Jason Kenney: Harper’s secret weapon

How he’s reinventing the Conservative party


 
Harper's secret weapon

Early on, Harper and Kenney agreed new Canadians were the future of their party | Photography Blair Gable

“So in May of 2006 I head out to Vancouver,” Jason Kenney said the other day in his office under the rafters of Parliament’s East Block. “I’m trying to find someone in the Canadian Korean community out in Vancouver to talk to.”

Back then, in the early days of the Conservative government, Kenney had just been named Stephen Harper’s caucus envoy in charge of outreach to ethnic minority communities. It didn’t seem like much of a consolation prize for the ambitious Calgary MP who had been left out of Harper’s first cabinet.

His Vancouver foraging expedition led to a round table with a half-dozen Vancouver Korean community leaders. “The grandee of the community says to me, ‘Why should we even be here? We’ve always heard that you Conservatives are racist and anti-immigrant.’ ”

This did not unduly rattle Kenney. He’d heard this sort of accusation so often he had an answer ready. He listed the achievements of past Progressive Conservative governments. Brian Mulroney tripled immigration levels. Joe Clark set up a special program to welcome the Vietnamese boat people. John Diefenbaker eliminated racial and country-of-origin considerations in the immigration system.

“But then I said, ‘Now let me turn this question back on you. You’re a community with famously conservative values. Incredibly hard-working. Entrepreneurial, devotion to family, intolerant to criminality. These sound like our values. Conservative values.’ ” Why, he asked, weren’t Korean Canadians already turning to the Conservatives?

“One of the guys around the table was the president, believe it or not, of something called the Korean Canadian Evangelical NDP Small Businessmen’s Association. My jaw just about hit the floor. It sounded like the association of the hens for the fox, right?”

What had happened, the guy said, was that when a lot of Koreans settled in Burnaby, B.C., in 1972, there was a New Democrat MP who was simply good at showing up to churches and community events. He helped people with their immigration case files. People got to know him. So when that MP retired and his constituency assistant who’d worked on immigration files inherited the NDP nomination, the Korean evangelical businessmen gave her their support. And so on ever after.

“Thirty-five years of voting history established by a relationship!” Kenney said now, still marvelling. “And the light went off for me. How incredibly important relationships are. It’s blindingly obvious, but for newcomers those initial relationships that they establish are hugely important.”

So Kenney set about establishing relationships. That 2006 round table with Koreans in Vancouver has been repeated hundreds of times in dozens of ethnic and religious communities. From caucus envoy without portfolio, Kenney became Harper’s secretary of state for multiculturalism and Canadian identity and, two years ago, Canada’s minister for citizenship, immigration and multiculturalism. In every role he has led the Conservatives’ attempts to recast themselves as a party of immigration. By the 2008 election, the effort had already paid measurable dividends that were crucial to the party’s growing success. And in 2008, Kenney was barely getting started.

“One of the things that always perplexed me,” he told Maclean’s, “is that the Mulroney government ran the most, quote, ‘progressive’ immigration policy in Canadian history.” Over his nine years in office, Mulroney tripled immigration levels from 85,000 in 1983 to more than 260,000. “He brought in the Multiculturalism Act. He brought in more generous family reunification policies, which are the most popular element of immigration policy. Entire communities were founded under Brian Mulroney, like the Hong Kong immigrants pre-’97 who came in through a special investor program.”

And yet. “Why didn’t it translate into a durable coalition reflecting newcomers to Canada? After all of that, you know, is that all there is? There was virtually no durable support for the PCs among those communities to whom it reached out so aggressively. I gather that Brian Mulroney once told his caucus that the Hong Kong immigrants were going to be ‘our Italians.’ Didn’t turn out that way. We’ve done a lot of thinking about why that is.”

To simplify, Kenney decided it comes down to those personal relationships—to showing up and breaking bread. “While arguably the Mulroney PCs got it right in a political sense, at 30,000 feet, they weren’t on the ground. I suspect you didn’t see a lot of guys like Don Blenkarn and Michael Wilson”—consummate ’80s Toronto Bay Street Tories—“going to the kind of events that I do every weekend.”

Kenney’s Twitter feed chronicles an exhausting life of dinners and receptions, a lifestyle that made his former colleague Rahim Jaffer call him the “minister for curry in a hurry.” Kenney is not married. He keeps winning his Calgary Southeast riding with more than 70 per cent of the vote. He can afford to spend more time on the road than most MPs. He seems to be everywhere at once.

On a recent Saturday he posted an update on Twitter every couple of hours. “Had a great round table with leaders of the Montreal Filipino community.” After a break to attend the mass celebrating the canonization of Brother André at Olympic Stadium, he “Did large event with the Montreal Pakistani community; they’re very appreciative of the Harper government’s response to the Pakistani floods.” He “Spoke at a large Greek community event celebrating the 70th anniversary of the heroic Greek rejection of Mussolini’s fascism.” He finished off the day at a benefit for the Cathedral of St. Sauveur with Montreal Melkites, or Greek Catholics.

Sunday was busier. “Spoke at the Chabad Lubavitch Jewish Community Centre of St-Lazare-Hudson.” “Hosted a town hall meeting in Montreal’s Chinatown on how best to combat immigration marriage fraud.” “Had a great encounter with the large & enthusiastic congregation of Notre Dame des Philippines.” “Did roundtable with folks from the Egyptian, Pakistani, Iraqi & other communities to encourage their participation in the PSR [private sponsorship of refugee] program.” “Did a great event with the Montreal Afghan community in support of the superb Conservative candidate in St. Lambert, Qais Hamidi.” “Had one of the best meals I can remember at the Khyber Pass restaurant in Montreal, together with Afghan friends. Highly recommended!”

Privately, Liberal MPs in ridings with large minority populations complain that Kenney is a constant presence, and that they’re worried.

They should be. “The Anatomy of a Liberal Defeat,” a paper written last year by McGill University political scientist Elisabeth Gidengil and four colleagues, shows an extraordinary erosion of Liberal support among what used to be key constituencies Kenney has targeted. “The Liberals were able to coast to victory in 2000 with the support of two key groups: visible minorities and Catholics,” Gidengil and her colleagues write. “By 2008, the Liberals could no longer count on their loyalty.”

The Liberal share of the visible-minority vote dropped by 14 points between the 2000 and 2004 elections, they write. “The main beneficiary was the NDP.” In 2006, the Liberals held their share of the visible-minority vote, but in 2008 it fell by 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.”

