The Liberal Party of Canada always faired well with Immigrant Canadians, however Harper’s Conservative government is attempting to challenge conventional wisdom and position itself as Canada’s new “Party for Immigrants”.
The Party is putting serious effort behind its attempt to win over the hearts and minds of ethnic Canadian voters. In fact, since being in office, the Prime Minister has signed-off on at least a half-dozen policy initiatives which directly affect Canadian Immigrants. “The bar is [set] higher for us,” says Goldy Hyder, a Conservative strategist, in reference to his party’s bid to shed any pre-conceived notions of intolerance once associated to it.
As if to demonstrate the Conservatives willingness to be seen as “Immigrant-friendly”, Mr. Harper has made some deliberately “liberal” choices in appointing his Cabinet Ministers. His government is clearly encouraging a more “grass-roots” approach to electioneering and is engaging Canada’s ethnic constituency at the community level.
Environment Minister Rona Ambrose speaks Portuguese and is often present at Portuguese community events. MP Barry Devolin speaks Korean and is also quite visible within the Korean community, and Health Minister Tony Clement, who is of Greek lineage, is doing his best to show Canada’s Greek immigrants his ancestral roots. Mr. Harper has even appointed a Muslim-Canadian, Wajid Khan, as his personal advice or on the Middle East and South Asia.
In fact, on one particularly busy, marathon-like weekend of Conservative image-building, MP Jason Kenney attended a dozen events, including gatherings of Afghans, Tamils, Sikhs, Armenians, Hindus and the Jewish community. Rattan Mall, Editor of The Indo-Canadian Voice Newspaper in British Columbia, says the Party’s gestures are not going unnoticed. Even the Chinese Canadian National Council has gone on record saying that the Chinese head tax has had a “restorative impact” on that particular Canadian community.
The Conservative push to build a solid immigrant constituency has included:
- Instituting a new ‘Simplified Application Process‘ facilitating immigration to Canada.
- Reducing the Right of Permanent Residence Fee (RPRF) by half.
- Allowing foreign students enrolled in public Canadian post-secondary institutions to apply for off-campus work permits.
- Announcing that a federal agency will be developed in order to recognize foreign credentials in Canada.
- An apology and redress for the Chinese head tax.
- Defending Canada’s immigration policies, and re-iterating his government¡¯s commitment to an open, inclusive, and multicultural, Canada.
- An inquiry into the Air India tragedy.
- A statement recognizing the Armenian genocide.
- A promise last weekend to address the turning away of hundreds of Indian passengers aboard the Kamagata Maru in 1914.
- Congratulating Italian Canadians on the victory of the Italian soccer team in the World Cup.