Doug Ford wants to combat labour shortages with more immigrants

More on Ontario pressure to increase Provincial Nominee Program levels:

Premier Doug Ford plans to press the federal government for immigration rules similar to Quebec’s so Ontario can address labour shortages across the province. 

And in British Columbia, at the summer meeting of the Council of the Federation, he is seeking support from his 12 provincial and territorial leaders to join the call for more choice and flexibility from the federal government — as well as faster processing of workers, which can now take more than two years.

“In the face of a historic labour shortage, we need more skilled workers to help fill the gap here in Ontario and across the country,” Ford said in a statement to the Star. 

“I know the other premiers agree that provinces can’t do this alone. We need the federal government to work with us to tackle the labour shortfall to help ensure our economy remains strong during these challenging times.”

The province and federal government’s agreement on immigration is up for renewal this fall, and Ford is hoping to negotiate a big boost in the number of workers Ontario takes in, as well as more say in the types of job skills they possess. 

Ontario had been hoping to be allocated 18,000 workers via immigration — double the 9,000 initially granted — but received 9,700. 

The province says it has 378,000 job that are unfilled, mainly in health care and construction. 

It also wants the wait time for processing workers given it currently takes about 26 months, with “express” taking 18 months. 

Following the June 2 election, Ontario Labour Minister Monte McNaughton — who saw immigration added to his portfolio when he was reappointed to cabinet — said the “Ontario immigrant nominee program” only gives the province say over 9,000 newcomers when 125,000 arrive here every year, “which is a very small percentage of what we are getting.”

He said he planned to reach out to the federal government “in short order to lay the groundwork” to renegotiate the Ontario-Canada immigrant agreement. 

“Quite frankly. I’d like to see a Quebec-style immigration system here in Ontario where we have more of a say in the immigrants that we select to fill these jobs and build stronger communities,” McNaughton said, adding Quebec selects about 90 per cent of economic immigrants and “I think Ontario deserves to have a system similar to them.”

Aspiring federal Conservative leader and former Quebec premier Jean Charest said on social media that he’s “on board” with Ontario seeking a bigger say in economic immigration.

“To bring back the Canadian dream of having an affordable home, and improving access to health care, we need more skilled workers,” he tweeted. “I will give provinces like Ontario the ability to bring in more folks to solve their labour shortage.”

Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said a revamp of immigration rules could help ease the nursing shortage, saying that “status in Canada is the only barrier to becoming certified” for thousands across the country. 

Not being a permanent resident “precludes them from being qualified to work … speeding up that process alone” could work. 

He said the federal government has responsibility for immigration and should continue that, but added “it’s always important to heed concerns being raised by provinces because they know what in particular is needed.”

Source: Doug Ford wants to combat labour shortages with more immigrants

Quebec won’t use COVID-19 notification app for now

Again, surprising given Quebec’s overall poor performance in managing and containing the pandemic. And another kudos to Premier Ford for his plain language messaging “Just do it…”:

Quebec won’t use a smartphone application to notify the public about potential exposure to COVID-19 for now, arguing its testing and contact-tracing capability are sufficient at this stage of the pandemic.

While the province is not closing the door on using an app in the future, Premier François Legault says he would rather use one that was developed in Quebec.

“We would prefer a Quebec company, but I don’t think this is our main argument,” Legault said Tuesday afternoon in Saint-Hyacinthe, Que.

He says there is a lack of broad support for such an app in the province, due to privacy concerns.

“Maybe in six months we will come to another decision,” he said.

The decision puzzled the federal Health Ministry. Thierry Bélair, a spokesperson for Health Minister Patty Hajdu, pointed out that the app offered by the federal government, COVID Alert, does not track a user’s location nor collect any other personally identifiable information.

“It’s also an additional tool we can use as we prepare for a possible increase in cases this fall. So why not make it available now in Quebec?” said Bélair.

COVID Alert, which uses open-source technology built by a volunteer team of engineers at Ottawa-based Shopify, is designed to warn users if they’ve spent at least 15 minutes in the past two weeks within two metres of another user who later tested positive for the coronavirus.

