Conservatives had sudden, unusual drop in votes in ridings of concern for Chinese interference: data

Good analysis of election data and hard to argue that there was no effect due to Chinese government influence or interference given the scale and concentration of the drop. The pollsters consulted I think are being overly coy and neither I believe has detailed polling of Chinese Canadians or understanding of their issues (the Harper government was more harsh on China and yet did well among Chinese Canadians):
Evidence of China’s alleged influence in the 2021 federal election might be found as much in what didn’t happen as what did — namely, the significant number of previous Conservative voters who did not show up to cast a ballot in ridings in British Columbia and Ontario.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced probes into allegations of foreign interference last week after several media reports suggested Beijing had directed an interference campaign in a few ridings in the Toronto and Vancouver areas.The National Post reviewed voting tallies from ridings identified as areas of concern by various reports and by Conservative campaign officials. The ridings are all home to large populations of Chinese Canadians.

Across multiple ridings, a similar pattern emerged: Conservative candidates saw significantly fewer supporters coming to the polls, however the Liberals did not see large gains, indicating not that large numbers of voters switched allegiances, but that for some reason, large numbers of voters did not vote at all.

Markham–Unionville is one of the ridings Conservatives have pointed to as a concern. The former MP, Bob Saroya, won the suburban Toronto seat in 2015 and 2019 as a lonely blue island in a sea of Liberal red across the region.

In 2015, Saroya received 24,605 votes, about 3,000 more than his Liberal challenger, allowing him to take a seat from the Liberals even as the Trudeau government was swept to power. Saroya held the seat in 2019, receiving just over 26,000 votes, but in 2021 his vote total fell by more than 7,000 and he lost.

The victorious Liberal MP, Paul Chiang, put on a strong campaign garnering nearly 22,000 votes. It was Chiang’s first election, and on doorsteps he emphasized his strong local roots in the riding and his decades of work as a police officer. Trudeau visited the riding several times. But Chiang only received 1,500 more votes than the previous Liberal candidate did. Far more important to the election result was the steep drop in support for Saroya.

Chiang has shown no evident favouritism to China since being elected, voting for a motion condemning the Chinese government for their treatment of the Uyghur genocide just last month.

In B.C., former Conservative MP Alice Wong won the seat for Richmond Centre in 2015 with more than 17,000 votes and in 2019 with more than 19,000 votes. But in 2021, her vote count sank by almost 6,000 votes, to 13,440. She lost to a Liberal, despite the Liberal vote increasing only by about 2,000.

Several other ridings around Toronto and Vancouver with large Chinese Canadian populations saw declines in Conservative support, without the bulk of that support switching to other parties.

Former Conservative MP Kenny Chiu lost his Steveston-Richmond East riding after 4,400 fewer Conservative supporters voted for him in 2021 than in 2019. He has alleged a misinformation campaign was spread on Chinese social media apps, including WeChat, about his party and his positions, including that the Conservatives were going to ban WeChat.

However, Chiu also said many of his constituents were extremely cautious of COVID and Trudeau’s decision to run an election during a pandemic hurt his campaign.“It’s understandable right in the middle of the pandemic, that people not only would not open their door, let alone go out to the ballot and vote,” Chiu said.

Chiu’s riding has been hotly contested in the past. He won fairly narrowly in 2019 after losing in 2015. He said he is still convinced there was outside interference, because the time between the 2019 and 2021 elections had been so short, and most of the news about the Liberals during that time was negative.

“Between 2015 and 2019, there are four years. Between 2019 and 2021, there are 22 months, and all of that (time) it’s all pandemic and it’s full of government scandals,” Chiu said.

Éric Grenier, a polling analyst who runs The Writ website, said it’s clear the Conservatives lost support in a wide swath of ridings, and supporters mostly stayed home“It is pretty clear that the Conservatives were in trouble in ridings with big Chinese Canadian populations, because they did lose a lot more support in those ridings than they did in neighbouring ridings,” he said.

Grenier said many factors could explain the drop. To begin, overall voter turnout dropped by five per cent between 2019 and 2021. He also points to local candidate factors and other possibilities.

“In these ridings, it’s clear that something was happening that was motivating those voters, it’s just impossible to say what it was.”

Andrew Enns, vice president with polling firm Léger, said these ridings are an anomaly because the Conservative vote declined, even as it rose more broadly across Ontario and British Columbia. He agrees there could be many other factors at play.

“You’ve got to really look at other factors, the quality of the candidate. Did something happen to that local candidate in the campaign? And I don’t have any answers to that. But it is certainly an unusual trend.”

Enns said it is also possible Chinese Canadians soured on the Conservatives. While there was evidence of misinformation circulating about the party’s view on China, the party’s then leader, Erin O’Toole, generally favoured a more hawkish stance with the country.

Source: Conservatives had sudden, unusual drop in votes in ridings of concern for Chinese interference: data

Clark: Three Conservative MPs who saw no evil until after lunch

Good analysis and depressing reality that Pierre Poilievre is overly beholden to the more extreme elements in the party. And Max Bernier is already fundraising off this “discreet” repudiation of the AfD by Poilievre:

If you’re not familiar with the policies of the Alternative for Germany, the party represented by MEP Christine Anderson, you’re not alone. But the three Conservative MPs who met her for a long lunch last week didn’t get there by accident.

That is not to say the three MPs are racist. Leslyn Lewis, Colin Carrie, and Dean Allison aren’t known as that at all. They are the Conservative Party’s unofficial conspiracy caucus.

So when the Conservative Party issued a statement that said the three didn’t know Ms. Anderson’s views, and later two organizers of the three-hour lunch said the MPs knew a lot about who they were meeting, well, both of those things might be sort of true.

