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     

Ex-Harper immigration minister calls out Scheer over ‘factually incorrect’ statements on UN migration pact

Yes another pleasant surprise. And funny how the CPC seems to be using more and more anti-UN language on migration (see Immigration critic Michelle Rempel’s earlier Conservative immigration critique of the levels plan where she singled out UNHCR role in selecting refugees):
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer is being called out by a former immigration minister in Stephen Harper’s government for factual inaccuracies in a public statement Scheer made Tuesday in which he called on the Liberals to reject a UN agreement on migration.

Speaking in the foyer of the House of Commons Tuesday afternoon, Scheer said his party strongly opposes Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s “plan to sign Canada on to the UN Global Compact on Migration.”

Scheer said that by signing the compact, Canada would open the door to foreign bureaucrats directing its immigration policy.

“It gives influence over Canada’s immigration system to foreign entities. It attempts to influence how our free and independent media report on immigration issues and it could open the door to foreign bureaucrats telling Canada how to manage our borders,” Scheer said.

“Canadians, and Canadians alone, should make decisions on who comes in our country and under what circumstances.”

Chris Alexander, who once held the post of immigration minister under Harper, pushed back against Scheer’s claim on social media.

“Scheer’s statement is factually incorrect: This Compact is a political declaration, not a legally binding treaty. It has no impact on our sovereignty,” he wrote on Twitter.

According to the text of the agreement, the compact is not a treaty but an agreement charting out how countries around the world can work together to mitigate the impact and stresses of increased global migration.

“The Global Compact is a non-legally binding cooperative framework that recognizes that no state can address migration on its own due to the inherently transnational nature of the phenomenon,” the compact says.

The document goes on to say in the very next section that it “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.”

The part of the agreement that deals with how the media report on migration issues is referred to under objective 17 of the compact.

That section calls for an effort to eliminate “all forms of discrimination” in public discourse about migration issues.

The compact calls for the promotion of independent, objective reporting on the issue through the passage of anti-hate speech legislation and the withdrawal of public funding from media organizations that promote intolerance, xenophobia, racism and other forms of discrimination against migrants.

The agreement notes that any actions should always be “in full respect for the freedom of the media.”

Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen will sign the agreement on Canada’s behalf next week in Marrakech, Morocco.

“We are proud of the leadership role that our government has played to bring countries together to collaborate in order to protect our robust immigration system,” Hussen’s press secretary, Mathieu Genest, told CBC News in an email.

“We recognize that Canada is not alone in facing these issues and believe that a compact to promote safe, orderly and regular migration is an important step in the right direction.”

“Today’s press conference demonstrated to which lengths the Conservatives are willing to go to win over supporters of the Peoples Party of Canada,” he added, referencing break-away former Conservative Maxime Bernier’s new political party.

Source: Ex-Harper immigration minister calls out Scheer over ‘factually incorrect’ statements on UN migration pact

Election Commissioner asked to probe Conservative Party ties to Chinese-Canadian conservative groups

Valid question that should be asked of any similar efforts by non-profit organizations in favour of any political party. The Conservatives are particularly strong among Chinese Canadians:

Federal Elections Commissioner Yves Cote has been formally asked to investigate the relationship between the Conservative Party and 10 Chinese-Canadian conservative non-profit organizations for possible breaches of election laws.

The Liberal and NDP parties both sent letters to Mr. Cote’s office on Monday, saying an official probe is required to determine if there is collusion between the Conservatives and wealthy Toronto developer Ted Jiancheng Zhou and the non-profit groups he set up to help the party win support within the Chinese-Canadian community.

Mr. Zhou, a former Liberal donor who has condominium projects in Canada and China, set up Chinese-Canadian conservative groups in British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario as well as a national organization called the Federation of Chinese Canadian Conservatives (FCCC). The stated purpose of the FCCC is to assist the “Conservative Party to develop new members; disseminating ideas and policies of the Conservative Party; assisting the Conservative Party to educate and train candidates, party members and to develop volunteers.”

