Mulroney says 'values test' for immigrants unnecessary

"We have a good process now," former prime minister says of immigration system

CALGARY – Former prime minister Brian Mulroney has waded into the debate over screening newcomers for “anti-Canadian values,” saying he sees no need to toughen the immigration process as one Conservative leadership contender is suggesting.

Ontario MP Kellie Leitch has floated the idea of applying such a test to potential immigrants as a way to make sure their views on issues like gender equality are aligned with Canadian values.

But Mulroney said that’s unnecessary.

“We have a good process now. People don’t just walk in the front door here,” he told reporters after delivering a speech at the University of Calgary on Tuesday.

“They have to meet certain criteria and I think if they meet those criteria, that should be OK.”

Mulroney, who was the Progressive Conservative prime minister from 1984 until 1993, also diplomatically waded into U.S. politics, where immigration has also been a hot-button issue.

“This is a most unusual choice that Americans have to make.”

He said he knows both Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and her Republican opponent Donald Trump personally.

He said his children know Trump’s children and “anybody who can raise wonderful children like that has got something going for him.”

But he said in the end, Clinton has more going for her in terms of experience.

“Who’s the more qualified? Obviously because of her background, Hillary. She’s spent her whole life in public policy,” he said, predicting that the outcome of the election will turn on who does better in the televised debate in about two weeks.

But Trump, he said, has “caught a wave” with his hardline stance on immigration, particularly from Mexico and Muslim countries — a view Mulroney said he doesn’t share.

Mulroney’s speech to the university’s law faculty focused on another controversial issue dominating Canadian politics — pipelines.

He urged Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to take a leadership role in ensuring new pipelines like TransCanada’s (TSX:TRP) $15.7-billion Alberta-to-New Brunswick Energy East pipeline are built.

“This Canadian energy and resource agenda under the prime minister’s personal direction would provide hundreds of billions of dollars in new investments, millions of new jobs, bring West and East much closer together and be as transformational and beneficial to the country as any major policy initiative undertaken in Canada in the last 70 years,” he said.

The regulatory process for Energy East has been mired in controversy. Last week, the National Energy Board recused all three panellists assigned to review the 4,500-kilometre project amid bias concerns.

“That’s an administrative matter that (Trudeau) will have to resolve,” Mulroney told reporters. “All of the institutions that have an impact on this have to proceed with integrity and independence so that when the solution comes forward, it’s accepted by all the players.”

Though Energy East was the focus of Mulroney’s speech, he said other proposals, like Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain expansion to the Vancouver area, must go ahead.

The NEB has recommended Ottawa approve Trans Mountain, which also faces still opposition from local communities, and a decision is expected later this year.

Trudeau should make breaking the logjam a priority, said Mulroney.

“This is the big-ticket item for him right now because the prosperity is staring us in the face.”

When asked whether he believes Trudeau will take that advice, Mulroney said: “We’re going to find out.”

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