Commentary by Ujjal Dosanjh in Vancouver
Dear Minister Ahmed Hussen,
Many of us cheered when you were recently made the Immigration Minister. We felt that as an immigrant Canadian you would surely bring to your position a new and hopefully more compassionate perspective on what it may mean to be Canadian. But our cheers were short lived. You have brought disappointments to some hearts, mine included.
On Monday March 6, 2017 you deported Len Van Heest, a Canadian for the last 59 years. Yes, a Canadian but without the citizenship papers. At the age of seven months and in diapers, he legally landed in Canada with his family. At sixteen he was diagnosed with a bipolar disorder. He has several convictions for assault, mischief and uttering threats – all stemming from and related to his mental illness, the bipolar disorder. His last offence was in 2012.
Mr. Minister, obviously as a minor under the old law, Van Heest would have been unable to apply for his citizenship on his own – assuming that he even realized or knew in his mental state about the need for him to do so. His parents may not have applied their minds to this issue before he became a 'criminal' and therefore barred from receiving Canadian citizenship.
Power and discretion
Mr. Minister, you had the legal power and discretion to stop Van Heest's deportation. You chose not to because you didn't see it as fit and proper to do so. His deportation means that you must have felt the mentally ill Van Heest was responsible for not applying for citizenship that he had to before he had reached a certain age. It also implies that you and your officials felt it was just and fair for Canada to hold a mentally ill man responsible for piling up a criminal record that disqualified him from ever applying for Canadian citizenship, even though he had entered Canada as an infant. The mentally ill Van Heest – criminal or not – is the product of Canada.
Citizen or not, he is undeniably Canadian. If he is a criminal, he is a Canadian criminal.
Minister, above all Van Heest's deportation was made possible by the regressive legislative changes the Harper regime had made lowering a convicted immigrant's prison sentence threshold for making him/her "inadmissible" to Canada and therefore deportable. It is unacceptable that your government has neither changed, nor is it planning to change this unfair law that makes someone like Van Heest – a Canadian for all practical purposes – deportable.
But on the other hand, you recently testified in support of your government's Bill C-6 that will amend Harper government's law that enabled Canada to revoke the Canadian citizenship of convicted terrorists holding dual citizenships. Under Bill C-6 the revoked citizenships of convicted terrorists including that of Zakaria Amar – the ring leader of the Toronto 18 who wanted to commit mass murder and behead the Canadian Prime Minister – would be reinstated, re-bestowed upon them.
Mr. Minister, you passionately and eloquently argued: "When you are a Canadian citizen you shouldn't feel less valued just because you have dual citizenship with another country." You also said an individual whose citizenship was already revoked will have it reinstated.
Mr. Minister, I support your government's view that one Canadian is like another despite some holding dual citizenships. A Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian. But in my view a Zakaria Amar is much less deserving of Canadian citizenship and compassion than a Len Van Heest.
Minister, I am deeply troubled and disappointed at your missing compassion and eloquence in defence of Van Heest; mentally ill Van Heest; a 59 year long Canadian; and so what if not so on paper.
Van Heest's was and is exactly the kind of case in which you should have used your ministerial power and discretion to keep or allow anyone into Canada. In my humble opinion, you made a serious error of judgement by deporting Van Heest. You have the power to allow him back into Canada. You should use it.
My Dear Minister, It is never too late to do the right thing.
Ujjal Dosanjh is a former Attorney General and Premier of British Columbia and former federal Minister of Health. He describes himself as a "A child of Indian peasants working to make the world a better place."
by Susan Delacourt in Ottawa
The best person to explain the big new-year changes to the federal cabinet’s makeup might well be someone who doesn’t even live here: outgoing U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden.
During a visit to Canada a month ago, Biden told Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that Canada needs to step up, internationally — comments that were widely interpreted as a gesture of passing the liberal torch from soon-to-be ex-president Barack Obama.
