Andrew Coyne: The answer to left-wing identity politics is not right-wing identity politics

One of Coyne’s better columns:
But if Conservatives think they can save themselves from going down with the alt-right just by pitching its most conspicuous names overboard, they are deeply mistaken. The damage the Republican embrace of Trumpism has done to that party will long outlast Trump, even if His Orangeness were to step down tomorrow. Similarly, it will not be enough for those prominent Conservatives who were so eager, not six months ago, to make time with The Rebel to now suddenly discover their dance cards are full. If they are ever to cleanse themselves of the association they must forcibly renounce, not only the movement’s standard bearers, but the underlying ideology — and more particularly, the extremism with which it presents itself.

Politics is too often analyzed along a single left-centre-right spectrum. Even as a matter of ideology that is too simple, but ideology itself is only one dimension of politics. What the populist surge ought to have taught us is that there is another, equally important: that of temperament. In ideological terms conservatism has little to do with populism: the former is about constraining government to abide by certain rules and norms, while the latter demands to be freed from such restraints in the name of saving The People from whichever force is said to be threatening it. And while modern conservatism is about a society unified around the principle of the equality of every individual, populism is very much about dividing society into Us and Them, or rather several Thems: elites, experts, globalists — or in its darker corners, immigrants, Muslims, blacks, Jews.

But the conflict is even more stark in temperamental terms. For among the norms Trump and his followers reject is the obligation to think through a position, to test it against the facts, to consider any possible drawbacks, to try to persuade the unpersuaded, or to listen to them in their turn. That is the true definition of extremist. It is not the same, though the two are often confused, as radicalism. It is quite possible to propose a radical critique of current policy — radical, in the sense of entailing fundamental change — without being extremist about it. Conversely, Trump’s positions, so far as he holds any, are often far from radical. They are, however, extreme, being advanced without evidence, thought, humility or attempts to persuade anyone beyond his base.

The Conservatives of the last decade, likewise, could hardly be described as radical: their policies were not just “incremental,” as the conceit had it, but incoherent, lacking any guiding principle but opportunism. Yet such was the tone and temperament with which these were advanced — the harshness, the secretiveness, the partisanship, the willingness to demonize certain groups — that many people were nonetheless persuaded they were “right wing” or even “far right.” They succeeded in discrediting conservatism, as I’ve said before, without practicing it.

The alternative to populism, then, is not to “move to the middle.” Conservatives were not partisan because they were ideological, but because they were not ideological enough: because partisanship filled the vacuum where ideology should have been. They pandered to populism because they had given up on conservatism. It is not radicalism, likewise, of which they must be purged, but extremism, of the kind encouraged by the Rebel — from hostility to Muslims to a blind rejection of any serious policy on climate change to an adolescent delight in saying or doing whatever shocking thing entered their heads as a badge of supposed “political incorrectness.”

What conservatism ought to be about — the conservatism that is urgently needed — is the defence, not only of traditional conservative principles of limited government and the rule of law, but of the values that have animated western societies since the Enlightenment: free speech, due process, equal opportunity, and underpinning all, treating individuals as individuals, to be judged on their own merits, rather than as members of this or that social group. Once the subject of broad consensus, today these values are under attack from both the identity-politics left and the populist right — the former, in the name of social justice, the latter, in the name of security and national identity; far from opposites, they feed off each other’s excesses.

The answer to left-wing identity politics is not right-wing identity politics, but a rejection of identity politics altogether, in favour of a renewed commitment to the ideal of a society of free and equal citizens. To defend that vision is the opportunity before conservatives now.

Source: Andrew Coyne: The answer to left-wing identity politics is not right-wing identity politics

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Andrew MacDougall: Conservatives of all stripes must pass the Charlottesville Test 

Solid advice:

After taking two days to condemn the race-baiters in Charlottesville, President Trump reverted to form the very next day, when he drew an angry equivalency between the alt-right and what he termed the “alt-left.”

Trump’s obstinance in the face of such disgusting bigotry forces conservative politicians — many of whom owe their election to Trump’s coalition — into a choice.

Call it the Charlottesville Test: Would I be proud to march with my brothers and sisters in the harsh light of day with the world watching?

If the answer is “no”, the barge poles must be deployed. There isn’t enough distance they can put between themselves and their president.

