others will be watching candidate nominations accordingly.

Scheer is completely correct in stating that questioning immigration policies and program management should not be dismissed as racists or bigots but debated on the merits of the arguments. The Liberals are all too quick to jump on that charge.

But how these arguments are framed, which words are used, the meetings one attends, the audience one targets are equally important (and applies to all parties).

While the focus on border management was expected, the ducking the question of immigration levels was not. Going back to an annual plan makes little sense given that a multi-year plan assists other levels of government and settlement organizations plan. One can question whether the levels are too high or low in the current plan (a case can be made either way).

The general points – promoting private sponsorship of refugees, emphasizing economic immigration, improving language training, improving foreign credential recognition – are long standing Conservative policy approaches that they also emphasized when in government. Providing a low-skilled workers a path to permanent residency is new to my recollection (current stats indicate that only higher skilled workers transition to permanent residency in significant numbers). And of course, closing the loophole in the STCA with the USA requires US agreement, and the Liberal government is already taking steps in the regard.

And interestingly, but not surprisingly, not a word about any changes to citizenship (the Liberal government reversed the Conservative  expanded ages for knowledge and language testing along with citizenship revocation in cases of terror or treason).

Starting with the points on the CPC website:

As Prime Minister, Andrew Scheer will:

  • Work to immediately restore fairness, order, and compassion in our immigration system
  • Put an end to illegal border crossings at unofficial points of entry like Roxham Road
  • Close the loophole in the Safe-Third Country Agreement that allows some people to skip the line and avoid the queue
  • Safeguard and emphasize economic immigration
  • Set immigration levels consistent with what is in Canada’s best interests
  • Stand up for families and ensure that spouses and children can be reunited
  • Improve language training
  • Ensure that our system prioritizes people facing true persecution
  • Improve credential recognition and make it easier for new Canadians who have existing skills that meet our standards to ply their trades here
  • Work to reunite survivors of genocide, who have already resettled in Canada, more expeditiously
  • Bring back the Office of Religious Freedom so that we can protect our shared humanity and promote interest in the dignity of all people
  • Promote the private sponsorships of refugees

Conservatives have cleaned up Liberal messes in immigration before and we are prepared to do it again… with fairness, order, and compassion as the pillars of our efforts.

Source: Andrew Scheer’s Immigration Plan

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer says he would restore fairness and faith in the integrity of Canada’s immigration system by cracking down on those who “game” the refugee process and supporting newcomers who help boost the economy.

In a pre-election speech on immigration policy, Scheer blamed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for eroding public trust in the system by failing to stop the flow of people crossing into Canada from the U.S. outside official border points. The Liberals, he argued, have undermined Canada’s legacy of welcoming newcomers through a system based on compassion, the rule of law and human rights.

“Among the people I hear from most often on this point are new Canadians themselves, people who have played by the rules and arrived in Canada fair and square,” Scheer said to supporters and invited guests from diverse communities during a party-organized event in Toronto.

“They are most offended at Trudeau’s status-quo, where some are able to jump queues, exploit loopholes and skip the line.”

In a speech called Unity in Diversity, one in a series of five speeches on his vision for Canada, Scheer set the stage for an election campaign that’s expected to see divisive immigration issues become key points of debate.

He boasted about the Conservatives’ past record in reducing processing times and backlogs, and outlined in broad strokes some measures his government would take if it’s elected this fall.

Scheer said Conservatives would not set arbitrary immigration levels, but rather be guided on an annual basis based on Canada’s best interests.

“That number may change every year, and I’m not going to get into a political debate, or worse, an auction about immigration numbers,” he said. “The number will reflect what Canada needs and, just as importantly, who needs Canada.”

Refugee, economic immigrant policies

He also said a Conservative government would:

  • Do more to promote privately sponsored refugees.
  • Safeguard and emphasize economic immigration.
  • Improve language training so newcomers can succeed economically and socially.
  • Improve credential recognition to make it easier for newcomers to practise their professions and trades.
  • Provide low-skilled workers a permanent path to residency, making sure wages are fair and taking steps to prevent abuse of workers.
  • Close a loophole in the Safe Third Country Agreement to prevent people from entering Canada at Roxham Road in Quebec and other illegal crossing points.

The Liberals have been under fire for failing to control the border during a surge in the number of people crossing into Canada from the U.S. outside official border points. About 40,000 people have crossed illegally in the last two years.

Scheer accused Trudeau of playing wedge politics on the immigration file by responding to criticism with “rhetoric and personal attacks.”

“We should be able to have an immigration debate in this country without the government calling its critics racists and bigots,” he said.

Scheer said the Liberal approach is “dangerous” because it reduces legitimate criticisms to “cheap partisanship” and devalues the real threats of racism, bigotry and extremism.

Hateful forces

“To ascribe those motives to those who simply want stronger security screening procedures, or fewer people entering the country illegally, makes a mockery of such hateful forces,” he said.

The Liberals lost no time in tearing into the Conservatives’ approach to immigration and refugee policy.

In a Liberal Party news release issued before Scheer was to take the podium, Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen accused Scheer of embracing “the same sort of extreme right wing anti-immigration rhetoric that has become pervasive among right-wing populist parties around the world.”

Hussen also took aim at the Conservative legacy on immigration, saying the party made “reckless” program cuts that were called cruel and unusual treatment by the Federal Court.

“From stoking fear with snitch lines and cutting refugee health services, to running ads that peddle false information and outright conspiracy theories, Canadians know that Conservative politicians see immigration policy as a way to fear monger and divide Canadians,” Hussen said in the release.

Superior views ‘absolutely repugnant’

On refugees, Scheer said his “deeply held personal convictions” are based on universal equality, and said the notion that someone’s race, religion, gender or sexual orientation would make them superior is “absolutely repugnant.”

The Conservative leader also spoke of how his beliefs about helping those in greatest need were shaped by his mother, who died a couple of years ago, and her commitment to helping refugees and the most vulnerable people. Canada must continue to be a place of refuge for those truly in need, he said.

“This strikes at the very fairness of Canada’s immigration system, and there is absolutely nothing fair about forcing the oppressed and the persecuted, like the Syrians my mother helped, to wait longer for Canada’s help while others cross the border illegally from places like upstate New York,” he said.

Hussen’s release defended the Liberal record in office, insisting the Trudeau government has restored confidence in the immigration system by investing in resources to attract newcomers, shorten wait times and ensure fairness.

“Canadians don’t want to go back to the old days and old divisive ways of Stephen Harper and that’s what Andrew Sheer has to offer.”

Source: Andrew Scheer unveils his vision for Canada’s immigration system | CBC News

Commentary of interest

From John Ivison of the National Post:

In his immigration address, Scheer offered the perfect riposte to the suggestion that he is sympathetic to white supremacists and the tapeworm of intolerance and bigotry.

