Conservative Party releases immigration plan as debate continues

The Conservative Party released what it’s calling a “fair, orderly and compassionate” vision for Canada’s immigration plan, amidst a tense, national debate on the issue.

Critic Michelle Rempel and her colleague Gerard Deltell outlined how their party would handle the immigration file in Ottawa Wednesday morning, making it clear immigration will be a key election campaign issue in 2019.

“We need to bring it back to policy,” said Rempel, who argued the Liberal government “has treated setting the number of immigrants allowed into Canada like an auction,” and without ensuring they can work in Canada.

The planks of the Conservative’s principles are to encourage immigrants to become self-sufficient, prioritize the most vulnerable when it comes to humanitarian immigration, and  match the skills of economic migrants with industries that need workers in Canada.

Rempel said the party will tour the country over the next year to help shape its policies , including closing the loophole on the Safe Third Country Agreement.

Rempel wouldn’t say how much a Conservative government would reduce the number of immigrants accepted each year, but said she feels the levels are currently arbitrarily set. 

Heckler, Bernier questions 

The Tories’ announcement comes as the prime minister deals with a flurry of reaction to his handling of a heckler who shouted questions at him during a rally in Quebec last week.

The heckler asked him whether the federal government would repay Quebec for costs it has incurred as a result of an influx of “illegal immigrants” coming over the Canada-U.S. border, and if he’s tolerant of “Québécois de souche,” meaning white French Quebecers.

In French, Trudeau told her “your racism has no place here.”

Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer accused Trudeau of resorting to personal attacks because he did not like being questioned about the issue.

The woman was later identified by La Presse Canadienne as Diane Blain, a member of Storm Alliance, a nationalist group that has advocated against immigration.

“I’m not a Québécois so I don’t understand the term at large, but if it holds offence to people and it’s not productive towards maintaining Canadian pluralism, then of course I don’t support that,” she said.

The Conservative party has also being dealing with the issue internally.

Last week Conservative MP Maxime Bernier, who challenged Scheer for the leadership role, took to Twitter to condemn the Liberal approach to multiculturalism, warning “ever more” diversity is leading to the ghettoization of minorities and fostering a culture of government dependence.

His tweet storm sparked rebuke from within his caucus and from the leader, who said Bernier “holds no official role in caucus and does not speak for the Conservative Party of Canada on any issue.”

Bernier noted the timing on Twitter Wednesday morning.

“So, after disavowing me last week for raising the issue and telling me to shut up, my colleagues have just realized that this is something Canadians find important and want to hear about? Great example of strong leadership,” he said.

Rempel tried to further distance herself from Bernier’s tweets.

“Max has never come to talk to me about immigration,” said Rempel. “My colleague has a choice to make. Does he want Andrew Scheer to win or Justin Trudeau to win?”

The topic is expected to dominate the Conservatives’ biennial policy convention in Halifax later this week.

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