Or, to put it in terms conservatives will better understand: The neo-Nazis are ISIL, Trump is their elite apologist, and you are the Muslim community. It’s time for you to denounce and expel the cancer in your midst, as you would ask moderate Muslims to do in the wake of a similar terrorist attack.

Canadians Conservatives are certainly wasting no time in condemning Charlottesville, such is the power of events to taint all of conservatism. Andrew Scheer, Michelle Rempel, Patrick Brown and others are making clear they have no desire to trade on the hatred Trump and others are all too willing to ignore.

They needn’t be applauded for doing what is right and obvious, but had they not done so the Liberals would have tried to hang Charlottesville’s goat horns on the party and the movement.

The true test, however, comes when the media spotlight fades and electoral needs still have to be met. Will conservative politicians continue to shun the significant demographics behind the alt-right movement?

Courting these segments of the electorate wasn’t, until recently, worth the effort (to say nothing of the opprobrium). But the internet has taken what used to be a silent super-minority in any room, and linked them together into a potent online force.

It’s the force that delivered crucial oxygen and votes to Donald Trump in the early days of the Republican nomination, along with millions of clicks to a slew of new websites trumpeting the “alt-right.”

History will record that Trump met these “deplorables” more than halfway in his run to the presidency. Their hatred of Hillary Clinton (“lock her up”) and the establishment (“drain the swamp”), and Trump’s willingness to embrace it, was what made the “politically incorrect” real-estate mogul their choice. Trump’s embrace is what emboldened racists and supremacists to speak out and hold marches like that in Charlottesville.

In Canada, alt-right me-tooism led to the rise of Rebel Media, whose kingpin Ezra Levant regularly features leading U.S. and U.K. alt-right figures such as Paul Joseph Watson, Gavin McInnes, Jack Posobiec, Laura Southern and Tommy Robinson.

This obviously doesn’t make all supporters of Donald Trump — or contributors and viewers of the Rebel, Breitbart and Infowars — neo-Nazis; it does make them guilty of poor judgment. In Levant’s case, the poor judgment was deliberate in the search for audience and revenue.

It’s precisely these growing audiences for the Rebel and its counterparts that makes them attractive to conservative politicians. It’s why Conservative candidates gave interviews to Levant’s crew during this spring’s leadership race, and why Trump hoisted Breitbart’s Steve Bannon into his campaign, then into the White House.

But a few bad apples really do spoil the whole bunch, as Levant found out this week when two of his more mainstream apples — Brian Lilley and Barbara Kay — quit rather than continue on in the wake of Charlottesville.

The lesson for Canadian Conservatives is straightforward: avoid click-merchants and work harder to promote true conservative principles.

Anyone can preach to the converted. Only the weak exploit a grievance and make it deeper. These are the marks of political cowardice, not shrewd electoral strategy.

It takes courage to take on those with extreme views in your own coalition and patience to engage with those who don’t share your political views at all.

Conservatives should speak to people, not whistle past them.

Source: MacDougall: Conservatives of all stripes must pass the Charlottesville Test | Ottawa Citizen

Is Kellie Leitch for real? When the Tory insider pushes her Trump-light message, who’s listening?

Good long read by Richard Warnica on Kellie Leitch’s leadership strategy, and the degree to which there is a ‘market’ for her use of identity politics, both within the party and the country more generally. Her campaign is a bit of a litmus test of Canadian resilience to xenophobia and anti-immigration messages:

Her appeal, then, is to a narrower slice of the Trump constituency, one engaged more by identity issues and immigration than economics and jobs. The question for Leitch is whether there are enough of those voters to carry her to victory in the Conservative race, let alone in a general election.

Pollsters and analysts from all three major parties are generally skeptical, though few rule out the idea entirely. Many see her values campaign more as a tactical attempt to stand out in the early going of the race than a genuine expression of belief. “She’s running against the mainstream, which helps her get headlines and raise money in the short term,” said Brad Lavigne, a longtime senior NDP campaign official. “But the bet is the short-term exposure that she’s getting now will come to haunt her if she were to win, because there is not a significant audience for this among general election voters.”