The Conservative leader was explicit – “there is no room in a peaceful and free country like Canada for intolerance, racism or extremism of any kind,” he said.

He reinforced his belief that immigration is a net positive contributor to the Canadian economy. But he was critical of a Liberal Party that has, he said, undone the progress on the immigration file made by previous Conservative governments to speed up processing and eliminate backlogs.

The failure by the Trudeau government to stem the flow of illegal migrants has led to a growth in the number of people who think immigration should be reduced, and in those who have lost faith in the fairness of the system.

Most of all, he censured the Liberals for calling its critics racists and bigots.

Scheer said his faith and upbringing instilled in him a commitment to social justice that flows from conservative principles of individual responsibility.

He said his late mother had helped Syrian refugees settle in Ottawa and that they had reciprocated her compassion by visiting her in hospital.

The Liberals have said they will increase Canada’s immigration target to 350,000 by 2021; Maxime Bernier’s fledgling People’s Party wants the number next year to be cut to 250,000. Scheer said the numbers game is a “red herring” – that the economic and social reality will dictate the level.

But the federal Conservatives have long been pro-immigration – in 2015, levels were at an historic high of 271,833 and over the course of the previous decade 2.8 million people had arrived as permanent residents, mainly from countries like the Philippines, India, China and Pakistan.

Scheer said he would safeguard and emphasize economic migration, at a time when the mix planned by the Liberals will see economic class migrants decrease as a proportion, compared to family reunification cases and refugees.

“We need the world’s best and brightest to choose Canada,” he said.

The focus on economic migrants might reduce the Conservative Party’s appeal in immigrant communities that like the Liberal pledge to bring in grandparents. But Scheer attempted to patch up the relationship with ethnic communities that deserted the Conservatives at the last election by pointing to the things that unite them – hard work, entrepreneurship, faith, family, free worship, and respect for the rule of law.

“The Conservatives are alone in being the last true ‘big tent’ national party,” he said.

Harper won three elections by portraying his party as moderate and mainstream.

By refusing to pander to the resentful backlash against newcomers that has been a hallmark of authoritarian populism elsewhere in the world, Scheer has frustrated his critics and given the Conservative Party the prospect of growing support beyond its base.

Similarly, the decision to drop a previous pledge to balance the budget within two years blunts Liberal claims that Scheer will cut billions from public services. The acknowledgment that he will not be able to make $20 billion deficits disappear in two budgetary cycles is a recognition of voters’ fundamental hypocrisy – they want lots of government spending and lower taxes.

In a previous speech, Scheer said dramatic spending cuts are not necessary to balance the budget – “simply taking a responsible, measured approach to spending growth will go a long way”.

That sounds a lot like the budget balancing itself. But it is very much in keeping with his predecessor’s approach – incremental progress, rather than smash-the-system revolution. That doesn’t seem particularly scary or weak.

Source: John Ivison: Andrew Scheer slowly revealing policies that appear neither scary nor weak

From Campbell Clark of the Globe:

Andrew Scheer’s big immigration-policy speech was not about immigration policy, but about telling the country that he’s not a bigot.

That section of the speech, laying out the Conservative Leader’s personal commitment to diversity and equality, and telling racists they have no place in his party, was personal, and it was important.

Good thing, too. The parts about immigration policy were a bust.

Still, at this particular juncture in politics, it is notable that a big chunk of the Conservative Leader’s speech could have fit in one of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s familiar paeans to diversity as our strength. Mr. Scheer’s speech was entitled Unity in Diversity.

That’s not only because Mr. Scheer has been accused by Liberals of stirring up divisions over immigration, and of being unwilling to unequivocally distance himself from anti-immigrant extremists. It’s also because there’s the People’s Party of Canada – headed by Mr. Scheer’s former leadership rival, Maxime Bernier – trying to feed off anti-immigrant sentiment and take Tory support.

Mr. Scheer presented a tribute to Canadian diversity that ran through the contributions of Indigenous peoples and successive waves of immigration from all parts of the world, closing the list with “Muslims afflicted by oppression and civil war,” and “Gays and lesbians escaping literal extermination simply for being who they are.”

He was going out of his way to respond to what he called “dangerous” false accusations that his party accepts extremism.

He has said that before. But this time, Mr. Scheer rooted that in his personal beliefs and his faith, describing respect for diversity and equality as “one of my most deeply held convictions.” He talked about his late mother volunteering to help Syrian refugees.

“I believe that we are all children of God. And therefore there can be no inferiority amongst human beings. And that equal and infinite value exists in each and every one of us,” he said. “I find the notion that one’s race, religion, gender or sexual orientation would make anyone in any way superior or inferior to anyone else absolutely repugnant.

“And if there’s anyone who disagrees with that, there’s the door. You are not welcome here.”

Those words alone won’t be enough to convince everyone. Yet, they certainly aren’t the kinds of phrases you will find in Mr. Bernier’s speeches, or on his Twitter account. He rooted diversity and equality in his own beliefs. And it is important for Canadians to hear leaders of their major political parties say that.

The problem is that the rest of his speech was so full of unclear, empty phrases that it won’t reassure anyone about how he will apply those principles to immigration.

After all, Mr. Scheer wasn’t entirely wrong when he complained the Liberals paint his party as a bunch of extremists. Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen, for example, accused the Conservatives in January of planning to “militarize” the border to keep out asylum-seekers. Mr. Hussen had twisted a preposterous Conservative proposal – to turn the whole border into an official border crossing – into gun-toting fear.

Yet, Mr. Scheer still uses dramatic rhetoric about the immigration system breaking down, but proposes such vague or half-baked solutions that it allows his adversaries to fill in the blanks.

On Tuesday, he bemoaned the fact that tens of thousands of asylum seekers have crossed the border at unauthorized locations. He suggested, somewhat obliquely, that they are queue-jumpers. But he didn’t propose a real solution to change things, anyway. He said he would close a loophole in a Canada-U.S. agreement so those people could be returned to the United States, without acknowledging the obstacle: The U.S. doesn’t want to do that.

Mr. Scheer said he’d “emphasize” economic immigration, but extolled the virtues of every other category.

How many people should Canada let in each year? Mr. Scheer criticized people who promise to lower the numbers, “without considering the economic impact.” Presumably, that was a shot at a rival, Mr. Bernier, but it also applies to a politician he has courted as an ally, Quebec Premier François Legault. Mr. Scheer also criticized the Liberal government for setting higher immigration targets “without adequate services in place.”

So what should the number be? Whatever “is in Canada’s best interests,” Mr. Scheer said.

He didn’t give the slightest hint of what that means.

No, there wasn’t much immigration policy there. But there was something else – a public embrace of diversity and equality as a core principle. In today’s politics, that matters.

Source: Andrew Scheer’s diversity speech is personal, but short on immigration policy details
The Toronto Sun take by Brian Lilley:

Andrew Scheer says Justin Trudeau has undermined support for immigration in Canada, and he wants to fix that.