In his letter, NDP MP Nathan Cullen asked Mr. Cote to initiate a “formal investigation” to determine if Mr. Zhou and the Conservatives are co-ordinating their political activities “to circumvent contribution limits” in “potential contravention of election laws.”

Liberal MP Marco Mendicino wrote to Mr. Cote that “there are reasonable grounds to believe that the Conservative Party of Canada and the FCCC are co-ordinating efforts to use the latter organization as a parallel political entity – akin to a Political Action Committee – which could violate the Canada Elections Act.”

The Elections Act says it is illegal for any outside or non-profit groups to be used as vehicles to evade the spending and contribution limits imposed on political parties. Canadian political financing rules restrict donations to parties or candidates to $1,575 a year and consider provisions of services or goods without charge to be non-monetary contributions subject to the same limits.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer’s office denied on Monday that Mr. Zhou’s organizations are involved in fundraising or helping his party to elect MPs in next year’s general election.

“The FCCC is playing no role for the Conservative Party of Canada or the Conservative Fund, no caucus members are involved in the FCCC,” communications director Brock Harrison said in an e-mail. “As far as Mr. Zhou is concerned, he does not have a role either in fundraising or organizing on the party’s behalf … He has organized the FCCC as an independent group of Chinese Canadians who want to promote conservative values in their community.”

Mr. Zhou has also denied any wrongdoing and insists he is not acting as an arm of the Conservative Party. He asserts he set up that network to promote small-c conservative causes within the Chinese-Canadian community.

The businessman made a maximum donation of $1,500 in June, 2016, to the Liberal Party and $400 in May, 2017, before switching his allegiance to the Conservatives. He said his organizations do not violate federal election laws and “we have no intention to fund raise for any candidate or the Conservative Party.”

But Canada’s former long-serving chief electoral officer told The Globe and Mail that an Elections Commission investigation is warranted into whether there was an attempt to skirt the contribution limits under the Canada Elections Act.

“It raises the questions about collusion and these are matters that should be looked at frankly in order to satisfy Canadians that the financial provisions of our status – which makes Canada a leader in this field – are being respected,” said Jean-Pierre Kingsley, who served as chief electoral officer from 1990-2007.

For example, Mr. Kingsley said, it would be collusion if non-profit or third-party organizations provided a list of volunteers to a political party or provided any other form of non-monetary benefit.

An official for the Commissioner of Canada Elections, which conducts investigations into electoral matters, says the agency can’t discuss a probe or confirm whether a particular incident is being investigated. However, Mr. Kingsley said a formal request from either MPs or the public usually triggers an investigation by the commissioner’s office.

The Liberals and the NDP also want Mr. Cote to investigate a Nov. 9 rally and dinner in Richmond Hill, Ont., that featured Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer and at least 10 other MPs and senators for the inauguration of Mr. Zhou’s FCCC. Tickets were priced at $70, or $100 for VIPs, an amount that would have collected between $45,500 and $65,000, depending on the mix of ticket sales. Food and rental space cost $35,750.

A video of the rally showed former Conservative MP Chungsen Leung, who is on the FCCC advisory board, urging the crowd to “volunteer or to donate to the Conservative Party,” and Ontario PC MPP Aris Babikian said: “Without your support, manpower and financial [help] we would not be able to do it. So let’s work together to bring Andrew Scheer as the next Prime Minister of Canada.”

Mr. Zhou said there was no money left over from the event. “We raised barely enough to pay for the event itself. All the money raised are used for the event expenses,” he said in an e-mail. Expenses incurred could still qualify as a non-monetary political contribution, according to Elections Canada.

Source:     Election Commissioner asked to probe Conservative Party ties to Chinese-Canadian conservative groups Robert Fife and Steven Chase November 19, 2018     

Andrew Coyne: It’s that time again, when Conservatives say anything to woo Quebecers

Typical acerbic Coyne commentary on CPC flirting with the Quebec nationalist vote:

Certain things recur eternally, in time with the rhythm of the seasons. Flowers bloom in spring. The swallows return to Capistrano. And the federal Conservatives prostitute themselves for the Quebec-nationalist vote.