“The world is going to spend a lot of time looking to you, Mr. Prime Minister. Vive le Canada, because we need you very, very badly,” Biden said in remarks at a dinner during his visit to Ottawa.
While we don’t know how much the world was watching events at Rideau Hall on Tuesday, it is abundantly clear that Trudeau has set his sights on the world. As he told reporters after the shuffle, he needs to take into account a “shift in global context.”
In fact, it’s difficult to remember a Canadian cabinet shuffle so internationally focused — one that set so many parts in motion outside Canada’s borders, especially during a time of tumultuous, global change. Among the changes we learned about Tuesday:
The departing Global Affairs minister, Stéphane Dion, was rumoured to be considering a diplomatic post, possibly in Europe, but at the time of Tuesday’s press conference the former Liberal leader was saying only that he was leaving active politics and considering his next move. My best bet is that this is a difficult conversation still in progress (which probably accounted for the unusual uncertainty about the timing of the shuffle ceremony itself at Rideau Hall).
The speculation about Europe as a landing spot for Dion, however, underlines just how much Trudeau and his team are thinking about what’s going on in the world these days. The Brexit vote to leave the European Union, the refugee crisis, ongoing terrorism threats and the rise of right-wing parties are all large matters of concern to progressive-minded governments.
As Biden said in his Ottawa speech: “I’ve never seen Europe as engaged in as much self-doubt as they are now.”
All prime ministers, sooner or later, become preoccupied with global affairs and their place on the big stage. It’s usually an interest that deepens with tenure, and their increasing confidence in rubbing shoulders with other world leaders.
Trudeau, however, seemed to arrive in office with an intense interest in international affairs; he gave some of his first interviews to foreign media and has spent a lot of time commuting to the United States and other summits around the world. His critics have portrayed this as a lack of interest in his own country, accusing Trudeau of being too busy to even attend question period and thinking himself too important to spend his vacations in Canada.
Granted, it is a luxury Trudeau can afford. With a comfortable majority, Trudeau doesn’t need to be worried about his government falling on a vote in the Commons while he’s abroad, as Stephen Harper was during his first two minority governments.
Not all of this shuffle was outward-looking. Shuffles can be very useful in maintaining government discipline — dangling a few promotions as examples to other ambitious, cabinet wannabes in the backbench, and doling out demotions as a warning to others performing under-par. To borrow from that old Liberal campaign slogan from 2015, shuffles are all about hope and hard work — dispensing it (hope) or enforcing it (hard work).
On that score, this shuffle did deliver. While Trudeau’s office was putting out nice words about Dion and his contribution to the government in a press release, nobody watching the PM’s press conference had any doubts that the PMO had decided the former professor and Liberal leader wasn’t the right man to handle what’s coming with Trump and other big events on the world stage.
Other casualties: Maryam Monsef, now the Status of Women minister, was punted from the Democratic Reform post to which she was proving herself unsuited (to say the least). MaryAnn Mihychuk was ejected altogether from her job as minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour.
Big promotions were handed out to Patty Hadju, moving from Status of Women to Mihychuk’s old job, and to new ministers Champagne and Hussen. Other MPs will be wondering what they did right — which is exactly what the PMO wants them to be thinking about.
Note, though, that the domestic posts in this week’s shuffle were almost afterthoughts. Trudeau wasn’t doing this shuffle with home-grown concerns at front of mind, or even his prospects for the next election (those changes will come closer to 2019, we can assume).
The election that seems to be front of mind for Trudeau right now is the recent one in the United States — the one that gave Canada, and now Freeland, a President Trump to deal with. And if we’re looking for deeper read of the shuffle’s international focus, Biden’s remarks to the PM may be as good any.
“The progress is going to be made,” Biden said, “but it’s going to take men like you, Mr. Prime Minister, who understand it has to fit within the context of a liberal economic order, a liberal international order, where there’s basic rules of the road.”