Speaking in Toronto’s northern suburbs in the immigrant-heavy area around the airport, Scheer laid out his plan for fixing the system while criticizing Trudeau’s handling of the file.

“Under Trudeau, a record high number of Canadians believe that immigration should be reduced,” Scheer said.

“Worse, Canadians have lost faith in the fairness of our system.”

This has happened, Scheer said, because of the inability of Trudeau and his team to deal with illegal border crossers that — in his words — “game the system.”

Under the previous Conservative government, immigration levels stayed at near-record levels and support for the system remained strong.

While the Conservatives were happy to bring in more than 250,000 landed immigrants per year, they also cracked down on those who abused the visa system or tried to get around the rules.

The Liberals increased the annual immigration target to 340,000 by 2020.

While doing that, though, they have also allowed 43,000 people to cross into the country illegally — mostly at a single irregular border crossing in Quebec.

They have also loosened visa rules meant to stop bogus claims, including from countries like Mexico.

According to reports, more than 400 criminals have entered Canada to traffic drugs for Mexican cartels, and asylum claims have spiked from 260 when the visa requirement was lifted in 2016 to more than 3,300 in 2018.

Scheer says these types of abuses have prompted Canadians to lose faith in a system that, at one time, was a success story for the world to emulate, “of different people — humanity in all its diversity — living together, working together, succeeding and celebrating together as one.”

“One country — the true north, strong and free,” he added.

Source: LILLEY: Scheer strikes right note on immigration

Terry Glavin: The Tories insist racists aren’t welcome in their party. What are they doing about it?

Strong commentary, capturing the unfortunate missteps and resulting perceptions:

There’s no way around it: Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives have a racist jackass problem.

This is not to say that Scheer or any of his MPs have consciously invited the affections of the country’s racist jackasses, and there are far fewer votes in Canada’s racist jackass constituency than you might think. But it’s a problem. And Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives have it, in spades.

The most recent evidence is quite jarring. It comes in Ekos Research Associates’ latest annual findings about Canadian attitudes about immigration. Nothing much has changed in the long-term trends, but for the first time, the proportion of Canadians who say immigration rates are too high has merged with the percentage of Ekos poll respondents who say too many non-white people are coming to Canada. And that bloc is coalescing, for the first time, behind a single political party: Scheer’s Conservatives.

This is what it has come to. Sixty-nine per cent of the “too many non-whites” respondents say they back Scheer’s Conservatives. It only stands to reason that a fairly high number of these people are racist jackasses. And there’s growing evidence that sociopaths from that creepy white-nationalist subculture that congregates in obscure 4chan and 8chan chatrooms are hoping to mainstream their contagion into conservative parties. Scheer’s Conservatives insist they’re not happy about any of this.

“Mr. Scheer is clear. These types of views are not welcome in the party,” Brock Harrison, Scheer’s communications director, told me. “He’s stated that view many, many times. Sure, there are fringe elements who will tell a pollster they support the Conservative party, but, you know, those fringe elements who hold to these extreme ideologies have no place in the party. That’s clear.”

Fair enough. But if there’s nothing wrong with the Conservative message on immigrants and refugees and visible minorities, there sure is something wrong with the signal.

It’s not hard to make the case, for instance, that Justin Trudeau’s Liberals have disingenuously attributed racism and xenophobia to public anxieties and otherwise reasonable Opposition criticisms of the way Ottawa has handled the upsurge in “irregular” asylum claimants who have crossed the Canada-U.S. border since 2017. “This kind of rhetoric drives these people [racist jackasses] to us, whether we like it or not,” Harrison said. “The denunciations from Mr. Scheer are clear. Every time something flares up and the Liberals try to pin this on us, we stand firm and we denounce.”

But the issue flared up into a bonfire of the Conservatives’ own making last summer, when Maxime Bernier, Scheer’s primary challenger in the 2017 Conservative leadership race, got turfed from Scheer’s shadow cabinet for a series of weird anti-multiculturalism outbursts that put him in the crosshairs of the Conservatives’ capable immigration critic, Michelle Rempel. In a huff, Bernier founded his own rump political party, of the type that sometimes seems to specialize in anti-immigrant jackassery. It was a golden opportunity for Scheer to purge the party of its jackass wing and invite them to run off with Bernier. It was an opportunity Scheer didn’t take.

During the 2017 leadership race itself, the House of Commons was in an uproar over Liberal MP Iqra Khalid’s arguably outlandish motion to mount a national effort in the struggle against Islamophobia. But back then, the Conservative Opposition’s reasonable objections to Liberal hyperventilation were overshadowed by bizarre and paranoid alarums within the Conservative party itself. Several leadership candidates proved more than happy to cross deep into the territory of an Islamophobia they said didn’t even exist.

There was little separating Stephen Harper’s Conservatives from the Liberals and New Democrats on the issue of opening the door to Syrian refugees by the time voters walked into polling booths and turfed the Conservatives in the 2015 federal election. Even so, there was a bad smell about the party, coming from the fringes, and the occasional burst of air freshener out of Scheer hasn’t done the trick.

We’re only months away from another federal election, and with a spotty record to run on, Trudeau has given every indication that the question he wants on voters’ minds will be the same as it was last time around: what’s that smell?

Canada is changing dramatically. A lot of people don’t like what they see, and among them are voters who are predisposed to simple explanations and conspiracy theories. The rural white males drawn to white-nationalist propaganda are perched precariously on the bottom rung of every ladder the Liberal free-trade vision imagines, with its phasing-out of the oil patch and its preoccupation with gender equity, “political correctness” and the concerns of visible-minority communities.

While the Liberals deserve credit for attempting to craft policy that addresses the strains and stresses of globalization and migration, Team Trudeau has invested its political fortunes in a “liberal world order” that is broken. The losers in the shiny, happy world of the Liberal imagination are too easily written off by Liberal strategists. The New Democrats have lost their hold on voters from the old working class. The Tories have picked them up.

The promise of relatively open borders, the free flow of capital, people and ideas among and between liberal democracies and police states like China and gangster states like Russia and theocracies like Iran—all of this was already losing its sheen when Trudeau won his majority four years ago.

The urban millennials who carried Trudeau into office were already alert to the dismal prospect of a future planet convulsing in catastrophic climate change. Now they’re stuck in low-paying temporary jobs, and they’re dealing with out-of-reach housing, high daycare and transportation costs and university degrees that lead nowhere. Holding out higher immigration rates as some sort of magic road map out of this mess is at best a flimsy political strategy. It’s not convincing, for starters. But more importantly, it’s dangerous, because when the formula fails to fix things, it will be immigrants who take the blame, and Canada’s recent immigrants are overwhelmingly people of colour.