That’s not to say there is no constituency at all for that message in Canada. Compared to Europeans and Americans, Canadians are still relatively open to things like foreign investment, immigration and multiculturalism, according to pollster Frank Graves, the president of Ekos Research. But that support is not as strong as it once was, and it’s been going down for years. “A lot of people think Canada doesn’t have the same forces that produced Trump or Brexit,” Graves said. “It absolutely does. They’re a little bit muted, but they’re here.”

That audience is also disproportionately concentrated among Conservative supporters, the people Leitch needs to capture the leadership. Graves polled Canadians on support for Trump in November. A significant majority of Liberal, NDP, Green and Bloc supporters disapproved of the job he was doing as president-elect. But a majority of Conservative supporters — 57 per cent — approved. So when the Leitch team flicks at Trump’s themes or parrots his campaign, they aren’t necessarily poisoning the well, at least not the one they need to drink from right now.

Tim Powers, a longtime Conservative strategist and outspoken Leitch critic, believes at the very least she could use the Trump message to sell memberships. “I probably have responded as strongly as I have because I believe that they have the potential to win by playing off fears and discontent and misunderstandings,” he said. “I think I’m not alone in that. There is still a good portion of Canadian society that harbours an older, traditional version of the country. And some of that traditional version is good and some of it is not so good.”

There are also those in other parties who will admit, quietly, that Canadians of all stripes are not nearly as allergic to nationalist anti-immigrant messages as some would like to pretend. One senior Liberal said the party’s own internal polling shows that Canadians on the whole don’t love immigration, and that even on the refugee issue that captivated and helped turn the last election in the Liberals’ favour, the polling was pretty mixed.

Lietaer believes Leitch may find particularly fertile ground for her message in Quebec, where debates over cultural values, immigration and assimilation have raged for years. The Conservative Party actually won more votes and more seats in Quebec in 2015 than it did in 2011. Many attribute that marginal bump, concentrated in the Quebec City region, to the prominence of the debate over the niqab in the campaign.

“A student of mine told me, a few months later, that he had been working as an election worker and he said that the words at the end of the campaign were “niqab, niqab, niqab,” said Louis Massicotte, a political scientist at Laval University. “The general feeling here was that it was a good idea for the Conservative candidates to raise this issue.”

All of that said, the general consensus among the dozen or so strategists, pollsters and party insiders interviewed for this story, was that while Leitch may find an initial, vocal audience for her anti-Canadian values and anti-elite message, her potential for long-term growth is probably limited. “I don’t see what the second ballot strategy is here, because it’s such a polarizing issue,” said Lietaer.

Indeed, several strategists suggested Leitch’s best hope is to win on the first ballot, an exceedingly difficult task in a race with 14 candidates, a preferential ballot and an arcane system of dividing points between all of Canada’s 338 ridings. For Leitch, that job will be made even harder by the fact that, according to multiple Conservative sources, her campaign strategy has offended wide swaths of the party.

“Among the rank and file of the party, and frankly anybody I talk to in the party, anybody I know in the party, everybody is really, really right pissed off at her for doing this,” said Yaroslav Baran, who ran communications for Stephen Harper’s 2004 Conservative leadership campaign. Officially neutral at the time of his remarks, Baran announced his support for Michael Chong, one of Leitch’s rivals, this past week.

Source: Is Kellie Leitch for real? When the Tory insider pushes her Trump-light message, who’s listening? | National Post

Tories want to cut red tape for skilled immigrants. What else is new? – Macleans.ca

An overview of where the Conservative leadership candidates stand on foreign credential recognition – no much new for a perennial issue.

The evaluation of IRCC’s efforts under the Conservatives, which were largely information, path-finding and referral services, does not indicate a strong correlation with improved outcomes for foreign-trained professions (Evaluation of the Foreign Credentials Referral Office (FCRO)):

A large part of Justin Trudeau’s campaign focused on reforming the Conservatives’ policies, but that’s not the case when it comes to skilled immigrants. Erin Tolley, a political science researcher at the University of Toronto who focuses on diversity in Canada, said the Liberals have been largely silent on the issue. Their platform didn’t include promises on immigrant skill utilization, and all they’ve done is tweak economic immigration policy. Tolley says it’s Conservative governments that are most active on skilled immigration reform because they see it as an economic issue.

