Harper’s first stop in suburban, heavily ethnic territory [UPDATED from his second]


The biggest ovation Stephen Harper earned at his rally in Brampton, Ont. this morning didn’t come when he issued one of his grim warnings about the supposed inevitability of a Liberal-NDP-Bloc Québécois coalition seizing power if he doesn’t win Conservative majority.

No, the crowd drawn from the suburbs of Toronto’s western sprawl reacted with its most spontaneous-sounding applause, to my ear at least, when Harper said rather soberly that “Canada is the closest thing the world has to an island of security and stability.”

And this reaction flowed from a crowd of Tories that included a large contingent of Sikhs, a key component of the “very ethnic” voting demographic targeted, above all, by Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney. (Kenney was, not coincidentally, on hand to introduce the Prime Minister.)

The response of immigrants in particular to the evoking of Canada’s privileged safe-harbour status is hardly surprising. What’s crucial here is Harper’s apparent success in building his brand around “stability and security,” especially in the eyes of voters who come from places where those are scarce commodities. Hence the cheering.

Liberals traditionally won support from ethnic communities by touting their openness to immigration, their embrace of multiculturalism, and their willingness to deliver social programs that newcomers tend to value highly during their early struggles to get established in a new country.

The party’s success in selling that package, though, has taken a beating in the past three elections.  According to a fascinating academic dissection of the 2008 election, by five professors working on the Canadian Election Study, the historic preference of visible minority voters for the Liberals has already been mostly eradicated.

According to the paper, called “The Anatomy of a Liberal Defeat”: “The [Liberals’] visible minority vote dropped 14 points between 2000 and 2004. The main beneficiary was the NDP. The Liberals did not lose any further ground in 2006, but in 2008, they lost a massive 19 points. And now it was the Conservatives who benefited. In fact, minority voters were almost as likely to vote Conservative in 2008 as they were to vote Liberal.”

Still, achieving national parity with the Liberals on ethnic votes was not sufficient for the Tories to win many seats in key Liberal strongholds, especially in and around Toronto. So Harper needs more, and Ignatieff needs to deny him.

Today’s rally was Harper’s first foray of this campaign into that hotly contested territory. (Expect plenty more before the May 2 election.) The stakes are high. Brampton is part of Peel Region, where of eight ridings the Tories now hold only one, MP Bob Dechert’s Mississauga-Erindale.

Among the seats they didn’t win last time, two strike me as particularly interesting to watch. In Brampton-Springdale, Liberal MP Ruby Dhalla faces a stiff challenge, for the second time, from Conservative candidate Parm Gill. Today, the Liberals alleged that Kenney gave Gill influence over handing out special visas in India—using his departmental power for partisan ends, in this case, to burnish a Tory hopeful’s image with his core constituency.

A far tougher challenge for the Tories will be trying to grab Mississauga-Brampton South from Navdeep Bains, one of the country’s most prominent elected Sikh politicians. The Conservatives have nominated a veteran Mississauga city councilor, Eve Adams, to take a run at Bains. If she even comes close, the Liberals are in trouble.


In his second rally of the day, just outside Vancouver in Burnaby, B.C., the Prime Minister knitted his campaign themes even more tightly with his party’s sustained pitch to new Canadians. Here’s how Harper connected his warning about the alleged coalition-in-waiting and his appeal to the sensibility of immigrants in particular:

“People like you, people who live in Burnaby, people who have come to this country from all over the world, all the different origins in the world, they’ve all come here because they believe in Canada. And they don’t want Members of Parliament who are going to sign on to Mr. Ignatieff’s reckless idea that he can lose an election and then run Canada backed by the NDP and the Bloc Québécois.”

This lines, delivered at a Japanese-Canadian community centre, but with several other Asian communities well represented in the crowd, suggested that rejecting the Liberals and NDP amounts to a patriotic duty to newcomers. Incidentally, the community centre is in the NDP-held Burnaby-New Westminster riding, and close by Burnaby-Douglas, another NDP seat.


