By J. Stewart Cook
In the world of politics, it is important that leaders and members of a given political party adhere to the same issues, policies, positions, beliefs, other words “sing from the same songsheet” as it relates to the party platform.
There are basically two types of “issues” within this context. One consists of valence issues. These are issues on which there is a general agreement, or on which it’s really hard to find anyone who disagrees to a great degree. Saying “I’m in favor of education” is a good example, since most of the electorate is in favor of that, too. “I support the environment,” or “I want to lower taxes” are classic examples of valence issues. This is one way a party’s candidate can appeal to a great deal of people at once.
The other type is position issues, which are issues on which a candidate will take a position that generally is markedly different than his or her opponent. These tend to be more partisan issues such as human rights, abortion, etc. They are often found in a party’s platform.
The Conservative Party of Canada is presently seeking a new leader to be elected in May 2017. There are fourteen candidates vying for the position of leader, each with their own “issues.”
Issues raised by candidates may be “mundane” or “controversial.” The controversial issues tend to be the ones that make the “headline news” and are at the forefront of people’s minds. Looking at the present leadership race, and the positions taken by the various candidates, one cannot help but look at the more “contentious” issues.
It is my intent to examine one of the most “talked” about issues of the race, that of a “unified Canadian identity” presented by candidate Kellie Leitch. To ensure such an “identity” is upheld, Ms. Leitch has proposed to vet newcomers for anti-Canadian values. She states that this “has everything to do with promoting tolerance and respect — and nothing to do with…stoking divisions.”
It is without question, that Kellie Leitch has been referred to as “controversial.” She is very outspoken, yet articulate. One soon knows where she stands on issues upon hearing her in public forums. She sincerely believes that her vision for Canada can only benefit Canadians.
Is Kellie Leitch “progressive” or “regressive” as it relates to political issues?” Perhaps, as it relates to “anti-Canadian values,” one could make a case that this approach is “regressive.” Many of her opponents have used a plethora of words which could be substituted for the word “regressive.”
In fact, I would have to say that Kellie Leitch is “progressive” in her approach. Ensuring that newcomers to this country fully understand, and intend to uphold, Canadian values is certainly “progressive.” Keeping the status quo would be “regressive,” but then it fulfills a criteria politicians adhere to…”political correctness.” Do not touch the immigration laws, policies, in the event that someone may end up being offended. This type of attitude, or view, only enforces our own insecurities, rather than dealing with so-called “sensitive issues” dead on.
It is within the context of the political sphere that such issues need to be raised, discussed and challenged. And this is precisely what Ms. Leitch is doing, using the Leadership race to put forth her views, opinions and positions on matters important to the Canadian electorate. The same could be said about her position on the CBC and Aboriginal affairs. Let her position be known and let it be debated. Being “Regressive” only stifles discussion. Whereas, being “Progressive” stimulates discussion.
Here is the “challenge” Kellie Leitch faces. How knowledgeable is the electorate (including her own opponents) with respect to her “unified Canadian identity.” What are the “values” Canadians adhere to within this country? In order to fully debate such issues one must have a basic understanding of the issue and the position of the candidate.
The American Voter, a University of Michigan Survey Research Center team defined three minimal knowledge prerequisites for voters to be able to exert meaningful influence over a given issue: Voters must be aware of the issue’s existence, they must have a position on the issue and they must know the positions on the issue of the opposing candidates in a given election.
Writer IIya Somin, once wrote, “just how informed should voters be? Ideally, they should be able to choose between opposing candidates and their platforms on the basis of the preferences that people would have if their information were perfect.” Furthermore, “few people dispute the well-established conclusion that most individual voters are abysmally ignorant of even very basic political information.”
With respect to Kellie Leitch’s “unified Canadian identity,” she would want to have Canadian immigration offices ask a series of questions to potential immigrants/refugees regarding Canadian values and how one would conduct themselves within the context of these values. We have been told that immigration offices do conduct interviews with potential immigrants, however we are not fully aware of the process used by these offices.
This truly paints a dismal picture if we are unable to comprehend what Kellie Leitch is conveying to the public with respect to her “unified Canadian identity.” What is more troubling are the negative comments made, including those by her opponents/rivals, without substance. Comments, such as, dog-whistle politics, racist, xenophobe, are inaccurate. As pointed out, this is mainly due to sheer ignorance on behalf of those commenting. The negative impact…the electorate is not fully informed and bases its decisions on limited information.
In an earlier article, about Kellie Leitch, I stated the following:
I certainly encourage Ms. Leitch to forge ahead with her proposal to screen immigrants for “anti-Canadian values.” I would not place too much emphasis on the words “anti-Canadian values” but rather emphasize what Ms. Leitch is truly conveying, a “unified Canadian identity” that “includes equality of opportunity, hard work, giving back to the community, equality of men and women, as well tolerance for all religions, cultures and sexual orientations and the rejection of violence as a way to solve problems.”
An open-minded discussion on Canadian immigration is long overdue. Let us put aside the rhetoric of “political correctness” and take a “common sense” approach to this matter. Kellie Leitch knows too well that she is placing her political career on the line. There is absolutely no turning back from her perspective. Let us join her and encourage her initiative. Canadians need to remember that these opportunities seldom arise in the Canadian political sphere.
It is to be noted that recent Canadian polling confirms that the majority of the electorate would support screening potential immigrants for Canadian values.
Kellie Leitch has all the attributes of being a great leader, not only as leader of The Conservative Party of Canada, but as Prime Minister of Canada. She is a “stateswomen” amongst the ranks of Reagan, Thatcher, Mulroney. She is, indeed, the “Leitch” Factor.