Don’t be surprised if words along these lines are in the mandate letters for many of the new ministers.
The views, opinions and positions expressed by all iPolitics columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of iPolitics.
Republished in partnership with iPolitics.ca
Commentary by Fred Maroun in Ottawa
Liberal leader Justin Trudeau promised to replace the first-past-the-post electoral system of Canada during the last federal election campaign a year ago. Now that he is prime minister with a parliamentary majority, there is an expectation from opponents of that electoral system that he will deliver on a promise that he should never have made.
Opponents of the first-past-the-post system advance romantic ideas of better representation of the range of opinions of Canadians to make their case, but romanticism does not make for good policy. Fact is there is already more than adequate representation in Parliament of the diversity of Canadian opinions, and at the same time, groups on the extremes cannot easily dictate to the majority. (Under the current system, the candidate with the most votes is declared elected in every riding.)
In the current debate on electoral reform, the positions taken by the four national parties do not represent any romantic ideas of democracy. They represent nothing but their own best interests.
The Green Party and the NDP, who always elect a smaller percentage of Members of Parliament (MPs) than their shares of the vote, want proportional representation (a system under which the number of MPs would mirror a party’s popular vote).
The Conservatives, who have benefited from the first-past-the-post system and who know that no other system would work better for them, reject any electoral reform.
The Liberals, who know that they would benefit from preferential balloting since it favours middle-of-the-road parties (it is a system under which a voter ranks all candidates by order of preference), are said to support this system, although they have been careful not to admit it publicly.
If partisan interest is ignored, it is abundantly clear that the current system is not only good enough, but that it is the best possible system.
Just ask any immigrant if they prefer the Canadian system or the system used in their country of origin. Our voting system is why many immigrants come here.
Reflecting popular will
When it is convenient to them, politicians tell us that Canada is the best place in the world. We certainly are one of the best places, and that is because we have a political system that is able to govern Canada efficiently through changing times, while remaining representative of the general will of Canadians.
Proportional representation exists in other countries, and it certainly delivers on the promise to elect politicians that represent diverse opinions. However, it does so at a high price.
Smaller parties with narrow interests often become essential in forming government coalitions and are able to dictate their narrow agendas. This phenomenon is very visible in Israel, a country that uses proportional representation, as Haaretz explains in “Ultra-Orthodox Parties Are Back in Power and Israelis Aren’t Thrilled About It”.
The first-past-the-post system does not prevent politicians with minority opinions from being elected, but to be elected, they usually have to work within a party that has broad appeal. For example, the Conservative party includes MPs who wish to ban abortion, even though that is not the policy of the party. Under this system, MPs who hold minority opinions must convince others to support them, which is a good democratic practice. They cannot ram through unpopular changes by being power brokers.
The first-past-the-post system also does not prevent the emergence and the viability of third parties, although it does require them to have broader support than they would need under proportional representation. Five parties are currently represented in the Parliament of Canada, a consistent pattern over the last few decades, including the NDP, the Greens, the Liberals, the Conservatives and the Bloc Québécois.
While it includes minority representation, the fact that the first-past-the-post system usually results in majority governments means that it offers the advantages of political stability and the ability to make tough choices. The Canada-U.S. free trade agreement (later followed by the North American Free Trade Agreement, NAFTA) is now seen by all political parties as beneficial to Canada, but that agreement would not have occurred under proportional representation since the Conservative party was at that time the only party supporting it.
Preferential balloting could be seen as a reasonable compromise, since it would likely maintain the benefits of majority governments while giving voters the feeling that their votes are more influential than under first-past-the-past. However, there would be a diminished diversity of opinions represented in Parliament. Under preferential balloting, centrist views would gain an advantage since this is typically the second choice of people on either side of an issue. Therefore, less mainstream opinions would have a harder time being heard.
