Headline: Canada’s own ‘Trumps’

Subhed: Manning, Harper, Kenney cut from same cloth

Photo 1: Preston Manning

Photo 2: Stephen Harper

Photo 3: Jason Kenney

By Bhupinder S. Liddar

(NOTE: The opinions expressed here are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of The Link.)

Canadians fully understand Donald Trump. That’s because they have three of their own – Preston Manning, Stephen Harper and Jason Kenney! For Canadians, Trump is a second viewing of a movie that they have seen before.

Manning broke away from the Progressive Conservative Party in 1987 to form the short-lived, right-wing Reform Party, which morphed into the Conservative Party led by former Prime Minister Stephen Harper. While Manning and Harper have been sidelined for lack of support, the youthful political demagogue, Jason Kenney, with his federal conservative leadership ambitions dashed because of his closeness to Harper, is returning to Alberta hoping to lead a united right-wing party.

All three are part of the right wing conservative movement in Canada and all three come from the same province Alberta, which elected its first New Democratic Party government in the last provincial election after almost half a century of one-party conservative rule.

These three Canadian conservative leaders talked the Trump talk and tried same Trump tactics to instil fear and division among Canadians.

Just as Trump wants to build a wall on the border with Mexico and stop Muslim immigration to the US, these Canadian conservatives wanted to stop accepting refugees from Syria and put in place policies in defiance of decisions of the Supreme Court, singling out Muslims, for example wearing of face-covering niqab at Canadian citizenship oath taking ceremonies.

Jason Kenney was instrumental in this effort and in drafting legislation banning what Conservatives called “barbaric practices” by recent immigrant communities. Former one-term MP, Corneliu Chisu, said of his Conservative Party, “They divided and they scared people.”

Instilling fear, by stoking security concerns, is another common trait among conservatives. Shutting Muslims out and deporting Mexicans are similar to themes played by Canadian Conservatives.

While Trump brands Mexicans as rapists, thieves and drug dealers, defeated Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper wanted to build an imaginary wall against refugees from the Middle East.  He claimed Syrian refugees were coming from a “terrorist war zone” and need to be screened properly in order to protect “Canadians from the security risk”.

The Liberal  government, since winning the last election in October 2015, has settled 25,000 Syrian refugees, with generous support from sponsoring Canadian families.  Contrary to Trump and Canadian Conservatives’ fears of immigration, the current Liberal government, a couple of weeks ago, removed visa requirements for Mexicans.

While crime is dropping on both sides of the border, according to reliable data provided by police sources, both Trump and Canadian conservatives keep making “tough on crime” as one of their priorities because of its base appeal.

As in the case of Trump with his degrading of U.S. Supreme Court judgements, Canada’s former Conservative Prime Minister Harper also engaged in a nasty tit-a-tat with our Supreme Court Chief Justice, not respecting the strict division of power between the judiciary and the executive.

The anti-immigrant stance of the Conservatives is deep-rooted. Just like Trump, the Reform and Conservative parties have pandered to their supporters by claiming immigrants steal jobs and commit crimes. On February 3, 1994, Reform leader Preston Manning questioned why high immigration levels were maintained while “…2.3 million Canadians are either unemployed or underemployed…”

When in the late 1980s a turban-wearing Canadian Sikh applied to join the RCMP, Albertans were up in arms. About 150,000 Albertans, calling themselves Alberta Defenders of RCMP Tradition, signed a petition, opposing entry of a turban-wearing Sikh recruit to RCMP ranks.

At its 1989 convention, the Reform Party passed a resolution opposing turbans in the RCMP, and the policy was heavily promoted by the party going into the 1993 federal election. Fortunately, Progressive Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney’s government allowed the wearing of turbans by RCMP officers. The decision also proclaimed that aboriginal officers could wear their hair in braids as a means of preserving spiritual desires.

The litany of broken promises is long too. Harper promised an elected or reformed Senate. Instead he appointed 38 Senators! While promising not to make any political patronage appointments, he left a lengthy trail of such appointments.  It was the same with diplomatic appointments.

Fortunately, Canadians are more progressive, generous and welcoming. The proof is in composition of Canada’s current Parliament. From conservatives wanting to ban turbans, there are now five turban-wearing Members of Parliament, two in cabinet, and one of them Minister of National Defence! Canada has certainly come a long way to proving to be an exemplary country of the future!

Bhupinder S. Liddar is a retired Canadian diplomat and former publisher/editor of Diplomat & International Canada magazine. He can be reached at bsliddar@hotmail.com or visit his website www.liddar.ca

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