What explains this strange new Conservative appeal among populations that once seemed unreachable? Gidengil and her colleagues point to two other strong trends that offer a hint. First, the Liberals’ share of the Roman Catholic vote has collapsed, declining by 24 percentage points since 2000. “In 2006, Catholics were as likely to vote Conservative as Liberal,” they write. “In 2008 they clearly actually preferred the Conservatives.”

Second, the Conservatives have reinforced their advantage among the most intensely religious voters. Christians who believe the Bible is the literal word of God—a rough measure of Christian fundamentalism—preferred Stockwell Day’s Canadian Alliance to Jean Chrétien’s Liberals by a 15-point margin in 2000, which is reasonable enough. What may be surprising is that Stephen Harper has tripled that advantage: by 2008, fundamentalist Christians preferred the Harper Conservatives by nearly 50 points.

Kenney’s message to new Canadians and to small-c conservatives is that very often, they’re the same group. “I believe that growing support in diverse communities won’t just benefit the Conservative party,” he told the party’s convention in Winnipeg a month after the 2008 election. “It will also strengthen the conservative movement in Canada.”

Normally, a party that expands its voting base has to compromise core values to do so, he told the Winnipeg crowd. Not the Conservatives. Here were entrepreneurial, pro-family reinforcements arriving by the planeload. People Conservatives could emulate, not resent. “If we are honest, Canadians have much to learn from our newest arrivals. The foundation of strong families, the value of faith, the necessity of excellence in education. To the extent that those values need to be renewed in every generation if Canada is to remain strong and free, immigrants are our allies.”

Of course there is more to success than showing up. The government’s actions matter, too, the sort of 30,000-foot policy initiatives Kenney admires in Mulroney. Here he is helped by the extraordinary trust and latitude Harper gives him. Kenney, who was born in 1968 in Oakville, Ont., and raised in Saskatchewan, is a politics buff of almost scary dedication. He can cite election results, provincial and federal, in individual ridings across the country going back half a century.

Kenney’s entire education took place in deeply Catholic institutions, Athol Murray College of Notre Dame in Wilcox, Sask., and the St. Ignatius Institute of the University of San Francisco. He generally supports the most socially conservative candidate in a race. He stuck with Stockwell Day against Harper in the 2002 Alliance leadership race. He supported Tim Hudak in the Ontario provincial race, telling colleagues Hudak was reliably pro-life.

Kenney had coveted the East Block office he occupies today ever since former Liberal MP Larry O’Brien [UPDATE: Pat O’Brien, actually. Sigh. – pw] used to throw packed and beery St. Patrick’s Day parties there in the ’90s. Today the office is decorated with the portraits of three men who combined deep religious faith with great political projects: Abraham Lincoln; Thomas More, the 16th-century adviser to Henry VIII who lost his head rather than renounce the Church; and William Wilberforce, the British parliamentarian who led the fight to abolish slavery and prop up Britons’ moral defences.

“The discussions between myself and Stephen Harper on new Canadians being central to the future Conservative coalition date back 15 years,” he said. In power they moved quickly to produce legislative change that could prove their bona fides. They cut in half the $975 immigrant right-of-landing fee, introduced by the Chrétien Liberals in 1995 as a deficit-fighting measure, in their first year in office.

They eliminated visa requirements for visitors from eight formerly Communist countries in Europe. Skyrocketing refugee claims from the Czech Republic’s Roma population made Kenney reintroduce visa requirements for that country a year later, but he still counts the move as a net gain. So do many Eastern European Canadians. Wladyslaw Lizon, former head of the Canadian Polish Congress, will be running for the Conservatives in Mississauga East-Cooksville in the next election.

This week Kenney added Taiwan to the list of countries whose citizens can enter Canada visa-free. It capped a good month for the minister. Harper gave him political responsibility for southern Alberta, an area he visits less frequently than most of his caucus colleagues from the province, after Environment Minister Jim Prentice announced his resignation.

So here’s a controversial pol with a record of success and connections no other Conservative could match. Does he want to parlay those assets into a shot at the party’s leadership after Harper departs?

Kenney won’t touch the question. One Conservative who works closely with him says it may be the wrong question.

“I don’t think Jason wants the leadership of the party, necessarily, so much as he’d like to be seen as the leader of the conservative movement in Canada,” this Conservative said. “If you ask people who leads Canadian conservatism today, you’ll probably hear some mix of Preston Manning and Stephen Harper. But we may be moving toward a time when leading Canadian conservatism isn’t necessarily synonymous with being prime minister.”

Of the three faces on Kenney’s East Block wall, only Lincoln led a government. More and Wilberforce did their work by exerting influence on the power-holders of their different times. The Crown in More’s case, Parliament and civil society in Wilberforce’s. In each case the goal was not to hold a title but to transform a nation. Jason Kenney is still only 42.


 

Jason Kenney: Harper’s secret weapon

  1. You're a community with famously conservative values. Incredibly hard-working. Entrepreneurial, devotion to family, intolerant to criminality. These sound like our values. Conservative values.

    People realy like it when a politician basically tells them that they are lazy, family-hating criminals if they don't support their party.

    • I hope at least one grandee replied "we're a diverse lot with all sorts of failures and successes, from successful businessmen to common criminals. You know, just like…Canadian-born Canadians."

      As long as he was working with stereotypes, did he go to the black community and say "you guys are drug dealers and welfare frauds?"

    • Are you on drugs? What is wrong with telling the community leaders that they and the Canadian's they represent are seen as hard-working, entrepreneurial, devoted to families and intolerant of criminality?

      • Yes, I'm a dirty lefty who's hopped up an drugs and hates families and small business. I think I'll go commit some crimes.

    • lol… To most readers, Kenney is assigning positive qualities to various communities as well as the Conservative movement. To the Liberal-cult-addled illiterate, he's somehow saying the opposite of what he's actually saying.

  2. That 2006 round table with Koreans in Vancouver has been repeated hundreds of times in dozens of ethnic and religious communities.

    I'm betting this is all done on the taxpayer dime too.

    • How dare the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration talk to leaders of immigrant groups?

      I'm OUTRAGED.

      • But the Minister responsible to disabled Canadians has a wheelchair inaccessible office.

