Justin Trudeau famously tweeted in 2017, “To those fleeing persecution, terror and war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength”. Mr. Trudeau was building a brand and positioning himself as the “anti-Trump” – a sensitive, progressive leader. Unsurprisingly, writes Candice Malcolm, Canada was suddenly flooded with unvetted asylum-seekers.
As prime minister, Stephen Harper’s international speeches were often peppered with tough talk about “punching above our weight” and “restoring Canada’s status and influence” on the world stage. From the war in Afghanistan to unequivocal support for Israel to calling out Vladimir Putin to fighting Islamist terrorism, there was scant diplomatic nuance in Harper foreign policy. The moral clarity was refreshing and revolutionary, writes Candice Malcolm. But now “Canada’s back” under Justin Trudeau, in its traditional guise as an “honest broker” and “helpful fixer”, and Malcolm suspects the mullahs in Iran are as pleased as the bureaucrats at Foreign Affairs.
A decade ago Stephen Harper and Jason Kenney calculated that the old Liberal model for electoral success in Canada was broken. Economic and political power had shifted from Ontario and Quebec to the West and to the fast-growing populations of new immigrants in suburban ridings across the country. They developed a message aimed at those voters and it helped win three successive elections, culminating in the big 2011 majority where over 40 percent of new Canadians voted Conservative. No other centre-right party in the world has pulled this off. Can the Conservatives do it again in 2015, when the European refugee crisis has become a campaign issue, and the Tories are being cast as insensitive to immigrants? Candice Malcolm weighs the odds.