Is unleashing Jason Kenney on Ontario a good idea for the Tories?

More commentary on Alberta Premier Kenney’s plans to campaign in the 905 and other immigrant and visible minority rich ridings:

A premier spending days campaigning in a different province for an election of a different order of government: in most cases, it would be political catnip for the opposition back in his province. Alberta in 2019, I cannot say enough, is not most cases. Premier Jason Kenney could gain popularity at home if he ditches Edmonton this fall to hold fundraisers in Markham, Brampton and Mississauga, in service of flipping the federal election away from Justin Trudeau’s Liberals. A typical opposition argument would condemn the premier for wooing Ontarians while a litany of Alberta issues demand attention. But in the minds of many frustrated Albertans, ousting Trudeau is one of the province’s most pressing issues.

This clears Kenney to decamp to Toronto’s populous suburbs for a few brief stretches this fall to stump for Andrew Scheer and Conservative candidates, as the Globe and Mail reports he will. It’s a reprise of the campaign outreach Stephen Harper’s former minister did in immigrant communities in the 905 area and elsewhere in past federal elections. While Albertans will likely stomach their premier’s extra-curricular activities, it’s more of an open question what the net benefit of this would be to Scheer’s Conservatives, whose electoral fortunes could be determined in the roughly two dozen seats that ring Toronto. Will the positives outweigh the negatives?

There’s no clear successor in Scheer’s current caucus to Kenney, the longtime immigration minister and tireless ethnic outreach king who in one weekend would hopscotch from a Chinese banquet hall to a Sikh gurdwara to a Philippine picnic to a Coptic temple, collecting fistfuls of donations, volunteer signups and vote pledges along the way. Plainly, it’s not normal for the Conservatives to have a Jason Kenney, capable of politicking effectively in nearly every shard of Canada’s cultural mosaic and shake loose the Liberals’ traditional grip on new Canadians’ votes; it would likely take a team of outreach workers to accomplish what he did. Kenney has maintained and tended to his contact lists since shifting to Alberta, and retains at least some of his support base out there: members of Toronto’s Chinese community hosted a reception in his honour in March 2018, when Kenney came east to speak at the Ontario Progressive Conservative leadership convention.

It took Kenney several years to hone his outreach methods and to persuade communities to abandon the Liberals in favour of Stephen Harper’s Conservatives. Now both of the leaders who wooed minorities in the 905, Harper and Kenney, are off the federal ballot, having alienated those communities in the last election with policies like the barbaric cultural practices” snitch line and bans on face-coverings at citizenship ceremonies. Scheer is an unknown commodity to many; a visiting Kenney would have to reassure voters that the new leader brings the sort of political chops and immigration system improvements they liked in 2008 and 2011, without the warts of 2015—and that Scheer is certainly not the kingpin of a motley band of racists and xenophobes that Trudeau’s Liberals contend they are. It’s no stretch to assume that if Kenney campaigns federally in Ontario, he’ll also hold fundraisers in Lower Mainland B.C. and the Montreal area—both parts of his old familiar ethnic campaign trail.

Kenney seems intent to make time-zone-hopping almost as regular an activity as premier as it was in his federal career, with his lecture and lobbying circuit in favour of Alberta oil and pipelines. On Friday, he was in Toronto to meet Mayor John Tory and speak to the C.D. Howe institute. The scoresheet, four weeks into Kenney’s premiership: two speeches in Hogtown, zero in his native Cowtown.

Will he be viewed now differently within communities he cultivated in years past? And perhaps more importantly, by voters who aren’t the target of his private fundraisers and events, and might be rankled by his fly-in work?

When he was a federal minister, it was much easier for Kenney to tell Ontarians and British Columbians that he was striving for the best results for all parts of Canada. Now, he’s premier of just one part, an Alberta-firster by design. He professes interest in bringing all Canadians the spin-off jobs and redistributed wealth from Alberta oil development, yet campaigned on a jarring proposal to rejig federal health and social transfers in a way that would substantially favour his province to the detriment of others.

Ontarians will reasonably be suspicious as to whether he has their best interests at heart. The extent to which climate change becomes a major issue in this election may influence how warmly the petro-province leader’s insertion into Ontario riding contests is received. If concerns about a warming planet and extreme weather are chief in voters’ minds, the amount of money and support Kenney raises in Brampton may be outweighed by the scorn his policies and carbon-tax opposition attracts in the rest of the province.

