Ever since Conservative leadership hopeful Kellie Leitch announceed that she would screen all visitors, refugees and immigrants for Canadian values as one of her campaign policies, parallels have been drawn between the MP’s far-right political rhetoric and American president-elect Donald Trump’s position on immigration.
According to news reports, Leitch, in an email sent to her fundraising supporters after Trump’s election victory said that Trump’s win is an exciting message that should also be delivered in Canada.
A poll for The Toronto Star conducted by Forum Research Inc. shows that 67 per cent of Canadians believe newcomers should be screened for anti-Canadian values.
When asked to elaborate on what Leitch means by anti-Canadian values, Nick Kouvalis, Leitch’s campaign manager, told Yahoo Canada News that it’s important that all Canadian immigrants are tolerant, particularly in accepting to the value that men and women are equal.
In an interview with Toronto Life, Leitch repelled the notion that “anti-Canadian values” is subtext for anti-Muslim xenophobia.
“This isn’t anti-Muslim. This isn’t anti-anyone,” responded Leitch. “If we have a core identity as a country, we have a shared set of values, we protect those, we have new immigrants coming into the country, we can integrate them into that shared value set, and we become an even stronger country together in the future.”
Kouvalis says in-person screening needs to be increased in Canada’s immigration process, claiming 90 per cent of newcomers are now getting into the country through a paper application.
Conservative MP Maxime Bernier, who’s also in the race for the Tory leadership, responded to Leitch’s screening proposal in a news conference by saying it “won’t work” because the “problem of radical Islam does not concern only immigrants, but also people born in this country.”
When asked if he sees parallels between Leitch and Trump, Kouvalis said that although there are multiple similarities, they are different people. Perhaps most notably when it comes to experience in politics.
First elected as an MP in 2011, Leitch has had an active career in federal politics which has included serving as Minister of Labour and Minister responsible for the Status of Women in Stephen Harper’s cabinet.
“We have to engage him to protect free trade in NAFTA,” added Kouvalis. “We can’t poke him in the eye if we want to get him to do what we want him to do. We have to accept it. We have to work with him.”
When Leitch launched her campaign for the party leadership in October, she told the audience that she is running to be the next Prime Minister of Canada saying, “we are going to win this leadership race. We are going to defeat the Trudeau Liberals in 2019.”
In addition to being an extremely capable and confident candidate, Kouvalis said, Leitch also understands the Conservative party from coast to coast, giving her an advantage over others in the leadership contention. Although Leitch has been knocked for being an elite herself – a paediatric orthopaedic surgeon with a business school degree – Kouvalis said that she is still very much “in touch with the average person.”
“In this specific race, I want someone who can beat Trudeau in 2019,” Kouvalis said.