Well, that’s a bit strong. Prostitutes, after all, expect to be paid. Whereas the Conservatives’ periodic efforts to sell themselves, their principles and their country to people with a proven lack of interest in all three are as notable for their unremunerativeness as they are for their self-abasement.

The Conservatives have been trying this same act now for several decades, most notably — and destructively, to both country and party — under Brian Mulroney, but in their different ways under Robert Stanfield (“deux nations”), Joe Clark (“community of communities”) and even Stephen Harper (“the Québécois nation” resolution).

Occasionally, they manage to attract some attention in the province that has remained largely indifferent to them since 1891. If they are particularly extravagant in their offerings, as under Mulroney, they may even win their votes — but only for as long as it takes to sink in that there is no support in the rest of Canada for what they are proposing, and no possibility of their being implemented.

At which point the whole exercise sinks in a heap of dashed expectations and accusations of bad faith, leaving the country divided and the Tories in ashes. Until, inevitably, some genius gets it into his head to launch the whole routine again.

As, indeed, some genius now has. There were early warning signs during the leadership campaign, with Andrew Scheer’s efforts to prostrate himself before the dairy lobby on the issue of supply management — a policy that is not explicitly about Quebec nationalism, but which only exists because it has been incorporated into the “Quebec consensus,” and is as such, like others of its kind, untouchable.

There were further hints in Scheer’s expressions of interest, as leader, in the Couillard government’s ruinous plan to leap again into the constitutional bog, this time with a set of demands that include entrenching “the Quebec nation” — not the Québécois, as in the Harper resolution, but the province entier, as national proto-state.

But it wasn’t until last weekend’s gathering of the party in Saint-Hyacinthe that we began to see just how far the Scheer Conservatives are prepared to go down this road. We now learn that among the proposals Scheer is considering including in the platform for 2019 is a federal retreat from responsibility for culture and immigration in Quebec, in favour of the provincial government: a longstanding nationalist demand, and another brick in the wall dividing Quebec from the rest of Canada.

As in a growing list of other fields, MPs from Quebec would be setting rules for the rest of Canada that did not apply to themselves, legislating for other provinces in areas over which Quebec reserved all power to itself. To now we’ve been able to paper over the inequities this implies: the levies Quebec MPs voted to impose on other Canadians under the Canada Pension Plan were until lately the same as those imposed under the Quebec Pension Plan. (They are now slightly lower.) But the principles of federalism can only be stretched so far. At some point they’re bound to break.

And there was this gem. In the name of preserving its autonomy, Quebec has long been the only province to force its long-suffering citizens to file their taxes twice: once to Ottawa and a second, entirely separate return to the province, with a separate set of deductions and credits. The Tories now propose to end this silliness — not, as you might expect, by the province agreeing to use the federal tax base in return for the feds collecting its taxes for it, as in the rest of Canada, but by the province collecting both sets of taxes, then remitting the federal portion to Ottawa.

Wonderful: henceforth, the federal government would be dependent on the grace and favour of the government of Quebec for a fifth of its income — even as the government of Quebec depends on federal transfers for about a fifth of its income. (Would it just subtract its share? Or would the two governments send each other cheques?)

And should there arise some dispute between them? That’s a nice little revenue source you have there. Pity if anything should happen to it.

There’s no actual need for any of this, you understand. There never is. The reason Quebec has its own pension plan is not because Quebecers age at different speeds, but because the government of Quebec fancied the cash — and because the Pearson government, with the Quiet Revolution then at its peak, was too unnerved to say no.

So it is with immigration and culture. Believe it or not, the federal government employs many francophone Quebecers. To the extent Quebec has special needs in these areas, they are quite capable of understanding and addressing them. Meanwhile, the province continues to enjoy the greatest degree of latitude in a country whose provinces generally have more powers than many sovereign states.