        Guess they don't have the same political pull…

    • It is comments like these that I stopped reading the CBC comment boards for. I'm glad they are far more rare here at Macleans.

    • Well, duh! Every time a politician of any stripe is undertaking official business it is done on the taxpayer dime. How ridiculous you are to suggest that in this case it is objectionable behaviour.

  3. Did kenney do the voices with a thick accent? (Wouldn't puti t past him)

    • Hand puppets.

      • Attention Subtitle : he's is

        • Fixed. Thanks. (Edeast was telling us to fix the article's subtitle.)

  4. “Why didn't it translate into a durable coalition reflecting newcomers to Canada?

    ***
    Preston Manning.

  5. I love him, as a Calgarian I have had a chance to meet him quite a few times, he is a really nice, down to earth kind of guy, you can tell he is a workaholic, another good thing is, he remembers names, not all politicians do, unless you are a big donor or journalist, I bet he will replace Harper, I can't see no one else doing it!

    • The problem is, those qualities don't make someone a good leader. I could sy all those things about Stockwell Day.

  6. What I don't see chronicled is any outreach to Muslim community groups. Perhaps reaching out to that demographic would cause some conflict with the more "rural" supporters of the Conservative Party of Canada?

      • Oh dear. Drooling conservatives consider the Islamic Society of North America to be linked to terrorists.

        • For someone talking out of his a$$ you should be careful about calling us drooling conservatives.

        • they were the ones who wanted sharia in canada. but i supposed anyone who opposes that is a drooling Neanderthal.

    • Read the second page, genius. The Pakistani, Egyptian, Iraqi & Afghan communities are all mentioned.

  7. Why mention the university he attended, which it seems to me implies that he graduated from that institution, but not mention the fact he quit university studies to pursue a career in politics? So he's an intellectual quitter.

    Surely Canada's prime minister should hold at least an undergrad degree — even if it's from the U of Calgary (and yes, I'll stop calling you Surely: RIP Leslie Nielsen).

    • Why on earth should anybody be excluded from the top job because of the whims of a few? There is only one true measure: votes. By your logic, the PM should be a PhD. With an MD. And a law degree. And a dental degree. And what exactly would qualify as an undergrad degree? Would a mail-order degree count? With a major in basket-weaving? How is it beneficial for a PM to get an undergrad in medieval studies? Or in cosmology? Or in music? How on earth is that more appropriate than someone who founded a company and grew it into a success, without a degree, like Bill Gates? And how about the fact that the most brilliant person on earth might not have been able to afford an education, does that mean the person is automatically disqualified? What a stupid suggestion you've made.

    • Harry Truman came to the presidency of the United States with just a high school diploma.

      He seemed to have done okay.

    • Well, I didn't intend on really agreeing with Patchouli, but I've been provoked into it. Surely there's something to her point, even if we agree that uni is not the be-all or end-all, and that many other qualifications are necessary. A degree is not sufficient to be PM. But I think it's not too crazy to say that it's basically expected. We should have a long laundry list of qualifications for PM, as it's kind of an important job. Presumably we could come up with a few good candidates who are all: bilingual, university educated, not currently incarcerated, with 10 years non-political life experience.

      I'd actually be kind of fine with the whole "experience is more important" thing if, say, those making it were referring to people who had impressive and varied experience. But the current government has a bunch of people who basically dropped out of school to head right into politics.

      And in response to h2h – yes, it's a problem with Smitherman and Kennedy too. More or less successful guys, sure, but both have had their incredible potential undermined by nagging doubts of inadequacy (doubts that are spontaneously fulfilled, as when Kennedy fails, once again, to learn passable French).

      Can't Liberals and Tories all agree, holding hands and singing kumbaya, that there's something chintzy and lame about these youngish hyperpartisan insider hacks? Don't we deserve better?

      • Rob Ford too!
        It's actually a really interesting phenomenon with lots of supply-demand dynamics. Here's a theory of why there seem to be more of these dropout driven partisans in politics… Many university-educated people don't want to go near politics as a career. Talented people who flame out at university grab on to politics as a career where you can succeed without credentials if you have the gifts of populism, organizing or ideological zeal…
        Though I am a Tory type and like Kenney a lot I have a Patchouli streak and would feel a bit uncomfortable with the guy as prime minister, having opinions on the international sphere….

        • It would be helpful to have more politicians who understand what intellectual integrity is; like accepting evidence including statistics and scientific research, even though you don't like its policy implications.

          We have a dishonest government which has failed miserably to do anything about the environmental crisis and I believe it's because the PM and many cabinet ministers are creationists who think their religious beliefs and prejudices are more valid than reality.

  8. I wonder how Kenney and Hudak feel about each other's recent newcomer-centric / student-centric comments…

  9. Immigrants are sheep for the fleecing.

    Diefenbaker, Clark and Mulroney were PCs, not Reform…and immigrants won't be aware of the vast difference.

    Hell, even Ontario voted Harris in the belief he was a PC, and instead they got stuck with a Bush neo-con type.

    • You've managed to paint minorities with an even broader brush than Kenney…

    • The Common Sense revolution platform was rather neo-con in it's logic and philosophy, and among Harris' feats was bringing enough of the old Bill Davis 'red tory' crew along for the ride as he shifted the party firmly to the right. Voters were quite aware of what he was promising, and I don't think it's tenable to argue they were assuming he would embody the same approach as prior incarnations of the PCs. Regrettably, the 'welfare cheats' type rhetoric resonated strongly with Ontarians in 1995.

      • No, voters were entirely unaware that Harris wasn't another Bill Davies….Libs weren't viable and after the NDP, Harris was a shoe-in, and people breathed a sigh of relief.

        It eventually dawned on the population Harris was Reform, and they were't impressed.

        • "Another major contributing factor was a powerful and focussed advertising campaign which stuck to 3 key policy elements – "Work for Welfare, Scrap the Quota Law (Affirmative Action) and Tax Cuts for Jobs – Common Sense for a Change"
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_Sense_Revolut

          It was pretty clear to voters what they were getting. Yes, he benefited from the tide of anti-NDP sentiment, but you're vastly understating the degree to which Ontarians were receptive to the platform.

          Other than simply asserting your peculiar interpretation of history, do have anything substantive to support what you're saying?

          • The resemblance to his brother Stock wasn't immediately obvious.

            He was advertised as PC after all, and simply promised a clean-up of the NDP mess

            No one considered he was neo-con, just an improvement on the NDP

          • I'll take that as a "no".

