A tougher refugee border pact? America said no. Former Minister Kenney

Useful to hear former immigration minister Kenney’s comments and history of earlier discussions, although his reassurances of the safeguards in the US system, while generally correct, understate some of the significant differences between the Canadian and American approaches (even pre-Trump):

The sometimes tragic phenomenon of asylum-seekers crossing fields in Manitoba and ditches in Quebec has prompted many immigration experts and some politicians to call for changes to the Canada-U.S. pact that makes border hopping the only choice for people urgently seeking refuge. That is: stop shuttering our front doors, our border entry posts, to those desperate for safety and legal protection they want in Canada.

There are those on the other side of the status quo who wish for a way not only to keep the door shut, but to press down on the windows people are finding their way through. One of them is Jason Kenney, Canada’s former immigration minister.

In the face of pressure on the Liberal government to suspend the Safe Third Country Agreement, Kenney has called on Ottawa to instead demand renegotiation with the U.S. to eliminate the de facto exemption which lets people making so-called “irregular” border crossings into Canada’s refugee determination system. Irregular crossing, in this case, means getting one’s feet on Canadian soil somewhere other than an established port of entry.

If it granted such a request, the Trump administration would take pressure off Canada’s asylum program in a way the Obama White House refused to do. Kenney told Maclean’s he made this pitch when he was minister; his counterpart in Washington said no.

“I approached then secretary of homeland security (Janet) Napolitano with a request to reopen the STCA for renegotiation to remove this and other exemptions,” he said in an interview Friday on the sidelines of the Manning Centre Conference. “They basically refused to do so, because I quite frankly think they cynically saw these exemptions as operating in favour of the United States. To put it bluntly, if people whom they regard as illegal aliens go to Canada, they don’t have to worry about them any more, or remove them.”

If the Obama administration was unwilling to change rules to keep asylum seekers on his side of the border, what chance is there the new U.S. government would? Among the administration’s policies is a recent order from John Kelly, the new Homeland Security secretary, which would deport undocumented immigrants to Mexico even if they hailed from other Central American countries—a signal this White House is unconcerned about immigration conventions or norms, as long as foreigners perceived as problematic are out of the country.

…His meeting with Napolitano came about while he was crafting new policies to overhaul refugee laws to deter questionable claimants. While he failed to enact a border crackdown, he did speed up the hearing process, create new options to detain asylum seekers and, controversially, limit their health benefits.

Still, refugee advocates in Canada continued their long-standing criticism of the safe third-country agreement, and have amped up their calls in the wake of Trump’s wide-ranging crackdowns on the immigration system, which included a suspension of refugee resettlement and beefed-up deportation and detention systems. These moves have prompted a spike in migrants crossing over to Canada, in hopes of a fair shake at becoming refugees here. Advocates argue that American bellicosity toward newcomers and refuge seekers puts lie to assertions the U.S. is a safe third country (though many of these critics opposed the border deal even before Trump entered politics).

Ministers in the Trudeau government have said they see no reason to abandon the agreement. Their position has gotten new support from the UN High Commission for Refugees. Jean-Nicolas Beuze, its new representative in Canada, told Maclean’s that the asylum conditions in the U.S. and Canada today are not sufficiently different from 2004, when the safe country pact was established, to warrant a change to the agreement. Having spoken recently to dozens of refugee claimants who entered Canada near the border post at Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, Que., Beuze said their “perception” of the Trump actions and rhetoric are prompting their escape north. But the agency, he said, will continue monitoring the situation.

Kenney said there’s no reason refuge-seekers currently in the U.S. should not seek asylum in that country, arguing that “hysteria” has driven the recent trend. “The United States has one of the world’s strongest, fairest asylum systems. It’s not administered by Donald Trump. It’s administered by the independent American judiciary and tribunals,” he said.

There are, in fact, substantial differences between how U.S. and Canada treat refugee claimants, some of them predating Trump. In the U.S., detention is vastly more common; in Canada, claimants have easier access to legal aid for refugee status hearings. Canada has an interim health-care program and gives readier access to work permits, among other benefits. The sharpest emerging contrast, however, is that of image: Trump has boasted of walls and ejections, and has particularly stigmatized Muslims (especially from certain countries) as potential terrorists. Trudeau has highlighted Canada’s openness, both through the Syrian refugee resettlement program and a globally rebroadcast tweet declaring welcome to those fleeing persecution, “regardless of your faith.”