But then, the interest of Quebec’s political class in protecting the province’s jurisdictional turf seems to ebb and flow. At times, they are only too happy to have the feds intervene — for example, when it comes to covering the costs of the current influx of asylum seekers. Or, in perhaps the most brazen recent example of have-it-both-ways federalism, in the Coalition Avenir Québec’s suggestion that, should it form a government, it would exclude immigrants who did not pass its “values” test — but stick Ottawa with the job of kicking them out of the country.

I get why provincial politicians behave this way. I have no idea why their federal cousins are so eager to enable them. Or rather no, I know exactly why. Certain things recur eternally, after all.

The political debate over migrants hasn’t turned ugly yet – but it could

Good piece by Aaron Wherry:

The Liberals want the Conservatives to watch their words. The Conservatives want a plan. They’re both right.

The debate over what to do about the asylum seekers crossing our southern border — revived this week after the Quebec government worried aloud about its ability to deal with a possible surge of arrivals this summer — is serious, tawdry and dangerous.

On Wednesday, for instance, Conservatives celebrated when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau acknowledged in the Commons that crossing the border between official points of entry could be called “illegal.”

(The government typically refers to “irregular” border crossings. The Conservatives insist on calling them “illegal.”)

NDP MP Jenny Kwan later stood on a point of order to argue that, according to a strict reading of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the people crossing the border at places like Roxham Road in Quebec aren’t committing a crime.

Conservative MP Michelle Rempel accused the NDP of quibbling over “semantics,” but the adjective “illegal” is obviously meaningful to the Official Opposition. And when applied to human beings with families and children who might have excellent reasons for fleeing their home country, “illegal” is at least a fraught term.

Playing politics

The Conservatives, who describe the ongoing border crossings as a “crisis,” would like the government to table a plan for resolving the situation. They went as far as tabling a motion in the House this week calling on the Liberals to do so.

But — in the classic style of opposition motions — the request for a plan was buried in text that would have had the government acknowledge its “failure to address the crisis” and “admit the Prime Minister’s irresponsibility of tweeting #WelcometoCanada to those seeking to enter Canada through illegal means.”

 

And so Liberal MPs declined to support the motion in a vote on Tuesday, and so Conservative MP Ted Falk stood in the House on Wednesday and lamented the prime minister’s refusal “to even commit to a plan.”

The Conservatives also charge that the irregular arrivals are “queue jumpers,” a description the government rejects.

The Liberals argue the Conservative and NDP proposals — respectively, to declare the entire border to be an official port of entry, or to unilaterally suspend Canada’s border agreement with the United States — are both irredeemably flawed. And the situation is certainly complicated, legally and practically.

But writing down and publishing a detailed plan could still be useful.

In the meantime, each side is warning the other about where all this might be headed.

‘The flames of fear and division’

“I recommend that my colleague choose his words carefully, because false information and incendiary rhetoric only fan the flames of fear and division,” Transport Minister Marc Garneau said Tuesday, scolding Conservative MP Pierre Paul-Hus.

“I’m worried that the dialogue in Canada is going to switch from ‘how we do immigration’ to ‘if we do immigration,’ ” Rempel told CBC radio’s As It Happens that same day.

On Wednesday, Trudeau said it was “completely irresponsible of the Conservatives to arouse fears and concerns about our immigration system and refugees.”

But Rempel contends that it’s the Liberals who could be inciting division.

“As someone who supports compassionate, planned, orderly migration, and sees it as a key to sustaining the Canadian economy over time when done properly, legally, and safely, I worry that by abdicating the responsibility to do this, it is actually the Liberal Party that is creating divisiveness in the country,” she told the House this week.

More than 6,000 people have crossed the Quebec border seeking asylum so far in 2018 and officials expect the surge to continue with the onset of warmer weather 7:34

Trudeau’s tweet and Trump’s edicts

Canada takes pride these days in not being the sort of place where such divisiveness dominates. But you don’t need to look far here to see how large-scale, unplanned immigration can trigger something ugly and destructive.