That’s why when Conservative leadership hopefuls nearly unanimously said Canada needs more skilled immigrants, I had to know where they stood on reaccreditation. The campaigns of Kellie Leitch, Maxime Bernier, and Lisa Raitt did not make their candidates available for an interview, but nine other candidates agree that the federal government has a role to play in tackling the problem.

Nearly every candidate I spoke with said Canada needs to sharpen its focus on economic immigration. Former immigration minister Chris Alexander wants 70 per cent of Canada’s immigrants to be selected on the basis of skills, education, and language, rather than family reunification. Under the Harper government, that number hovered in the mid-60 percentiles, while the Liberals lowered 2016 targets to the mid-50s. Alexander’s message is clear: whether they come in as a response to our needs or in a steady stream, skilled immigrants help prop up the economy.

…But during the first debate, none of the candidates addressed how we will make sure those skills are part of the job market. Alexander and Steven Blaney said they would build on Jason Kenney’s work as immigration minister if they came to power. That means providing incentives to businesses, including tax breaks and the ability to let them tell the government what kind of skills they’re looking for, and having discussions with professional associations that often help immigrants gain their credentials. The associations could play a role in both educating new immigrants about how to get accredited and loosening standards for newcomers.

….Finances are one of the barriers for new immigrants, according to the U of T study. Others are a lack of job experience, language barriers, and even “lack of knowledge of Canadian professional ‘lingo.’”

To fill many of the gaps, Erin O’Toole said, Canada relies on migrant workers. Part of the reason is immigrants can’t use their degrees. For O’Toole, there are two steps to a solution. The first is to start a process of recognizing credentials sooner, concurrent with the application, and the second is working with provinces to streamline cross-provincial recognition.

The majority of candidates who spoke to Maclean’sechoed O’Toole’s ideas. Michael Chong added that Canada needs to be “giving immigrants a clear-eyed view of what the credentials are worth in Canada so they know what they will need to transition.” Andrew Scheer said, “If the work was done on the front-end and we were able to bring provinces together, in a lot of cases you wouldn’t need to qualify and re-certify.”

It’s possible they are right, but policy takes a long time to implement—and it takes even longer to figure out whether or not it works. Tolley also says there are barriers governments can’t tackle outside of raising awareness. For example, research shows foreign-sounding names are discriminated against by employers, and there is no policy that helps immigrants retroactively.

Source: Tories want to cut red tape for skilled immigrants. What else is new? – Macleans.ca

PCC: Chris Alexander reconnaît le besoin de réhabiliter son image

Will be a challenge:

L’ancien ministre Chris Alexander reconnaît qu’il devra «absolument» réhabiliter son image s’il se présente comme candidat dans la course à la direction du Parti conservateur du Canada (PCC).

«La dernière campagne ne reflétait ni ma vision du pays ni la réalité de ce que nous (les conservateurs) avons accompli dans le domaine de l’immigration et de la citoyenneté», a-t-il soutenu.

«Je compte donc pouvoir clarifier les choses», a poursuivi M. Alexander en entrevue téléphonique avec La Presse canadienne, confirmant du même souffle qu’il a bel et bien l’intention de briguer la direction du parti.

Celui qui a perdu son siège en octobre dernier a été vivement critiqué après avoir présenté la promesse électorale conservatrice d’instaurer une ligne de dénonciation pour signaler des cas présumés de «pratiques culturelles barbares».

Cette annonce lui a collé à la peau.

Regrette-t-il d’y avoir pris part? L’ancien député ontarien ne le dit pas clairement.

 «Était-ce la bonne annonce pour ce jour, pendant la campagne? Probablement pas», a-t-il offert.

«Je regrette de n’avoir pas eu de l’influence sur l’ordre du jour de notre campagne, et je pense qu’il y a pas mal de gens qui partagent mes regrets», a poursuivi M. Alexander.

Celle qui était à ses côtés pour cette annonce, Kellie Leitch, avait subséquemment exprimé des regrets, mais la sincérité de cet acte de contrition a été remise en question après que la députée eut mis de l’avant sa proposition de filtrer les «valeurs anticanadiennes» des immigrants.

Cette suggestion, formulée dans le cadre de la course à la direction du PCC, a été comparée par les candidats Maxime Bernier et Michael Chong à la charte des valeurs élaborée par le Parti québécois.