It’s not good enough for Scheer to get better at dealing with the occasional flare-ups that leave him looking like the hillbilly caricature Liberals like to make of him. He needs to openly admit that the Conservatives have a problem. He needs to clearly and emphatically demonstrate that he means what he says, that his party is not open to voters who scapegoat immigrants and hold fast to the view that there are too many non-white people coming to Canada. He needs to do something about it.

He needs to show them the door and invite them to leave. Whatever numbers he’ll lose to Mad Max Bernier, he’ll pick up from more centrist voters who’ve grown weary of Trudeau’s “woke” politics, with its wardrobe of groovy socks and a photo album filled with glamour magazine spreads where a portfolio of policy accomplishments should be.

But whatever the faults that can be laid at the feet of the Liberals, it’s Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives who have the racist jackass problem. And however much they genuinely don’t want it, they’re clearly not trying hard enough to shake it.

Source: The Tories insist racists aren’t welcome in their party. What are they doing about it?

Scheer denounces white supremacy after Conservative senator questions threat

An improvement:

Andrew Scheer condemned “anyone who promotes racist ideology” after a Conservative senator questioned whether white supremacy was a significant threat to Canadian communities.

Scheer told reporters Wednesday that he “100 per cent” denounces anyone who “promotes white nationalism, promotes any type of extremism.”

“I do believe it’s a threat in Canada because we have seen, tragically, people lose their lives because of people who subscribe to these views,” Scheer said.

“I understand that the senator has issued a clarification … And I absolutely do believe that these types of threats are important for governments of all levels to protect Canadians.”

Scheer was responding to a question about Quebec Conservative Sen. Leo Housakos, who suggested Tuesday that white supremacy is not a significant “threat to our way of life, to our communities, to our democracy.”

In a question to Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland at the Senate’s Foreign Affairs Committee, Housakos asked Freeland to clarify her position that white supremacy is a significant risk to western democracies.

“With all due respect minister, I think that flies in the face of reality over the last two decades. I think over the last two decades western liberal democracies around the world would tell you that the biggest threats we’ve faced are extremist fundamentalism,” Housakos said.

“I can’t identify a single country in the world where governments are supporting white supremacist movements. I can’t identify governments around the world, democratic governments around the world, that are supporting that type of behaviour, certainly not in Canada.”

“I absolutely do think white supremacists and white supremacists movements are a very real, very grave threat to western liberal democracy. I think they are a grave and real threat here in Canada,” Freeland responded.

“The shooting in the Quebec City mosque is a tragic Canadian example of the same threat that we face here at home. So I absolutely believe we need to name that, we need to be aware of it, and we need to work hard to find ways to protect our societies and our people from it.”

In question period Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau demanded Scheer denounce white supremacy, which the opposition leader had publicly done only hours before in a press conference.

But the exchange makes clear that white nationalism and far-right extremism — once a fringe issue in Canada’s political debate — will likely remain front and centre in the lead-up to the 2019 election. In March, Trudeau accused unnamed politicians of exploiting racism for political gain.

In a statement on Twitter Wednesday, Scheer shot back.

“Racism and white supremacy are threats in Canada and I condemn them unequivocally,” Scheer’s statement read.

“It is pathetic and disgusting that Liberals are inflaming these threats to divide Canadians and score cheap points.”

An aide for Housakos declined the Star’s request for an interview Wednesday afternoon, pointing to the senator’s comments on Twitter.

“No western, democratic politician condones extremism of any kind, including white supremacy,” he wrote Wednesday after Freeland released a video of their exchange.

“Extremism in all forms is a threat to our way of life, not just one (form) or the other.”

Source: Scheer denounces white supremacy after Conservative senator questions threat

Le spectre du populisme

Good commentary by Manon Cornellier on the genuine motivations behind the convoy and the yellow vests, their exploitation by the far right, and the inability of Conservative politicians to denounce, or at a minimum, dissociate themselves from the anti-immigration rhetoric and other hateful speech:

Jusqu’où peut-on aller pour porter un message politique ? La question se pose de plus en plus devant la montée d’un certain populisme qui fouette les émotions et alimente même parfois la haine, involontairement ou non. Le Canada n’y échappe pas, avec le risque de voir le débat public dériver dans des eaux troubles d’ici les prochaines élections.

En décembre dernier, le symbole des gilets jaunes est apparu dans le paysage politique canadien, inspiré par le mouvement de ras-le-bol français face à la pression fiscale, les privilèges des élites et les difficultés financières des ménages modestes. Récupéré là-bas par diverses forces politiques, comme l’expliquait notre collègue Christian Riouxla semaine dernière, il subit le même sort au Canada.

Cela ne veut pas dire que nombre de Canadiens qui revêtent le fameux gilet ne partagent pas sincèrement les préoccupations initiales de leurs homologues français : coût de la vie élevée, revenus insuffisants, emplois en péril et ainsi de suite. Malheureusement, plusieurs de ceux qui, au Canada, utilisent ce symbole pour mobiliser sur la Toile ne s’arrêtent pas là. Tyler Malenfant, l’instigateur de la populaire page Facebook Yellow Vests Canada (YVC), qui compte plus de 100 000 membres, s’en prend à la taxe sur le carbone, mais aussi aux prétendues politiques tyranniques des Nations unies, en particulier en matière de migration.

Cet amalgame était en vue à Ottawa la semaine dernière lorsqu’un convoi de camions et de camionnettes, parti de l’Alberta, a bloqué une petite partie du centre-ville pour faire entendre l’inquiétude des gens affectés par les difficultés de l’industrie pétrolière. Les pancartes et banderoles pour les pipelines, contre la taxe sur le carbone ou le projet de loi fédéral sur l’évaluation environnementale dominaient. Mais il y avait aussi des placards sur lesquels des manifestants accusaient le premier ministre Justin Trudeau de trahison, dénonçaient une motion contre l’islamophobie ou encore le pacte onusien sur les migrations. Nombre d’entre eux, émules du président américain Donald Trump, portaient des casquettes marquées du slogan « Make Canada Great Again ».

Cela a malheureusement peu surpris, car depuis leurs débuts, plusieurs pages Facebook des gilets jaunes canadiens, en particulier celle de YVC, ont attiré des messages virulents, parfois haineux, contre entre autres les musulmans ou les migrants arrivés de façon irrégulière. On y a même retrouvé des menaces contre le premier ministre Trudeau, effacées après que le réseau de télévision Global en eut fait état.

Les partisans des gilets jaunes ont le droit de manifester et de s’exprimer, mais ce qui est troublant est de voir des politiciens participer à ces ralliements sans exprimer de réserves à l’égard des vues extrêmes. La semaine dernière, le chef conservateur, Andrew Scheer, quelques-uns de ses députés et le chef du nouveau Parti populaire, Maxime Bernier, ont publiquement offert leur soutien au convoi et à son message pour les hydrocarbures. Il n’y aurait aucun problème s’ils n’avaient pas agi comme si le reste n’existait pas, alors que, par leur présence, ils donnaient non seulement de la crédibilité et de la légitimité aux actions allant dans le sens de leurs critiques habituelles, mais aussi à l’ensemble de l’oeuvre. Ils se devaient de prendre leurs distances des propos ou des comportements d’intolérance, et d’affirmer leur désapprobation.