The vast majority of border-hopping refugee claimants have been Muslims from Somalia, Syria, Yemen (all countries targeted by Trump’s now-suspended travel ban), as well as Turkey, Ghana, Djibouti and other countries.

Kenney said the Liberal government should bid to renegotiate the agreement as he previously tried to, as its current limitation “almost incentivizes these irregular crossings.” A sharp increase in the flow would massively burden our system “and blow a hole in the integrity of our immigration system,” he says—particularly if illegal immigrants fearing Trump-ordered deportations start joining the overseas migrants. “I think we need to be soft-hearted but hard-headed about this,” Kenney said.

“This is why I think it’s unhelpful for leaders like Prime Minister Trudeau to muddy the waters with what sounds like an open invitation for foreign nationals of the United States to come north,” Kenney went on. “We have immigration laws for a reason, so we can have an ordered, fair, compassionate, law-based system.  It really doesn’t help if you create the implication that Canada has open borders. We don’t, in our law.”

Source: A tougher refugee border pact? America said no. – Macleans.ca

Donald Trump could happen in Canada. It’s already begun. – Macleans.ca

Some good analysis and questions regarding the resilience of Canadian politics to Trump-style politics, focussing on the ugliness in the Alberta PC leadership campaign and the Leitch/Blaney campaign approaches.

Starting with Charlie Gillis:

The question, say experts, is whether support for such ideas could galvanize into a Trump-style movement. Ice-breakers like Blaney and Leitch are exploiting the same rural-urban cultural divide that Trump did in the U.S., acknowledges Clark Banack, a Brock University political scientist who studies populist movements. But the kind of anti-elitist discontent that moves votes is seldom seen in Canada outside the West, Banack notes, and when it arises elsewhere, it tends to be short-lived. “We have sporadic examples of people emerging for a short time around a specific issue,” he says, citing Rob Ford’s rise to the Toronto mayoralty on the strength of working-class, suburban anger. “But overall, Canadian political culture is less susceptible to populism than American political culture.”

Another mitigating factor: the relative absence in Canada of a dispossessed working class in a mood to punish its leaders. David Green, a professor at the University of British Columbia’s Vancouver School of Economics, believes Trump’s support base of white men with no college degree would be hard to replicate in this country because the commodities boom sustained Canada’s blue-collar workers, even as the financial crisis crushed the dreams of their counterparts in other countries. Between 2003 and 2015, he notes in a forthcoming paper, mean hourly wages for Americans with a high school education or less fell by six per cent; for the same demographic in Canada, they climbed eight per cent. The effect, he says, was to slow the growth of the economic gap that has fed voter rage in the U.S., the U.K. and parts of Europe. Last year, our top 10 per cent of earners made 8.6 times on average what the bottom 10 per cent pulled in—a ratio that, while high, falls beneath the OECD average and far below the U.S. ratio of 19 to one.

But all that could change, Green warns, if oil prices remain low—especially if the housing market weakens at the same time. The country’s residential construction boom, he notes, has maintained job centres around the country’s large cities, putting more than a few displaced oil patch employees to work. “What do you do with that set of less-than-university-educated guys—the demographic that switched over to Trump?” Green asks. “That’s a potentially worrying connection.”

More so, agrees Banack, if you have a high-minded central government that overlooks their misfortune while pursuing its own pre-occupations. Running against Ottawa, he notes, is a time-tested stratagem for populist movements in Canada, and these days, few national governments are more closely identified with the globalist program of trade, labour mobility and climate-change action than Justin Trudeau’s Liberals. Something like Trudeau’s promised national carbon tax, which will be felt keenly in the West, could be enough to trigger a populist insurgency in Alberta, he says, though it’s safe to assume the federal Conservative party would do everything it could to stop such a movement, given the outcome of the Reform party experiment: “Another vote split, and you could forget about a Conservative federal government for another 10 or 15 years.”

Maybe, but experienced political players are no longer sure economic logic and conventional political calculus are in force. Carter, the Alberta strategist, notes that the online communities where so-called “alt-right” voters congregate—Facebook groups, or conspiracy-fuelled sites like Infowars—don’t traffic in that sort of information. In its place: a strain of fanaticism typified by the onslaught that ran Jansen off the PC stage, which Carter believes is sure to spread. “I don’t know if it’s Trump or social media or just belief that they’re correct that gives a sense of permission,” he says. “But this is not normal.”

