Poilievre pitches to new immigrants, as Brown attacks him over 2015 niqab ban bill

Of note:

Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown and high-profile Conservative Pierre Poilievre spent Monday battling over a seven-year-old election promise to prohibit face coverings during citizenship ceremonies — a sign of what could be the makings of a tense rivalry between candidates in the Tory leadership race.

Brown, who launched his bid on Sunday, blasted longtimeOttawa-area MP Poilievre over his actions back in 2015 when the party promised to create a “barbaric cultural practices” tip line and require people’s faces to be visible during citizenship oaths.

The attack came as Poilievre spent the past few days meeting with cultural community leaders in the Greater Toronto Area and promising to cut red tape for immigrants wanting to access the necessary licences they need to work in regulated industries.Among those he met with were members of the Armenian, Muslim and Pakistani communities as well some of the party’s candidates from the area.

Regardless of who is chosen as leader Sept. 10, Conservatives know they must make inroads with immigrants and racialized Canadians if theyhope to pick up seats in the region as well as other major cities and suburbs, considered key to defeating three-term Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Poilievre pledged Monday to revive similar programs that were in place under the last Conservative leader who did well in communities of visible minorities: former prime minister Stephen Harper, at least prior to 2015.

He promised toincentivize provinces to require occupational licensing bodies to decide on an immigrant’s application within 60 days of receiving their paperwork, rather than forcing them to wait for months.

As well, Poilievre pitched offering small loans to immigrants who might need to take extra courses to gain a professional or trade licence to work in their respective field.

As Poilievre made these pledges, Brown, who is positioning himself as the candidate who stands for religious freedoms, released a statement saying the MP lacks credibility on any policy that impacts minority communities given his role in the Conservatives’ 2015 election campaign.

It was during that race when the party, then led by Harper, promised to create a tip line for so-called “barbaric cultural practices.” Conservatives at the time said it was meant to report things like forced marriage.

During that election, Poilievre was running for re-election as a candidate. He was also a member of Harper’s government when it introduced a bill banning people from wearing face coverings during citizenship ceremonies. That was ultimately struck down in court. The promise was also included in the party’s election campaign, when Harper also mused about possibly extending it to federal public servants.

Brown said Monday that Poilievre has never spoken out against these measures. The MP also has Jenni Byrne on his team, who was the party’s national campaign manager in 2015.

“This is the same campaign which platformed those two abhorrent policies, and lost the Conservatives the 2015 general election,” Brown’s statement read.

“Even if he attempts to distance himself from his silence today, it would be a hollow gesture in an insincere bid to gain votes.”

Poilievre responded Monday by calling Brown a “liar,” accusing him of mischaracterizing what Harper was doing.

“There was no niqab ban,” he said in a statement released on social media.

“I would never support that, nor did Mr. Harper. What Mr. Harper proposed was that a person’s face be visible while giving oaths at citizenship ceremonies.”

Poilievre, whose statement didn’t address the past proposal of a “barbaric cultural practices” tip line, added he would continue to support immigration and equality.

In response, National Council of Canadians CEO Mustafa Farooq tweeted that “leadership requires accountability” and pointed out some of Poilievre’s fellow MPs have apologized for what happened in 2015.

Among those is Edmonton MP Tim Uppal, a co-chair on Poilievre’s campaign, who has apologized for his role as a minister in promoting the ban on niqabs during citizenship ceremonies.Before the leadership race, Uppal said the party was still dealing with the fallout from racialized communities because of the 2015 campaign.

A post-mortem from the Conservatives’ 2021 election loss submitted in January came to a similar finding, according to three sources who spoke to The Canadian Press on the condition of anonymity.

Melissa Lantsman, a newly elected Ontario MP who is also supporting Poilievre in the race, shared on social media last fall that while she was stood in favour of banning the niqab during citizenship ceremonies in 2015, her “view has since evolved.”

Michael Diamond, a campaign strategist who, among other campaigns, worked on Peter MacKay’s 2020 Conservative leadership bid, said Brown’s attack over the issue and targeting of Byrne is a “proxy” attack on Harper, who is highly respected among the membership.

“It seems like folly to me to attack the last campaign of the man who remains the most popular figure in this party.”

He added it’s still early days in the race and cautioned that the debates playing out between the campaigns and on social media were occurring in an “echo chamber.”

Source: Poilievre pitches to new immigrants, as Brown attacks him over 2015 niqab ban bill

Lewis calls Bill 21 ‘religious discrimination,’ Poilievre hopes Quebec repeals law

A bit more forthcoming criticism of Bill 21 from all contenders, to various degrees:

Conservative leadership contender and rookie MP Leslyn Lewis on Monday called a Quebec law restricting public servants in positions of authority from wearing religious symbols at work “explicit religious discrimination.”

Lewis, who is running for the leadership a second time after placing third in the party’s 2020 race, says Conservatives must make decisions “based on principle” and not how it will be viewed by a particular demographic.

“Even making the right decision for purely political purposes is wrong. While I respect provincial jurisdiction, Bill 21 is explicit religious discrimination and as leader of our party, I will always defend religious freedom,” reads a statement made Monday.

Her stance on Quebec’s controversial secularism law, known by its legislative title of Bill 21, comes as other candidates have staked out their positions on the matter.

Some in the party expect the issue to become a policy debate during the race, which will run until a new leader is picked Sep. 10. So far, there are five candidates running and others have until April 19 to declare and June 3 to sell new memberships.

Different Tory MPs have said they believe the Conservatives must take a stronger stance against Bill 21 and criticized former leader Erin O’Toole for saying that while he personally opposes the law, it’s an issue best left up to Quebecers to decide. By contrast, Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has left the door open on federal court intervention.

Lewis vowed Monday that if elected as party leader, she would condemn religious discrimination regardless of “who it is against or where it is happening.”

As a candidate in the 2020 race, Lewis enjoyed strong backing from the party’s social conservative wing, which, among other things, cares about religious freedoms.

Fellow leadership candidate Pierre Poilievre, a longtime Ottawa-area MP who is running as a candidate that champions all forms of freedoms, also came out opposing the law on Monday.

“It is wrong,” he said in a statement.

“If anyone proposed it federally, my government would not allow it to pass. I respect Quebec’s right to make its own laws, but hope the province repeals the bill.”

Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown, who officially entered the race Sunday, made a point of sayingin the speech he made to announce his candidacy that he forcefully stood against the law and believes the party can win while doing so.

During his time as a municipal leader, he also led the charge on big cities from across the countries pledging money to assist groups that are challenging Bill 21 in court.

Former Quebec premier and leadership candidate Jean Charest has also said he doesn’t support the law.

Source: Lewis calls Bill 21 ‘religious discrimination,’ Poilievre hopes Quebec repeals law