Delivering on election promises is typically good politics, but it is not good politics when the promise itself was foolish. Prime Minister Trudeau should do what is best for Canada, not what is best for his party – keep the electoral system as it is because it is the best in the world.
Fred Maroun is a Canadian of Arab origin who lives in Ottawa. He lived in Lebanon until 1984, including during 10 years of civil war. He writes at Gatestone Institute, The Times of Israel, Jerusalem Online, and Jerusalem Post.
Commentary by Surjit Singh Flora in Brampton
Kathleen Wynne, the current premier of Ontario, and Linda Jeffrey, the past Wynne Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing and Brampton’s current Mayor, are a study in contrasts.
As Ontario’s 25th Premier, Wynne is both at the height of her power and the low depths of popularity. But even with her popularity at below 20 per cent, she remains a powerful politician in control of her cabinet and caucus and with the ability to set and implement her political agenda.
This is despite Wynne’s now self-admitted mismanagement of our province’s electricity system, which she now concedes has caused such hardship in the province that some are forced to choose between feeding themselves or heating their homes.
It is a sad reality that Premier Wynne and her Liberals are looking more and more likely to hold on to power in the 2018 election as both the NDP and Conservatives appear to be parties struggling to seize any of the public’s attention, let alone imagination.
On one hand, Andrea Horwath and her NDP seem to have little ground to stand on, given that the Liberals have all but assumed much of the left’s territory, leaving the NDP with few policy options and little to say.
And, then, there is Patrick Brown, who with so many opportunities to pillory a Liberal government mired in scandal, continues to squander his opportunities to effectively hold this government to account while failing to be consistent in publicly expressing his own party’s policies and platform.
The recent by-elections in Ottawa and Niagara were an indictment of an ineffective opposition that bodes well for Wynne going into her pre-election year.
Contrast Wynne with Brampton Mayor Linda Jeffrey. Like Wynne, Jeffrey served as an Ontario Liberal Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, as well as Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. Her predecessor, Susan Fennell, had presided over a virtual renaissance in Brampton.
During her tenure as Mayor, Brampton saw major investments in public infrastructure, and a massive $300 million expansion of public transit funded jointly by all three levels of government despite the fact that, at the time, there was no formal program in place from the Federal and Provincial governments to fund it.
All of that travelling to Ottawa paved the way for the single largest provincial/federal investment in Brampton’s history, but was ultimately part of what I have always believed to be an organized campaign to run her out of office.
Her frequent travel was at the heart of unfounded accusations, innuendo and vicious allegations that lasted all of two years. After having been cleared of all but two ridiculously minor issues just days prior to the 2014 municipal election, Fennell lost to Jeffrey, who promised to clean up City Hall.
Two years later, under Jeffrey’s leadership, Brampton's reputation has sunk to new lows. Jeffrey presides over a fractious Council that cannot agree on anything. An LRT line that had unprecedented public support was defeated despite over $300 million in approved provincial funding.
A search for a new chief administrative officer attracted only one candidate, who, since being hired has been on a rampage at City Hall that has seen virtually the entire senior management fired, drawing comparisons to a mini “reign of terror” with blood-soaked corridors and a civil service in disarray.
And even when she wins, Jeffrey loses. After recently scoring a coveted nod from her former Liberal government colleagues to locate a university in Brampton, it was revealed that even that effort is plagued with a lack of organization and little in the way of a plan, leaving Council slack-jawed, asking, “What do we do now?”
Wynne and Jeffrey are Liberals, but complete opposites: Wynne is powerful and blessed with a weak opposition; Jeffrey, powerless and cursed with a fractious and ineffective Council.
But both have one thing in common: they both need to be replaced and 2018 can’t come soon enough.
Brampton-based Surjit Singh Flora is a veteran journalist and freelance writer.
by BJ Siekierski in Saskatoon
Conservative MP Kellie Leitch proclaimed her “common interests” with U.S. President-elect Donald Trump in the party’s first leadership debate Wednesday night, as several of her opponents pushed back against her immigration policy.