It’s easy to find out the AfD stands for anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, and xenophobic views, because it can be quickly discovered on the internet, in newspapers or videos, or from many sources. But it also seems very possible that these three read about it and didn’t believe it.

Mr. Carrie apparently didn’t believe COVID-19 vaccines were safe, so, according to a Conservative source, he was one of the four MPs who did not go the Commons in person in the fall of 2021. Mr. Allison apparently didn’t believe public health officials who said the veterinary anti-parasitic drug Ivermectin wasn’t proven for treating COVID-19, and he gave a presentation about it to a group of Tory MPs. Last year, Ms. Lewis falsely claimed a then-undrafted World Health Organization treaty would give the WHO power to dictate all of Canada’s health care decisions in a pandemic. The three wink at the theory that the World Economic Forum is a cabal to control Canada and the world.

And guess what? Ms. Anderson shares a lot of their views about vaccine mandates and globalists. They saw her as an ally, and apparently chose not to see the rest. She tells people she is not xenophobic or anti-Muslim, although she doesn’t really eschew those sentiments. “I do not have problems with Muslims. I have a problem with Islam. I do not consider Islam to be a religion,” she told the right-wing website Rebel News.

Prominent AfD figures have played down the Holocaust and Nazi era, and spoken of immigrants as invaders. The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs raised concerns about the three MPs meeting with Ms. Anderson. The AfD tends to target Muslims with its policies, but they include banning kosher meat and “non-medical” circumcision. Its politicians aren’t the advocates of freedom they claim to be.

So Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre did the right thing when he issued a statement to reporters who asked that criticized Ms. Anderson’s views as “vile.” That’s unequivocal. The party issued a statement saying the three MPs had not known about her views. Mr. Carrie took the extra step of tweeting that he regretted his mistake and will do better.

That didn’t settle it, however. Mr. Poilievre didn’t put his statement on his or the party’s social media or website, and critics accused him of try to keep it low-key with his own base.

But he probably got more criticism from the right – and Mr. Carrie got a helping of it, too – from people who accused him of backing down in the face of criticism from the media. Rebel News ran a piece that said Mr. Poilievre “panicked” and threw his MPs to the “media wolves.” They didn’t feel the Conservative Leader stood up for principle, but rather that he caved.

That is a message to Mr. Poilievre that he will pay a political price on his right wing if he distances the Conservative Party from extremists like the AfD. And, by the way, the People’s Party is waiting there.

It’s worth noting Ms. Anderson’s AfD evolved into what it is because of how it dealt with extreme elements.

Alternative for Germany came out in 2013 as an anti-European Union splinter from conservative parties, but its first leader, Bernd Lucke, quit in 2015 complaining the party was taken over by xenophobic elements under new leader Frauke Petry. In 2017, Ms. Petry lost a power struggle with the more extreme far right wing of the party, and later quit the party, too.

So if there’s a vein of folks in the Conservative Party that doesn’t want to see the extremism of some who claim to be allies, they should be warned. There is a line. If you choose not to see it at your lunch table, it just gets closer.

Source: Three Conservative MPs who saw no evil until after lunch

Reaction to Conservative support for the notwithstanding clause

From the right (Ivison) to the left (Raj):

Most MPs come to Ottawa with good intentions, resolving to follow their conscience to make life better for their communities. Often though, they find that their conscience is not going in the same direction as their party. A decade ago, I remember Indo-Canadian Conservative MP Tim Uppal sending me a set of head scarves for my western Quebec soccer team, to wear in a solidarity protest against the Quebec Soccer Federation’s turban ban. Today, Uppal says he opposes Quebec’s Bill 21, the law that bans some public servants in the province from wearing religious symbols such as turbans to work.

Yet, earlier this week, he and the rest of the Conservative party voted in favour of a Bloc Québécois motion that called on the House of Commons to remind the government that it is solely up to Quebec and the provinces to decide on the use of the notwithstanding clause.

This is the same clause that was invoked by Francois Legault’s Quebec government pre-emptively to shield it from court challenges — which was prescient because the Quebec Superior Court judged last year that Bill 21 violates religious freedom but is beyond the reach of the judiciary. A panel of judges at the Quebec Court of Appeal is now weighing whether the bill disproportionately discriminates against Muslim women who wear the hijab (even the notwithstanding clause does not protect legislation that discriminates on the basis of gender).

I wrote to Uppal and said I was surprised at the party’s position on the use of notwithstanding. “I understand it’s popular in Quebec but we both know it’s blatant discrimination,” I said.

In reply, Uppal said that the motion was about the ability of the provinces to use the notwithstanding clause as guaranteed in the Constitution. “We are not interested in getting into a drawn-out constitutional battle. There are more important issues to focus on,” he said. It would be mildly amusing to watch political parties make age-old mistakes for the first time, if the consequences weren’t so serious. The Conservative party’s discomfort at siding with the Bloc, in pursuit of soft nationalist votes, risks alienating ethnic voters.

It is reminiscent of Justin Trudeau’s indiscretion early in his leadershipwhen he said he favoured keeping existing representation in the Senate because it was to Quebec’s advantage — a statement that did not go down well in other parts of the country where he was trying to build support. It may once have been possible to simultaneously pander to different groups on opposite sides of the same issue, but it is no longer. We have the internet now.

Uppal has been trying to reassure the World Sikh Organization that he and his party remain opposed to Quebec’s secularism law. He has said the Liberals are trying to spin a narrative that the Conservatives explicitly support the pre-emptive use of the clause.

Who knows why anyone might believe that line, except for the fact that it is demonstrably true.

The Bloc’s motion is not abstract — it relates directly to the pre-emptive use of Section 33 of the Constitution by the Legault government in its secularism and language legislation.