It was launched at the end of July and currently only works in Ontario, where it has been downloaded more than two million times.

Adoption of one app across Canada would be “very helpful” to ensure those who travel between provinces are notified of possible exposure to the virus, Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said at a Tuesday news conference.”From the federal perspective, we want as many Canadians as possible to be participating,” she said.

Experts in both technology and public health stress that the more people who use the app, the better it will be.

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam says more widespread adoption of the COVID Alert app is one more layer of protection. This comes as Quebec announces it will not sign on to the app for now. 1:03

Éric Caire, Quebec’s minister responsible for digital transformation, said the government is interested in a made-in-Quebec app and is also running tests on the federal app to ensure it is secure.

He said the province has learned from public consultations and legislative hearings that a solid understanding of the technology used in an app makes Quebecers more open to installing it.

“The more that people are told what it does and does not do, the more they will be reassured,” said Caire.COVID Alert relies on Bluetooth technology to detect proximity to other users, instead of GPS data.

The province heard from 16,456 Quebecers in online public consultations about the use of a COVID-19 notification app. Seventy-seven per cent believed such an app would be useful, and 75 per cent said they would install it, the province said in a statement.

But the voices heard at hearings, held by the Institutions Committee in Quebec City, about a possible contract-tracing app were more skeptical.

“Quebec’s legal framework is inadequate in terms of data and personal information protection and access to information, informed consent and the fight against discrimination,” said a report prepared by the committee once those hearings concluded.

Committee members acknowledged that almost all of the 18 experts who testified at the hearings expressed serious reservations about the effectiveness and reliability of the technology.

Dr. David Buckeridge, an epidemiologist at McGill University’s School of Population and Global Health, said the right time to start using such an app would be before the number of daily new cases reaches the crisis levels seen in the spring.”I think the risks, frankly, from this app are relatively quite low, and it was designed in that way,” he said.

“The main issue here is going to be trust and adoption.”

Caire said the province will continue to watch how widely the app is used in Ontario and that Quebec will consider using an app in the event of a second wave.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford said he would ask Legault to reconsider his government’s decision.

“Just do it. It protects everyone,” he said to reporters Tuesday afternoon. “It’s not a big deal.”

Source: Quebec won’t use COVID-19 notification app for now

Wells: Let’s reopen Ontario and Quebec. You go first.

I am always impressed by the sophisticated understanding of Paul Wells when it comes to how governmental decision-making and his avoidance of overly simplistic arguments of many commentators (he calls out some). Just as he did in The doomed 30-year battle to stop a pandemic, a welcome dose of reality and constraints, where governments have accountability unlike those writing opinion columns:

At last the day came when the politely populist premiers of Ontario and Quebec—the provinces where four-fifths of Canada’s COVID-19 patients reside—announced their plans to roll away their stone and step into the post-pandemic light.

The plans were nearly empty and the premiers looked terrified.

The Ontario document, A Framework for Reopening Our Province, has timelines that mention no date after April 27, which was the day the document was released. It listed three phases: “Protect and Support,” which is what’s been happening; “Restart,” which theoretically comes next; and “Recover,” which in theory will happen someday. The “Restart” phase is described in conspicuously belts-and-suspenders terminology: a “careful, stage-by-stage approach” during which “public health and workplace safety will remain the top priority” and “public health officials will carefully monitor” whether there are new outbreaks “for two-to-four weeks.” The big question: “whether it is necessary to change course” and essentially revert to the current cave days.

This next phase will kick in when cases are durably declining, hospitals can handle any influx of new cases, and public-health tracing can follow any new cases. The second of those boxes, mercifully, has probably already been ticked. The third may never be, because this is such a sneaky virus. Where is Ontario on the first? A reporter asked. Premier Doug Ford couldn’t say.