“I have common interests with Mr. Trump, screening being one of them,” Leitch said several times, picking up where she left off in a fundraising email Tuesday night that told supporters Trump’s anti-elite message was one she was hoping to bring forward with her own campaign.
A Mainstreet Research telephone poll conducted on November 5 and 6 showed Leitch to be the preferred candidate in the race, with 19 per cent support among Conservative supporters — ahead of Andrew Scheer with 14 and Michael Chong with 12.
Leitch aggressively pushed her wedge issue — screening immigrants for their grasp of “Canadian values” — to draw a sharp contrast with her rivals.
“I will protect our Canadian values,” she told the audience, estimated to be around 500. “I am the only candidate who will require face-to-face interviews of new immigrants and screen for Canadian values.”
As he did earlier Wednesday, Chong pushed back.
“Stephen Harper’s government let in three million immigrants and refugees during the 10 years they were in power. Every single one of those immigrants and refugees was screened for security purposes, terrorism, war crimes, crime against humanity, and for health and economic reasons,” Chong said.
“He would not have let in one of those persons if they had not been properly screened.”
Chong also spoke passionately of his mixed-race children, calling them the “new face of Canada.”
It was Deepak Ohbrai, however — a Tanzania-born Indian-Canadian immigrant and an MP since 1997 — who took Leitch on most directly about her fondness for Trump’s approach to politics.
After saying he didn’t “give two hoots” about a woman wearing a niqab — a controversial subject in the last federal election — he momentarily started trending on Twitter.
“Donald Trump’s divisive policy on immigration and social policies have no room in the Canada that I believe in. Unfortunately one of my colleagues admires Donald Trump, but let me tell you as parliamentary secretary for international human rights, I will not stand for any erosion of any human rights of anybody whether in U.S. or in Canada,” he said.
All twelve official candidates took the stage in Saskatoon in an attempt to appeal to Conservative members. The long list of candidates include former Tory MPs Chris Alexander and Andrew Saxton, physician Daniel Lindsay, and current Conservative MPs Maxime Bernier, Leitch, Deepak Obhrai, Erin O’Toole, Lisa Raitt, Andrew Scheer, Brad Trost and Steven Blaney.
Chong touted his economic policy, repeatedly noting that it has been endorsed by four economists. The plan includes income tax cuts and a revenue-neutral carbon tax, which the other candidates all opposed.
Blaney suggested that Chong’s economic ideas are “Liberal.”
“No wonder that the Pembina Institute endorsed your scheme, Michael,” he said. “They endorsed in 2008, in a very kind of same move — the green shift Liberal. That was what it is. They pretended it was revenue-neutral. Well, a tax is a tax is a tax.”
Blaney also attacked Bernier for opposing supply management.
“I like free trade but I love my Canadian milk,” he said. “How can a libertarian oppose a great system that costs zero dollars to taxpayers, (and) offers Canadians quality foods and products at an affordable price.
“Maxime, your plan … it is a disaster blinded by ideology. Why do you finance your campaign on the back of hard working families from our riding who feed our country? Intellectual short cuts.”
Andrew Scheer, who has more caucus support than any of the other candidates, occupied the middle ground, appearing at ease attacking Trudeau’s policies.
He got the best laugh of the night by making fun of himself.
“I will not be taking my shirt off as often as Justin Trudeau does. He may have a yoga body. I have a dad body.”
Raitt, who entered the race just last week, took a folksy approach, referring often to her Cape Breton roots and her experience in Harper’s cabinet.
Erin O’Toole, who served as a Sea King pilot in the Royal Canadian Air Force, referred to his military experience and told Conservatives that he has a style that allows him to connect with people across the country.
Chris Alexander highlighted the economy in his comments, suggesting that the party struggled in the last election because it lacked “a strong agenda for the new economy.”
