Why Conservative MP Deepak Obhrai thinks he can lead the party back

One of the few Conservatives to have been more open about his criticism of their government’s use of identity politics in the past election:

Though he likes to point out the fact, Mr. Obhrai insists he’s not running for leader simply “because I am the longest serving Conservative member of Parliament,” having been first elected as a Reformer in 1997.

He’s running because he says he worked hard to open up the party – particularly to new Canadians and immigrants, much like himself.

And he blames the Conservatives’ 2015 election campaign with isolating those very groups it should have embraced.

“Many people felt excluded from this party,” he says. “I felt it was very necessary that I put my efforts back.”

Mr. Obhrai points to his party’s positions on the niqab, notably when former prime minister Stephen Harper said the Conservatives would look at banning public servants from wearing them, and the “barbaric cultural practices” tip line as proposals that lead to their election loss last October.

“Nobody bothered asking me whether it was right or wrong. I would have told them absolutely there and then it was wrong,” he says.

He is also highly critical of the Conservatives’ Bill C-24, which gave the government the power to revoke Canadian citizenship from dual citizens convicted of terrorism. Mr. Obhrai supported the bill’s advancement to committee, but abstained from a final vote. The Liberals have since introduced their own bill to repeal this provision.

“That turned out to be an advantage for the Liberals to attack us,” he says.

Source: Why Conservative MP Deepak Obhrai thinks he can lead the party back – The Globe and Mail

Conservative MP Deepak Obhrai: New Rules Turning Tories Into ‘Elitist And White-Only’ Club

Interesting – and a major risk for the party given the importance of new Canadian voters:

A longtime Conservative MP is blasting his own party for becoming an “elitist and white-only” club.

Calgary MP Deepak Obhrai, the dean of the Tory caucus, told The Huffington Post Canada he is deeply frustrated by new rules the party imposed earlier this year that raised the annual Conservative membership fee to $25 — “the highest of any party” — and set the entrance fees for leadership contestants at $100,000. 

deepak obhrai

Deepak Obhrai and former prime minister Stephen Harper celebrate Diwali by lighting a candle on Parliament Hill on Oct. 8, 2009. (Photo: Pawel Dwulit/Canadian Press)

“Since we lost power in 2015, I have become very concerned about the direction my party has taken,” he told HuffPost over the phone on Thursday.

“These actions, in my view, have disenfranchised a vast majority of Canadians. Newcomers, immigrants, low-income Canadians, and those economically challenged will be turned off and walk away because they can’t afford these high fees…

“What is concerning me is that, unfortunately, [the Conservatives] will be seen as an elitist and white-only party,” he said.

Ethnic communities’ outreach

Since his election in 1997, Obhrai said he’s been working his “butt off” to bring immigrants to the party, a job that was subsequently taken on with great fanfare by former cabinet minister Jason Kenney. Success in connecting with ethnic communities culminated in the Tories’ majority election win in 2011, Obhrai said.

But that work has been dropped as a priority for the Conservatives under the leadership of party president John Walsh, Obhrai said. He added that the party has lost touch with grassroots members and pointed out that the caucus was not consulted.

“This party has become a party that is seen [to be only] for like rich people, I ask why? Why only for those who can afford it? Why the rich?

“For a family of four, it’s like asking them to give $100, and then also asking them to give through a credit card, which many don’t have. I have had these problems and my EDA [electoral district association] passed a motion telling the national council that we are unhappy with these rules,” the Calgary MP told HuffPost.

Source: Conservative MP Deepak Obhrai: New Rules Turning Tories Into ‘Elitist And White-Only’ Club

Conservatives openly criticize party’s election performance, C-24 Citizenship

Interesting, Deepak Obhrai’s comment on C-24:

As the week wore on, more Conservatives opened up, with those in Calgary – Mr. Harper’s hometown – in a particularly candid mood.

Calgary Forest Lawn MP Deepak Obhrai, who most recently served as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, talked to media of how he had never liked Bill C-24, a key part of the Harper Conservatives’ legislative agenda that was controversial in the election campaign. Bill C-24, now law, allows Ottawa to revoke the Canadian citizenship of dual citizens convicted of serious crimes such as terrorism.

“I was not comfortable with the whole idea,” Mr. Obhrai said in an interview. He said he does not think the government should have the power to take away citizenship, adding that, in his job, he had “travelled around the world and seen this abuse take place.” He said he never hid his feelings on the bill. “The Prime Minister was aware of the fact I was not very happy about this.”

The legislation unnerved members of the immigrant community, and the Tories encountered concern while door-knocking. Mr. Obhrai said he thinks it hurt his party.

He called Mr. Harper a “visionary leader,” but added that, with a new chief, the Tories need to present “a different, softer image.”

“Somewhere in the middle of the campaign, we became out of touch with Canadians.”

Source: Conservatives openly criticize party’s election performance – The Globe and Mail

For the record, he raised this concern in Parliament on 28 May 2014:

Mr. Speaker, one of the strongest human rights principles is to create all Canadian citizens equal, no matter what. That is the fundamental human rights situation. That is what I am concerned about in this bill, and I would like clarification on from my friend, the minister of citizenship. I agree very much with all of the other aspects that the minister has mentioned. I strongly support this bill except on this one condition, which is the fundamental right for a Canadian to be treated as a Canadian, no matter what.

When a Canadian citizen’s citizenship is revoked, unless that citizenship was obtained fraudulently—and I can agree with revoking it for that reason—we are treating one Canadian differently from another Canadian, and in my opinion that is against a fundamental human rights provision. That is the area of my concern in relation to this bill.

I would like the minister to speak about how he would address this issue of this fundamental human rights principle that a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian. We do not talk about dual nationality. If a person has obtained a Canadian citizenship, it is then his legitimate right to be treated as a Canadian citizen. That is what I am asking my dear colleague.