In the United States, migration has helped to inspire a nativist litany of grievances that is warping American politics. In Europe, it has helped to birth a new era of nationalism. All sides should be aware of the forces at play here.

However much the prime minister’s tweet on January 28, 2017 acted as a beacon to those seeking refuge, policy decisions in the United States are no doubt giving people good reasons to flee.

But that American approach isn’t likely to change soon. On Thursday, the Trump administration announced that 9,000 Nepalese immigrants will have to leave by June 2019. And even if Trudeau had never hashtagged a message of welcome to the world, the federal government would still bear the responsibility for managing the border.

Liberals can point to the emissaries they have dispatched to dissuade would-be travellers, but such efforts will be discounted if the rate of crossings doesn’t decline. The Trudeau government can point to the funding and resources it has committed to dealing with the new arrivals, but ultimately the Trudeau Liberals may find they have little room now to quibble with the premier of Quebec, or to suggest that it’s the province that should be doing more to accommodate asylum seekers.

If social services in Quebec are noticeably stretched, if immigration procedures bog down, if community tensions rise, Ottawa will be blamed.

Of course, all of this — the number of people crossing the border, the processing and integration of those people while they’re here, the language being used to talk about them — are ripe for political exploitation.

Responsible critics have a duty to avoid overstating the danger here. Responsible governments have a responsibility to limit the grounds for concern.

Source: The political debate over migrants hasn’t turned ugly yet – but it could

A whole lot of people owe Kellie Leitch an apology | Furey

Anthony Furey defends Kellie Leitch and wants her back in the limelight? Suspect most conservatives do not:

So keep an eye on Scheer’s secret agenda. Those are the pearls they’ve instructed us to clutch as we head out to the summer BBQ circuit. Good to know.

However, I can’t help but feel that one poor soul has been badly served by this shift in the liberal media narrative.

I mean, here’s Scheer getting front-page headlines as public enemy number one and, all of a sudden, former leadership candidate Kellie Leitch is persona non grata.

All during the leadership race, the Ontario MP and revered surgeon was getting constant attention from the media elites as a big threat to Canada, and now she’s not even worth a mention.

Last year, Leitch advocated screening prospective immigrants for “Canadian values”. She made clear from day one what she meant by this was that Canadian pluralism means respect for women’s rights, gay rights, ethnic and religious diversity and other such progressive notions.

Not a bad idea, I thought. A sizable majority of Canadians across the political spectrum liked it too, polls showed.

We welcome thousands of people to Canada every year that come from cultures that have very different social norms, such as the criminalizing of homosexuality.

It’s just common sense to tell them how things work here. Northern European countries already do this and Australia is expanding its own values test.

Yet somehow my colleagues in the liberal consensus media could see into Leitch’s soul and knew her true intentions were the exact opposite of her words.

Even though Leitch said, for example, that diversity was important, she actually meant, they assured us, the opposite.

Now I get that Leitch lost, but it’s still odd that she’s completely disappeared from the liberal media hit list and now the previously harmless Scheer has taken her spot as top ogre.

Maybe the liberal-friendly media never truly believed the, er, psychic insights they discerned about Leitch and spoon fed to their audience.

Maybe it was just because they always need to find a conservative to cast as an evil villain, regardless of the facts.

And if that’s true, a whole hell of a lot of people in the liberal media owe Kellie Leitch a very big apology for playing this dirty game on her.

Source: A whole lot of people owe Kellie Leitch an apology | FUREY | Columnists | Opinio

Can Andrew Scheer fix the Conservative Party’s diversity problem?

Former PC staffer Angela Wright on challenges facing Andrew Scheer, particularly with new Canadian and visible minority voters:

In his victory speech, Andrew Scheer touted the party’s commitment to being this big tent as well as the need to communicate conservative values to a greater number of Canadians. However, there were two statements in his speech—statements that garnered the loudest applauses in the convention—that could prove troubling for the party when it comes to minorities: echoing the dangerous threat of radical Islam and a staunch belief in withholding federal funding from universities that attempt to stifle free speech.