Trost said he was the only candidate who encompasses all aspects of the Conservative movement, but failed to mention social Conservative issues, choosing instead to say he doesn’t believe that climate change is caused by humans.
“When I become prime minister, the war on gas and oil and coal is over,” he said.
- With files from Janice Dickson, Stephen Maher, and Kelsey Johnson. Published under arrangement with ipolitics.ca
by Ainslie Cruickshank in Ottawa
Social conservatives are hoping two anti-sex education candidates will split the vote in the upcoming Ottawa-Vanier byelection, leaving Progressive Conservative Andre Marin out in the cold.
“I don’t think it’s realistic that they will win without a large party machine behind them but they can certainly get enough votes to cause the pro-radical sex-ed PC candidate to lose if it’s a close race,” said Jack Fonseca, a senior political strategist with Campaign Life Coalition.
The coalition is a national anti-abortion organization and a vocal opponent of Ontario’s new sex education curriculum. It’s putting its support behind both Elizabeth de Viel Castel, a candidate running for the new single-issue political party Stop the New Sex Ed Agenda, and Stephanie McEvoy, who is running for the Canadian Constituents’ Party and also opposes the sex-education programming the Wynne government introduced last year — the first update to the sex-ed curriculum since 1998.
The new curriculum includes updates on healthy relationships, same-sex relationships, consent, mental health, online safety and the risks of “sexting”.
Marin has expressed support for the new sex-education curriculum, telling the Toronto Star that PC leader Patrick Brown “fell on the right side of the issue” after the party flip-flopped on it in the run-up to the Scarborough-Rouge River byelection. Requests for comment from Brown and Marin were declined Friday.
“The goal is to send a message to the PC establishment that you can’t win by alienating social conservatives. The social conservative wing of the party is very important and this is an issue you can win on,” Fonseca said.
The new curriculum is “age-inappropriate” and will put children in “harm’s way,” he said.
“Candidates owe it to the public to be open and honest and forthright on their position on such issues,” said Liberal campaign co-chair and Advanced Education Minister Deb Matthews.
While Matthews said she disagrees with their position, she added she gives members of the new anti-sex ed party credit for making their views on the issue clearer than Brown has.
“Parents want their kids to learn how to protect themselves from sexual predators, from online predators. We want kids to understand what healthy relationships are. And I think the public is with us on that,” she said.
In Ottawa-Vanier, Fonseca said Campaign Life Coalition will encourage its supporters to not only vote for either de Viel Castel or McEvoy, but also to volunteer and donate to their campaigns.
Queenie Yu, the force behind the new Stop the New Sex Ed Agenda party, is running under its banner in Niagara West-Glanbrook. She previously ran as an independent on an anti-sex ed platform in the Scarborough-Rouge River byelection, coming in fourth with 575 votes.
While some parents do support the new curriculum, many have concerns, Yu said.
“Each child is unique. Just because a child reaches a certain age doesn’t mean they’re ready to learn about certain subjects. Parents know their kids best. Parents – not the government – should be deciding when, what and how much their children should be learning about sex,” she said.
In Niagara West-Glanbrook, Fonseca said Yu is a “supportable” candidate but Campaign Life Coalition would be happy to see Sam Oosterhoff, the PC candidate, win the seat given the support he showed for parental rights during his nomination campaign.
While Yu said she hasn’t spoke with Oosterhoff, she said she has been assured by mutual friends that the 19-year old candidate shares her values.
“I’d vote for him if I lived in the riding,” she said, noting her goal for the anti-sex ed party isn’t necessarily to win seats but rather to keep the issue in the public eye.
Charles McVety, the president of the Canada Christian College, warned a split with social conservativescould cost the PCs the 2018 election after Oosterhoff won the nomination over party president and former Conservative MP Rick Dykstra and Niagara regional Councillor Tony Quirk.
That’s a message Fonseca repeated Friday.