À l’autre bout du fil, Chris Alexander abonde dans le même sens.

«Ce n’est pas une copie exacte, mais je vois un certain parallèle avec l’initiative échouée du Parti québécois, et je vois aussi certains échos du discours de Donald Trump aux États-Unis», a-t-il exposé.

Lui-même est en désaccord avec l’idée de Mme Leitch, car «c’est une façon de jouer sur les peurs des gens», et par ailleurs, «le Code criminel et nos lois reflètent (déjà) nos valeurs canadiennes».

Et le Parti conservateur ne devrait pas verser à nouveau dans ce type de discours qui a plombé ses chances de se faire réélire, estime M. Alexander, un ancien diplomate âgé de 48 ans qui a été ambassadeur du Canada en Afghanistan.

«On a fini par se faire percevoir comme un parti et un gouvernement non accueillant (pour les) immigrants, renfermé dans un discours assez négatif sur la sécurité et sur certains autres aspects de nos politiques d’immigration», a-t-il soutenu.

Chris Alexander compte annoncer s’il se lance dans la course à la direction avant le premier débat entre candidats. La joute oratoire, en anglais, aura lieu le 10 novembre à Saskatoon.

Source: PCC: Chris Alexander reconnaît le besoin de réhabiliter son image | Mélanie Marquis | Politique canadienne

Canadians favour screening would-be immigrants for ‘anti-Canadian’ values, poll shows

Not surprising. Similar levels of support for a ban on niqabs at citizenship ceremonies but in the end, not a deciding issues for the vast majority of voters:

Two-thirds of Canadians want prospective immigrants to be screened for “anti-Canadian” values, a new poll reveals, lending support to an idea that is stirring controversy in political circles.

Conservative MP Kellie Leitch, a candidate in her party’s leadership contest, has floated the idea of screening newcomers for their attitudes on intolerance toward other religions, cultures and sexual orientations and reluctance to embrace Canadian freedoms.

A new Forum Research Inc. poll for the Star shows that Leitch may be tapping into an idea that Canadians favour with 67 per cent saying immigrants should indeed be screened for “anti-Canadian values.”

More importantly for Leitch, the poll shows that the idea is especially popular among Conservative supporters with 87 per cent backing the idea and just 8 per cent opposed compared to 57 per cent support among Liberals and 59 per cent for New Democrat voters.

That’s certain to be the reason that Leitch (Simcoe-Grey) proposed the idea — and has stuck by it in the face of criticism, said Lorne Bozinoff, president of Forum Research.

“If you’re going after the base, this is like red meat for them. They’re going to love this,” he said Friday. “This is hitting the nail right on the head.”

When asked to choose the values respondents believe are important, equality came out on top (27 per cent), followed by patriotism (15 per cent), fairness (12 per cent) and tolerance (11 per cent).

Conservative backers put patriotism at the top their list of important values. Liberals and New Democrats ranked equality as their first choice.

Just one-quarter of respondents disagreed with the idea of screening for values and nine per cent had no opinion.

The idea finds most support among those ages 45 to 64 (73 per cent); more men (70 per cent) than women (64 per cent); living in Quebec (71 per cent) and Ontario (70 per cent) than those in the Atlantic provinces (56 per cent).

Leitch raised the idea of screening would-be immigrants in a survey sent out by her campaign seeking input on issues.

Source: Canadians favour screening would-be immigrants for ‘anti-Canadian’ values, poll shows | Toronto Star

Looming season of immigration politics puts Liberals, Tories on edge

Good analysis by Campbell Clark (I think there is reason for the concerns within both parties):

Conservative Kellie Leitch is proposing a values test for immigrants. Liberal Immigration Minister John McCallum says he wants a substantial increase in the number of immigrants coming to Canada, including temporary foreign workers.

It looks like a season of immigration politics is coming. And it is making these politicians’ own parties, Liberals and Conservatives, nervous.

Some Conservatives worry that Ms. Leitch might undo years of party work to appeal to immigrants and minorities. But some Liberals think it might be foolish to assume Canada is immune to the resentments that fuelled Donald Trump’s campaign and Britons’ vote for Brexit: They fear greatly expanding immigration now is risky politics.