Sikh groups have, correctly, asserted that this erodes the Charter and suspends human rights. Uppal claims that the notwithstanding provision is a longstanding part of the Charter, which is true, but he cannot ignore that this vote empowers Legault and endorses his position. I know the arguments in favour of use of notwithstanding — and support them to a point. Stephen Harper’s former deputy chief of staff, Howard Anglin, made an impassioned argument in support of Section 33 recently, arguing that judges violated the “1982 bargain” by egregiously overreaching in their judgments. “Judges make poor gods,” he said. “Call me a stickler for democracy but I prefer the people wielding ultimate power in any society to be accountable, and, in a pinch, removable.”

He’s right. But until recently, the clause was used when politicians wanted to correct what they believed was judicial excess. Now it is being invoked (by Quebec and Ontario) at the beginning of the process to camouflage unjust laws. Federal justice minister David Lametti says that such use “guts Canadian democracy and means the Charter doesn’t exist” — a bold statement that commits his government to act.

Trudeau said in late January that Lametti is looking to refer the use of Section 33 to the Supreme Court, pending the ruling from the Quebec Court of Appeal on the religious symbols case. The prime minister’s intervention provoked a choleric reaction from Legault, who says it is up to the Quebec National Assembly to decide the laws that govern the province.

The premier argues the Canadian Charter is part of the Constitution Act that Quebec didn’t sign — an argument that ignores Quebec’s own charter, adopted unanimously by the province’s legislature in 1975, which is clear that every person has the right to full and equal recognition of his or her human rights, without distinction, exclusion or preference based on race, gender or religion. “Discrimination exists where such a distinction, exclusion or preference has the effect of nullifying or impacting such rights,” it says. Legault has been discriminating against the allophones and anglophones that constitute 20 per cent of Quebec’s population because it is popular with the francophone majority, who have been persuaded by their government that the French language and Quebec culture are threatened.

The federal government has little option but to oppose such blatant injustice, but in doing so the country’s unity will likely be tested. If Lametti asks the Supreme Court to impose restrictions on the use of Section 33, it could prove explosive. The court may refuse to hear the case on the grounds of conflict of interest — Section 33 was designed to limit the power of the courts. If the top court’s anglo majority does overturn the law, it could be the casus belli the separatists have been waiting for and could send Canada hurtling toward another referendum.

In their defence, the Conservatives might argue that western premiers don’t want restrictions placed on a notwithstanding clause that has been used by Alberta and Saskatchewan.

But the real reason Conservatives voted for a Bloc motion — never a smart or admirable thing — is to pander for votes in Quebec.

They may get them, but the cost could be their integrity and the trust of ethnic communities who could lose confidence in Poilievre’s party as a protector of minority rights.

Conservative MPs might want to refresh their memories on the thoughts of the philosophical founder of their movement, Edmund Burke, on the subject of natural law and individual rights. “The liberty of no one man, no body of men, and no number of men, can find means to trespass on the liberty of any person, or any description of persons, in society. This kind of liberty is indeed but another name for justice; ascertained by wise laws and secured by well-constructed institutions.”

Source: In Quebec, the Tories can choose principles or pandering. Not both

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre’s Quebec lieutenant made a shocking declaration this week that went unnoticed in English Canada, telling reporters that Conservatives “of course” agree with the provinces’ pre-emptive use of the notwithstanding clause.

On Tuesday, Quebec MP Pierre Paul-Hus said the party “might not necessarily” contest Quebec’s Bill 21 at the Supreme Court — reversing Poilievre’s previous stance. Then, Paul-Hus added, “Is the use of the notwithstanding clause in a pre-emptive manner, as the provinces have used it — are Conservatives in agreement with that?”

“Bien oui,” he said, meaning, “Of course” — or, literally, “Well, yes.”

That might be news to some of the Conservative MPs who vocally opposed Bill 21, a discriminatory law that bars those wearing religious symbols from holding certain public-sector jobs.

But perhaps they shouldn’t be surprised.

This week, they all sided with the sovereigntist Bloc Québécois and voted to tell Ottawa — the Liberals and any future federal government — to butt out of the notwithstanding clause debate. (Only Manitoba’s Candice Bergen, Nova Scotia’s Rick Perkins and Ontario’s Alex Ruff, who represents Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound, didn’t show up for the vote, and only the Liberals and NDP opposed.)

The motion proposed by the Bloc read: “That the House remind the government that it is solely up to Quebec and the provinces to decide on the use of the notwithstanding clause.”

The notwithstanding clause was a compromise that allowed prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau to enshrine the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms into the Constitution. It gives legislatures the right to override some Charter rights for a renewable period of five years. Several politicians around the table at the time felt the political cost of using the clause would dampen the temptation to use it.

But that thinking has drastically shifted. In 2019, Quebec’s government introduced Bill 21 to popular support. Knowing the legislation was discriminatory, Premier François Legault pre-emptively invoked the notwithstanding clause to protect it from court scrutiny. The clause was pre-emptively used again last year by Quebec when it passed Bill 96, legislation that limits the rights of anglophones in the province and curbs the use of other minority languages.

Then, last fall, Ontario Premier Doug Ford attempted to pre-emptively invoke the clause, too — this time to stop educational support workers from striking.

Widespread public opposition and the unions’ collective action forced Ford to back down, but not before Ottawa spent days contemplating how it should respond. Should it ask the Supreme Court if the provinces had the right to use the clause pre-emptively? Within Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office, staff argued the power of disallowance — a constitutional provision that gives the federal government the right to disallow provincial laws — was outdated (it hasn’t been used since 1943), but they searched for creative ways to send a message that Ottawa wasn’t happy and that it believed the notwithstanding clause needed parameters around it.

At the time, and again this week, Justice Minister David Lametti argued the pre-emptive use of the notwithstanding clause was robbing the courts of having their say.