          • What is really impressive, after Harris 'fooled' all those emily-ontarians into voting for his reform in sheeps clothing PC party, he got them to elect him to a second majority. It is almost as if Ontarians supported the Common Sense Revolution…twice!

          • You take everything to agree with your own partisan opinion when it doesn't.

          • They kept hoping it would kick in, but when the companion showed up, and Harris wandered off…they knew it never would.

            Now please do Mr Wells the courtesy of discussing Jason Kenney.

          • I wish you would give Ontarians more credit. Just because they don't agree with you doesn't mean they were duped.

          • My familie's been here for 7 generations. I know Ontarians very well.

          • A "pur laine", I'm sure…

        • That must be why Harris received a 2nd majority. And why when Harris left and was replaced by the moderate Ernie Eves, the Liberals won. And why the moderate John Tory got smoked… And why the true conservative Hudak will win the next election…

          Since 1995 moderate conservatives are 0 for 2, and real conservatives are 2 for 2 and soon to be 3 for 3.

        • They were impressed because they voted for him second time.

    • If you think that fully informed immigrants would favour liberal policies over conservative ones, you don't know very many immigrants. Most immigrants are very conservative in their values. Like the article says, the reason they vote Liberal or NDP in significant numbers is because they are loyal to whoever they credit with their safe arrival in this wealthy country.

      But by all means, canvass your neighborhood and proclaim the liberal virtues of same-sex marriage and dependance on the state to the local immigrant communities… just don't count on their votes.

  10. Although Kenney pointed out all of the good things the original PC's had done he failed to identify what the Conservative/Reform are doing except weeding out the existing PC's that are still hanging around. Having done a lot of work with ESL communities I know how much subtext they miss with the English language. I don't mean that as an insult just as an observation that is used against them.

  11. Agreed, he will make a good leader, he is a smart man plus very personable and you can tell very disciplined, I really think he is the whole package!!

    CR, Do you know by any chance who wrote the PM speech on anti-Semitism, it was brilliant and so inspirational!!

    • Kenney = Liberal Majority

      • Nothing equals a liberal majority! how hilarious!

    • Not disciplined enough to finish an undergraduate degree.

      • The man works over 100 hours a week, and is one of the kindest MPs you'll ever meet. What an arrogant mess you are.

        • He is called the "smiling buddah" and he has the best reputation between MP's, he is a lovely man!!!

          • Maybe Claudia, but I've heard the complete opposite from people who worked for and with him. Complete moron when it comes to dealing with staff. Very impersonal and arrogant. That being said, he's still an incredibly effective minister.

        • "Attending events isn't actually work"?

          I know an awful lot of people who would disagree with that statement.

          • The people who have to arrange the events. That's work.

          • Please tell me how you know it was for lack of discipline that he did not finish his degree. Sure, it's a fact that he didn't get his degree, but is it a further fact that he didn't get his degree as a result of not enough discipline? (Just a thought: when you seem to make a personal judgement against an individual – and by the way, its a fact that you did make a personal judgment by calling Mr. Kenney undisciplined – without explaining yourself – which you didn't – then you, whether right or wrong, invite personal judgement upon yourself).

        • He's very kind, I am surprised in someways, that hes even in politics. The PM is very fond of him

        • I know the man. Mr. Kenney is incredibly disciplined, clearly has an IQ in the stratosphere (without being a nerd), works way too hard, but would be an great leader and an excellent Prime Minister.

    • Claudia, I don't know who wrote it, but I agree with you that it was an excellent and clearly heartfelt speech.

      • I will ask around, it was great!!

      • Sure, if you define 'excellent' as "support for human rights attrocities the rest of the world has condemned. That speech cost us a seat on the UN Security Council, and further damaged our international standing with all but two countries. Also, Kenney's efforts to defame and silence George Galloway were beyond shameful for an MP in a supposedly democratic country.

  12. Thanks for the article, Paul, there was some interesting stuff in there. Regarding that shift of the immigrant/visible minority vote from the Liberals to the CPC: I think it shows that for a long time, Liberals thought that their considerable lead among that demographic had to do with "Liberal values" etc. But actually, it may have had more to do simply with the fact that the Liberals were (almost perpetually back then) the party in power. Immigrant and visible minority voters are as practical and pragamatic as anyone else — there's not much point, from their perspective, in supporting an opposition party. Only the party in power can deliver the goods.

  13. Good for Kenney (and the Conservative party). The only problem I see is whether these new visible minority recruits will ever be accepted by the Conservative party membership which constantly rails against immigrants, immigration and multiculturalism. Sure, they'll accept their votes…they just won't accept them.

    • I think Kenny's goal is to have so many visible minorities become part of the Conservative Party membership that the problem that you write about will become, practically speaking, impossible.

    • Hey Nuckman… care to guess which party has the most visible minorities as MP's???? By a LONG shot? It's that Conservative Party you just said craps all over immigrants…. funny how that it that those visible minorities manage to get elected by those very party members you say rails against them. Could it be that perhaps the immigrants have the same issues with our immigration system and multiculturalism as we do – hint, it's those pesky queue jumpers that has everyone torqued…

  14. To simplify, Kenney decided it comes down to those personal relationships—to showing up and breaking bread. “While arguably the Mulroney PCs got it right in a political sense, at 30,000 feet, they weren't on the ground. I suspect you didn't see a lot of guys like Don Blenkarn and Michael Wilson”—consummate '80s Toronto Bay Street Tories—“going to the kind of events that I do every weekend.”

    It seems to me the Conservative party imploded after Mulroney, therefore they might have never put in the legwork to finish and cement the work that Mulroney's administration had started.

    • the Peter Newman book on Mulroney and Mulroney's own memoir are interesting in how they shed light on MBM's sense of being an outsider and bringing other outsiders to the party. Mulroney constantly bragged to Newman about he named the first woman, the first Franco Manitoban, etc to this or that. The immigration stuff fits. But 30,000 feet is the right way to think about it too – the Mulroney Tories borrowed other people's organizations to win, especially in Quebec, and never invested at ground level (neither did Dief or Stanfield, as far as I can tell).
      I think it's interesting that Kenney, like Mulroney, is an Irish Catholic. So often they've been the connective tissue between the WASP protestants in Canada and "other".