Look at Ms. Leitch: Her proposal to screen immigrants for “anti-Canadian values” has taken its roughest criticism from Conservatives. Interim leader Rona Ambrose panned it, every declared leadership aspirant except for Tony Clement has knocked it and Stephen Harper’s former policy director, Rachel Curran, called it “Orwellian.”

This, after all, is the kind of identity politics the Conservatives played with in the 2015 election campaign, when the “barbaric cultural practices” tip line announced by Ms. Leitch was a vote-loser.

There is fear that playing hot-button politics with immigrant screening threatens the gains Conservatives made under Mr. Harper, when former cabinet minister Jason Kenney led work to build support among immigrants and ethnic minorities. That was a winning formula: 40 per cent of Canadians are first- or second-generation Canadians, so if you can’t earn their votes, you can’t win enough ridings to take office.

For the most part, the Liberals have let Conservatives fight over Ms. Leitch. But Arif Virani, the parliamentary secretary to Mr. McCallum, the Immigration Minister, said he didn’t buy Ms. Leitch’s argument that her proposal aims to promote tolerance. “It’s valid to be concerned about your nation. It’s valid to be concerned about gender equality,” Mr. Virani said. “I think it’s a bit ironic to describe screening people’s views and thoughts as promoting tolerance.”

And though he acknowledged that many Conservatives have opposed Ms. Leitch’s proposal, he argued it still suggests a political divide: “I do think there’s a big difference between the most recent inclination of the Conservative Party and what the Liberal government is doing now,” he said.

Not all Liberals are sanguine about their government’s immigration plans, however.

Canadians have generally approved of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s high-profile initiative to bring in 25,000 Syrian refugees. But the Liberals have not only raised overall immigration targets, from 279,000 in 2015 to 300,000 this year; Mr. McCallum is talking about a big increase for the future – as well as increasing the number of temporary foreign workers.

If you think that’s traditional Liberal practice, it’s not. Former prime minister Jean Chrétien promised to expand immigration, to 1 per cent of the population, in 1993 – but when he took office in a postrecession economy, he actually cut it for years. It’s not the party in power, but the health of the economy, that has influenced immigration.

But Mr. McCallum is proposing something different – a major increase in a soft economy.

Some Liberal MPs worry it’s not wise. It’s not that they feel likely to be outflanked by proposals such as Ms. Leitch’s. It’s the bigger part of that Trump-Brexit brew: In an uneasy economy, they have economically anxious constituents who worry newcomers might take their jobs. Expanding immigration now, especially bringing in more temporary foreign workers, could be walking into a political storm.

Polls, including one conducted for the government in February, don’t suggest much support for expanding immigration. But Mr. Virani, who is taking part in public consultations, thinks it’s there – in particular when immigration is linked to economic growth strategy. “There’s an appetite for growth, and an appetite for immigration that’s geared toward growth,” he said. But in these times, that’s a political gamble.

Ms. Leitch has made some Conservatives worry they’ll be tarred with a nativist label. But immigration politics worries Liberals, too, who are nervous that embracing a big expansion means misreading the public mood.

Source: Looming season of immigration politics puts Liberals, Tories on edge – The Globe and Mail

The real threat: Immigrants to Canada, or Kellie Leitch’s divisive politics? Adams

Michael Adam’s take:

This surge of worry about cultural integration is stronger among Conservative supporters than it is among Canadians at large. Indeed, when we examine the values of Canadians broken out by party preference, wariness of cultural difference is a key differentiating value of Conservatives. Given that Dr. Leitch is currently running not for prime minister of Canada, but for leader of the Conservative Party, critics who say that her threat of cracking down on anti-Canadian values is itself anti-Canadian are unlikely to do her much harm and may do her some good – for now.

Recent years have shown us that a backlash constituency does exist – a constituency alarmed by some aspects of living in a diverse society, and affronted that they are not permitted to air their alarm without being accused of racism. (It is no accident that Dr. Leitch’s campaign literature had an aggrieved tone: “If you are tired of feeling like we can’t discuss what our Canadian values are, then please help me to fight back by making a donation.…”) U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump is one champion of this backlash; he proposed ideological screening for immigrants a few weeks before Dr. Leitch did. Here in Canada, there was Rob Ford, lavish in his political incorrectness yet beloved by many newcomers, who embraced his little-guy-fighting-smug-liberal-elites narrative. And there was the Parti Québécois’s Charter of Values, which would likely have won them an election had their leader not careened off-message.