“It was always meant to be a last resort, in the context of constitutional negotiations,” he said. “It’s a grave matter when we use a law to breach people’s rights in Canada (and) the use of the notwithstanding clause must be an exception.”

The Bloc, unsurprisingly, doesn’t want the federal government telling Quebec what it can and can’t do.

But it is more than noteworthy that the Tories agree — regardless of whether Paul-Hus was making up party policy on the fly or if he had Poilievre’s benediction.

The vote Monday suggests several things.

First, we can expect that as prime minister, Poilievre would sit back and allow any province to pass discriminatory laws using the notwithstanding clause. This is what the Bloc motion called for. This is what Conservative MPs supported.

Second, Poilievre is aggressively courting nationalist voters in Quebec, embracing the same playbook that failed for Erin O’Toole and Andrew Scheer, and his position on Bill 21 may be shifting again. During the French-language Conservative leadership debate last May, Poilievre said he “would not reverse the federal decision” to fight both Bill 21 and 96 at the Supreme Court. But if the Liberals are no longer in office when these laws reach the country’s top court, can Poilievre be counted on to defend minority rights? Monday’s vote suggests not.

Lastly, the Conservative MPs who vehemently opposed Bill 21, who argued against O’Toole’s non-intervention policy and paved the way for his ouster and Poilievre’s leadership, acted disingenuously. Opposing Bill 21, believing that pre-emptive use of the clause should be limited, or that the federal government should fight the bill at the Supreme Court, meant voting against this motion.

Several MPs I spoke with said they believed they were simply reaffirming what the Constitution states, making a statement of fact.

It clearly was about much more than that.

Either you believe in something, or you don’t.

Source: Would Pierre Poilievre’s Tories let provinces strip us of our rights? ‘Of course,’ one of his MPs says

Stéphanie Chouinard and Andrew Parkin: The CPC needs to get back to bilingualism

Of note:

Over the last 20 years, only two of the past seven federal elections have produced majority governments. Governing and opposition parties alike have struggled to grow their popularity with Canadians. It is now Conservative Party of Canada leader Pierre Poilievre’s turn to try to break the logjam. 

To break through, the new leader needs to play both offence and defence. The attack comes more naturally for Poilievre, and concerns with the rising costs of living provides an ideal focus. Poilievre’s stinging criticisms align with the public mood: over the past year, inflation has surpassed COVID-19 as the top issue on Canadians’ minds

To win the next election, however, criticizing the Liberals’ handling of the economy won’t be enough. Poilievre should also address his own party’s weaknesses. Chief among these is the prolonged hangover from the 2015 election, when Conservatives engaged in what many saw as anti-immigrant dog-whistling. This undermined the party’s previous outreach to new Canadians and hampered its efforts to pick up seats in the country’s diverse — and seat-rich — cities and suburbs.

Poilievre now seems set to change course. His rhetoric calling for greater opportunities for Canadians regardless of their ethnicity is reminiscent of Diefenbaker’s push for a bill of rights. His disdain for gatekeepers is aimed partly at the roadblocks faced by immigrants seeking to settle in Canada. And his own family story — featuring his wife Anaida, an immigrant herself — cements his credentials as a leader who genuinely appreciates newcomers’ contributions to the country.

On immigration, CPC supporters are at least trying to meet him halfway. It is true that Conservative voters, on average, are less favourable to immigration than Liberal or NDP supporters. But this difference shouldn’t be misinterpreted. A slight majority of Conservatives currently disagree with the claim that there is too much immigration to Canada, and agree that we should be taking in more refugees fleeing conflicts. Three in four think immigration has a positive impact on our economy. Poilievre’s championing of struggling entrepreneurial newcomers is hardly going to tear his party apart.

Making progress on this front, however, should go hand in hand with rebuilding the party’s reputation on another key issue: official bilingualism. Much has been made of how well Poilievre himself speaks French — something that places him well ahead of his recent predecessors. But to make real gains in French-speaking areas of the country (both inside and outside of Quebec), it is the party’s personality that will count, not just the leader’s.

When it comes to language policy, this personality has been shaped by the CPC’s provincial counterparts. In 2018, Doug Ford announced he was shutting down the Ontario French-language commissioner’s office and cancelling funding for the Université de l’Ontario français — a decision that was met with public demonstrations the likes of which had not been seen since the Mike Harris era. In Alberta, both Jason Kenney’s budget cuts to Campus St-Jean and Danielle Smith’s failure to appoint a minister responsible for Francophone Affairs have cemented the UCP’s reputation as a government unfriendly to Franco-Albertans.

But without a doubt, the Conservative brand has been damaged most by New Brunswick’s premier, Blaine Higgs, a former member of the overtly francophobic Confederation of Regions (CoR) party. Since his re-election in 2020, his actions on official bilingualism have gone from dismissive to destructive, from his appointment of the former leader of the People’s Alliance (a party largely seen as the CoR’s heir) to the committee in charge of the review of the province’s Official Languages Act, to the cancelling of French immersion. In the country’s only officially bilingual province, these decisions are more than ill-advised; they are divisive. 

Poilievre thus has his work cut out for him if he is to re-brand his party as a safe choice for Francophone voters. He has already lost the CPC’s biggest asset: former official languages critic Alain Rayes left the party after the last leadership race. But the party’s base poses a bigger problem: fewer than three in ten CPC supporters think that bilingualism is a very important part of the Canadian identity. This is the lowest proportion since Environics first polled on this almost 40 years ago. While on multiculturalism, the party has decidedly become more supportive, on bilingualism, it has become less.

It is thus perhaps unsurprising that the proportion of Quebecers who sense that their language is under threat has never been higher. Canadians from the ROC tend to blame the province’s nationalist premier for fuelling Quebecers’ angst around language and culture. But as provincial governments outside Quebec erode rather than expand French-language services, and as commitment to bilingualism fades within the federal official opposition’s membership, a little less finger-pointing on the subject might be in order.