Some developments back in Alberta also make Kenney’s travels more of a dubious proposition. The RCMP continues to investigate alleged voter fraud perpetrated by Kenney’s 2017 campaign for the United Conservative Party leadership, and much of the scrutiny concerns Indo-Canadians in Calgary and Edmonton whose information may have been fraudulently used to obtain online voter identities. Should the investigation bear fruit—no charges have yet been laid—it would reveal the most cynical and craven version of ethnic politics in Canada, and a willingness by Kenney to embrace such dark moves. Why would a Sikh business group or a Polish Catholic Church welcome a politician who abuses his entrée into their community?

To be sure, Kenney and the federal Tories have left themselves an escape hatch: his camp says he won’t stump if it’s seen as a political liability, and the Conservatives are currently leading in the polls. But a party that can use help in a part of the country that tends to swing elections—and has no obvious candidate to provide it—Kenney’s walk down Memory Lane (that’s in Richmond Hill, right?) no doubt seems a gamble worth taking.

Source: Is unleashing Jason Kenney on Ontario a good idea for the Tories?

ICYMI: The real tragedy of Mavis Otuteye’s death: it didn’t have to happen

Jason Markusoff argues that the safe-third country agreement should not be blamed for Otuteye’s death along with the need for better and more consistent information:

It isn’t clear if Otuteye was actually seeking to make a refugee claim once she encountered authorities in Manitoba; nor are the grounds she might have cited in seeking protection from persecution back home in Ghana. Most migrants crossing into Quebec, Manitoba and British Columbia on foot aren’t seeking temporary visits, nor would they normally be granted them–they bid for refugee status, and if they lose, they face deportation to their home countries.

As the initial reports rolled in about a Ghanaian dying during a foot journey to Canada, immigration experts quickly decried the safe country agreement as the culprit. It’s the same problem they’ve cited throughout this upswing in irregular border crossing. However, this case may not point so surely to the folly of the U.S.-Canada agreement, but rather the merits of its compassionate exemptions: if a migrant is looking to be reunited with family, he or she is granted safe passage into Canada.

It also highlights problems in how information flows to prospective refugees. The Citizenship and Immigration Canada website explains this exemption to the safe country agreement. According to the National Post, Otuteye kept her border plans largely a secret, meaning few people in the woman’s orbit had the chance to help her identify her options. Often, immigrant communities rely on word of mouth or message boards to figure out how to traverse boundaries and reach safety. Immigration lawyers in Canada often get called, but are barred from offering counsel to would-be border-hoppers. Sometimes there is paranoia that a phone call to the wrong person can lead to an immigration officer’s roundup in the U.S.; this has become a bigger fear in the Trump era than before.

Perhaps, had the safe third country agreement never been in place, nobody would have felt the need to make their way into Canada by crossing ditches and fields, and nobody would have created a familiar path that Otuteye apparently felt compelled to follow. Even without this tragic case, there are good reasons experts cite to scrap the deal–the very risk of further deaths still exists among legitimate asylum-seekers, who genuinely have no alternative way of reaching Canada. But this tragic story does not, on its own, represent the straw that finally fells this problematic agreement.

Source: The real tragedy of Mavis Otuteye’s death: it didn’t have to happen – Macleans.ca

The new underground railroad to Canada

Likely to accelerate under the Trump administration. Good long read by Jason Markusoff:

The taxi stopped at the side of the I-29 interstate after cruising north for about an hour. Their $400 in the cabbie’s pocket, he dropped off Seidu Mohammed and Razak Iyal a two-minute drive short of the North Dakota-Manitoba line. The driver pointed the men toward a darkened prairie field and a row of red blinking lights, wind turbines in the distance. Walk toward those lights, and they could grasp freedom.

“We didn’t feel any sign, but we could feel we are in Canada, because of the cold—very, very intense,” Mohammed recalls. By this point, they were a couple of hours into their trek through field and brush, unsure exactly where to stop. It was Christmas Eve, and fields outside Emerson, Man., were smothered in waist-high snow.

That “Canada” moment Mohammed recalls was a nasty wind gust that overwhelmed these underdressed African migrants, whipping off their flimsy gloves and Mohammed’s ballcap. By the time they wanted to dial 911 for police to retrieve them from the Manitoba roadside, their hands were frozen claws unable to grip a phone.

A trucker eventually rescued them, and a month later they were on a new, safer road, toward possible refugee status in Canada. But their frostbitten fingers are gone. Iyal has one thumb and a half-thumb left. Mohammed has nothing. As the 24-year-old former soccer player lies in his Winnipeg hospital bed a week after the amputation, the ends of his bandaged hands are left open to reveal the skin graft stapled over them to cover the wound. After recalling the extreme burning sensation of that night, the fear he might have died, he can’t stop staring at them in disbelief. “Look at my hands. Look, look,” Mohammed says, cheeks dripping with tears he cannot wipe away.