Pursuing a more liberal approach to social issues risks alienating the conservative base and invites the creation a new, “formidable” conservative party in the province, he said, adding that could result in Liberal governments for years to come.
By arrangement with ipolitics.ca
THE Conservative Party’s Leadership Election Organizing Committee (LEOC) on Thursday announced further details on the first leadership debate in Saskatoon, including a new date and time, the debate moderator, and ticket sales.
The first debate will be an English debate moderated by Kaveri Braid. Kaveri is a principal with Earnscliffe Strategy Group, and former advisor […]
PRIDE is a complex emotion that plays an important role in our lives.
In her book, Take Pride: Why the Deadliest Sin Holds the Secret to Human Success, UBC psychology professor Jessica Tracyexamines the role of pride in shaping our minds, and how pride helps politicians like Donald Trump attain power.
Commentary by Surjit Singh Flora in Brampton
In the run up to a recent Scarborough by-election, Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown spent much time making speeches and handing out press releases supporting his candidate, as political party leaders often do. Towards the end of that political contest, he made a pledge that, should his party form a government, he would scrap Ontario's revised sex education curriculum.
However, all of this effort proved to be nothing more than toying with the emotions of poor parents for no other purpose than to grab their votes.
But, lets step back for a moment. In 2015, Patrick Brown wanted to win the leadership of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party win a seat in the Ontario parliament. In order to do this, he needed strong support from a broad range of people across the Conservative party, and in the riding he ran in to gain a seat in the legislature.
One theme that came up numerous times was his criticism of the Liberal Wynne Government’s controversial sex education curriculum, which was received by a section of parents with serious reservations and mixed feelings. Brown and his party seized on this uneasiness, and as the Conservative leader, he has repeatedly spoken of revising it or scrapping it altogether.
And, in my opinion, he and his party have benefited by taking this position.
And now, back to the recent Scarborough by-election. In the final days of this contest, we saw a huge flip-flop by Brown.
First, a letter “pops up” at the end of the campaign repeating the party position that he as leader would scrap the curriculum. Then comes the flip-flop and Brown’s denials, complete with a watering down of the much promoted “scrap the curriculum” platform.
In the mean time, voters were bombarded with newspapers and television news broadcasts repeating the original Conservative pledge.
By the time Brown flip-flopped, his party had a new seat in the legislature and any hope parents may have about seeing the controversial curriculum dealt with flopped with Brown’s flip, leaving many confused about what the leader of the Progressive Conservative party actually stands for.
Patrick Brown’s now famous flip-flop is, to paraphrase former Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, is like politicians who promise to build bridges, even where there is no river. In this case, Brown would have us believe he was asleep at the switch when all of this was going on.
First, he was unaware of the highly organized tactic that saw 13,000 copies of the now famous letter, in both English and Chinese, delivered to homes at the end of the Scarborough by-election. Then, he denied any part in it, suggesting the letter was the product of the party. Then he flip-flopped on the policy itself, saying he will at least review the curriculum.
Brown needs to be reminded of the old story about the boy who lived in the jungle and decided one day to play a prank on nearby villagers by screaming, “help me, help me, lion, lion!!”
The villagers stop what they are doing and immediately grab their tools and rush to the boy’s aid only to find him laughing, and admitting it was all a joke. The villagers left confused and a bit angry. The next day the boy played the same prank, the villagers ran to his aid, and again, he had to admit it was all a joke. The villagers left very angry.
The next day, a lion did appear and the boy screamed for help, but the villagers were tired of his pranks and no one came to help him, so the lion ate him.
My point: Mr. Brown, you can’t continue to treat the voters of Ontario like that boy treated the villagers.
In 2018, there is going to be a provincial election. As leader of the Conservative Party, Mr. Brown, you either have a platform and policies or you don’t. The voters of Ontario are not looking for a party or a leader that plays fast and loose with his promises, or compromises his party’s policies.
People are looking for a friendly and honest leader who is prepared to make commitments and deliver on them.