Quebec, the epicenter of the Canadian outbreak, has a slightly more concrete plan about which Quebec officials seemed commensurately less confident. “If we see that the situation isn’t under control, we’ll push the timetable back,” premier François Legault said. “The watchword will be prudence.”

Another watchword will also be regionalism. Montreal is in the very early stages of a decline in active caseload following what was, and in many ways remains, one of the worst outbreaks in North America. The rest of the province looks more like the rest of the country. So Legault is re-opening elementary schools and public daycares outside greater Montreal in two weeks, on May 11. In the Montreal region they’ll open a week later. High schools stay closed until September.

And even that timetable exaggerates the imminence of a post-COVID social era. Schools will reopen “if and only if” the situation doesn’t deteriorate from now to May 11, Legault said. And school won’t even be mandatory: “Parents who want to keep their children at home won’t be penalized in any way.”

It’s pretty easy to anticipate 72 hours of large-scale game theory beginning on May 9, as tens of thousands of parents use Facebook, Zoom and text messages to ascertain whether they’re better off sending the kids to school or keeping them home. Class sizes will, in any event, be capped at 15, essentially requiring some number of parents to keep their children out.

And after that? When does your local barber shop, dry cleaner, skate sharpener or driver’s license office open? We’ll see. It’s a far cry from the easy certainty of commentators like the  shock jocks on Quebec City radio and the more nuanced impatience of columnists in the Sun papers, which essentially delivered their readership whole to the Ford Conservatives.

It’s an impatience all of us have heard in family conversations. It’s an impatience most of us feel. You know the songbook as well as I do: Look, this is ridiculous, nobody signed on for global economic euthanasia, nobody was told in March that we’d still be here in May and maybe July and maybe January, everybody has to die of something, suicide and obesity and delayed surgery kill people too, and we’re pushing those numbers up as we try to tamp this one down. (Suddenly everyone’s a public-health ninja who knows more about all this than Theresa Tam and Bonnie Henry.)

But it’s quite another matter to be the person in charge when the rubber hits the road. People are full of bravado for society and sometimes less so for their circle. Two weeks seems a reasonably manageable timeframe for a partial resumption of what was, after all, everyone’s everyday life until mid-March. But push it forward and make it personal: How do you feel about sending your own son or daughter back to school tomorrow? Are you ready for a family dinner this weekend? Everyone’s got to die of something, so how about Uncle Ned in late May by drowning in his own pulmonary fluids? That’s a harder call. It helps explain why the plans Legault and Ford released on Monday were, in Ford’s words, road maps and not timetables. And why it left some columnists, whose responsibility extends no further than their keyboards—I know, I live there too—righteously cranky.

The fact is, it’s hard to plan next steps because disaster continues despite the best efforts to contain it: 57 deaths in Ontario in one day, 84 in Quebec. Many more still to come. The closest parallel to this coronavirus in recent history was the 1918-19 flu outbreak, and that one was worse in the fall than it had been in the spring.

Legault and Ford aren’t even leading the process of deciding what happens next: like good populists, they’re being led by it, and if they looked worried on Monday it’s because they’re well aware there’s a shift change underway in the reopening debate. The debate was led until now by people who gain by sounding bold. They’re finding themselves outnumbered by people with everything to lose. Suddenly waiting doesn’t sound like such a bad idea.

German, French Officials Accuse U.S. Of Diverting Supplies

Failure on humanitarian, ethical and institutional levels.

The best comment, with respect to the US, came from Ontario Premier Doug Ford: “We’re the two largest trading partners anywhere in the world. It’s like one of your family members (says), ‘OK you go starve and we’ll go feast on the rest of the meal.’ I’m just so disappointed right now. We have a great relationship with the U.S. and they pull these shenanigans? Unacceptable.”

As the coronavirus rattles the globe, governments and aid organizations everywhere find themselves in a race to acquire scarce medical supplies and protective equipment — but some say the United States isn’t playing fair.

Earlier this week, officials in both Germany and France accused the U.S. of diverting medical supplies meant for their respective countries by outbidding the original buyers.

