Sunday, October 11, 2015

Apparently anti-immigration policies are popular with immigrants

It's interesting to see how the Tories' rather transparent anti-immigration ploy is playing out in the ongoing Canadian federal election. It certainly doesn't seem to be doing them any harm, and may actually be benefitting them.
For example, boosting a complete non-issue, like their opposition to the wearing of the niqab face-covering at citizenship ceremonies, into a full-blown party policy, should have reflected badly on them in a supposedly fair and open-minded society like Canada's. All the other main parties are against it, and it has repeatedly been thrown out of the highest courts in the land as illegal and unconstitutional.
But this non-issue has had the effect of decimating the strong support in Quebec for the NDP, which has spoken out vociferously against the Conservative opposition. Quebec is such a liberal (small "l") and progressive province in many respects, but so blinkered and reactionary in others, including race and identity. And not all of the missing NDP support in Quebec has gone to the Liberals (which also opposes the ban); much of it has been transferred to the Conservatives and the Bloc Quebecois (which has gleefully jumped on to the anti-niqab bandwagon - as if they really cared about what goes on at a Canadian citizenship ceremony!)
I have listened to radio interviews with apparently intelligent Quebec residents saying words to the effect of, "well, I was going to vote NDP, but after this whole niqab thing, I think I may have to go Conservative". Clearly, for many Quebeckers, the issue of reasonable accommodation for immigrants, however tiny the numbers involved, is important enough to outweigh all the other policies - the economy, jobs, taxation, infrastructure investment, energy, the environment, political transparency, judicial practice, voting systems, foreign policy, international reputation, etc, etc. That's an awful lot of important issues to subsume for the sake of a single, relatively inconsequential viewpoint, which has little or no chance of ever being legally enacted anyway.
I find all of this very strange, unsettling and inexplicable behaviour. Of course, a telephone poll is very different from a final vote in the ballot box, and one can only hope that these responses are just spur-of-the-moment knee-jerk reactions, and that cooler heads will prevail on the day.
But, related to this, another inexplicable phenomenon came to my attention just today. Apparently, 42% of foreign-born Canadians voted Conservative in the 2011 federal election, substantially higher than the 37% among native-born Canadians. Indeed, the Tory vote among racial minorities has seen a dramatic increase from around 9% in 2000, back when the Liberals were always considered the natural party of immigrants. Whether this is something to do with the rise of the NDP, or with a change in the type of immigrants Canada is now allowing in (e.g. those with more money, or from more conservative or repressive backgrounds), or whether it merely results from a more assiduous courting of new Canadians by the huge Conservative political machine, I really don't know.
Furthermore, it seems that the Tories' deliberate stoking of anti-immigrant sentiment and religious and racial intolerance during the current election campaign has only served to strengthen the Conservative brand among new Canadians. The exact same thing happened in David Cameron's latest campaign in Britain. In fact, the move shows all the hallmarks of the divisive "dog-whistle" approach of the controversial Australian elections strategist Lynton Crosby, who was recently contracted by the Conservatives (and who was also credited with helping David Cameron win his latest election campaign), although I have seen nothing specific to suggest that this is in fact the case.
So, contrary to everyday logic, perhaps, anti-immigration policies are apparently popular with immigrants. Who knew? The Tories, it seems. And almost certainly Lynton Crosby.

No comments: