2 min

Refugees as an election issue?

My article on the proposed immigration changes is now up on the national page, but there was a little extra that didn’t make it into the piece. Based on the speculation in the Maclean’s article two weeks ago, I asked both Olivia Chow and Maurizio Bevilacqua if they believed the Conservatives might use immigration as an election issue, pitting the “good” immigrants versus the supposed queue-jumpers. This is what they said.

Olivia Chow:
I hope we don’t go there because I recall when the Jewish folks were trying to get landed in Canada, they were turned away. Were they trying to jump the queue? No. So let’s not predetermine who are “good” versus “bad.” Because historically, Canada has made mistakes and sent people to death. Let’s not repeat those mistakes. It’s not an election issue – it shouldn’t be. It’s not an “us” and “them.”

Maurizio Bevilacqua:
I think that it’s very much in keeping of Reform/Alliance style of politics. I would hope that the motivation behind any reform to the immigration system and/or the refugee system would be in fact to improve on one of the pillars of nation building, namely immigration. The contribution made by immigrants is well-known to anybody who has even the slightest knowledge of Canadian history. After all, this is a country of immigrants. To pit one group against the other, or to create these types of divisions is wrong. There is no party in this House that I know of that supports illegal immigration. [laughs] If they’re trying to project themselves as the party that is against illegal immigration, then they’ll find a crowded field. But the difference between myself and Mister Kenney on the issue of immigration is that for me, immigration is something that brings our country together, while he’s trying to divide by pitting one group against the other. Another big difference is that my view of immigration is not to rely on temporary workers as this government does, because I like to have a pool of qualified labour in a flexible labour market that can easily address skill shortages. That’s not an issue that they have invested time or energy – or money – in. These are the major issues that concern me. If the Conservatives want to play wedge politics and go back to their Reform/Alliance roots, then probably they’ll get the same result the Reform and Alliance got, which was essentially a regional party with no hope of growing.