  15. I think there is no question that Kenney operates on a higher strategic ground than most of his colleagues (and on a much longer timescale than his boss). Indeed, Kenney is winning the Conservatives points within ethnic communities in exactly the right way. (On this file, the Conservative message is generally positive and honest.) Kenney's challenge is that the Conservative party is still home to Vic Toews and his ilk whose voices tend to be louder at critical times. The Conservative party is also the natural home to those who are threatened by women in scarves, who equate certain religions with terrorism etc.

    If the Conservatives do gain a majority in the foreseeable future, it will have more to do with Kenney's vision and persistence than Harper's guile or Baird's cleverness. If it does happen, I hope that Claudia (above) is correct and Kenney takes the reins. I suspect I could even vote Conservative again with a clear conscience.

    • I'm actually not sure that the Conservative Party *is* the natural home to those who are threatened by headscarves, imaginary terrorists in mosques, or have other delusional pastimes. I don't think their natural home is in any other major party either (maybe the Bloquistes, in Quebec).

      I think in Canada especially, their natural home is outside a center-right mass-appeal party, which is what I see the Conservatives as trying to become. And I think if there are enough gains to be made in the centre, with new Canadians, and with other traditionally non-Conservative demographics, the fire-breathers may find themselves squeezed out. If a Grand Coalition isn't possible (so far it's not ruled out, but I think there's a fundamental tension that will blow up eventually) then I think eventually it won't be the center and special interests who will be squeezed out. It will be the far right edge.

      And that, I suspect will make the Conservatives even more popular in the centre.

      • I agree up to a point, some immigrants are looking for a left leaning centrist.

        Kenney's new immigration bill won't be popular in some circles.

  16. " intelligence, competence and indefatigable work ethic. "

    I'm with you on everything but the competence part. How can we be sure, considering the short leash all the cabinet ministers are on?

  17. No, they are not qualified to be PM. If someone aspires to be the loftiest pol in Canada, they should also aspire to have an education — they should understand the value of education. Ideally, politicians are educated and successful in a professional field BEFORE they turn to politics. That way, they have something to offer; otherwise, they are looking for an easy way to a prestigious and fairly well-paid job.

    My opinion; it doesn't have to be yours. But I am horrified that we are being dumbed down to the point that we look at some guy with a degree from Harvard as out of touch instead of saying — wow, he's succeeded around the world, and now he wants to throw that success into his own country. In a nutshell, I would like my prime minister to be BETTER at many things than I am.

    Mostly though my point was that Mr Wells wrote something that implied something that isn't true. Enrolling in a university or showing up for a year of classes shouldn't mean that you were educated there.

    • As a recent university graduate, in a large family full of professionals with university degrees, I am well-educated enough to know that there are other (and potentially better) ways to become educated than university.

      We (Canadians) see Iggy as being out of touch, because he lacks education in areas that are important to us. We really don't care that Harvard gave him a piece of paper that certifies he read some history books while he was there.

      • No, dearie, he WRITES books, okay? He heads up huge policy centres. Look, I don't see why this is about Ignatieff, or who your veddy veddy royal "we" refers to. Me, just giving my opinion. So you know, I'm unlikely to vote for someone, unless they are really something, who hasn't bothered to get educated. You can vote however you like. We both get one. But to tell the truth, you don't sound like someone who values that degree you worked for very much. If you did, you'd realize that Mr Ignatieff's professional success, along with his very good education and body of work, are impressive. No need to diminish success, after all, steve harper is prime minister.

        • But the degree, obviously, is no indicator of the education. The education is what happens when you are living your life. The degree is what happens from punching an academic clock. The two are not the same, they have nothing to do with one another. As someone with three degrees and 10 years of university education, I should know.

          This is why your little must-have-letters-after-your-name shibboleth is nonsense.

          • Agree.

  18. Good to see that you haven't lost your gift for the whopping, completely unsubstantiated generalization.

    • Think you could at least aim for the topic, instead of your constant tangents?

  19. "Surely Canada's prime minister should hold at least an undergrad degree."

    Just a thought: Might it not be a benefit to, now and again, hand over the traces to one who may have had to put financial realities ahead of a post-secondary education? Might that not bring at least a fresh perspective to "The Way We've Always Done Things"?

    For instance, in place of a degree on my wall, I have the framed letter from an educational institution suggesting I may wish to follow a less-traditional model of higher education, preferable somewhere away from their campus. And now, in my profession I find myself offering analytical advice to many with initials both numerous and hard-earned. In short? be careful, lest snobbery blind you to new possibilities.

    • MostlyCivil: From your posts here, I think you are a really intelligent person and I've no doubt that you are successful at your business without a degree. But I'm not a snob and I don't think there's just one path to success — but we're talking PM here. Heck, I was a high school drop out until I became a single-parent university student — to tell you the truth, it was financial reality that made me get out and get educated — and it sure made a difference in my life, my kids' lives, and most assuredly, my bank account.

      Besides, fellow MacLeans poster with whom I generally agree, tell the truth: isn't framing and displaying the letter a form of a reverse, in-your-face snobbery — ie I made it without no steenking degree kind of stuff? Just a little, come on, admit it.

      Moreover, I don't think everyone with a degree is smart, or that people without degrees are not. Still, I hold to my opinion that anyone who entertains the notion of becoming the prime minister should hold a degree, have succeeded at something, not just politics, and preferably have travelled so as to understand more worldly perspectives. As for finances — student loan. Student loan, and compete hard for scholarship money — we lived on that for 6 years, very very little money, usually in overdraft for 3/4 of the month, but my kids learned that you can change your life for the better if you work hard enough. And so did I — so now you're telling me I did it the hard way?

      • Well, I get your drift, but sometimes, acess to student loans isn't the problem. My issue was the necessity of providing support for more than just myself: medical and financial family circumstances made it necessary for me to work. A later attempt to return to the academic fold was sidelined again by both my health (this time) and financial circumstances. In your case, so much the better that the education brought with it a decent wage and a happier future.

        I agree that a lot of folks come out of the big schools as more rounded individuals. All to the good. But sometimes it's also a usefl experience to work at Zellers, or any low-wage job for a while. As a for-instance: Do you think our current Prime Minister might be a little more believable as an economist had he ever had to play the "who doesn't get paid this month" game?