A leader’s ability to speak French is essential in Canadian politics, but it offers no short-cut to victory. To again form a majority government, CPC supporters, from coast to coast to coast, need to take a hard look at their vision of Canada and articulate a serious recommitment to official bilingualism as a modern value of Canadian society.

Stéphanie Chouinard is an associate professor in the Department of PoliticalScience at Royal Military College and at Queen’s University in Kingston. Andrew Parkin is the executive director of the Environics Institute for Survey Research. Find them on Twitter at @DrSChouinardand and @parkinac.

Source: Stéphanie Chouinard and Andrew Parkin: The CPC needs to get back to bilingualism

Poilievre veut miser sur l’immigration pour renflouer le système de santé

Of note, the general messaging (Chantal Hébert has a good analysis of CPC prospects Pierre Poilievre is unpopular in Canada’s second-largest province — and so are his policies):

Un gouvernement conservateur sous Pierre Poilievre reconnaîtrait les compétences des travailleurs étrangers en santé dans un délai de 60 jours, et ce, afin de désengorger le système de santé.

C’est ce qu’a affirmé le chef du Parti conservateur du Canada, lundi après-midi, dans le cadre d’un point de presse tenu à l’occasion d’une mini-tournée québécoise, où il a rencontré plus tôt dans la journée des familles dont un membre est touché par un trouble du spectre de l’autisme et des représentants de la Fédération des chambres de commerce du Québec.

Ces déclarations font écho à un engagement précédent formulé par M. Poilievre, qui souhaitait faciliter et accélérer la reconnaissance des compétences des travailleurs immigrants.

« Seulement 43 % des médecins immigrants et 37 % des infirmières immigrantes ont le droit de pratiquer leur métier, a déploré M. Poilievre. Pour ces candidats, les coûts de formation n’entrent même pas dans l’équation. Il suffirait d’attester de leurs compétences sur la foi de ce qu’ils sont en mesure d’accomplir, le tout dans 60 jours, plutôt que de se fier sur leur pays d’origine. »

Le député de Carleton, en Ontario, souhaiterait également que le programme de reconnaissance des acquis soit accessible aux candidats avant même leur arrivée au Canada, afin de raccourcir le processus le plus possible. Son gouvernement s’engagerait par ailleurs à soutenir 34 000 prêts pour tout autant d’immigrants établis au pays afin qu’ils puissent reprendre leurs études pour se mettre aux normes canadiennes.

Pour soulager le système de santé, le chef conservateur propose aussi de réduire les listes d’attente et d’accélérer l’approbation canadienne de traitements d’avant-garde éprouvés dans d’autres pays industrialisés.

Moins d’inflation et de paperasse

M. Poilievre a profité de sa brève allocution pour rappeler trois promesses que son parti s’engage à respecter s’il est porté au pouvoir.

Il propose d’abord une « loi du 1 $ pour 1 $», où son gouvernement retrancherait toute somme nouvellement investie d’un autre programme afin d’éviter d’endetter davantage les Canadiens, ce qu’il reproche à son homologue libéral.

« Les Canadiens sont en train de souffrir, nous sommes face à un taux d’inflation parmi les plus élevés des quarante dernières années », a déclaré M. Poilievre, qui plaide pour un meilleur contrôle des dépenses. « L’augmentation des coûts du gouvernement Trudeau, avec ses 500 millions de dollars de déficit inflationniste, a entraîné une augmentation du coût de la vie », a-t-il ajouté.

Le chef conservateur a par ailleurs promis de « rendre le travail payant » plutôt que de le punir, notamment en allégeant la fiscalité et les différents programmes gouvernementaux, le tout afin de remettre davantage d’argent dans les poches des travailleurs.

Enfin, le chef de l’opposition officielle à Ottawa s’est engagé à réduire la bureaucratie et la « paperasserie » imposées aux entreprises afin de les rendre plus productives, notamment dans les secteurs minier et hydroélectrique, pour planifier la transition écologique.

M. Poilievre sera de passage à Trois-Rivières et à Québec plus tard cette semaine pour « entendre le gros bon sens des Québécois et des Québécoises » dans l’optique de préparer le programme conservateur en vue de la rentrée parlementaire, plus tard ce mois-ci.

Source: Poilievre veut miser sur l’immigration pour renflouer le système de santé

Pierre Poilievre thinks he can win over new Canadians. Here’s how he plans to do it.

Reasonable take and strategy and familiar to someone who worked in the Kenney years. Expect that the party has learned some lessons from its use of “barbaric cultural practices” in the citizenship guide and in the 2015 tippling. Minister Fraser’s comment is a bit ingenuous given the liberal record of responding (some would say pandering) to new Canadian voters:

A young Pierre Poilievre sits in front of a room of Conservative faithful and explains their party’s strategy for winning a majority mandate. 

That hasn’t happened yet. It’s 2009 and while the Tories have won two federal elections, they’ve remained in minority territory for three years. 

“We will win a majority if we appeal to naturally conservative-inclined voters and get them out to vote, and we turn small-c conservative immigrants into big-C Conservative voters,” the MP says in a video posted to the website of the Cable Public Affairs Channel.

“That’s the formula.”

More than a decade after former prime minister Stephen Harper pulled off that majority in 2011, Poilievre is the party’s leader. 

Since Harper’s four-year term, Conservatives have lost three straight elections to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals, with losses stacking up in Toronto- and Vancouver-area suburban seats, home to many visible minorities and new Canadians. 

If there’s one thing many in the party agree on, it’s the need for Conservatives to build support in such communities. But can Poilievre do it? 