Gary Mason in the Globe picks up similar themes:

The Premier and her party are now sitting at 14 per cent in the polls. The party receiving the most support in recent public opinion surveys is the Progressive Conservatives, the same entity Mr. Kenney plans to destroy if he wins the leadership. He wants to build a new political organization that Wildrose members will feel comfortable joining as part of an overarching bid to unify conservative forces in the province.

Either way, Alberta seems to be preparing to make an ideological course correction.

There’s little doubt the rise of Donald Trump has emboldened many in the province. One of those would appear to be Derek Fildebrandt, a Wildrose MLA and one of the most powerful conservative voices in Alberta.

He has little patience for the likes of Ms. Jansen and others complaining about online trolls and provocateurs. “Hypersensitive, politically correct, victim-as-virtue culture is creating a leadership class of wimps,” he wrote in a tweet that could have been sent out by The Donald himself. “People are sick of it.”

After Mr. Trump was elected, Mr. Fildebrandt tweeted: “The biggest lesson that we should learn from the election of Trump: smug, condescending political correctness will spark a backlash.”

I’m not sure what is happening in Alberta, but on almost any level it’s not good. Trump-style politics could well be making its way north of the border. At the end of the day, however, society gets the politicians it deserves.

Source: Not so progressive: Trump-style politics seep into Alberta

Jason Kenney on life after Ottawa and uniting Alberta’s right [comments on ethnic vote and Leitch]

Worth noting:

Q: Within the Conservative party, you were known as someone who connected with multicultural voters. But most recently, support for the party has melted away in those communities. What do you think is going on there?

A: I would challenge that assertion: it has not melted away. When we started this project in the 2004 election, the Conservative party was at just over 20 per cent of support of new Canadians, and by the 2011 election we were at about 42 per cent—a higher share of the vote than of native-born Canadians. We are the only centre-right party in the world of whom that is true. But I never had the hubris to imagine that we would have a kind of permanent lock on the plurality of that share of Canadian electors. I think what we’ve done through our hard work in cultural communities is to create a competitive political environment. No longer can any party, such as the Liberals, take for granted the support of new Canadians or cultural communities, as though they are some kind of a passive vote-bank.

Q: With the federal Conservative leadership race, you’ve made a few critical comments about Kellie Leitch’s immigrant-values test proposal. What’s your take on the screening people have to go through?

A: I have an enormous amount of experience in this area as multiculturalism minister for 10 years, then being minister of immigration responsible for screening and selection, and minister of citizenship. I find her approach to be disingenuous. I don’t think she’s ever thought deeply about these questions. She never raised these questions in Parliament, in public, in caucus or in cabinet. She seemed only to latch on to this as a theme after her campaign was circulating some questions on an online poll that was probably designed to generate email addresses. I just find the whole approach a bit slapdash. What concerns me is that these are extraordinarily sensitive questions that must be addressed with a great deal of nuance and prudence. Having said that, I do believe there is absolutely space for legitimate debate in a liberal democracy about immigration selection, screening and integration.

Q: You previously spent a lot of your time touring and campaigning with multicultural groups, and now you’re visiting smaller, rural areas in Alberta that must be a lot more homogeneous. What are you taking from those communities and hearing from people?

A: Rural Alberta is a lot less homogeneous than it used to be, partly because of my immigration policies. You go to a lot of small communities in rural Alberta and you’ll find a degree of diversity that probably hasn’t existed in terms of immigration for a century—you’ll find the Filipino grocery store, and the African Pentecostal church and maybe a mosque. Albertans are pro-immigration; they’re also pro-integration. In my years in this province I cannot recall more than a handful of expressions of xenophobia or nativism that I’ve encountered. It’s the land of new beginnings and fresh starts—it is rare Albertans who trace their roots here back more than a generation or two. It’s extraordinarily welcoming.

Source: Jason Kenney on life after Ottawa and uniting Alberta’s right – Macleans.ca

For the full, non-edited, comments on Kellie Leitch, see

Jason Kenney on Kellie Leitch’s values test

Jason Kenney: ‘I still wonder how I got here’ – remarks on Canada

In addition to the obligatory thanks to all, and his plea for civility and thoughtful deliberations, Kenney’s remarks on Canada worth noting, and consistent with his time in office:

As a last word about this country, which we all serve—this magnificent country with limitless potential—as I worked as minister of immigration, citizenship, and multiculturalism and welcomed refugees to this country, I was reminded of the words of Desmond Morton, a great Canadian historian and a former NDP candidate. He said that Canada is made up of people who have been on the wrong side of history. That includes our first nations at the time of European contact.