        Do I hold up my letter as reverse snobbery? Perhaps, but I don't insist that those in power must NOT have a degree. I, like you, don't ascribe intelligence, or lack thereof, solely to educational opportunities or lack thereof. I think where we differ is perhaps I work a little too close to a lot of politicos with precious little real-world experience, many of whom see the population as dull and easily fooled. It leves me somewhat unimpressed with a lot of institutions…

        P.S. Nice to have a civilzed discussion. Gives me hope. Thanks.

        • To quote one of my favourite writers, "life is what happens when you're making other plans."

          I agree absolutely that everyone should have to work as a server in a restaurant, or a store clerk, or any very subservient job to gain perspective.

          I did gain more career opportunities and a better income; more importantly for me: I found out I am smart; I found out everything I did when I was 18 didn't have to mark my life forever — although it did in the way that I am an open-minded and liberal person. I like that about myself.

          So I'm not any smarter than I was before I got me some edumacation, but I am more confident in my own world and my own skin. And I'm much better at Trivial Pursuit…

  20. What do you mean by "I've been Reform", exactly? You were a member of that party? You voted for them?

    • Short version: PC for 30 years, and after Kim I tried Reform to see what it was all about…'fresh wind from the west' and all.

      Riding president, horrified, left.

      • So you were never a member of the Reform party, and you never voted for the Reform party. All you did was check them out once in 1993, but you didn't like the riding president.

        Based on that, you claim: "I've been Reform", which is clearly false. Even worse, you try to use that false claim as the basis for doltish partisan assertions, like your "sheep for the fleecing" comment above.

        • This is the post I believed may be off…

      • I may be misunderstanding your post – are you saying you were a riding president?

  21. Does it seem strange to anyone else that the Conservatives, Liberals, NDP and the Green party all have now essentially the same policy regarding immigration? Apparently very high levels of immigration is the best way to 1) Become a society with more responsibility for the individual (CPC) 2) Build some kind of 'just society' (Libs) 3) Help the unions stay in power and deliver vastly broader social programs (NDP) and 4) Save the environment (Greens). Meanwhile, immigrants generally pay less taxes than they consume in services, which increases deficits, drives down the pay of the lower classes (NDP?) and since 1990, is on par with the oil sands for increasing GHG emissions. 4 Parties, all with different objectives and core values and yet no one interested in having a debate which is raging in almost every other developed country on earth. Does that seem strange to anyone else?

    • "all have now essentially the same policy regarding immigration… very high levels of immigration"

      Is there another option that would not result in our population and economy collapsing?

    • If Canadians don't want immigration, all they have to do is start making lots of babies.

    • you make an excellent point. the answer to your excellent point is shown by PEM and Mulletaur's knee jerk responses below and their thin veneer of debatable demographic assertions.
      It's a fundamental religious belief in Canada that immigration is good no matter what and no matter how heavy the inflow, otherwise you're out there with the Heritage Front.
      In a more positive sense, this is because most old-stock white Canadians have an immigration narrative in their family of coming to the glorious land, and believing that Canada is still being built with more people following their dreams makes us warm and fuzzy. In the more negative sense, there's a) the Trudeau tendency that wanted to create some kind of global multi culti bordello to obliterate the French-English tension and British heritage and b) GTA land developers and Vancouver condo builders.

      I have often thought that the NDP or Greens may be missing a trick by not demanding a moratorium on immigration. There would be no easier way to meet our Kyoto targets or stop farmland in the 905 being paved over…

    • First, it's useful to provide a source when you go on a rant like that > particularly on your tax and GHG point.

      Second, I like immigration because I think it creates a more interesting country. Most immigration debates in other countries have xenophobic and racist undertones. That debate does not exist here because we've moved beyond it (well, most of us have). I'd rather us invest time figure out who we can use immigration to create competitive advantage for this country instead of closing the gates.

      This is one of few nations in the world where people from cultures all over the world basically live in peace and harmony. Personally, that's more important to me then the minor issues you cite.

  22. OMG, people, I'm sorry I offended you. Yes, all of you who are successful without post secondary education — you've beaten me. However when I was a high school drop out and single mother, I wasn't offered any opportunities to go up against lawyers or MBAs — I was working at Eatons, okay? But I was able to borrow money and get educated and change our lives for the better.

    And I still think a truly smart and successful person understand the value of a university education, especially for a world leader.

    • But the value of a university degree does not primarily consist in information or skills conveyed through one's education. Rather, the main benefit to completing a degree is that it distinguishes you from those that do not have degrees. While it denotes a certain level of intelligence and work ethic, there are a million other things that could denote the same.

      Moreover, if an opportunity with a higher expected return than a degree arose (and it would be hard to argue that Kenney made the wrong choice) sticking with the degree would hardly be the smart choice.

      • In our pragmatic world, we tend to look at university education as the means to an end, the end being a career as a professional — more opportunities to go further. That's why I got a degree, and apparently since Jason Kenney has done well politically, you think he made a right choice by turning his back on completing his degree. However, obtaining a degree really is not primarily about either opportunity, intelligence or work ethic, although it requires (and implies) a measure of each: it's about becoming well-rounded, spending literally years to learn a whole lot more about diverse subjects, learning to research and analyze. Acquiring knowledge. Aren't we constantly being told this is a knowledge based economy; how can you support education if you haven't yourself achieved it? Would we expect any leader to tell our children to skip education and just get a job?!

        And for voters — for the people you seek to govern — education should mean that you offer a broader and more worldly experience, the better to lead the nation with — that four or more years of disciplined studying, that process, that knowledge — that's the primary reason for getting a degree. A prospective PM should bring those attributes to the table — after all, Canadians deserve no less from people asking to be the head of our nation's government. Why would anyone argue with that?

  23. Ahhh, but is he still a virgin?

    • E-M-I-L-Y !!!!!

      • Hey, he used to brag about it. LOL

        • Naughty, naughty….

          • Well, I'm in enough doo-doo for suggesting Canada's PM should hold a degree, so I might as well add the prime minister also should have some sexual experiences (with a partner that is, a living adult partner).

            Ha, now everyone who has succeeded as a virgin will be all over me!

          • Good grief…who suggested PMs shouldn't have a degree??

          • Imagine where we'd be if PM Harper didn't have that economics degree!

          • Successful virgin statesmen? An interesting challenge…
            William Pitt the Younger
            possibly William Lyon Mackenzie King
            Cardinal Richelieu

          • Queen Elizabeth I of England

          • "Ha, now everyone who has succeeded as a virgin will be all over me"

            I just keep coming up with more and more punchlines for this.