Enter Arpan Khanna. This week, Poilievre tapped the Greater Toronto Area lawyer, who served as one of the co-chairs on his leadership campaign in Ontario, to co-ordinate outreach efforts.

Khanna was a political staffer for the man federal Conservatives credit most for making the inroads with immigrant communities that helped Harper along to a majority: Jason Kenney. 

Colleagues had nicknamed the former federal cabinet minister and Alberta premier the “minister of curry in a hurry” for spending his weekends darting to dozens of cultural events around Toronto and Vancouver.

Khanna said he sees the same drive in Poilievre, who visited the Toronto area multiple times, plus Vancouver in his first three months as leader, sometimes attending up to 15 events a day. He is planning visits with Chinese community groups in Markham, Scarborough, Vancouver and Burnaby to mark the Lunar New Year. 

The new leader has taken the idea of “building a Jason Kenney style of outreach” to heart, Khanna said. “He’s all into this. He understands the importance of it.”

The first step is showing up, he said.

“We recently were at someone’s backyard for a barbecue party with about 100 people from the Tamil community, just having a conversation about their issues.”

Poilievre has been hitting the road nearly every weekend. 

Often travelling with him are his two deputy leaders. Melissa Lantsman, who is Jewish and the party’s first openly lesbian member of Parliament, hails from Thornhill, just north of Toronto. Longtime Edmonton MP Tim Uppal, who is Sikh, became Canada’s first minister to wear a turban when Harper appointed him to cabinet in 2011. 

For the high-profile finance critic role, Poilievre picked former small business owner Jasraj Singh Hallan, who had been considered an at-risk youth after immigrating to Canada as a child. 

It’s stories like Hallan’s that Poilievre promotes, touting the promise of the Canadian dream. 

“It doesn’t matter if your name is Poilievre or Patel … Martin or Mohamed,” a video posted online shows Poilievre saying at a Diwali event in October. “If you’re prepared to work hard, contribute, follow the rules, raise your family, you can achieve your dreams in this country.”

Poilievre often points out that he married an immigrant Canadian. His wife Ana and her family were refugees from Venezuela. 

Tenzin Khangsar, who worked in Kenney’s office when he was immigration minister and assisted with the Tories’ outreach strategy, said Poilievre is setting an example for his caucus and the entire party. “And frankly shows to all Canadians that look, ‘this is a priority for me. This is not just something I’ll do during an election campaign.’”

Khangsar said that if step one is showing up, step two is following up with policy. 

Poilievre has promised to get provinces to speed up recognizing foreign credentials, one of his first policy announcements as a leadership candidate. He’s also railed against “gatekeepers” at the federal immigration department.

During a roundtable with ethnic community media convened during the race, Poilievre said immigrant and Conservative values are the same: “hard work, family, freedom, tradition.”

“Values upon which we need to build a future Conservative party.”

A roughly 50-minute video from the event shared on Facebook shows Poilievre offering more detail on his immigration policy ideas: expanding express entry, making it easier for temporary foreign workers to become permanent residents, improving immigrants’ ability to bring their parents to Canada to help with child care and expanding private sponsorship of refugees. 

He was emphatic in an interview with a Punjabi radio show last month: “The Conservative party is pro-immigration.” 

But the NDP’s immigration critic, Jenny Kwan, threw water on the idea, saying in a statement that the Harper government cut settlement services for newcomers and made family reunifications more difficult. 

Liberal Immigration Minister Sean Fraser didn’t wade into the Tories’ past, but in a statement said speaking to newcomers is the job of any political leader. 

“Newcomers are not a voting block to pander to. They are Canadians, and soon-to-be Canadians.”

But many Conservatives believe that the party’s approach to immigration issues lost them the 2015 election, as Tories pushed policies such as banning niqabs at citizenship ceremonies and establishing a tip line for so-called barbaric cultural practices. 

Lantsman and Uppal both publicly apologized for supporting what became known as the “niqab ban.” But Poilievre has defended the policy as simply requiring “that a person’s face be visible while giving oaths at citizenship ceremonies.” 

An internal review of the Tories’ 2021 election loss found the party’s image remained damaged among immigrant communities. 

Poilievre’s immigration critic, Tom Kmiec, said Conservatives believe in an “employer-driven immigration system.”

Asked whether they support the Liberal government’s plan to welcome a record-high number of permanent residents in the coming years, which includes a target of 500,000 by 2025, Kmiec said “the number is not as important as the customer-service experience.”

Kmiec, a Polish immigrant, said the federal immigration department is dealing with massive backlogs and out of control processing times. “It’s a total lack of compassion to over-promise what you can actually deliver.”

Andrew Griffith, a former director of multiculturalism policy for the federal government, predicted Conservatives will avoid attacking the targets for fear of being labelled xenophobic.

Griffith said he doesn’t perceive the party is skeptical about immigration, despite such views being historically present in its base. 

Source: Pierre Poilievre thinks he can win over new Canadians. Here’s how he plans to do it.

‘Conservatives are losing traction in ethnic communities:’ Will their leadership race make it even worse?

Likely premature call.

As we know, voters in the 905 have flipped between Conservatives and Liberals, and Doug Ford won most of these ridings in 2018 and 2022.

And during the recent leadership debates, there was remarkable consensus in favour of immigration and no opposition to the current government’s ongoing increase in immigration levels:

Cyma Musarat still remembers being accused of having lost her mind when she ran for the federal Conservatives in 2019.

As a Muslim woman, she was asked time and time again how she could cast her lot with a party that promoted policies condemned as racist.

In her riding of Pickering-Uxbridge, it was a particularly sensitive topic — during the 2015 election campaign, the Tories held an event in a pocket of the riding where they promised a so-called “barbaric cultural practices” tip line for people to report on their neighbours.