As of Saturday, there were more than 1 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide and more than 60,000 deaths from the virus, according to a tally by researchers at Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. has the most cases globally, with Germany and France at the fourth and fifth-highest case count, respectively.

On Friday, officials in Berlin alleged that the U.S. intercepted a shipment of medical equipment in Thailand from American medical supply company 3M and diverted it to the U.S., the German newspaper Der Tagesspiegel reported. Berlin’s interior minister called the alleged interception “modern piracy.”

That same day, French officials accused the U.S. of redirecting a shipment of medical masks from Shanghai originally intended for a hard-hit French region to the U.S. by offering a much higher price for the supplies, The Guardian reported.

The accusations come as demand in the U.S. for facemasks surges, particularly after a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendation that all Americans should wear cloth face coverings in public.

The U.S. has flatly denied allegations of diverting supplies from other countries. But President Trump has also tried to force American companies into prioritizing U.S. orders by invoking the Defense Production Act. On Thursday, the president used the DPA to order 3M to stop exporting hospital-grade N95 masks to Canada and Latin America, according to the company.

“We hit 3M hard today after seeing what they were doing with their Masks. ‘P Act’ all the way,” the president said in a tweet Thursday night.

On Friday morning, 3M warned of “significant humanitarian implications” of ending shipments to Canada and Latin America, saying the company is “a critical supplier of respirators.” 3M also said other countries would likely retaliate, reducing the overall number of respirators in the U.S.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau echoed warnings against halting American medical exports to Canada on Friday.

“It would be a mistake to create blockages or reduce the amount of back-and-forth trade of essential goods and services including medical goods,” the Canadian leader said.

3M CEO Mike Roman also pushed back on the president’s threats to the company. “The idea that 3M is not doing all it can to fight price gouging and unauthorized retailing is absurd,” Roman said in a CNBC interview. “The narrative that we are not doing everything we can to maximize deliveries of respirators in our home country — nothing could be further from the truth.”

With no collective global effort to distribute supplies to countries that need them most, little stands in the way of global feuding and price-gouging. The Trump administration has come under criticism for the same issue in domestic markets.

The Washington Post reported earlier this week that states with governors who are allies to the president, including Florida’s Ron DeSantis, have had little trouble getting requests filled with supplies from the national stockpile. Meanwhile, some Democratic governors have struggled to get federal help.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo have repeatedly complained that trying to get federal supplies is like the “wild west”: states must compete against one another as well as other countries, with essential supplies going to the highest bidder.

Trump blamed New York’s shortage of ventilators on the state itself for not having more respirators before the pandemic broke out.

“They should’ve had more ventilators. They were totally under-serviced,” the president said Friday. “We have a lot of states that have to be taken care of, some much more than others.”

New York state has the highest number of coronavirus cases and deaths in the country, with more than 100,000 cases of COVID-19 as of Saturday. The next closest state is New Jersey with just under 30,000 cases.

Source: German, French Officials Accuse U.S. Of Diverting Supplies

The term ‘alt-right’ has become a cudgel against conservatives: MacDougall

Two good op-eds by Andrew MacDougall, calling on both parties to tone down the virtue signalling and name calling:

Stop me if you’ve heard this one.

Gerald Butts, the Prime Minister’s principal secretary, Ahmed Hussen, the federal immigration minister, and Lisa MacLeod, Hussen’s provincial counterpart, walk into a bar and…

Fine. I’ll spare you the joke, which (believe me) requires a mountain of set-up, and instead leave you with the punchline: Lisa MacLeod is a white supremacist!

What? That’s not funny? Well, I suspect that’s in the ear of the beholder. In any case, please direct all complaints to the Prime Minister’s Office, ℅ Mr. Butts, the author of the joke.

To be fair, the Butts quip wasn’t that blunt or direct. He wouldn’t dare call MacLeod a white supremacist outright. His dig was of the dog-whistle variety, one the federal Liberals have been blowing with increasing frequency as we approach the next election. And so let’s just say it wasn’t a surprise to see it deployed following the acrimonious federal-provincial meeting on immigration starring Hussen and MacLeod.