Harper’s first stop in suburban, heavily ethnic territory [UPDATED from his second]

  1. It's so hard to remember, are these the barbaric cultures Kenney hates, or is it other ones?

    • No, I think Kenney believes that barbaric practices that involve the mistreatment of women in some cultures will not be tolerated in Canada.
      It was Justin Trudeau who was not willing to condemn these practices.
      Dhalla and Bains are not too happy with Trudeau.

      • It was Kenney who wouldn't change the language to make it clear it was the act we despise, no matter the "culture" of the person who commits it.

      • If it wasn’t for the fact Trudeau did, in fact condemn those practices, you would be right.

        • He did 2 days late and only after instructions from Lib headquarters.

          • So you are admitting you lied then? Which is funny because even in your admission you are lying.

          • That booklet is not the place for the Cons to play to their base. Inflammatory language like that doesn't belong it. And for the record I'm against violence towards women.

          • Of course you are Jan, and I`m sure Justin is too, however, it appeared he was unwilling to retract his pro-barbaric statement immediately after he made it.

  2. Harper spoke rather soberly of “Canada is the closest thing the world has to an island of security and stability.”

    There's a lot of truth to that. Europe is in financial turmoil, so is the USA. The middle east is in violent upheaval almost across the board. Africa and much of Asia remain deeply unstable and insecure.

    • It is frankly a bit of a stretch. Yes Canada is in a comparatively better situation than many other countries in the world. But there are three reasons that this statement is a large exaggeration. First, Canada isn't perfect. Canada still has a large deficit, and arguably a structural one. We face daunting challenges in both our health care and pension systems. Perhaps not so much as the Americans do, but still substantial. Second, there are other places in the world doing well also. Many countries in Europe have comparable deficit situations to us, even if many others are much worse. Many countries in Asia haven't borne as much of the recession as elsewhere and are arguably no better, and also no worse, off than they were a few years ago. Finally, to the extent that this is true it is no more true now than it has been for the last few decades. Today we have Japan and Libya, but in recent times there would have been Iraq or Indonesia (tsunami). Going back not much farther one can look to Kosovo or Rwanda.

      So it is hard to argue that Harper's statement, as he meant it at least, is all that accurate.

      • You don't seem to have a point. Yeah, Canada isn't perfect, and Canada isn't the only country that has done well lately. Good for you.

        • No, you both have a point.

          There is a lot of truth to that (assertion by Harper). But it isn't completely truthful, in that other places could be seen as an island of security and stability as well. Colin's further point is that the truth of the statement isn't a suddenly appearing truth, but has been a truth far longer than Harper could take credit for it.

          Which, either way, was a nice reminder of how wonderfully lucky we are to live here. We should embrace that.

    • Nice to hear that we are in better shape than much of Africa, but just how well are we doing? Sounds like the countries we would like to compare ourselves to might be doing better.

      Canada ranked sixth in 2008 and 2009 in economic performance out of the 17 countries in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), according to a report by the Conference Board of Canada. But Canada is expected to slip to 10th in 2010 and ninth in 2011, according to the report.

      Canada's economy has been improving, but not at the same rate as the leading economies. Australia and Sweden are expected to lead in economic improvement in 2011, according to the report.

          • Just as I thought – an opinion piece masquerading as an article.

            For instance, look at this garbage:


            CLAIM: Harper says an opposition "coalition" will raise taxes.


            On corporate tax cuts:

            The Liberals say they will reverse a corporate tax cut that took effect last January, and cancel one scheduled to take effect in January 2012.

            First of all, nobody knows what the Liberals would actually do. You cannot claim something as "fact" if it has not happened yet. Secondly, to claim that reversing a tax cut from a year ago is not raising taxes is ridiculous. The current rate is what it is. The Liberals want to raise it. What happened a year ago is irrelevant. Liberals want taxes to go up.

        • That second link wins the argument in my mind. Canada fell the least and recovered the quickest – you can't say we're lagging behind when no other country has actually caught up.

        • Ahem, did you catch the last line in AC's post?

          "I don't mean to single out the Liberals. The Tories do exactly the same thing. It's just unbelievably moronic, and it drags everyone and everything down."

          • Do you have a point?

          • Yeah, it's nice when journalists call bullsh*t.