A political opportunity exists with those who feel angry and dismissed, but when Dr. Leitch courts Conservatives who want to “fight back,” she is playing a risky game that may trade short-term partisan gain for long-term political pain.

Yes, the wider Canadian context is more fearful than it was 20 years ago, but it is still positive toward immigrants and, importantly, proud of not being xenophobic. Canadians feel pride in their country (and immigrants are especially proud, surveys show), but one of the things Canadians are most proud of is a belief that different kinds of people can live here in harmony and that immigrants can be just as good citizens as anyone born here – sometimes better.

If voters see particular groups of immigrants as a threat to that harmony, Dr. Leitch might win support among Conservatives. But if many Conservatives and even more ordinary Canadians, including the four in 10 of us who are immigrants or their children, see Dr. Leitch as the threat, she will not become prime minister – and Conservatives will feel that so-called hotline sting for a second time.

Source: The real threat: Immigrants to Canada, or Kellie Leitch’s divisive politics? – The Globe and Mail

Immigrant-screening proposal about promoting tolerance, Leith says [with a straight face]

Telling:

But the harshest words for Ms. Leitch have come from Mr. Harper’s former policy director Rachel Curran – now a senior associate at the former prime minister’s new international consulting firm, Harper & Associates.

Ms. Curran called Ms. Leitch’s proposal “really dangerous politics” and accused her of specifically targeting Muslim immigrants.

“We have never had the government actually test people on what their thoughts and beliefs and their values are in Canada, and I don’t think we should go down that path,” Ms. Curran said.

“It’s a pretty dangerous path. It’s actually a pretty Orwellian path.”

Ms. Curran called the barbaric cultural practices tip line an “ill advised policy” that was poorly communicated at the time, but defended it as a last-minute request from a specific ethnic community that she declined to identify. She said she hasn’t spoken about the issue with her former boss, but doesn’t feel he would support Ms. Leitch’s proposal.

“Much of our party’s support came from new immigrants who believed in what the party was doing, and believed in what prime minister Harper was doing. And there is simply no way that he ever would have pursued or proposed a policy that was frankly fundamentally anti-immigrant,” she said.

“I think it does the party a tremendous amount of harm, and if nothing else it divides the party, which is also a bad thing.”

Ms. Leitch denies her proposal targets Muslims in any way.

“I understand the compulsion to paint a discussion about values in this way. But I actually don’t think it’s fair, and I don’t think it’s right,” she said.

Ms. Leitch also brought up two instances where her party sought to block the entry into Canada of those who she said contravene Canadian values of gender equality and women’s rights: so-called “pick-up artist” Julien Blanc in 2014, and in February, Daryush Valizadeh, also known as “Roosh V,” an American blogger who says rape should be legalized on private property.

Source: Immigrant-screening proposal about promoting tolerance, Leitch says – The Globe and Mail

Why the ‘barbaric cultural practices’ debate won’t go away: Delacourt

One of the better commentaries on Kellie Leith’s “barbaric cultural practices” repeat performance:

The good news for Kellie Leitch — and she might need some right now — is that many Canadians believe this country needs young, female political leaders.

The bad news is that most Conservatives — the people who make up the party Leitch wants to lead — do not share that view.

These findings come from new research by Abacus Data. By sheer happenstance, Abacus and the Leitch leadership campaign were out in the field in late August, doing some survey work that touched on Canadian values. The two surveys dovetail in some fascinating ways.

The Leitch survey asked, controversially, whether respondents would support screening immigrants for “anti-Canadian values.” This was quite the surprise coming from the MP for Simcoe-Grey, once the federal labour minister, who only months ago was apologetically backtracking for her role in the infamous “barbaric cultural practices” tip line proposal of the 2015 election campaign.

Now, we seem to be back in the middle of a debate we thought had been settled in the last election. Maybe it wasn’t.

The Abacus survey sounded people out on the traits and values they’re seeking in political leaders. Leitch and her supporters no doubt will be heartened to hear that 54 per cent of respondents to the Abacus poll said they would prefer a woman leader. Moreover, a whopping 65 per cent — nearly two-thirds — said they would rather have someone under 50 years of age. Leitch, 46, comfortably meets both criteria.