That also includes French Canadians at the time of the conquest and Acadians, with the great upheaval and the tragedy of what happened to them.

It includes the United Empire Loyalists; English Canada was founded by refugees, including some of my ancestors, who came here from the American Revolution. It includes those who saw Canada as the North Star through the Underground Railroad, who escaped slavery in the United States to achieve freedom in this country, sometimes with the scars of slavery on their backs. There were the Highland clearance Scots, who founded Cape Breton. There were the famine Irish, including some of my ancestors—and members can see that the Kenneys have recovered from the famine. There were Jewish victims of the pogroms before the Second World War, in the early 20th century, and the victims of the Shoah, who came after the Second World War. There were the eastern Europeans, the men in sheepskin coats who fled political oppression to pursue new opportunities in settling the Canadian Prairies; the Hungarians of 1958; the Czechs of 1968; and the Vietnamese of 1979. With the Chinese premier here today, we should also remember the Uyghurs and Tibetans and Falun Gong practitioners and those who stood at Tiananmen Square. There are so many others right to this day: the Syrian refugees whom we welcome; the 25,000 Iraqi refugees who came through a program that I established; the gay Iranians and men and women of all backgrounds. All of them in their own way were losers of history, yet by becoming Canadian they have become winners of history.

All of those people would have cause to live in a spirit of bitterness and recrimination but, instead, have decided not to forget their tragic past, to remember and memorialize it but move forward with hope in the future, as Canadians with a common sense of responsibility for one another.

I close my two decades in this place by quoting the words of former prime minister Diefenbaker, when he introduced the Canadian Bill of Rights. In expressing a sentiment that applies to all of those losers of history who have built one of the greatest countries of history, he stated:

“I am a Canadian, a free Canadian, free to speak without fear, free to worship God in my own way, free to stand for what I think right, free to oppose what I believe wrong, free to choose those who shall govern my country. This heritage of freedom I pledge to uphold for myself and all mankind.”

Jason Kenney dismisses Kellie Leitch’s immigrant-screening proposal, Candice Malcolm former Kenney staffer endorses Leitch’s proposal

Sharp contrast between former CIC Minister Kenney and one of his former staffers, Candice Malcolm. Starting with Kenney:

Federal Conservative leadership candidate Kellie Leitch hasn’t thought through her controversial position on screening immigrants for “anti-Canadian values,” former Tory immigration minister Jason Kenney says.

Following a speech in downtown Calgary on Friday, Mr. Kenney, who is seeking the Alberta Progressive Conservative leadership, said he believes Dr. Leitch is pursuing an “improvised position” without understanding the negative impact of her words.

“I don’t take her position seriously. She’s never articulated it before,” Mr. Kenney said.

 “She’s never said a word about this in Parliament, caucus or cabinet. I don’t think she understands the nuance around these issues. You have to be very careful in the way you articulate questions about integration.”

Dr. Leitch, a Conservative MP from Ontario, e-mailed a survey last week to supporters that included a question about whether the federal government should screen potential immigrants and refugees for “anti-Canadian values.”

She later said she is protecting Canadian values from people who believe that women are property and can be beaten or that gays and lesbians should be stoned.

Despite widespread criticism including unflattering comparisons to U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump, Dr. Leitch has defended her position that screening is needed without saying how immigration officials would actually vet new Canadians.

Source: Jason Kenney dismisses Kellie Leitch’s immigrant-screening proposal – The Globe and Mail

And Malcolm’s defence of Leitch:

To most Canadians, this is a perfectly reasonable suggestion. In fact, back in 2011 the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation commissioned a report through Dalhousie University that asked very similar questions.

In that survey, 97% of Canadians agreed that values such as “gender equality”and “tolerance of others” must be embraced by newcomers. Likewise, 96% of immigrant Canadians agreed with embracing Canadian values.

According to a Globe and Mail report at the time,the survey demonstrated “a solid consensus around the notion that immigrants should accept certain values as a precondition for joining Canadian society.”

A “pre-condition” – meaning potential immigrants should accept these values before coming to Canada.

The survey also found that nine in 10 Canadians believed that Canadian laws should take precedence over religious laws and that newcomers should learn about Canada’s history and culture. Eight in 10 Canadians supported the idea that immigrants should “raise their children as Canadians.”

The overwhelmingly majority of Canadians believed that newcomers should accept our values. And the media hardly raised an eyebrow.