    • I'm very impressed that you got thumbed down for saying Canada is in good shape. Apparently absolutely anything Harper says is wrong to some people…

    • I think the issue people take with it is where Harper implies that the security and stability is something brought to us by his government. Canada was stable and secure before Harper, and will be after. He's taking credit where none is due.

      • The way I read it he was just talking about Canada and what his vision of the country’s strength is. I doubt he would have got an ovation if he was taking credit.

    • Yes. And all this happened in the last five years. Amazing. What achievements!

  3. It is no accident that Harper chose to spend his first day on the campaign in Brampton. This is the type of community that have had it up to here with the Ruby Dhallas of the Liberal Party, so watch out for defeated Liberal candidates all over Peel Region.

    • Yeah, electing another white male, that'll show them Liberals what's what.

      • I`m not sure Parm Gill would want to be referred to as a white male; also you seem to imply that Liberals check a person`s skin colour and gender before they nominate him as a candidate.

        • You're right, I'm wrong, I had the wrong Brampton riding.

          • Well, if you're thinking of Mississauga-Brampton South, Eve Adams might not take kindly to being called a male. LOL!

            I can see good reason to kick out Dhalla; her defeat may have nothing to do with the party she represents – or the party Parm Gill represents. It's not my riding, but of the two, I think he's the better choice – despite his choice of party.

            In my own riding, the only candidate I know is our incumbent – Gurbax Malhi. He doesn't impress me, but I don't know the other candidates & he's Liberal. So he'll get my vote, as I really don't want to do anything that might contribute to a possible Harper majority. Sad reason to vote for someone, I know, but there it is…

      • Well for a good while at least the Con party has had a much higher representation of "ethnic" groups as MP's. I don't know if it's still true but I wouldn't be suprised at all.

        • And a lower proportion of women.

  4. Harper spoke rather soberly of “Canada is the closest thing the world has to an island of security and stability.”

    And since Libs have been in power for 70% of the 144 years we've been around, we have them to thank for it.

    • Good point, but I have to add that from Laurier back the Liberals looked more like Mulroney and Harper than the Liberals today. Laurier beleived that people came to Canada for freedom and that we should have lower taxes than the U.S. to emphasize that since most immigrants would naturally think of going there first.

      • And at one time Libs were very pro free trade with the US, while the Tories said 'no truck nor trade with the yankees'.

        Times change, policies shift, politics happen….but it's security and stability we're talking about.

        • True… Diefenbaker was wicked anti-American – maybe even worse than Trudeau and I think they were both terrible for stability economically and internationally. I have to admit that from what I know Mulroney and Chretien were better for getting on top of the budget than Harper has been although I expect it's because he can't do the budget the way he wants to in a minority.

          • Tis the same everywhere. Repubs used to be isolationists, while Dems wanted to trade with the world. That's reversed now. Repubs have substituted religion for science, while Dems are pro-some science and anti-others.

            So there's no use trying to hang on to what are now dead ideologies. They just don't work anymore.

          • Au contraire, Mulroney was absolutely inept at "getting on top of the budget". If anything, he was a typical conservative in power, running what were then massive annual deficits and leaving a large public debt as his legacy…just like Reagan and Bushes in the US and Harris (and his cronies Clement, Baird and Flaherty) in Ontario.

            "The worldwide recession of the early 1990s significantly damaged the government's financial situation. Mulroney's inability to improve the government's finances, as well as his use of tax increases to deal with it, were major factors in alienating the western conservative portion of his power base. At the same time, the Bank of Canada began to raise interest rates in order to meet a zero inflation target; the experiment was regarded as a failure that exacerbated the effect of the recession in Canada. Annual budget deficits ballooned to record levels, reaching $42 billion in his last year of office. These deficits grew the national debt dangerously close to the psychological benchmark of 100% of GDP, further weakening the Canadian dollar and damaging Canada's international credit rating." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brian_Mulroney

            It baffles me how these right-of-center politicians perpetuate the myth that they are the only really wise stewards of the public purse, when there's little historic or current evidence to support the claim.