The problem for Leitch, however, is that her own fellow Conservatives aren’t as enthusiastic about young female leaders. Almost 60 per cent of Conservative respondents to the Abacus poll said that if they had their choice between someone over 50 and someone under 50 to lead a political party, they’d select the older candidate. Only 13 per cent said they would prefer a younger, female leader.

Those results are even more striking when compared to the views of Liberal and NDP supporters who participated in the Abacus poll. Nearly 70 per cent of Liberals and 77 per cent of NDP supporters said they’d opt for a woman leader given a choice between a man and a woman of equal qualifications.

The obvious conclusion, then, is that Leitch is running for the wrong party. Then again, she might have trouble selling Liberal or NDP voters on the idea of screening immigrants for potential anti-Canadian values.

Even some folks in her own party (her leadership rivals, anyway) are balking. Michael Chong called it “dog-whistle politics.” Maxime Bernier, taking a more practical approach, called it an “unworkable” idea.

open quote 761b1bClearly, Leitch’s campaign believes this issue taps into a rich vein of support, at least in Conservative circles. Which could explain why Bernier called the idea ‘unworkable’ rather than, say, ‘egregious.’

Abacus conducted its poll online in late August, asking 2,010 Canadians of voting age all kinds of questions about their ideal political leaders. When they got around to the subject of leadership qualities, the results turned out to be highly interesting.

The top two traits? “Understanding different parts of the world” and “thinking about what’s right for the next generation.” Respondents also placed a high value on leaders who “think a lot about the future of the world”, are “open-minded about different lifestyles” and “care about the poor.”

Buried in the list, however, is a possible rationale for Leitch’s controversial survey question.

Only 18 per cent of the respondents to the Abacus poll said that a leader must embrace the idea that “immigration is good for Canada.” Understanding different parts of the world is one thing, apparently, while welcoming them here is another matter entirely.

Nick Kouvalis, Leitch’s campaign manager, has said that the survey was based on what the campaign had been hearing out on the road over the summer. Kouvalis, for those who may have forgotten, has not been shy in the past about courting controversy with provocative survey questions. His firm, Campaign Research, was scolded by the Commons Speaker several years ago for polling Montreal residents about Irwin Cotler’s allegedly imminent resignation. (Cotler, then the MP for Mount Royal, protested in the Commons that the survey breached his parliamentary privileges, though he did eventually step down before the last election.)

Kouvalis, let’s also remember, was one of the early backers and staffers for former Toronto mayor Rob Ford (he was also one of the first to walk away when things started to go crazy in Fordland). Kouvalis was on John Tory’s team in the last mayoralty election in Toronto and helped B.C. Premier Christy Clark pull off an unexpected victory in 2013.

On Twitter, Kouvalis has been predicting that all the leadership candidates eventually will perform some “world-class gymnastics” to embrace Leitch’s views on screening immigrants for anti-Canadian values. Clearly, her campaign manager believes this issue taps into a rich vein of support, at least in Conservative circles. Which could explain why Bernier called the idea “unworkable” rather than, say, “egregious.”

Among the other admirable leadership qualities cited by respondents to that Abacus poll were the ability to “ask for help when you need it,” to “seek advice from smart people everywhere” and to “apologize when you make a mistake.”

One can’t help but notice that Leitch hasn’t apologized for this survey question — perhaps on the advice she needed from people she considers smart.

“Oftentimes, debating and discussing these complex policies requires tough conversations — conversations that go well beyond media sound bites and simplified labels,” Leitch wrote in an emailed statement after the controversy.

“I am committed to having these conversations, to debating theses issues, and I invite Canadians to give their feedback.”

So, like it or not, immigration may become a hot-button issue in the Conservative leadership race. Consider this an early warning — especially for those complacent Canadians who say that Donald Trump’s rhetoric on immigration couldn’t possibly work here.

The people in Leitch’s Conservative party may not be the biggest fans of female leaders under 50, but this particular candidate could be giving them the campaign’s sleeper issue. In other words, the debate about “barbaric cultural practices” didn’t die in 2015; it’s simply been slumbering, waiting for an opening.

Source: Why the ‘barbaric cultural practices’ debate won’t go away