En lieu et place, un des leurs, le sénateur David Tkachuk, a invité les membres du convoi « à écraser jusqu’au dernier libéral qui reste dans ce pays » (« roll over every Liberal left in the country »). Une figure de style renvoyant aux élections, a-t-il dit par la suite sans s’excuser, mais, métaphore ou pas, cette déclaration était irresponsable de la part d’un parlementaire.

Rien n’indique que M. Scheer soit d’accord avec les idées d’extrême droite ou anti-immigration que certains véhiculent à ces occasions, mais il ne peut, par son silence, implicitement exploiter la colère de cette frange pour s’assurer des votes. On a trop vu ailleurs les effets de ce genre de stratégie politique, prisée par M. Trump, le Britannique Nigel Farage ou la Française Marine Le Pen.

La frustration et les préoccupations des citoyens ne doivent pas être ignorées, mais alimenter leur désarroi, au lieu d’y répondre avec des arguments et des solutions fondés, ne fait qu’entretenir la division, le cynisme et le mépris des institutions.

Source: Le spectre du populisme

Tory leader Andrew Scheer promises more autonomy for Quebec on immigration, Coyne comments

As Coyne notes (Andrew Coyne: Shameless bidding war for Quebec votes is only going to get worse), the bidding war begins:

Quebec will be given more autonomy over immigration if the federal Conservatives win October’s election, party leader Andrew Scheer promised Monday. But he wouldn’t say whether he agrees that Quebec alone should determine how many immigrants it receives.

Premier Francois Legault campaigned on a promise to temporarily reduce annual immigration to Quebec, beginning this year. But almost one month into the new year, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — an advocate of increased immigration to Canada — hasn’t said whether his Liberal government will help Quebec reach its goal.

Trudeau has said he is willing to continue discussions with Legault over his immigration demands, but he stresses his priority is to ensure Quebec has enough workers to fill widespread labour shortages across the province.

Speaking in Montreal at the end of a months-long consultation aimed at courting Quebec voters, Scheer promised “to ensure that Quebec has more autonomy” over immigration.

“Trudeau has had months to do something about (immigration), and what I’m saying is that come October, when I sit down with Mr. Legault, we will actually have actions and not just words, and not just meetings for the sake of meetings,” Scheer told reporters.

Legault says he’s concerned too many immigrants fail to learn French or leave the province soon after arriving. The premier, elected Oct. 1, wants to reduce immigration to address those issues.

Immigration has become a particularly sensitive topic in Quebec since 2017, when an influx of asylum seekers entering the province illegally from the United States began. Last year alone, 18,518 out of 19,419 — or 95 per cent — of RCMP interceptions of migrants crossing between official ports of entry occurred in Quebec.

Scheer said Canadians’ concerns over immigration “stem from the fact this government has completely lost control of the immigration file. We see a situation in Quebec where over 30,000 people have entered Canada illegally and the government — Justin Trudeau — has literally done nothing to stop that.”

Quebec controls roughly 70 per cent of immigrants who settle in the province every year, all in the economic migrant category. The remaining 30 per cent arrive through the family re-unification system or as refugees, two categories controlled by the federal government. Legault has stated he wants to reduce by 20 per cent the number of immigrants in all three categories.

Scheer on Monday declined to say whether he thinks Quebec should control all three categories of immigrants to the province. “I think if you have the right approach … you don’t need to have one party and one level dictating to the other. You work together in collaboration, understanding that Quebec has specific challenges, specific needs.”

Federal Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc said last week he and other federal ministers will soon be meeting with their Quebec counterparts to discuss Legault’s plan to reduce immigration. But LeBlanc said that discussion will have to be “in the context of a broader discussion around labour shortages and … around asylum seekers and the appropriate compensation that the government of Quebec requires.”

The Conservatives sense an opening in the province due to turmoil inside the Bloc Quebecois. The sovereigntist party that once dominated federal politics in the province has been reduced to 10 MPs and last week elected a new leader, Yves-Francois Blanchet, by acclamation.

Last March, Scheer wrote an open letter to Quebecers in La Presse inviting people upset with the “incompetence” of Trudeau and tired of the “existential crises” of the Bloc to come over to his party. An aide said Monday Scheer is taking French lessons, and the Tory leader’s increased ease with the language was noticeable at the news conference.

Aside from promising more autonomy over immigration, Scheer said a Tory government would agree to Legault’s demand that Quebecers file a single tax return to be overseen by the Quebec government.

The Tory leader also promised to “offer incentives” to retirees who want to re-enter the work force, in order to help alleviate labour shortages. And he said a Conservative government would invest in infrastructure to prevent wastewater discharges into the St. Lawrence River and appoint a federal minister from Quebec to oversee economic development in the province.

Later on Monday Scheer was scheduled to attend an event at the campaign office for his candidate, Jasmine Louras, who is vying to replace former NDP leader Tom Mulcair in a Feb. 25 byelection in the Montreal riding of Outremont.

Doug Saunders: The politics of border-crossing bogeymen are unwise – and dangerous

Valid points:

There’s a trick, long known to certain politicians, to get an electoral boost when you’re down in the polls: You declare that dangerous people are about to come across the border, and you latch onto a conspiracy theory claiming that the other political party, or some dark forces associated with them, are responsible.

It can be an effective tactic. Immigration is often a popular election issue, especially when it’s mixed with atavistic fears of mysterious predators entering your territory. It is also a profoundly dangerous tactic.

On Wednesday night, we heard the U.S. President attempt this trick, for the umpteenth time. Americans, Donald Trump declared in an address, are being “raped, murdered and beaten to death with a hammer” by nefarious figures streaming across the southern border, and “thousands more lives will be lost if we don’t act right now” to build his wall.

Never mind that the threat is an utter fiction – illegal border crossings from Mexico to the United States are at their lowest rate in almost half a century, and those who make the crossings are measurably less murder-prone than Americans.

It’s also based on a wild conspiracy theory. Mr. Trump has repeatedly told voters that migrants approaching the U.S. border include “criminals and unknown Middle Easterners,” as well as terrorists, even though his own immigration officials deny this. He’s said that their march on the border is being funded by mysterious Democratic-linked forces; in October, he publicly endorsed an anti-Jewish conspiracy theory blaming Hungarian-American philanthropist George Soros for the “caravan.”

But Canadians can’t watch this with any sense of superiority. For the first time in decades, this tactic has crept into mainstream Canadian politics.

Conservative leader Andrew Scheer shocked many members of his own party last month by taking up a cause that had emerged from the fringes, denouncing a United Nations document known as the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.

