Canadians fully comprehend Donald Trump, 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 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 Conservative Party led by former Prime Minister Stephen Harper. While Canadians sidelined Manning and Harper for lack of support in elections, the youthful political demagogue, Jason Kenney, with his federal conservative leadership ambitions dashed because of closeness to Harper, is returning to Alberta hoping to forge a single right-wing party.
All three - Manning, Harper, Kenney, are part of right wing conservative movement in Canada and all three come from the same province of Alberta, which elected its first New Democratic Party government, after almost half a century of one-party conservative rule.
These three Canadian conservative leaders talk the Trump talk and have tried the same Trump tactics to instil fear and division among Canadians. Instilling fear, by stoking security concerns, is another common trait among conservatives. Just as Trump wants to build a wall on the border with Mexico and stop Muslim immigration to USA, Canadian conservatives wanted to stop accepting refuges from Syria.
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 from Mexico, the current Liberal government, a couple of weeks ago, removed visa requirement for Mexicans.
Former Conservative Prime Minister Harper put in place policies, in defiance of decisions of the Supreme Court, singling out Muslims, e.g. wearing of face-covering niqab at Canadian citizenship oath taking ceremony. Jason Kenney was instrumental in this effort and in drafting legislation banning, what Conservatives called “barbaric practices”, by new immigrant communities. 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 strict division of power between the judiciary and the executive.
Former one-term MP, Corneliu Chisu, said this of his Conservative Party, “They divided and they scared people,” during the last election in October, 2015.
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.
Anti-immigrant stance of Conservative is deep-rooted. Just like Trump, 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 late 1980s, a turban-wearing Canadian Sikh applied to join Canadian federal police force, the RCMP, Albertans were up in arms. 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, Reform Party passed a resolution opposing turbans in the RCMP, and the policy was heavily promoted by the party going into 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 and cabinet from all ethnic and religious backgrounds. Much has been achieved - 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 been where the USA is today, and has moved far ahead to being an exemplary country to emulate!
Bhupinder S. Liddar is a retired Canadian diplomat and former publisher/editor of Diplomat & International Canada magazine. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his website www.liddar.ca