“Enough is enough,” Butts tweeted after the meeting. “It’s time to stand up to this divisive fear-mongering about asylum seekers. Let’s not allow the alt-right to do here what they’re doing elsewhere.”

And what were the particulars of the Hussen-MacLeod dispute, that it devolved to “fear-mongering”? It hardly matters. It’s the use of “alt-right” that’s key. Indeed, it’s the latest slur gifted to the right from the left. That’s why Doug Ford is now “alt-right.” It’s why Andrew Scheer is “alt-right.” And it’s why cookie-baking hockey mom MacLeod is “alt-right,” too.

And as with so much else in the world today, we have Donald Trump to thank for it.

It was Trump who brought the “alt-right”—then, as now, a bunch of white supremacists and violent fascists—into the light. But the President’s tacit acceptance of these “deplorables” gave license to Trump’s political opponents to paint all of his support—the vast majority of which are neither racist or supremacist—with the alt-right brush, especially those who oppose the current immigration system, which no one can describe as perfect. This is the dynamic the Liberals—once the purveyor of sunny ways, let’s not forget—seem to be trying to import into Canada.

Although the migrant problems facing Canada’s borders are nowhere near the scale of those between Mexico and the United States, they are as complex, and nearly as intractable, absent a willing partner in the White House. Hence the PMO’s desire to reach for the shorthand of the “alt-right”: It’s better to brand your opponents than explain why you can’t get the job done.

Because MacLeod is certainly correct that the feds don’t (yet) have a workable plan to stem arrivals at non-designated border crossings. She’s also correct when she says the provinces are bearing a lot of the costs of housing and caring for refugees and asylum seekers. Nor is she the only one raising the alarm; it’s been a constant criticism from the federal Tories as well. No wonder it rankles the PMO. I’d be yelling “alt-right” too, especially if I knew my opponents didn’t have a workable plan either.

Now, Butts doesn’t actually think MacLeod is a noxious white supremacist like Richard Spencer, the lodestar of the U.S.’s alt-right movement. But he is certainly happy to have that association linger in your mind, no matter how untrue or uncharitable it might be. Here, the application of the label “alt-right” is meant to stifle debate on immigration, not encourage it. If there can be no reasonable critique made on immigration then the status quo, no matter how bad, will carry the day.

It’s a trick the right has pulled on the left on many occasions. A school shooting? Can’t criticize the Second Amendment, my fellow American, or else you ain’t a patriot. Or, to pick a less noxious example, any plan by a left-of-centre party to raise a tax—any tax—is evidence of economy-killing communism or socialism. Again, it’s a tactic meant to kill nuance and throttle debate. Just ask Stéphane Dion about his “Green Shift,” aka the “permanent tax on everything.”

The Liberals are clearly casting around for slurs that stick in a similar fashion. They’ve largely leaned on using Stephen Harper’s name as a bogeyman; voters grew tired of the Harper government’s perceived nastiness in the last election, hence the longtime Liberal habit of shouting “Harper” in every crowded theatre. It’s why Trudeau himself fronted the “it may be Andrew Scheer’s smile, but it’s still Stephen Harper’s party” attack line at the recent Liberal convention. Slagging Harper sells.

But it doesn’t work nearly as well when speaking about problems the Liberals have created, like the deficit, or inherited and made worse, like the border. Tweeting “Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada” might have won a news cycle, but it’s come back to bite the Liberals in the backside in the form of multiplying “temporary” asylum shelters and an  overwhelmed processing system.

Step forward the “alt-right.” And even if the shoe doesn’t quite fit, the Liberals are going to try their damnedest to make the Conservatives wear it. Because, whether Canadian conservatives like it or not, a lot of their European brethren are piling in against immigration in a nasty fashion. And the reality is that Canada’s vaunted all-party support for immigration might crumble all the same if it faced European-like numbers of asylum seekers, too—just the kind of circumstance that birthed such alt-right movements elsewhere. No conservative party is truly safe.