That document, if you bother to read it, is an anodyne, purely symbolic statement of principles intended to reduce overall immigration numbers, and especially to discourage irregular – that is, illegal – immigration. Like other such UN compacts, its main purpose is to provide principled-sounding statements for preambles of other documents.

Instead, Mr. Scheer claimed that the Compact “gives influence over Canada’s immigration system to foreign entities.” He then denounced the “crisis at our borders” and “chaos at our borders” caused by “illegal border crossers” – suggesting that cross-border chaos, danger and criminality would be products of this document.

Where did this weird theory come from? As Laurens Cerulus and Eline Schaart found out in an investigation this week for Politico, it was the product of a calculated social-media campaign by “a coalition of anti-Islam, far-right and neo-Nazi sympathizers” based in Europe. It was taken up in September by far-right parties in Europe, and by figures in Mr. Trump’s circle.

Mr. Scheer’s decision to join Mr. Trump in picking up this ugly thread might have seemed like an expedient way to turn immigration fears into anti-Liberal sentiment. Yet, the larger danger of such conspiracy theories is not just that they are absurdly false – but that some people really believe them.

In October, 11 people were shot to death in a Pittsburgh synagogue by a man shouting anti-Semitic slogans. To judge by his social-media posts and statements, the alleged shooter, Robert Bowers, had come to believe that criminal migrants headed to the Mexico-U.S. border were being funded and supported by Mr. Soros and other Jewish figures and organizations – the same conspiracy theory Mr. Trump endorsed. A few days earlier, a Trump supporter in Florida had sent pipe bombs to Mr. Soros and other Democratic-linked figures in apparent support of this theory.

These incidents, and others like them, followed a 2011 massacre in Norway orchestrated by Anders Breivik, who killed 77 people – many of them children – because he had come to believe a theory, promoted by European right-wing politicians, that “globalists” and “cultural Marxists” (including his victims) were conspiring to bring in threatening Muslim immigrants.

That conspiracy theory has now reached Canada. In January, 2017, Alexandre Bissonnette walked into a Quebec City mosque and shot 19 people, killing six. In his police interview, he said he had been spurred to action after watching reports about Mr. Trump’s proposed Muslim ban, and after hearing conspiracy theories about Canada’s Syrian refugees. “I saw that and I like lost my mind,” he said. “I don’t want them to kill my parents, my family.”

Nobody but these killers themselves are responsible for their actions. But they all had been led to believe fictions about border-crossing bogeymen and the figures who supposedly back them. Given the dangerous implications of such inventions, to amplify them in the name of momentary political gain wouldn’t just be profoundly unwise. It would be absolutely reckless.

Source: The politics of border-crossing bogeymen are unwise – and dangerous

Andrew Coyne: Andrew Scheer steers hard to right on UN migrants pact

Some good contrasting articles from Andrew Coyne and John Ivison on the Conservative opposition to the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, with Andrew Coyne’s, in my view, being the stronger.

Campbell Clark also, correctly I think, how the Conservatives are playing this as a wedge issue, similar to M-103 on Islamophobia, and possibly to counter Bernier, who will be attending a rally organized by the far right on Saturday on Parliament Hill:

Starting with Coyne:

Since he became Conservative leader, it has been a matter of speculation: how far would Andrew Scheer go to pander to the populist-nationalist right, specifically on the matter of immigration?

His predecessor had pulled in both directions at once, one minister building bridges to immigrant communities even as another was blowing them up. But candidates who had courted the pop-nats during the leadership race had not attracted many votes. Perhaps their moment had passed.

But then came the influx of asylum seekers crossing our border. After that came Maxime Bernier’s dramatic departure to found his own party, the one-time libertarian wonk rebranded as an immigration skeptic. And the question returned: how far would Scheer go to keep  from being outflanked on the issue?

Well now we have our answer: as far as it takes. Exploiting Liberal discomfort over the border-crossing issue was one thing. But with the Conservative leader’s embrace of far-right fear-mongering over an anodyne UN agreement on immigration, we are deep into the fever swamp. It is disturbing and frankly embarrassing to see.

The document in question is the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. Negotiated and drafted over a year and half, the text was agreed to in July by all but one of the UN’s 193 countries, the lone hold-out being the United States. It’s to be formally adopted later this month.

That so many countries saw the necessity for such an agreement is in recognition of the international dimensions of the issue, especially as migration has expanded in recent years. With so many people on the move — some 258 million now live outside their country of birth — there is a pressing need for states to work together. If countries attempt to deal with the pressures of immigration by dumping migrants on each other’s doorsteps, no one’s interests will be served.

Accordingly, the compact sets out a few basic principles to guide states’ actions, with the aim not just of facilitating “safe, orderly and regular migration,” but “reducing the incidence and negative impact of irregular migration.” That’s right: the agreement is as much about reducing immigration as it is facilitating it, specifically by addressing the “structural factors that hinder people from building and maintaining sustainable livelihoods in their countries of origin.”

Among the 23 “objectives” are such not-terribly-shocking ideas as that states should “collect and utilize accurate and disaggregated data as a basis for evidence-based policies,” that they should “ensure that all migrants have proof of legal identity and adequate documentation,” “facilitate mutual recognition of skills, qualifications and competences,” and so on.

Some are admittedly a little more contentious. Maybe not everyone believes states should “provide access to basic services for migrants,” or “establish mechanisms for the portability of social security entitlements.” But here’s the thing. Suppose Canada, or any country, does not live up to these or any other of the agreement’s objectives. What happens then? Answer: nothing. The agreement is entirely and explicitly non-binding, non-enforceable, and non-justiciable.

This point is made at several points in the document. “The Global Compact is a non-legally binding cooperative framework,” it says, whose “authority rests on its consensual nature.” How does it affect national sovereignty? Not at all: “The Global Compact reaffirms the sovereign right of States to determine their national migration policy and their prerogative to govern migration within their jurisdiction in conformity with international law.” It could not be any clearer.

And yet in the months since it was agreed upon, the compact has become one of those bizarre objects of fascination among the conspiracy-minded, in which it has been elevated into a fiendish plot to dictate immigration policies to national governments, if not to eliminate them altogether. As in previous such episodes, what begins on the outer fringes of debate migrates inward: from racist websites to the right-wing press to opportunistic political leaders.

Toronto Sun columnist Candice Malcolm [MALCOLM: The UN Migration Compact – the details are truly worrisome] handily sums up the theory in one breathless sentence: “This dystopian UN plan seeks to erase borders, destroy the concept of citizenship, undermine the rule of law and circumvent state sovereignty.”

It seeks, she claims, “to make immigration a universal human right,” while blurring “the distinction between refugees and migrants.” After all, doesn’t it say right there in the preamble: “Refugees and migrants are entitled to the same universal human rights and fundamental freedoms”?