The tip line proposal and support for a ban on face coverings during citizenship ceremonies were seen as key contributors to the party’s defeat in the election.

And not just that year.

The policies effectively bombed the bridges the party had built with ethnic communities, and the issues surfaced in the 2019 and 2021 campaigns as the Tories failed to make the gains in urban centres.

What it will take for the Tories to win the next election is the question at the heart of the party’s current leadership race.

But how ethnic communities factor into the equation is a point of contention, and an issue not being debated enough, some say.

So far, the race has not seen debate over social issues like systemic racism or inequality, or even how the party can and must embrace equity and inclusion internally, said long time political activist Sukhi Sandu, who backed the Tories in the last federal campaign.

“The Conservatives are losing traction in ethnic communities, and they seem not to understand the issues that pertain to those racialized groups,” Sandu said in an interview from Boston, where he’s working towards a master’s degree in diversity, equity and inclusion.

Musarat believes the party must first acknowledge these issues exist, then move beyond a process of just checking off boxes.

For her, that’s why Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown’s leadership bid is so appealing.

“He openly says that Islamophobia exists,” she said. “That’s where the journey starts. That’s where the change will start: acknowledge the problem. Once you’ve acknowledged it, and then you find a solution to fix it.”

Brown built his leadership bid on his outspoken opposition to Quebec’s Bill 21, which bans people in positions of public authority in that province from wearing religious symbols, like turbans or hijabs, at their workplaces.

He went on to promise a multi-faith, multicultural coalition that would restore trust between the Tories and ethnic communities.

While signing up what his campaign says are 150,000 new party members, Brown has made specific promises to different ethnic groups.

In turn, he has been accused of playing diaspora politics — an accusation his backers say is proof most candidates aren’t willing to do the hard work of sitting down with voters to listen to their specific concerns and address them.

“People have this misconception that someone stands up at the front door on stage and says, ‘We’re all gonna support Patrick,’ and, you know, 50,000 people sign up for the man,” said Jaskaran Sandu, a volunteer on the Brown campaign.

“That’s not how it works. It’s painstaking, person-to-person relationship building that only works if there is sincerity and a track record.”

Brown has also been unsparing in his attacks on rival Pierre Poilievre, challenging the Conservative MP for remaining silent when the Tory government introduced the niqab ban and proposed the tip line.

Poilievre’s campaign co-chair Tim Uppal has apologized for not personally pushing back against those policies when he was an MP — and minister of state of multiculturalism.

Uppal said he had no concerns that the candidates’ positions on tackling racism aren’t getting a broad airing on the campaign trail. An issue like that only gets debated if there’s a flashpoint which prompts it, he said.

He said while Brown is recruiting in diverse communities, so too is Poilievre, citing a recent speech to a packed mosque, among others.

“What I’ve talked to people a lot about is that they’re being included because of issues that are important to them, which is taxes and other issues that affect all Canadians,” he said.

Leslyn Lewis, a Black woman making her second run for the Conservative leadership, did not respond to questions from the Star about how she views the future of the party’s relationship with ethnic communities.

Vonny Sweetland is working on Jean Charest’s leadership bid, a decision based on the depth of the former Quebec premier’s experience — and his willingness to bring people like Sweetland onto his team.

The leader sets the tone, said Sweetland, who is Black, and Charest’s is inclusive and progressive.

But both Sweetland and Sandhu said they have concerns about what will happen to the party if the populist elements that appear to be playing a major role in this race ultimately triumph.

Sandhu pointed to the tension between members recruited with a promise the Conservatives will embrace diversity and those brought in over concerns about global institutions like the World Economic Forum, around which conspiracy theories with racist undertones persist.

“Why do you expect us to be involved or continue if that’s the type of rhetoric that’s going to be included back into the party?” he said of those recruited by Brown.

“That doesn’t actually solve the issue — it goes back to the basis of the problem, which is that the Conservative party is not ready to look in the mirror and evolve and realize why it falls short in places like the 905.”

Sweetland said while he’s planning to give the new leader is some runaway, whoever it is, there is anxiety among other Black conservatives.

“I’ve seen, people, particularly people of colour, feel that this is not only a leadership race — and I’m sure you’ve heard this quote, it’s not mine, but I agree with it — that this is the battle for the soul of our party,” he said.

“And many people of colour feel that way.”

Source: ‘Conservatives are losing traction in ethnic communities:’ Will their leadership race make it even worse?

Ben Woodfinden: Canada’s aspiring populists aren’t actually all that radical – Immigration excerpt

Really telling, whether in Conservative leadership debates or this commentary by Woodfinden, just how much all political parties, save for the PPC, have accepted the Century Initiative, the business community, education institutions and other stakeholders arguments for increased immigration to address – or at least to appear to address – an aging population.

While on the right, this may reflect a legitimate fear of being labelled xenophobic or worse, on the left, hard to know why they raise some of the issues raised by increased immigration in terms of labour markets and conditions, housing shortages, environmental and climate impacts etc.

Of course, real politik, the battleground ridings in the GTHA and BC’s lower mainland, with majority or significant numbers of immigrant and visible minority voters, also plays a role.

But these voters also face the same issues and impact of large scale immigration, and I continue to wonder whether the current approach and general consensus will eventually fracture and change, as Woodfinden also raises:

Take for example the great third rail of Canadian politics: immigration. The rise of populism around the world in recent years has many competing explanations, but a backlash against immigration is a common theme in many of the places where populism has caused political earthquakes. Poilievre, nor any major candidate in the race, has shown absolutely no interest in touching this. If anything, he has embraced the political consensus on immigration, making direct pitches and appeals to immigrant communities. This is probably a political necessity given the diversity of ridings in areas like Toronto that anyone who seeks to form government will need to win.