          • LOL, me too.

          • He did brag about it, some of that, was tongue in cheek

    • heh… I can think of lots of experiences that are more important than sex when it comes to choosing a leader..

      Trudeau was famously NOT a virgin… maybe if he'd kept it in his pants more often, he'd have been able to concentrate on his job and avoid destroying the economy.

      • I don't recall saying anything about celibacy

        Maybe if you could all update your calendars?

      • If they had more sex, maybe conservatives wouldn't be so worried about stopping other people from having it?

        • The data would suggest otherwise, at least in the US. Republicans are more satisfied with their sex lives, less likely to fake orgasms, more likely to "wear something sexy" to enhance their sex lives, and more satisfied with their relationships* http://abcnews.go.com/Primetime/News/story?id=180

          *This is probably in part because Republicans are more likely to be married, and male.

          • Shouldn't you be in Cancun demanding Mugabe get money for his Giant Fan and Mirror network?

            Did those community organization or organized crime syndicates forget to send you a carbon free airline ticket?

  24. I've read that one of the policy areas influenced by the factors mentioned in Wells' article is marijuana decriminalization. Apparently the Tories are quite encouraged, in their "tough on crime" approach, by what they find in polling focused on certain ethnic and immigrant communities. One result in particular I remember was that, by and large, the (substantial) Asian community in Greater Vancouver is pretty much hostile to the idea of marijuana decriminalization. A cynic might argue that marijuana decriminalization (which I personally favour) is only favoured by a fading demographic, e.g., aging socially liberal boomers and other white folks.

    • The reason the Asian community tends to be hostile to marijuana is because many of them come from countries where it is in common use, and they have seen first hand how bad it is for individuals and society.

      • What countries would you be talking about?

        • I thought so.

  25. The fact that the Conservatives are aggressively courting ethnic, cultural and religious communities and doing so with some success is very good for Canada. Not so good for the Liberal Party of Canada, though. I wonder how things are on that score with the federal Liberals. I'm thinking not so good. Coasting on the the magic of Trudeau too long, they have lost the plot. What it takes is exactly what Kenney, to his great credit, is doing. Lots of hard work, making personal contact and making people feel like they matter, like they are included in the political process. That is to be applauded.

    • It reminds me somewhat of the article that Lawrence Martin (hardly a noted LPC-basher) wrote about the Liberals in the Globe a week or 2 ago, when he talked about how the 1993 election, paradoxically, set in motion some trends that have led to a long-term weakining of the LPC — a weakening which was easily papered over and ignored as long as the PC-Reform split endured. Martin was focusing on the weaknesses in Quebec (with the Bloc eating a big part of the LPC's lunch) and the West (where the Liberals haven't been competitive in many decades now, absent Vancouver). His related point was that once the PC-Reform merger took, the LPC could also no longer count on winning 100 seats in Ontario like they did under Chretien. You add to that the LPC no longer having a hammer-lock on the immigrant/visible minority vote, and it's not a pretty picture. I do find there's a tendency on the part of certain LPC partisans to dwell on past glories (e.g., Trudeau, Charter, Chretien/Martin-era dominance), and as one of the gang-bangers so eloquently put it in The Wire, "The thing about the old days . . . is they's the old days."

      • Yup.

  26. There are at least two sides to every coin.

    Mr Wells is the chronicler of the Harper/Kenny Conservative Party's rise to power and he is now becoming the chronicler of the Harper/Kenny Conservative government.

    The article fails to mention the rather weak opposition that the Harper government is now facing and exploiting in spades.

    Mr. Kenny will be amply rewarded by PM Harper in ways that are, at the moment, not even on the horizon.

    But it is good to see the Reformatories becoming competitive among Canada's ethnocultural communities. This is a long overdue development and should force the Reformatories closer to the centre of the political spectrum.

    Now the left-of-centre parties and supporters have to get their act together or be consigned to the margins of Canadian society and far from power in Ottawa.

    Harper's singular goal since the late 1980s has been the construction of a right-of-center Conservative Movement followed by a Conservative Party. This goal has justified and will continue to justify any and all methods in his rather large strategic and tactical toolkit.

    The constant stumbling of all the opposition parties, often played like fiddles, has made Harper look more competent than he really is.

    The opposition parties and leaders will, no doubt, continue to stumble because they lack a clear goal of their own and the strong and consistent leadership to reach their goal.

  27. I have to ask, though if Mr. Kenney is getting a cut of George Galloway's speaking fees. He's done such excellent PR work for him, the gigs are selling out across Canada.

    • That was not Kenney's finest hour.

      Besides, what Kenney did was guaranteed to feed Galloway's already gargantuan narcissistic ego.

  28. "reinforcements arriving by the planeload"

    Couldn't quite bring yourself to say "boatload," could you?

  29. "For much of my adult life I tended to vote Progressive Conservative. In Kingston, Flora MacDonald did a great job representing our interests, so it was a clear choice for me. However, when Peter Mckay betrayed the Party and made a deal with the devil to merge us with the Reform/Alliance; I opted out. In 2004 and 2006, I voted NDP, and still have a great deal of respect for the Party and it's leader. However, if we really want to get this new Conservative Party out of office, before they totally destroy our integrity, I have to now back the party with the best chance of doing that. The Liberal Party of Canada. I am a Baby Boomer, having grown up through many periods of social upheavel. However, I believe that as a nation we have moved forward and I can no longer simply sit back and watch it be destroyed."

    Are you Crazy Emily Dee of Kingston?

    • Never lived in Kingston, never voted NDP, my name isn't really Emily.

      But she sounds like an intelligent woman.

    • Just a hint, kid. It's not polite to try to out people who are using their anonymity in a respectful and respectable way.

      • I don`t think you know Emily.

        • LOL oh you're just grumpy because I disagree with you.

          It's like I'm not entitled to an opinion of my own

  30. If the opposition is serious about stopping the Kenney threat, they better bring about "Operation Cupid"…

    • Time for Belinda Stronach or Ruby Dhalla to take one for the team.

      • Claudia (from above) seems rather charmed by him. We simply need to talk her into seducing him… ;)

        • I am game, but my biggest crush it's my beloved Andrew Coyne, what can I say!! I like them opinionated, and with good music taste : )

          • Do you have an attractive male friend that can act as a "wing man", or with whom you can switch and be "wing girl" (in case he does play for the other team)? "Operation Cupid" must take all contingencies into account!