          • I can’t reply to you directly for some reason, anyhow… Mulroney claimed in his memoir that he added nothing to the debt that wasn’t interest payments on the massive debt racked up by Trudeau. Maybe Mulroney was lying there but it seems like a pretty easily discernable thing to lie about. The GST alienated westerners but economically it was a very good move at a huge political cost, the best kind of tax to raise finances without hurting the economy, or at least far superior to an income tax. Adding nothing to the deficit but the interest payments on the debt built up by Diefenbaker and especially Trudeau despite a recession and brutal interest levels and getting the necessary GST in is arguably the best anyone could have done in the situation and set us up for Chretien to continue in better times.

            As for Reagan, he succeded in cutting income taxes he wanted which probably increased government revenue because the top brackets were that high but had no chance of cutting spending too with Democrats in the house and senate. Bush was never actually a small government guy. I don’t know if he ever paid lip service (probably did) to it but his reputation for not wanting to spend government money was the result of Democrats claiming he wanted to cut government because that’s what they say about any Repub. There’s a book called Compassionate Conservativism that Bush wrote the intro to as Texas governor and its basically about how to spend lots of money but in smarter ways than liberals.

            I don’t know much about Harris though, other than a reputation for reducing the budget. If he also ran up deficits I would guess it was from an even bigger tax cut.

          • Debt was racked up because Mulroney sold off assets acquired under Trudeau for a fraction of their cost.

          • " from what I know Mulroney and Chretien were better for getting on top of the budget"

            Chretien, yes – but Mulroney was possibly the most profligate spender in Canadian history. When it came to spending, he was like Harper – talked a good game, but then did the opposite. Someone had a link to graphs of Canada's debt on here somewhere yesterday; if I can find it again I'll repost the link. It clearly sets out spending patterns and who did what.

    • Or in spite of it.

      • That's not even possible

  5. Wow, the thumbsuckers are out in droves tonight from Lib headquarters.
    I am on my way deep in minus territority for pointing out the obvious and Emily is soaring up the charts for…………………whatever her latest ramble was.

    Actually I have noticed the disconnect with reality on this site seems to echo that at LPC headquarters.

    • The Liberals, having no money, seem to have decided to stake their campaign hopes on flooding websites with postings from the elderly, the unemployed, and various socialist misfits. See above.

    • I agree Blue.

  6. Mr Coyne, if the Bloc members are not democratically legitimate or whatever, why do we allow them to sit in our people's house? Why is the party not banned and the members on trial for sedition? It's just not internally consistent for me to say that the people of Quebec have every right to elect BQ MPs, but that those MPs are ineligible from playing any role in governing. It's untenable, and this country will remain ungovernable if a 1/6th of the seats are tied up and can't be used in its governing.

    • 1. This is a Geddes post.

      2. There is a difference between Parliament and Government. At one time, Parliament had nothing to do with governing; the King and his advisors governed, sometimes going years and years without summoning the people's representatives. As time passed and democracy evolved, it became customary for government to be accountable to Parliament. Today, it would be scandelous for a member of the cabinet not to be a member of the House or Senate. It seems you are under the impression that this means Parliament governs. It does not. cont'd.

      • Parliament holds the government to account, questions its actions, demands that it address the people's concerns, and reserves the right to dismiss the ministry at any time it chooses. No one disputes the right of the Bloc to participate in this activity. Running government departments, on the other hand, or hiring and firing public employees is the work of the executive branch. Andrew's [and my(and Gilles Duceppe's!)] position is that those who dispute the right of the Canadian state to rule the people they represent should not be part of that state.

        • So, we should dispense with the Bloc MPs and just assume that every bill has ~50 votes against off the bat? It seems that no bill can rely on the support of the BQ for its passage, else we're giving the dastardly separatists a role in governing the country. This is sheer madness and it needs to stop.

          • What?

          • Nonsense. The BQ stll has to consider the needs of its constituents, and anything that harms Canada harms Quebec. Until such time as they actually make a move to separate, it is against their own best interests to deliberately harm Canada. Their goal, instead, is to look for the best deal for Quebec while in the federation, in order to ensure that the transfer to sovereignty, should it ever happen, can take place with the minimum of pain to Quebec (which, incidentally, would have to mean the least possible damage to the rest of Canad as well).

