Kellie Leitch’s immigrant screening proposal goading rivals to debate Canadian values

September 7, 2016

By Joanna Smith, Toronto Star |

The Conservative leadership campaign of Kellie Leitch is trying to goad her rivals and caucus colleagues into reacting to her proposal that newcomers be vetted for their values that make up a “unified Canadian identity,” a strategist says.

The Conservative MP from Ontario sparked some life into a sleepy summer leadership race last week when she emailed a survey — ending with solicitations for both votes and donations — to supporters that included a question about whether the federal government should screen potential immigrants and refugees for “anti-Canadian values.”

These include views on gender equality, religious tolerance, and belief in hard work.

“This is about protecting Canadian values and people that believe that women are property, that they can be beaten and bought or sold, or believe that gays or lesbians should be stoned because of who they love, don’t share in my opinion, basic Canadian values,” Leitch said in an interview.

Some other leadership hopefuls — as well as interim leader Rona Ambrose — have been come out against the idea to various degrees over the past week, and discussions are likely to continue behind closed doors at the Conservative caucus retreat next week in Halifax, where the nascent race to replace former prime minister Stephen Harper is expected to start picking up steam.

Conservative strategist Jason Lietaer said forcing a response is no doubt part of Leitch’s plan.

“They are throwing a wedge down and trying to get everybody else on the other side of the issue,” Lietaer said Wednesday.

The attempts to goad others were made obvious late Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning, when Leitch campaign manager Nick Kouvalis issued a series of tweets pushing her rivals to make their views known, or criticizing the positions of those who have already done so.

Ontario MP Michael Chong was the first to weigh in last week, accusing Leitch of engaging in “dog-whistle politics:” the use of code words that go unheard or unremarked by most people but which convey a particular — usually nasty, racially tinged — message to a target audience.

Quebec MP Maxime Bernier said he agrees there are Canadian values, but ensuring immigrants have economic opportunities that will help them integrate into society is a better way to promote them.

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