            Alas, my respect for Coyne is dropping, as I have not been able to get him to respond to the concerns I addressed pertaining to skipping telecom related stories. I'm not a reporter, and nor am I employed within telecom (so as to have a direct stake in the manner). I'm just a regular reader who enjoys the content here, and wanted clarification on this matter. I have no problems with hearing his opinion on things, but he simply opted to ignore. Doesn't he occasionally mock Harper for ducking out like that?

          • Ha, I do have a couple of very attractive friends.

            About Coyne, I don"t know what to say, in the past they haven't mentioned stories that I have thought were important or relevant, I still love him though!

          • This comment was deleted.

          • Oh, SamDavies wish you good luck, I hope you get an answer, I was just giving a quick glimpse to the bill, will read it tonight at home!

      • I think they are on the wrong team to be successful in that mission. You'd have to send in Brison.

        • Just in case, "Operation Cupid" should definitely consider sending in some seductive sausage…

  31. Perhaps what the libs need to do [ maybe the left generally] is to work [ much much harder] at getting the youth vote out ; particular as they are losing their traditional grip on the ethnic vote. This would require something close to what Obama pulled off. I doubt if Ignatieff's the man for this job.
    I too applaud Kenny's efforts. Bringing minorities into the mainstream of Canada's political ilfe will benefit us all. Although i predict it's the CpoC that will be the ones changed.

  32. I don't know where conservatives got the idea that visible minorities are dumb enough to vote for them for just showing up to OUR community events…. Toronto is full of visible minorities, I suggest you try your theory here!. See if you could get a single seat within the city of Toronto ? hehehe.

    • Ummmm…yeah, great point. Thanks. Do you have any other great points to share please?

  33. When he said that all good values are Conservative values. By deductive reasoning (don't strain yourself) if you don't have Conservative values you have bad values.

  34. I'm an ethnic minority that believes in what Kenney is saying when asking about the values of those from most ethnic backgrounds, and whether or not their values are in line with conservative principles.

    I would argue that when it comes to societal moral fiber, many ethnic minorities tend to fall more on the small "c" conservative side of the spectrum than the more liberal western ideologies of "freedom". In exploring the limits of freedom, what we have seen in the western world is a deterioration of basic standards of decency, as well as a significant loss of traditional values, and the basic premise of respect.

    "Freedom" says everything is OK, but in a natural state, not everything is OK. There is what is right, and what is wrong. Our western views accept everything as right, and this is simply wrong. When it comes to issues such as same-sex marriage, abortion, and drug laws, most ethnic minorities would fall onto the right side of the spectrum.

    One of the reasons my family voted Liberal for the longest time is because they believed the Liberal party was the party of immigrants. This may be a direct result of 2.5 million immigrants flooding into the country between 1991-2000, when for the majority of that period, the Liberals were in government. However, when truly evaluating the principles each political party steadfastly supports, immigrants would be more inclined to vote w/ the CPC on the majority of social issues.

    Also, in regards to Bruce's comment in regards to immigrants paying less taxes than they reap benefits for, please, I advise you to do your research. Often, in most cases, legal immigrants end up paying much more in taxes over the course of their lifetime than a Canadian born citizen. You can refer to the study below for more information on this.
    http://economics.ca/cgi/jab?journal=cpp&view=

    • Well said!!

  35. An interesting look into the day of Minister Kenney. His hard work seems to be paying out as evidenced by the results in Vaughan's by-election. His characterization that most new immigrants share conservative values is spot on. Traditional values such as religion, family, work ethic and ant-crime are truly reflected in our new Canadians. Will this ultimately be the new voting block for the Conservative Party will only be revealed in the next Federal election.

    • Yeah it had nothing to do with Fantino being a highly recognizable candidate of Italian descent is a mostly Italian riding eh?

      (eye roll)

      • Phil, the real fun starts when Fantino decides to hold his own press conferences and say what he thinks instead of delivering talking points. I don't think this guy is going to be a Muzzled Peon — I think he might end up being harper's worst nightmare.

  36. It just goes to show how pathetic this crop of politicians really are when Jason Kenney of all people is touted as a "secret weapon".

    It's also quite telling when the best way you can think of selling your party is to rely on the accomplishments of a party you openly hated before destroying and cannibalizing its members.

  37. Kenny is a master of insults — I am still smarting from his comments about KAIROS. As an adherent of the United Church of Canada, I am because my church supported KAIROS, an anti-semetic. Nothing this man does impresses me one iota. SMCG

  38. I recall how gleeful conservatives claimed they were going to sink gay marriage by turning ethnic minorities against gay minorities.

    I hope that if they are successful in playing to shallow stereotypes, the next generation resents them for it.

    • I'd say it would be reasonable to expect that message to resonate with New Canadians:

      Support for gay marriage among Canadians born outside Canada (2004 Canadian election survey)
      Support: 22.2%
      Oppose: 46.5%
      No opinion/not sure: 31.3%

  39. That's the most cockeyed piece of analysis I've seen for a while. Harper gave to one man both the job of mustering the immigrant community for the CPC and running the immigration department. This sounds like something you do to a rival that you want to sideline — or maybe Harper is not such a bright light after all.

    If the ethnic communities muster to the CPC it will be despite Kenney, not because of him. But you have to admit that everyone loves the man and he tries hard.

  40. Added bonus for Harper is that he looks taller and thinner when he stands next to the short and tubby Kenney.

  41. So let me get this right. You visit various immigrant "communities" (guess they didn't integrate), promise to bring in hundreds of thousands of their family members each year, until the indigenous population is overwhelmed by foreigners and you are a "secret weapon"? Sounds like a weapon of mass destruction. Maybe some First Nations could speak to that.

  42. My favourite part of this is that it took an MP with essentially no mandate to create the most aggressive and progressive tactic the Harper Conservatives have had, and he did it without the approval, input, or guidance of Steve.
    Whether or not you like the Cons, and I don't, you have to be impressed by Kennedy. A very smart approach to this situation and one more straw on the Liberal camels back.

  43. I lost all respect for this man when he and others withdrew funding for KAIROS because those who supported it were considered anti-semetic. I have attended the United Church for nearly seventy years, and I don't hate anyone of the Jewish religion. I am no fan of Mr. Kenney, and no matter how great the Conservative party thinks he is, I would never support him.