That was then, and this is now.

Five years ago, we all agreed that Canadian values were cherished and worth protecting. We were confident in ourselves and proud of our country. We celebrated our Canadian values, and weren’t afraid to promote our way of life to newcomers. But things have changed.

In 2016, any suggestion that our values are important leads to name-calling and hysteria. Leitch has received a fury of condemnation from media elites, Liberals and even many of her fellow Conservative caucus members.

They’ve accused her of “xenophobia,” “racism,”“dog-whistle politics,” and compared her to Donald Trump. The comparison is silly.

Trump has been successful in the U.S. for lashing out at the establishment, brazenly opposing political correctness and making shocking comments about various minority groups. He irresponsibly called for a ban on all Muslims entering the U.S., categorized Mexican immigrants as “rapists” and initially failed to denounce a former KKK leader.

Trump has built his candidacy around emotional appeals to American greatness,while not-so-subtly winking at racists and white supremacists.

Leitch, by stark contrast, made a simple suggestion about standing up for Canadian values, and followed up with a thoughtful explanation.

But elites in Canada are paranoid. The rise of Trump in the U.S, alongside the resurgence of nationalism and anti-immigration parties in Europe, has made many nervous. Wary of a similar movement in Canada, many are determined to nip discussions of integration and immigration reform in the bud before they grow.

This shows a lack of confidence in Canadian commonsense. Not every conservative is aDonald Trump in waiting. Not every proposal surrounding immigrant and integration is tantamount to Trumpian racism.

Kellie Leitch is no Donald Trump

Can Jason Kenney throw a rope around Alberta’s unruly Right? Delacourt

Good column by Susan Delacourt on Kenney’ s move to Alberta politics and his many strengths, with a nice shout out to my books:

One of the events obliged panelists to give quick answers to provocative questions posed by the audience. “Who’s the best cabinet minister in Ottawa right now?” someone asked. I didn’t even have to pause for thought: “Jason Kenney,” I said. Many others on stage and in the audience shared that view.

It wasn’t just his reputation for hard work, although that certainly was a factor. Kenney was everywhere in the old Conservative government, building his clout on the political front (with those cultural communities and others) but also on the policy front. I was told once that Kenney had a representative at every meeting in Ottawa, keeping tabs on all kinds of decision-making processes, even those beyond his ministerial brief.

open quote 761b1bKenney does have strong views (no one’s going to mistake him for a Red Tory) but the caricatures ignore his practical side. And party mergers need practical politicians.

For a sense of what kind of minister Kenney was, I tend to urge people to take a look at books published by Andrew Griffith, a former director general in Kenney’s old department of Multiculturalism. Griffith has written revealingly of a public service coming to grips with a minister who had definite ideas about how to blend policy and politics, evidence and anecdote.

And where many ministers hewed to the PMO diktat and avoided contact with the media, Kenney was eminently approachable. I don’t think he ever said no when I asked him for comment on one thing or another. (Though he hasn’t replied to a message I sent him today as I was writing this article.)

For years he held annual Christmas parties at which reporters were not only welcome, but positively encouraged. The reward for attending was getting to hear Kenney tell funny, behind-the-scenes stories about the Harper government — nothing headline-making, just anecdotes that presented his political workplace as a little less stuffy and aloof.

And it was never hard to find opposition MPs during the Harper years willing to say that Kenney (along with John Baird) was one of the more co-operative ministers in cabinet, willing to occasionally drop the hyper-partisan posture that characterized so much of that government’s style.

This version of Jason Kenney is at odds, naturally, with the caricature painted by his critics — of a rigid, even scary, ideologue. Kenney does have strong views (no one’s going to mistake him for a Red Tory) but the caricatures ignore this high-energy politician’s practical side.

And party mergers need practical politicians. Harper was a pragmatist when he set about uniting the old federal PC party with the Canadian Alliance back in 2003.

Still, I will concede that I’m finding it hard to square the more nuanced Kenney I saw with the politician who tweeted out his support for the Brexit vote a couple of weeks ago. Given that much of Brexit’s support came from hostility towards immigrants, it seemed odd, to say the least, to see a former immigration minister — a courter of cultural communities — on that side of the question.

Interim Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose, I noticed, also seemed at a loss to explain the support for Brexit from the likes of Kenney and Tony Clement in an interview last weekend on CBC’s The House — suggesting vaguely that it might have something to do with friendships they’ve forged abroad.

