Prime Minister Stephen Harper is spending two days in Quebec addressing security issues that are top-of-mind in the province and going to ridings the Conservatives hope to win in the next election. Mr. Harper started his tour on Thursday by promoting the increase in funding for the RCMP and the Canada Border Services Agency that were announced in last month's budget.
Earlier this week at the airport in Montreal, the Mounties arrested 10 youths alleged to have been on their way to join the Islamic State. They confiscated their passports and then released them later. Mr. Harper said his government will never relent in the fight against violent extremists, even though he sympathized with the affected family members.
"We have a great country here, a country that is unparalleled in terms of its freedom, its democracy, its openness and its tolerance," Mr. Harper said at a news conference near Montreal's Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport.
"There is no legitimate reason of any kind in this country for someone to become a violent jihadist or a terrorist or to join any kind of group that is involved or advocates that kind of activity."
Mr. Harper was fêted at the King David Award Gala in the evening, an event organized by the Jewish Community Council of Montreal that the group said on Facebook was designed to honour "a true, devoted and sincere friend of Israel." The Conservatives are once again setting their sights on the traditionally Liberal riding of Mont-Royal, and support from Montreal's Jewish community has helped them to be increasingly competitive.
During his speech, Mr. Harper promoted the candidate in the riding, Robert Libman, who is a well-known defender of anglophone rights in Quebec. Mr. Harper added that the fight against Islamic State is reminiscent of the constant dangers faced by Israel.
"We have long refused to be neutral in supporting Israel's right to defend itself against the violent jihadists who have threatened her for every single day of her 67-year existence," Mr. Harper said. "Israel is the front line among the free and democratic nations and any who turn their back on Israel, or turn a blind eye to the nature of Israel's enemies, do so, in the long run, at their own peril."
The Prime Minister and some of his key Quebec ministers will travel to the Quebec City area on Friday. One of the stops will be in the riding of Montmagny-L'Islet-Kamouraska-Rivière-du-Loup, which the Conservatives lost to the NDP in a judicial recount in 2011. Former Conservative MP Bernard Généreux, who will once again be a candidate in the riding, will attend an announcement to promote tourism in the area.
Mr. Harper will also travel to Quebec City, where the Memorial Cup hockey tournament is starting on Friday. A big fan of hockey, Mr. Harper is expected to attend a game between the Quebec City Remparts and the Kelowna Rockets.
Mr. Harper said in Montreal that the Conservative Party's strategy to win more seats in the province is no mystery.
"The big issues in Quebec are the same as the big issues elsewhere. They are, one and two, economy and security," Mr. Harper said.
Mr. Harper also took a shot at the NDP, which holds most of the seats in the Quebec City area and ridings to the north and east of the provincial capital that the Conservatives will try to win.
"Quebeckers now have four years of NDP MPs to ask themselves what that got them. I think the answer to that is pretty obvious," Mr. Harper said.
While the Conservatives have been shut out of Montreal in every election under Mr. Harper, they feel that they can win in Mont-Royal, which has a strong proportion of Jewish voters. The riding is up for grabs after the retirement of Liberal MP Irwin Cotler, a world-renowned human-rights lawyer. The Liberal candidate in the riding will be local Mayor Anthony Housefather.
The details the government announced on Thursday include bolstering the five RCMP-led integrated national security enforcement teams, which are in Canada's biggest cities, and boosting the RCMP's "investigative capacities abroad." For the CBSA, the government is offering more money for identifying high-risk travellers, including Canadians going to join terrorist groups abroad or coming back to the country from war zones.
In the past six months, at least seven youths have left Montreal to join the Islamic State in Syria or Iraq, and at least 15 others have been prevented from leaving by law-enforcement authorities.
In their most recent budget, the Conservatives announced they were boosting funding to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, the RCMP and the CBSA by nearly $300-million over five years.