I question whether you are that leader.
by Eddie Ameh in Ottawa
“I’m blasting them and I said BS, Africa doesn’t need peacekeepers; what we need to do is to provide training for African peacekeepers,” says Deepak Obhrai, Conservative MP for Calgary, Forest Lawn.
That is the nature of the man seeking the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada. Often touted as one of the most controversial MPs, Obhrai refuses the controversial tag, but says he is supposed to generate discussion and that is what he does.
“That is part of my job, to create national debates,” he says.
He believes adding his voice to national discourse is very important.
“I’m putting my views across. If I feel a government policy is wrong, I’ll say so,” he adds.
“Elitist and white”
Obhrai recently criticized his own party for increasing party membership fees to $25, saying some of these new rules made the party “elitist and white”. He had his way. The party overturned the decision to increase the amount and pegged it at $15.
“After I made that big noise, it went across the country and the party reduced it,” he says amid smiles that suggest he feels he’s won a big battle.
“That is an achievement. When you fight, you can do it,” he adds.
That is not the only time Obhrai has fought his own party. He openly opposed Bill C-24 which gave power to the federal government to strip Canadian citizenship from dual citizens when charged with terrorism. He made some enemies, but he didn’t care, as long as he put his message across.
“Of course, for a few days, I was marginalized,” he scoffs.
Often outspoken, Obhrai says people who still think Canada belongs to just a few of them are living in the past. Obhrai says these people and their ideas need to be fought.
“There is what I call ‘establishment’ discrimination. The old establishment still thinks Canada belongs to the 1940’s,” he says.
“I’m running to ensure my message that the Conservative Party is open to all [gets out]. I’ve been working 20 years at this, I just have to continue to work hard at it,” Obhrai adds.
“They are criticizing me because I’m saying this is a new Canada,” Obhrai says, without alluding to anybody in particular.
Obhrai, who is the longest serving Tory MP, says the party was perceived and labelled as a racist party, and so he joined to change that perception from the inside.
“I worked hard over the years, and I spoke out. We were very successful.”
He says those efforts helped the party especially in 2011, when they won a majority of seats in Parliament.
“But then we started sleeping,” he laments.
Citing the controversy over Bill C-24 and the one surrounding the niqab, Obhrai says this portrayed the Conservative party as “anti-immigrant”. He says the party lost a majority of new Canadians in last October’s federal election.
Obhrai says, “This is not the party I worked for; this is not the party that I built.”
He says the party needs to bring on board all new Canadians and make it attractive for them, adding that he is best equipped to lead the charge. .
Born in Tanzania
Obhrai was born in Tanzania and moved to Canada at a young age. Since being elected to the House of Commons in 1997, he has served in various capacities. He is currently the dean of the Tory caucus. As parliamentary secretary for 10 years, he says he has gained a lot of international recognition and needs to bring this experience to his party.
“In the 10 years that I worked as parliamentary secretary, I gained a huge amount of respect from overseas, in Africa, Asia and the Pacific; everybody knows me,” Obhrai says.
“I am a man with tremendous experience.”
He says with this and his vast knowledge of the grassroots, his message is unique and that is what the party needs at this time.
Obhrai takes every opportunity to make people aware he is an immigrant. Taking me through some of the large collection of souvenirs in his Parliament Hill office, he points out a framed certificate from his former high school, Arusha Secondary School in Tanzania with pride. Indeed, it was the first thing he pointed to in his office.
Obhrai also prides himself as the only immigrant MP to be profiled in a textbook for students in Canada.
“By the way, me, an immigrant from Africa, is profiled in the high school book of Grade 9 in the whole of Alberta,” he says proudly.
He fetches the book from his table and opens straight to the page. “Every high school student in Grade 9 reads about me. That is an achievement for an immigrant.”
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-- Canada's economic development minister Navdeep Bains at a Public Policy Forum economic summit