Perhaps it was just Kenney keeping things interesting, blurring the tidy lines of the boxes people want to throw around him. If he is going to seek the leadership of the Alberta PCs, that in itself is a bit of a surprise; many people expected to see him seek the leadership of the federal Conservatives.

It may not be a good sign for those federal Conservatives that Kenney sees his future elsewhere right now. He became pretty adept — as his old boss would attest — at figuring out where there was room for growth in the conservative movement.

Could he pull off a merger in Alberta? I wouldn’t put it past him. Kenney has developed a knack for doing — and being — the unexpected.

Source: Can Jason Kenney throw a rope around Alberta’s unruly Right?

Michael Den Tandt on the Brexit and Canada: Two crucial lessons for Liberals

Good commentary by Den Tandt on some of the lessons for the Liberal government, not to mention the Conservative opposition and the observations regarding Jason Kenney and Tony Clement’s support for Brexit:

Dear Prime Minister David Cameron, Jeremy Corbyn, Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage and the rest: Thank you, so very much. You’ve done the twin causes of stability and unity in your former Dominion of Canada ever so much good.

For what Canadian provincial or federal leader now, witnessing the catastrophic cock-up of your Brexit referendum, will do other than duck for cover next time there’s talk of a plebiscite here to dramatically restructure anything more important than a yard sale?

It was curious, bizarre even, to see senior federal Conservatives emerge on social media early Friday, as the “victory” for the Leave side in the Brexit vote became clear, to beat the drum for St. George. “Congratulations to the British people for choosing hope over fear,” enthused former minister-of-everything Jason Kenney, “by embracing a confident, sovereign future, open to the world!” Tony Clement, erstwhile Treasury Board president, called it a “magnificent exercise in democracy,” before slipping in a renewed call for a referendum on Canadian electoral reform.

Or, here’s another thought: The Liberals could shelve electoral reform and focus on more important stuff, this term, such as jobs.

Democracy is, indeed, magnificent. That’s why the Scots are now ramping up at breakneck speed for a do-over of their own 2014 referendum on independence from Britain, which post-Brexit surveys suggest will now swing in favour, because the Scots wish overwhelmingly to remain European.

Ireland, only recently at peace, now faces renewed turmoil at the prospect of a hard border separating Northern Ireland, still part of the United Kingdom, from the Republic of Ireland, soon to be Europe’s Westernmost outpost. Irish union, as the United Kingdom comes apart at the seams, is not out of the question. Hope over fear, indeed.

This is assuming, of course, that the UK leaves the European Union at all. Though it seems wildly improbable to imagine the referendum, 51.9 per cent for Leave, 48.1 per cent for Remain, being set aside, it is in theory possible, as long as Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which governs an EU member state’s withdrawal, is not invoked.

…All of which brings us back to Canada. Brexit is xenophobic; Brexit is anti-immigrant; Brexit is nostalgic, insular, anti-international and anti-globalization; Brexit is, most of all, an expression of English ethnic nationalism.The federal Conservatives under Stephen Harper, with Kenney himself in the lead, founded their 2011 majority on openness to ethnic pluralism. They undid much of that good work in 2015 with their niqab debate and “barbaric cultural practices” tip line. That any Conservative, Kenney most of all, should have failed to connect these dots is astonishing. Perhaps that’s why Canadian Conservative Brexit cheerleaders have also gone eerily quiet since those initial outpourings of joy.

But it’s not just the Tories who can watch and learn. There are now two threads connecting populist, anti-internationalist, xenophobic movements worldwide. The first is income inequality and poverty among the rural working class, which in England voted as a block for Brexit. The second is the fear of Islamism, manifested in suspicion of immigrants and refugees, which fueled the Leave campaign.

Fixing inequality, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals say, is their job one. But they face a looming economic catastrophe in the resource sector, which can only be addressed through pipeline development and freer trade. Working people need decent-paying jobs. From where will these come in Canada, if ideological and mostly urban anti-pipeline advocates, together with anti-globalization tub thumpers, are left to own the debate, as they do now? The Liberals need to build the case for pipelines and for liberalized trade, while they still have an audience for such.

As for Islamism, the Syrian civil war and ISIL continue to threaten Southern Europe and by extension the West. Until ISIL is destroyed and its territory taken away, there will be no end to the northward flow of refugees, and no political stability in Europe. Canada can do more and should do more to help Europe in this fight — while there remains a Europe to help.