            The myths that exist in English Canada portraying them as evil incarnate actually serves them well, as it helps fan the separatist flames in Quebec. I certainly don't believe in pandering to them, but treating them as pariahs and calling them traitors ultimately harms us more than them.

          • It seems everyone's irony detectors are broken. I was criticizing the rhetoric that the BQ cannot legitimately be used as support for the passage of legislation, a position held by Harper.

            Frankly, I find the Bloc's goal of an independent Quebec less objectionable than some of the social conservative mouthbreathers in the CPC that regularly vote for government legislation. Nonetheless, they are still legitimate. I wish we could get past this idea that the Bloc cannot legitimately be part of our democratic process or be relied upon for support of legislation.

          • Then why did you address your criticism of Harper's position at Andrew Coyne (on a blog post by John Geddes)? Not even Harper calls the Bloc democatically illegitimate, he (Harper) just says a second-place party propped up by the Bloc would be. He's wrong about that, but any kind of formal agreement, as opposed to an ad hoc arrangement like those Martin and Harper have deployed, would be a little skeevy, says Coyne.

            It also sounded as though you were one of those people defending the right of the Bloc to contribute cabinet ministers to a government, which, as even Duceppe says, is insane.

          • In other words, consider them as being the same as any other opposition MP. They actually were the official opposition for a while, after Kim Campbell's historic loss – and we're still here!

            I doubt very much you would ever see them enter into a genuine coalition, putting them on the government side with MPs as ministers, because that would make them part of the dread Canadian establishment; it would sound the death knell for the party.

    • Hence the many minority governments. No one is saying the Bloc are democratically illegitimate – as elected MPs they can sit in the House. It IS unreasonable and an impossible sell to the rest of the country to have a party whose manifest is to break up the country, actually running the country.

      • Actually, Harper has said the Bloc are democratically illegitimate and has stated that bills passed with their support are not legitimately passed. he has, of course, said other things when it is convenient for his purposes.

        • No, you are wrong again Mikey—-if you insist on spreading lies with no proof, maybe that`s all you`ve got.

          • not so. You need to go back aways, but you'll find it.

  7. I think the correct term is "very ethnic", not "heavily ethnic".

  8. You had an oil boom, that you again pissed away.

    Harper had a huge surplus…and he pissed that away.

    Kindly stop repeating myths about how you're Atlas supporting the world

    • I'm talking industry not governments Blondie.

      • Actually, you're talking through your touque.

        • Equalization Baby, Equalization

          • Yeah, we pay it too. It's in the constitution.

  9. Oh he was in opposition at the time, but he sure as heck said it. Once he needed these votes to stay in power, he changed his tune. did he grow up? learn more about how parliament works?

    Of course not. It was merely not convenient for him to keep saying that when it applied to him.

  10. I'm curious about how effective this approach is really going to be for Harper and the Tories. It feels a touch ham-fisted and seems way too much like desperate fear-mongering for a party with a comfortable lead in the polls to be resorting to, especially at the start of the race. Maybe they think this will bury the opposition and allow the Tories to coast to a majority, and perhaps it's playing that way to the committed Tory supporters, but I can't help but want to tell Harper to calm the frak down and remember that he's trying to win support for himself and his party, and not trying to scare the life out of everyone. I'll be very surprised if this approach doesn't backfire against the Tories over the course of the election campaign.

    • You would think Harper might be a bit worried about carrying the anti coalition charges into the debates where he will face two opponents ready to call him a liar to his face.

  11. This line[s], delivered at a Japanese-Canadian community centre, but with several other Asian communities well represented in the crowd, suggested that rejecting the Liberals and NDP amounts to a patriotic duty to newcomers.

    Well, no, it suggests that they shouldn't allow a losing party leader to coalition his way to become prime minister. Which is still wrong, constitutionally, but fair game, politically. Patriotic duty? I admit I wasn't there like you were, but the quote you provided comes nowhere close to that characterization.

  12. “Canada is the closest thing the world has to an island of security and stability.”

    What about Australia? Plus, bonus points for actually being an island.

    • Looking at the post-Howard era, I can see why Harper would try to avoid further direct comparison. :p

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