But the present moment might well be ripe for a populist challenge to this consensus. Over 400,000 immigrants came to Canada in 2021, a record number. Yet with a growing number of younger Canadians locked out of the housing market due to skyrocketing prices, it’s a surprise a political entrepreneur hasn’t come along and pointed out, rightly or wrongly, that Canada’s high levels of immigration are likely to keep propping up what feels like to many young Canadians an economic pyramid scheme in which they pay exorbitant amounts for housing so that older Canadians can retire. While the PPC have made such arguments, and while you will see this kind of sentiment bubble up on social media, it’s probably more widespread than we generally assume. Thus far no serious figure has challenged the status quo on this.

Arguments in favour of immigration are often framed in economic terms. We need these immigrants to keep our population growing and to support an ageing society. But of course, there’s no real challenge or consideration given to the deeper reasons why this is necessary, namely that we need high levels of immigration because of our low, and still falling, birth rates. Our discourse and politics just accept this as a fact, given that having children is just entirely a personal choice. To suggest that we should try and increase birth rates and that having children and starting families are a social good we actively ought to be promoting and encouraging seems beyond the pale. Bring this up, and you’ll inevitably get accused of being a secret white supremacist who is motivated by racial concerns. For many pundits and elites, it is simply inconceivable that anyone could be legitimately concerned about birth rates and thus must have ulterior motives. 

Source: Ben Woodfinden: Canada’s aspiring populists aren’t actually all that radical

Canadian politician wants to improve Super Visa for parents and grandparents: Bill C-242

Will likely be well received by visible minority communities. Will be interesting to see whether Liberal members support or propose amendments for the bill as super visas reduce some of the pressures on parents and grandparents immigration:

Canadian Member of Parliament Kyle Seeback is proposing a new bill to support parents and grandparents coming to Canada.

The proposed changes would affect the Super Visa for parents and grandparents. Currently, the Super Visa allows parents and grandparents of Canadians to visit for two consecutive years without having to renew their status. The visas themselves permit multiple entries to Canada over the course of 10 years. Much like the Parents and Grandparents Program, it requires the Canadian child or grandchild to meet a minimum income requirement set by the government. It also requires parents and grandparents to have medical insurance coverage with a Canadian company.

Seeback is a member of the Conservative Party and sits on the Standing Committee for Citizenship and Immigration. He proposed Bill C-242 calls for three major changes to the Super Visa.

Firstly, Seeback wants parents and grandparents to be allowed to stay for five consecutive years without having to renew their visa.

Second, the bill proposes that Super Visa applicants be allowed to purchase medical insurance from countries other than Canada. Seeback says this could save families thousands of dollars in insurance costs per year.

Finally, it also proposes that the government reduce the low-income cut-off for Canadians wishing to host their parents and grandparents. Although Seeback said he thinks the income test for this category should be eliminated entirely, he does not think it is the right time for it.

“The view of bringing a parent or a grandparent to stay with you is an economic burden is wrong,” Seeback said, “What I actually found… is that when a parent or grandparent comes it enhances the economic well-being of that family… It can be that they’re providing some reduction of daycare costs because the parent or grandparent is there to help with the family.”

So far, the bill has passed its first and second readings and is now being studied by the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration. The standing committee is comprised of elected federal government officials. Their mandate is to monitor federal policy relating to immigration and multiculturalism, as well as oversee the immigration department and refugee board. They conduct studies and make recommendations to guide immigration policy.

The bill will need to pass the committee before the third reading. It will only become law after it passes the third reading and consideration of the Senate. The Governor General will then have to grant the bill royal assent, only then will it come into force.

Ashti Waissi, a spokesperson from Seeback’s office, told CIC News the NDP and Bloc parties will support the bill upon its third reading, but it is uncertain whether C-242 will get Liberal support.

Committee members questioned Seeback’s bill, specifically relating to the item on insurance. Seeback introduced the idea of allowing parents and grandparents to purchase insurance internationally while pointing out it can cost between $1,700 CAD and $4,600 CAD per year for someone in their early seventies with no pre-existing medical condition.

“This doesn’t mean you can go to any insurance company anywhere in the world,” Seeback told the committee, “I’m encouraging the minister to set up a framework for the ground rules for when an insurance company would qualify so that people can purchase insurance outside of the country.”

Concerns over allowing Super Visa holders to come to Canada with their own insurance arise from the fact that should a foreign insurance company be unable to cover a medical bill, the onus could fall onto a Canadian taxpayer.

In responses to questions posed by committee members, Seeback said he has confidence the government can set up a framework to ensure foreign insurance companies can cover medical costs in case Super Visa holders get sick. He noted that Canada currently has a framework for determining which international doctors can give medical clearance certificates, he says something similar should also be possible for insurance companies.

Although he said he did not know how quickly the framework could be set up, he said it would be “worth the wait.”

“It will be so great for Canadian families,” Seeback said.

Source: Canadian politician wants to improve Super Visa for parents and grandparents

CPC leadership debate: immigration levels consensus

Current high levels not an issue with no substantive differences between the candidates and little substantive discussion given debate format:

Asked about “the right number” of immigrants to bring into Canada in light of about 400,000 landing in the country in 2021, Aitchison, Brown and Poilievre framed the question as a workforce issue and called for more immigration. [Charest noted issue was integration more than levels]

Brown said Canada has a skilled labour shortage and it is not meeting the need.

“We need to unleash the Canadian economic potential through immigration,” he added.

Aitchison, while also calling for more, said whether the number of immigrants Canada settles is 400,000 or more, the country needs a targeted approach.


There were roughly three issues on which all six candidates agreed:

  • Oil and gas development (and pipelines) is good
  • Canada’s historically high rate of immigration (roughly 400,000 new Canadians per year) is good.
  • Boosting defence spending to two per cent of GDP is good