Source: Michael Den Tandt on the Brexit and Canada: Two crucial lessons for Liberals | National Post

Perception of politicization of the public service is a problem for Liberals | Ottawa Citizen

Not unexpected to hear this kind of criticism from the opposition, as well as the more-balance assessments from others:

The appointment of Matthew Mendelsohn, who helped write the Liberal election platform, as a senior-ranking bureaucrat is a “clear, unprecedented and blunt” politicization of Canada’s non-partisan public service, says former Conservative cabinet minister Jason Kenney.

Kenney said the previous Conservative government — which had a rocky and sometimes hostile relationship with the bureaucracy — would have been vilified if it “plunked” such a key election player into the top ranks of the Privy Council Office (PCO).

“The real shocker here is his appointment to a No. 2 position in the PCO, the summit of the entire public service,” said Kenney in an interview. “A fellow who worked as a partisan political Liberal on the election campaign … I don’t think there is any precedent for this.”

That perception has dogged the Liberals since Mendelsohn was appointed in December as a deputy secretary in the PCO to head a new “results and delivery” secretariat to ensure election promises are tracked and met.

Results and delivery are big priorities for the Liberals and the public service has a lousy track record at both. By all accounts, Mendelsohn is working hard to get buy-in from ministers, deputy ministers and departments on creating a “delivery culture” in government.

And there seems little debate Mendelsohn is qualified. He is an academic, founding director of the Mowat Centre, an Ontario think-tank, a former deputy minister of several provincial portfolios; an associate cabinet secretary in Ontario and a one-time public servant.

But his bona fides include a leave from the Mowat Centre to work on the Liberal platform and help pen Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s mandate letters for ministers.

He is also part of the Dalton McGuinty-Kathleen Wynne brain trust that has joined the Trudeau government.

He worked with Queen’s Park veterans Katie Telford, now Trudeau’s chief of staff, and Gerald Butts, his principal secretary. (Mendelsohn’s wife, Kirsten Mercer, was Wynne’s justice policy adviser who moved to Ottawa to become chief of staff for Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould but has since been replaced.)

“The closer you fly to the action the bigger the risk of being branded,” said David Zussman, who holds the Jarislowsky Chair in Public Sector Management at the University of Ottawa. He was recruited into PCO to help lead the Jean Chrétien government’s massive program review.

Zussman also cautions the government has to be careful about the perception that it is too Ontario-centric when staffing ministers’ offices.

“They need a national perspective in ministers’ offices and they have to be careful about that. They could all be meritorious appointments but if they all come from the same place they are not as valuable to ministers as people who come from across the country,” he said.

Ralph Heintzman, a research professor at University of Ottawa, was a harsh critic of the Tory government for politicizing the public service particularly for using government communications to promote party interests.

Heintzman, a key player in writing the public service’s ethics code, feels Mendelsohn’s appointment is within bounds. He was tapped as a policy expert for the platform but wasn’t a candidate or campaign worker.

But perception is reality in politics and Heintzman said Mendelsohn had “sufficient involvement” with the Liberals that the government will now have to be sensitive to all future appointments.

“The very fact the appointment created a perception, fair or not, creates a new situation for the Liberals in the future because it will have to be very sensitive about any future appointments from outside the public service to make sure those impressions aren’t reinforced,” said Heintzman.

That could pose a problem for a government that is anxious to renew the public service and bring in new talent and skills to fill many policy and operational gaps.

The public service has long been criticized for monastic and a “closed shop.” In fact, former PCO Clerk Janice Charette made recruitment, including bringing in mid-career and senior executives, one of her top three priorities.

Source: Perception of politicization of the public service is a problem for Liberals | Ottawa Citizen

From a different angle, Geoff Norquay, a former staffer to former PM Mulroney, argues for greater movement between the two spheres:

We learned this week that a significant number of public servants have been joining ministerial offices in the new Liberal government.

The knee-jerk reactions of some Conservative commentators were predictable enough: “It absolutely feeds into the perception that the civil service favours the Liberals, and that the public service is becoming more political,” said Michele Austin, a former chief of staff to two Harper government ministers.

I believe these reactions are wrong, for several reasons.

Canada has a non-partisan public service, but people have been crossing back and forth between the public service and political offices for many years. It used to be a normal process and it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Actually, it’s a good thing.

Until the Harper era, these movements were openly acknowledged and positively sanctioned, because people from ministers’ offices wishing to cross over to the public service were given a priority for hiring in the bureaucracy.