Across North America and Europe, political responses to Islamic terrorism have created a political arena where politicians and their supporters have justified both blatant and consequential discrimination towards Muslims. There is significant support amongst Canadians to commit ground troops to the fight against ISIS, but by framing this as a fight against radical Islam, Scheer gives ammunition to people who harbour prejudicial views towards Muslims. Although many argue that the term “radical Islam” highlights this form of terrorism is a warped strain of normal Islam, it nonetheless reminds listeners the culprits are Muslim, thus offering an excuse for people with biases against Muslims to suggest policies that target Muslims as a remedy. And for Muslims, it may give the impression that the party is using them to advance its policies on global security.

“Free speech,” meanwhile, has been used as a cloak by racists and bigots to spout rhetoric that’s harmful, hateful, and disrespectful towards racial and religious minorities. Scheer must take care to clarify his opposition to firing or silencing university professors with controversial views while maintaining an opposition to hate speech.

More than advocacy for justice and equality, this issue also has the potential to cause discord in the party between those who are advocates of unrestricted free speech and those who want the party to be more welcoming to everyone with small-c conservative values, regardless of their race, ethnicity or religion.

That’s why Scheer should rescind his position to withhold federal funding from universities. It’s imperative to be cognizant of how these issues can be used to target minorities as well as the detrimental impact this has on the party’s image—and its chances at electoral victory.

As a young politician with over a decade of political experience, an Ottawa native living in the Prairies, and a Conservative not tied to previous controversial legislation, Andrew Scheer is best-suited to lead the rejuvenation of the Conservative Party into one that will not bring forth policies and communicate them in a manner that forces racial and religious minorities to choose between their values and racism, their values and xenophobia, or their values and self-respect.

The party’s history-making membership numbers and massive voter turnout in the leadership race show an eagerness amongst Canadians to join the conservative movement and a dissatisfaction with other political choices. The Conservative Party has the money and the membership to win in 2019; all it needs is greater support amongst Canadians.

But it can’t be done without support from racial and religious minorities.

Source: Can Andrew Scheer fix the Conservative Party’s diversity problem? – Macleans.ca

Conservative Party’s fortunes hinge on immigration policy: Ibbitson

Good overview by Ibbitson of the varied immigration positions of the Conservative leadership contenders (the Harper support mentioned below reflected in part the weakness of the other parties as well as the strong outreach by former Minister Jason Kenney):

Under Stephen Harper, the Conservatives enjoyed broad support from immigrant Canadians, many of whom are economically and socially more conservative than many native-born Canadians.

But when the party promised during the 2015 election campaign to root out “barbaric cultural practices,” it made Conservatives look anti-immigrant.

New Canadians will support the Conservatives, but only if they believe that Conservatives support them.

Source: Conservative Party’s fortunes hinge on immigration policy – The Globe and Mail

Tory leadership hopeful Chris Alexander mentions Rachel Notley at speech and crowd chants ‘lock her up

His political and personal judgement is in question.

Sharp contrast between John McCain showing leadership in 2008 when responding to a similar angry crowd by saying “I have to tell you. Sen. Obama is a decent person and a person you don’t have to be scared of as president of the United States.”

And the sheer hypocrisy, given his complaints about being subject to hateful tweets in last week’s CBC At Issue panel:

Federal Conservative leadership hopeful Chris Alexander says he didn’t stop a crowd calling for Alberta Premier Rachel Notley to be locked up because politicians need to listen to constituents.

The former immigration minister was speaking at a rally against the provincial NDPs’ planned carbon tax Saturday when protesters began the “Lock her up” chant popularized during president-elect Donald Trump’s campaign.

“I totally disapprove of that particular chant. I don’t think it’s fair. I don’t think it’s the right thing to say at a rally or elsewhere, and that’s why I didn’t join it,” Alexander said Sunday.

The Edmonton rally was organized by Rebel Media, an online news and right-wing opinion outlet, and video of the incident was posted on Twitter by the website’s Alberta bureau chief Sheila Gunn Reid.