Nor should liberals rest easy either. The European left is struggling mightily too, and it’s largely because they underestimated the people’s tolerance for an immigration system that clearly could no longer deal with what was coming its way.

To fight back against the alt-right slur, Conservatives in Canada need to do three things: keep supporting much-needed immigration and legitimate refugee claims; avoid hyperbole while making valid criticisms of the government’s actions; and uprooting any actual and visible forms of alt-right support in their party. The Republicans missed their weeding moment; the Tories can’t afford to miss theirs.

Because if they do miss it, it will be Trudeau’s Liberals who have the last laugh—no matter how poor their joke.

Source: The term ‘alt-right’ has become a cudgel against conservatives


…First and foremost, opposition politicians need to stop performing for their bases and begin the challenging task of reaching out to Ford’s supporters. This is both the path to a more civilized discourse, as well as the eventual route back to power.

This isn’t to suggest the opposition remain quiet or docile. Far from it.

Ontario’s system of government requires a strong opposition, especially in holding a majority to account. But a sober critique can land as effectively as a headline-searching cheap shot. Mr. Ford’s support isn’t a monolith; it can be picked off if done reasonably. If he bungles government, people will notice.

And the opposition’s lessons apply equally to the media.

So much of today’s surging populism is fuelled by the sense the arbiters of a society’s discourse – including the press and the politicians they hold to account – are happy to ignore their views. And right now a lot of people are worried about crime and border security. Mr. Ford understands that. Their fears might not necessarily be backed up by statistics, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a problem. Here, the sneering tone of journalism on platforms such as Twitter does the profession no favours.

The media need to remain clear-eyed in their work, even if the Premier isn’t their cup of tea. It was a mistake to equate Ford Nation with Mr. Trump and his “deplorables” during the campaign, and it remains a mistake now that Mr. Ford is in government. One thing is certain: The “fake news” drumbeat, still quiet in Canada, will surely grow louder with every unforced reporting error and torqued editorial position.

Premier Ford might not like the press (what politician does), but he isn’t in the class of Mr. Trump. For the moment Mr. Ford is busy running his government, not running against the media. That Mr. Ford doesn’t court or flatter the press shouldn’t count against him, even if it does ultimately make his job more difficult.

For his part, the Premier would do well to keep his ears open to legitimate criticism. Yes, “the People” have spoken and, yes, there are still many promises to keep, but there is also wisdom to be found on all sides. Lashing out at critics isn’t a plan; Mr. Ford must keep his famous temper in check if he is to keep “the People” on his side.

Governing is a marathon, not a race. Mr. Ford won’t secure his re-election in a single day, nor will he be defeated in one. Keeping the hysteria to a minimum gives voters the best chance to make a reasoned decision the next time around.

Ford is not Trump. Ontario’s opposition would be wise to lower the outrage

Martin Regg Cohn: Canadians should beware Premier Doug Ford using ‘illegal’ refugee claimants as a wedge to drive us apart

Agree that wedge politics being played here, arguably by both sides, with the more corrosive discourse and approach by Ford. One thing to argue over funding – yes, the federal government is largely on the hook – but another to refuse participation in all three level of government coordination and cooperation:

One week in power, and Doug Ford’s government has declared war against Justin Trudeau.

By taking aim at asylum claimants who cross into Canada.

That was fast. Don’t shed a tear for the prime minister, who can presumably take care of himself — whether rebuffing a Ford missive or repelling a Donald Trump tirade.

But ask yourself what happens to the inevitable casualties of this conflict between Queen’s Park and Ottawa:

No, not just the people crossing the border to claim refugee status. Think about the rest of us, and what this does to us — the way we treat border crossers, and the way we treat each other.

This will test all of us, not just Ontario’s new premier and his federal counterpart.

The rise in migrants slipping across the border has already challenged our border security and police officers, who have comported themselves with Canadian decency and dignity. It is testing our refugee determination system, which (lest we forget) is burdened and bound by due process.