As part of his effort to close “revolving doors,” Stephen Harper put a stop to the priority system. That was a mistake. Once it has worked through its top priorities, I hope the new government considers bringing the priority system back.

Ministers’ offices are the nexus where the public service and politics meet. They are the place where political judgments are applied to bureaucratic recommendations, where political desires meet practical realities, and where executive decision-making confronts the art of practical execution.

Far too often, these two sides operate as non-communicating solitudes. When relationships between ministers’ offices and the public service become strained, it’s usually because they don’t understand each other’s motivations, priorities, imperatives and constraints.

Many of these tensions and frustrations can be made more manageable if public service recommendations to ministers are more politically sensitive, and if requests and instructions from the political level are tempered by respect for bureaucratic considerations.

open quote 761b1bCreativity comes from your ability to see the different and conflicting sides of complex issues, and apply what you’ve learned from one field to the challenges of another.

The odds of this happening are much better if at least some people making these calls, and negotiating the interface, have experience on both sides. That’s certainly been my experience through more than forty years of working in and around provincial and federal governments.

Trudeau’s blurring the line between ministries and the public service. Good for him.

Trudeau on Trump: Not ‘smug’, Mr. Kenney — just sensibly alarmed: Kheiriddin

Tasha Kheiriddin on Trudeau’s comments and Jason Kenney’s reaction:

Some criticized Trudeau’s remarks as ungracious. “Regrettably smug comment by PM Trudeau,” sniffed Jason Kenney on Twitter, “re our American friends, who help to defend Canada & our interests globally.” The American Spectator’s Aaron Goldstein called Justin Trudeau “smug and condescending just like Obama.”

But Trudeau wasn’t being smug. He was speaking truth to power, or power-in-waiting — at a time when many in the U.S. would do well to listen. Like his father, Trudeau pointed out something about Americans that Americans are seldom going to notice themselves — that they are all too often oblivious of the interests and experiences of the people with whom they share the planet. The elephant won’t crush the mouse out of malice — but he might do it out of ignorance.

In Trump’s case, the ignorance is wilful — even celebrated by those who profess it. Anti-elitism has combined with racism to fuel Trump’s rise. Malicious verbal — or physical — attacks are visited on those who disagree with him. The ends aren’t justifying the means this time, because the ends have nothing to do with protecting American values or interests. They’re all about Donald Trump — what he wants, the lies he’s willing to tell to get what he wants.

Trump’s campaign carries all the hallmarks of tyranny — towards other nations, towards the American people themselves. And it won’t help Americans defend themselves … or us.

Trudeau on Trump: Not ‘smug’, Mr. Kenney — just sensibly alarmed

John Ivison: Jason Kenney’s newfound energy signals that the Tory leadership race has started in earnest

Good profile by John Ivison on Jason Kenney and his post-election reflections (I have great respect for former Minister Kenney from my time as former DG – Citizenship and Multiculturalism – as chronicled in my book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias: Resetting Citizenship and Multiculturalism):

“The fatal flaw was our tone. It seemed too often the government went out of its way to make enemies, not friends, starting with the media,” he said.

“On identity questions, every public opinion poll demonstrated a super-majority of Canadians supporting the notion that the citizenship oath should be taken openly … So I think we were on the right side of those issues substantively and politically. But when dealing with sensitive issues you have to communicate with great nuance and subtlety. I accept that was not necessarily the case in our campaign.”

The received wisdom is that these mistakes led to a hemorrhaging of support from the loose coalition of new Canadians that Kenney, more than anyone else, had helped knit together. But he disputes there was a repudiation of the Conservative message among ethnic voters.

“We got 32 per cent of the new Canadian vote, down from the low 40s in 2011, which was proportionate to our popular vote. It’s encouraging that it is still a far higher percentage than the Conservative Party has attracted historically. The problem is our vote didn’t grow with the electorate, which was mostly an issue with the under-30s. The bottom line is we now have a competitive environment. It wasn’t catastrophic.”

What Kenney doesn’t say, is that while the Conservatives got 32 percent of the new Canadian vote, this was 20 points behind the Liberals in the 33 ridings where visible minorities are in the majority (905, BC’s lower mainland) – and where he personally invested considerable time in wooing those communities.

It was not only a question of tone in these ridings: a number of citizenship and immigration changes did not, in the end, go down well with many voters.

“Showing up” was not enough.

Source: John Ivison: Jason Kenney’s newfound energy signals that the Tory leadership race has started in earnest