The video shows the ralliers start by chanting “Vote her out,” but as they grow louder, the message changes.
As they chant “Lock her up,” Alexander smiles and appears to gesture in time with the chant, nodding along.

Someone can be heard shouting, “That’s enough! That’s enough!” in the background, and as Alexander smiles and nods, the camera turns to face the crowd.

At no point in the video does Alexander stop the protesters or say anything about their chant.

“You don’t pick it up in the video, but I started to say the words in time with them, ’Vote her out,’ and then the next point I made was about the ballot box,” he said. “I expressed my disapproval by talking about something completely different: voting. I think that was pretty clear.”

Source: Tory leadership hopeful Chris Alexander mentions Rachel Notley at speech and crowd chants ‘lock her up’ | National Post

Michael Den Tandt: You want a ‘sunnier’ conservatism, Jason Kenney? What a comedian

Some uncomfortable truths here, particularly given the drubbing the Conservatives received in those suburban ridings where new Canadians and visible minorities form a majority or close to a majority of voters (see Visible minorities elected to Parliament close to parity, a remarkable achievement):

Jason Kenney is a wizard in a scrum. Intellectually nimble, rhetorically agile, reflexively partisan, the Conservatives’ former “Mr. Fix-it” is everything one could ask for in a future party leader, yes? Of course yes. Kenney is also, it turns out, a comedian.

“We need a conservatism that is sunnier and more optimistic than we have sometimes conveyed,” he was quoted by The Canadian Press as saying, following his party’s historic drubbing at the hands of Justin Trudeau, a man Kenney himself has incessantly belittled and mocked, for years.

Apparently defeat has refocused the former immigration and multiculturalism minister’s mind on the better angels of his nature. Kenney, long believed to be angling for the Tory leadership in a post-Harper era, has had his conversion on the road to Damascus. He wishes to purge his party of its grim, Harperesque baggage. Perhaps he will be the wire brush, to borrow the Liberal expression from the post-Sponsorship-scandal era, to scrape the Conservative party clean. Perhaps he will tell jokes and smile and speak of building a greater Canada. Perhaps he, too, will hold a news conference in the National Press Theatre, during which he gently reminds shell-shocked journalists they have a role to play in democracy, and are not despised.

Optimism, it has been miraculously revealed, works, and Jason Kenney will be its new blue paragon.

Seriously, now. If there is a single minister other than Stephen Harper who must wear the Conservative loss, it is Kenney. That’s due to his abilities and strengths, ironically enough, as much as his omissions and flaws.

It was Kenney who famously delivered Ontario’s 905 seats, where many hundreds of thousands of new Canadians reside, in the 2011 federal election. It was he, lovingly dubbed the Minister of Curry-In-a-Hurry, who managed to pull off the apparent miracle of streamlining and toughening Canada’s immigration and refugee system, while increasing support among the various communities most affected.

It was Kenney also who spoke up most loudly and clearly, among federal ministers, in the fall of 2013 when former Parti Québécois premier Pauline Marois hauled out her xenophobic charter of values, which later cost her the premiership. “If you want people to become a part of your society and fully participate in it, then you have to create a space (and) send a message that people are welcoming (and) including,” Kenney was quoted by CTV as saying at the time.

But two years later, in the heat of a campaign, there was Kenney front and centre in the bid to transform fear of niqab into votes. It was on Oct. 2, in fact, the day his colleagues Chris Alexander and Kellie Leitch unveiled their proposed “barbaric cultural practices” tip line, that Kenney said this to radio host Evan Solomon: “I believe it (the niqab) reflects a misogynistic culture that — a treatment of women as property rather than people, which is anchored in medieval tribal customs …”

Four days later, prime minister Stephen Harper doubled down, saying in an interview with CBC’s Rosemary Barton that he’d consider banning the veil across the civil service. There were no women wearing niqabs in the civil service, it later emerged, but never mind. This was the Conservative leader saying the wrangling would go on, and on. That very week, Conservative support began to slump, polls showed. It never recovered.