Yes it does. And in the next sentence says: “However, migrants and refugees are distinct groups governed by separate legal frameworks. Only refugees are entitled to the specific international protection as defined by international refugee law.” The compact is a statement of broad principles, not a body of law.

And yet there was Scheer on Tuesday, claiming the agreement could “open the door to foreign bureaucrats telling Canada how to manage our borders.” The Conservatives, he said “strongly oppose Canada signing” the compact and would “withdraw” Canada from it if elected. To which I suppose the best answer was supplied by Louise Arbour, UN envoy for international migration and former Supreme Court of Canada judge: “There’s nothing to sign. It’s not a treaty.”

Still, Scheer would put us in select company in rejecting the compact: not only Donald Trump, but the right-wing nationalist parties in Europe, such as now govern Hungary, Austria and Poland. I had not thought I would ever see the Conservative Party of Canada among their number, but you learn something new every day.

A final note: on one of the agreement’s objectives, that urging states to “(stop) allocation of public funding or material support to media outlets that systematically promote intolerance, xenophobia, racism and other forms of discrimination towards migrants,” the critics have a point. The threat to press freedom is obvious.

But the answer to this concern is not to give public funding to media outlets — on any side — not to pander to hysterical fears about open borders and shadowy world governments.

Source: Andrew Coyne: Andrew Scheer steers hard to right on UN migrants pact

Ivison urging caution:

The late Christopher Hitchens called conspiracy theories the “exhaust fumes of democracy” — the unavoidable result of large amounts of information circulating among a large number of people.

The latest conjectural haze drifting in from the fringes of the political spectrum is that the United Nations’ agreement on migration, which Canada is set to sign in Morocco next week, will see this country lose control of its borders.

The Rebel’s Ezra Levant called the UN’s global compact on migration “dangerous” — “a done deal cooked up by unelected bureaucrats with no regard for national sovereignty.”

Andrew Scheer, the Conservative leader, said his party strongly opposes Justin Trudeau’s plan to sign Canada onto the compact, saying it will open the doors to foreign bureaucrats to direct immigration policy. He was specifically concerned about an objective in the compact that deals with how media report on migration issues. The section calls for an effort to eliminate “all forms of discrimination” in public discourse about migration issues — which, if enforceable, would be an existential threat to The Rebel.

After question period on Wednesday, Scheer asked for unanimous consent for a statement that urged the government not to sign the compact and which blamed the UN for the torrent of refugees that has crossed into Canada from the U.S. Not surprisingly, he did not get it.

For now at least, Scheer’s fears are overdone. The potential limitations on media reporting, for example, are not enforceable. Chris Alexander, a former Conservative immigration minister, pointed out that the compact is a political declaration, not a legally binding treaty. “It has no impact on our sovereignty,” he wrote on Twitter.

Trudeau made the same point on Wednesday, as he boasted about Canada’s “global leadership” and its adoption of “open policy.”

It’s hard to find anything particularly offensive in the compact — it says refugees and migrants are entitled to universal human rights; that countries should improve co-operation on international migration to save lives and keep migrants out of harm’s way. It is explicit that it is not legally binding and the sovereign rights of states to determine their own migration policy is re-affirmed.

Still, I remain unconvinced that Canada should sign on. The compact also says that states should “determine their legislative and policy measures for the implementation of the global compact.” The very act of signing creates an expectation that the signatories will take action. It’s not nothing.

We have heard in the past about UN declarations being merely “aspirational.” As it turned out, they have become much more than that.

Take the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which was also sold as a non-binding, aspirational document.

When it was introduced in 2006, the Harper government opposed the declaration’s 46 articles, on the practical grounds that previous court decisions had referenced the work of UN bodies and used them to interpret the laws of Canada. One article in the draft version could have been interpreted to mean military activities could not take place on land that had traditionally been Aboriginal.

The late Jim Prentice, who was then Indian Affairs minister, said the declaration was inconsistent with Canadian law and refused to sign. The declaration only received the Canadian government’s unqualified support in 2016 under the Trudeau government. The new prime minister had already agreed to “fully adopt and implement” the UN declaration, even though his justice minister, Jody Wilson-Raybould, called it “unworkable” and a “political distraction.”

Whatever your views on the declaration, it is beyond dispute that it is not merely an “aspirational document.”

In fact, it is now the law, after NDP MP Romeo Saganash’s private members’ bill was passed by the House of Commons last May. The bill required that Canada’s laws be consistent with the declaration.

In the coming months and years, legislation and judicial interpretation will determine whether Canada’s existing jurisprudence on the duty to consult is sufficient to meet the UN declaration’s requirement on the need to secure “free, prior and informed consent” in any given area of policy. Critics argue that the passage into law of the declaration gives Indigenous Canadians rights not enjoyed by other Canadians.

What was presented as a nice thing to do to be onside with a global consensus has now evolved into a situation that could yet result in legislative gridlock, if the declaration’s provisions on the “rights of self-determination” are taken at face value.

The global compact’s intentions may be pure, but there will be consequences to its adoption that could over time impact Canada’s ability to set its own course on migration.

It won’t erase the border but it could erode sovereignty on immigration. You don’t have to inhale the exhaust fumes of the online conspiracy theories to believe that signing the UN global compact on migration is not a great idea.

Source: John Ivison: The UN’s global pact on migration sounds nice — but don’t sign it

Lastly, Campbell Clark on the politics and similarity with M-103 tactics:

The Global Compact for Migration is the new motion M-103, held up by anti-immigration right-wingers as a scary monster that is going to radically change Canada even though it won’t do much of anything at all.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer stepped out on Tuesday to warn, wrongly, that the Global Compact, a document negotiated by many countries under UN auspices, would force Canada to cede its sovereignty and cede influence to shadowy “foreign entities.”

In fact, the Global Compact – which aims to promote international co-operation on migration flows – is a vague, non-binding document full of long-winded, gobbledygook claptrap that includes a few worthy principles and a couple of dumb ideas. But it won’t force anyone to do anything.

So if Mr. Scheer had opposed the signing of Global Compact on the grounds that Canada shouldn’t put its name to long tracts of big words that don’t have any clear meaning just to make people feel good, he would have deserved a nod of respect.

But the warning the Global Compact will put Canada’s sovereignty in imminent danger is fantasy.

This is the kind of fabricated freak-out we saw in 2017 with M-103, a Liberal MP’s motion asking the Commons to condemn Islamophobia. The motion sparked conspiracy theories – fuelled by the online site the Rebel – that it would restrict free speech, provide “special privileges” to Muslims or somehow lead to sharia law.

It was bunk, because such parliamentary motions don’t lead to anything other than a study. The motion passed, a parliamentary committee issued a bland report last February – and sharia law was not imposed.

Now, the same angst machine is working on the Global Compact for Migration. The Rebel argues it is dangerous, Maxime Bernier, Leader of fledgling right-wing People’s Party, complained about it on Tuesday morning. Then Mr. Scheer followed.