Now, the border-crossing story that landed in Quebec a year ago, and then crossed over into eastern Ontario, has landed hard on Toronto’s doorstep. Just in time for Ford’s new Progressive Conservative team to seize on it as a wedge issue that drives people apart.

Beware the wedge that exploits refugee claimants — for while many may indeed be economic migrants gaming the system, a good number might well be legitimate victims of persecution seeking sanctuary. You never know, until you know for sure (see: due process).

Yet Ford’s government is wagging its finger at “illegal border crossers” in official statements that misstate reality and incite hostility. It is an axiom of international law that desperate refugee claimants often cross borders by hook or by crook, but that doesn’t make them criminals (it’s precisely how both my parents escaped post-war Communist Europe).

Ontario’s new minister of children and social services, Lisa MacLeod, points an accusing finger at Trudeau for supposedly triggering a mass migration when he “tweeted out that everyone was welcome here, and as a result of that, we’ve had thousands of people cross the border illegally.”

Was this truly the tweet that launched a thousand ships? Or dispatched thousands of taxis to our border, there to disgorge their human cargo on our doorstep as per the PM’s precise GPS directions?

Were it so simple, Trudeau need only delete the troubling tweet. But he never offered directions to those unauthorized border pathways, nor invitations to cross over at leisure.

Yes, Trudeau and countless Canadians took turns humble-bragging and boasting about our supposed virtue in welcoming Syrian refugees after Stephen Harper’s Conservatives behaved churlishly and Barack Obama’s America acted ungenerously. But to draw a direct line between a Trudeau tweet and an imagined human stampede to the border is to elevate the prime minister’s Twitter feed to Trumpian influence.

Let’s be clear here. The migrant movement that began last summer emanated not from any misplaced magnanimity by the PM, but from fear of a looming Trump clampdown on Haitians still enjoying sanctuary in the U.S. after a 2010 earthquake.

It bears repeating that Canada had previously ended that sanctuary status — yes, faster than the Americans — and was systematically deporting Haitians who were here back to their homeland. Oblivious to that fact, thousands of Haitians crossed over into Canada, making up 85 per cent of migrants at the outset.

Under an existing bilateral agreement, the U.S. automatically takes back any refugee claimants who show up at our side of official border crossings. But by slipping over out of sight of those official crossings, migrants exploited a loophole by which the Americans wouldn’t take them back.

Since then, there has been a long and awkward debate about what to do to avoid turning a trickle into a tide.

Federal Conservatives have suggested we declare the entire border one big crossing — as if this would force the Americans to take back their asylum claimants. But Trudeau can no more demand that Trump do as we say on refugees than he can insist that the president undo the tariffs he slapped on our steel and aluminum.

Shall we stand our ground and instruct our police to point guns and draw bayonets at asylum-seekers to keep them on the American side? Or heave them back across the border, throwing their bags after them? Do we build a Trump-style wall across our undefended border and demand Mexico pay for it?

Not really so easy, except in the virtual reality of Twitter.

It’s perfectly fair for the provincial and municipal governments to demand that Ottawa come up with the money and plans to deal with the pressure points in local facilities — in Ontario as in Quebec. To his credit, Mayor John Tory has been pressing the case for Toronto’s needs without turning people against migrants in need.

Ford’s government could learn from the mayor’s approach, instead of delegitimizing asylum-seekers as illegal, and demonizing Ottawa for following a legal framework. On Thursday, when Trudeau met him at Queen’s Park, a statement from the premier’s office declared, provocatively:

“This mess was 100 per cent the result of the federal government.”

In truth, there are no easy answers, just the certainty that public support can easily be turned against asylum-claimants if politicians want to press those buttons (see: Europe and America). All the more reason for all levels of government to start working together, rather than driving people apart.

Source: Martin Regg Cohn: Canadians should beware Premier Doug Ford using ‘illegal’ refugee claimants as a wedge to drive us apart