The duo’s frostbite was a tragic cap to a surprisingly busy year for unanticipated refugees sneaking into Canada via Emerson. The RCMP intercepted 515 refugee claimants crossing near the border post last year—more than in the three previous years combined. They’re intercepted rather than “caught” because they want the police to bring them to the Canada Customs office to make their refugee claims, something current rules don’t let them do by coming in Canada’s front door.

They’re seeking refuge to the north because they fear deportation under the tough U.S. asylum system that existed before Donald Trump—and more and more these days, they’re not even trying their chances in the harsher new regime. “When I got to Canada, I felt so happy. I escaped from Donald Trump,” says Mouna, a Djiboutian who walked across the border three weeks after the U.S. election. The Ghanaian pair’s widely reported frostbite has proven no horror-story deterrent for those desperately seeking safety and freedom. Thirty-nine more arrived to Winnipeg’s largest refugee centre for help in frigid January, including eight on the Monday after the new U.S. President’s refugee and travel ban.

Source: The new underground railroad to Canada

Ezra Levant: The Rebel’s unrepentant commander – Good profile in Maclean’s

Good profile on Breitbart North by Jason Markusoff. Sad that there is a market for this kind of behaviour:

…Media highlighted the “lock her up” chant at Rebel’s rally, in part because there was little particularly new by December 2016 about Alberta economic hurt, carbon tax opposition or anti-NDP rallies; plus, there’s high curiosity about anything vaguely Trumpish penetrating Canada.

Levant chastized them for not focusing on his rally’s content, for two straight nights on his self-titled show, where he treaded lightly on that content and instead reacted to the reaction by news reports and politicians.

“How about just once, we all tell the media-political industrial complex to f–k off?” he ended his rant.

Within days, The Rebel was selling “lock her up” T-shirts, and announced the following week’s rally in Calgary. He hadn’t initially planned it, Levant explains, until that media response.

“As a signal to Canadians that you don’t have to do what Peter Mansbridge says anymore,” he says.

The second rally drew Conservative leadership candidates tacking to the party’s right flank, like climate change skeptic Brad Trost, Kellie Leitch, as well as Chris Alexander again, who had told most outlets he was mortified by “lock her up.” He told this audience his donors and “establishment types” warned him not to return. “I’m not going to fold to a bunch of politically correct people,” he said.

This time, Calgary news reports played it largely straight, leaving little for Levant to pillory. But he found his whipping post on Twitter: a twentysomething radio reporter. “We had a controlled experiment of the media. And Haley Jarmain screwed up,” Levant says.

Jarmain is a university student who also reports for Newstalk 770 radio. After live-tweeting the Calgary rally and filing her radio story, she tweeted about the insults she’d faced that afternoon but excluded from her report: “But I got death threats. Was laughed at. Told that I’m less of a human for my job.” Levant and supporters on Twitter pushed back skeptically: why didn’t she call police about threats on her life, or the rally security? She explained later, on Twitter and her radio station, it amounted to one guy telling her “you’re dead” in the foyer, and didn’t want to risk a he-said/she-said by reporting to the authorities.

The next day on The Rebel, Levant posted a 14-minute piece skewering her as a left-wing, social justice reporter, and promised to go over security tapes with her to catch this would-be-murderer. Voice oozing with sarcasm, he announced a cash reward, and acquired HaleyJarmain.ca and HaleyJarmain.com to redirect to his video. Levant’s Twitter backers mobbed further: called her attention-craving, a faker, part of the lügenpresse. (She and her station declined to comment to Maclean’s.)

Journalists tweeted in Jarmain’s defense and called Levant’s stunt disgusting and bullying. That’s just more media tribalism, he says. But journalists aren’t the only ones who worry about this dark side of Levant. “You want to be controversial; you want to hold powerful people to account for their action,” says Kory Teneycke, a longtime friend and former Sun News president. “But on the flip side, I think you get in trouble if you target people who are smaller than yourself.”

Coren says: “I’ve seen him do and say things that are incredibly hurtful, but I don’t think he actually feels it. He doesn’t know the effect he’s having on people.”

He scraped gutter mud a week earlier, too. An Alberta labour leader criticized a claim about his Edmonton rally size, and Levant threatened to post his profile from dating site Ashley Madison.

To call Levant perennially unrepentant is to call fish damp. That young reporter was “an embedded activist,” he says, the paragon of media skullduggery. “You know what?” he says, as though addressing her. “You can own that for the rest of your life as long as I have the money to keep the domain HaleyJarmain.com. She’ll own that lie. Or, we’ll catch the killer. Either way, it’s a win.”