The thing is, the Global Compact is a mess of muddle verbiage, but it is not going to cede immigration policy to the UN or anyone else.

“There is no duty on Canada to implement, enact or enforce anything,” said James Hathaway, a Canadian who is director of the University of Michigan’s program in refugee and asylum law. The compact not only explicitly says it is non-binding, it is also not a treaty, Prof. Hathaway noted. It signs up countries for a discussion process. “No government has to do anything here other than show up for meetings.”

Of course, it’s reasonable to ask whether there’s much real point to the 16,600 words of bureaucratic blah-blah. It is supposed to encourage things such as sharing data on migration. The signatories say they hope to “minimize the adverse drivers and structural factors that compel people to leave their country of origin” – you know, like poverty – but there are no firm commitments.

Some of the criticisms seem to be based on a misreading of the document itself. The Rebel’s Ezra Levant decided that approving references to “regular migration” meant that the compact aims to make mass migration normal and permanent. But regular migration refers to orderly flows of migrants through official border crossings and legal methods – as opposed to irregular migrants. Mr. Bernier echoed Mr. Levant’s words.

One commentator argued that the compact muddies the divide between refugees and migrants, but as Prof. Hathaway noted, it explicitly separates the two. Another commentator alleged it establishes new human rights for migrants, but it doesn’t.

There are flaws: circuitous language and dumb stuff. There’s a section on “promoting independent, objective, and quality reporting” on migration, including cutting off public funds to media outlets that “promote intolerance, xenophobia, racism and other forms of discrimination towards migrants.” Canada certainly shouldn’t want state re-education of the media to be an accepted notion in such documents.

It is worth asking whether this loose collection of words is worthwhile.

Chris Alexander, the former Conservative immigration minister, who tweeted that Mr. Scheer’s warnings were factually incorrect, also opined that there is nothing wrong in setting out some principles for dealing with migration. Prof. Hathaway said there were some ideas in it that made it “a little bit better than nothing.”

Mr. Scheer has every right to think it’s worse – full of misguided notions. But no, next week’s signing won’t give the UN control over Canada’s borders.

Source:     To right-wingers,the Global Compact for Migration motion is a sign the sky is falling again Campbell Clark December 5, 2018     

Andrew Coyne: Conservative war on media fizzles in Canada, but war on truth remains

Another good column by Coyne:

So is the war on the media off? Late last week, the national press were ablaze with stories about how the Conservatives were planning to target the media in the coming federal election.

“The Conservative party appears to be gearing up for a fight with news outlets as part of its 2019 electoral strategy,” reported the Toronto Star.

“The Conservatives are making it clear,” the Globe and Mail reported the same day, “that taking on the media is now a key part of their political message.”

The evidence for this grand strategy is a little thin. MP Pierre Poilievre called a Bloomberg reporter a Liberal. A Conservative senator accused Maclean’s columnist Paul Wells of being a “liberal.” Andrew Scheer gave a speech complaining “the media” were taking the Liberal side in the carbon tax fight and promised, in an open letter in the Toronto Sun, to stand up to “this government, the media and the privileged elite.”

Still, with what’s been happening lately south of the border, the president calling the media the “enemy of the people” and whatnot, nerves in our business are understandably a little jangly. Were there parallels here? Had the war already begun?

And then, just as suddenly, the whole thing appeared to have been called off. Monday, Scheer’s director of media relations, Jacqui Delaney, a brash populist last seen bragging of her taste for the media “jugular,” left after just five weeks on the job. The next day, Scheer himself was mildly avowing his belief that it was the media’s role in a democracy to “hold politicians of all parties to account” and to “hold us responsible for what we say.”

What’s going on? Scheer’s apparent backtrack may be evidence of a rethink at Conservative HQ, or simply a pause to regroup, a tactical retreat in the face of the previous week’s blowback.

Or there may never have been such a strategy. All parties like to “play the ref” sometimes, hoping to influence the press to call a few their way as proof of their fairness. Conservatives, in particular, have never been averse to complaining about media bias.

Nor is the complaint entirely unfounded: while most reporters are professionals who try to be fair, stories tend to be framed through a crisis-and-response lens that, while more a narrative bias than a partisan one, nevertheless is broadly favourable to parties of the left.

At any rate, let us hope that is all this amounts to. If indeed there are Conservatives who think aping Donald Trump’s approach is a winner, they should think again. They risk doing grave harm not only to public discourse but their own cause.

I don’t mean there aren’t upsides to picking a fight with the media. It’s especially fun if the media take the bait, as arguably I’m doing here. Who could resist being called a “threat to democracy” by a bunch of self-appointed Solons never elected to anything? What gladder sight could there be to a critic than the media rising as one to declaim on their own specialness? What firmer proof of media bias, than the media denying it?

But Canada is not the United States, and Scheer is not Trump. The Harper Tories made some yards with this approach, but eventually the voters they needed to reach, the ones just outside their base, tired of the act. The image Scheer is attempting to project is of that Nice Young Man Who Isn’t At All Like Harper. A darkly paranoid campaign focused on the party’s supposed media enemies would scarcely help in that regard.

Neither does Canada appear to offer rich soil for the kind of nihilistic, post-truth tribalism that has taken root in the United States. It exists here, of course. But a new survey by the Max Bell School of Public Policy at McGill and the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy finds large majorities of Canadians — upwards of 85 per cent — still profess trust in the country’s major media outlets. Moreover, divided as they are on partisan and ideological lines, they appear to believe in broadly the same set of facts about the issues.

That’s good news. But it doesn’t mean we’re out of the woods. We haven’t been scarred by the same traumas the States have that have given rise to such distrust of elites there, but we are exposed to some of the same forces, notably the rise of social media, breaking down our ability to reason collectively.

The issue isn’t whether people trust the press these days, but whether they trust anyone. Healthy skepticism about this or that story or source is too often curdling into a blind rejection of knowledge itself, and of those whose business it is to know stuff: experts, or as they are now dismissed, “elites.” What do economists know about free trade? What do climate scientists know about climate? After all, I read something on the internet …

This is the bitter fruit of today’s class politics, where class is defined, not by income, but by education and culture. There’s fault on both sides of this divide, but the Conservatives’ indulgence of populist egghead-bashing is especially dangerous. It puts the whole institutional apparatus through which knowledge is collected, tested and disseminated — what journalist Jonathan Rauch has called “the constitution of knowledge” — in play: mere experts, to be dismissed not in spite of their expertise but because of it.

When Scheer sneers, for example, that on carbon pricing the Liberals have not only the media on their side, but “the academics and think-tanks” — when he takes a broad consensus of experts as suggestive, not of the weight of the evidence and analysis, but of a near universal partisan bias among the educated classes — he veers close to conspiracy theory.

Expert consensus need not be taken as proof that a position is right, but it should never be offered as proof that it is wrong. That way lies madness.