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politics briefing


By Chris Hannay (@channay)

> Justin Trudeau is expected to replace members of his cabinet today to prepare for the Trump presidency and demote some underperforming ministers. Cabinet shuffles are notoriously hard to predict – rumour and speculation abound – but sources tell The Globe that at least two high-ranking ministers are expected to leave the table: Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion and Immigration Minister John McCallum.

> Some fascinating cases are up for the Supreme Court's winter session: Here's your roadmap.

> The previous Conservative government under Stephen Harper blocked a Chinese company from taking over a Montreal high-tech firm because of national security concerns. A couple of months ago, the current Liberal government quietly cancelled the order and said it would undertake a "fresh" security review.

> The federal ethics commissioner might look into Mr. Trudeau's visit to the Aga Khan over the holidays.

> The Federal Court of Appeal says a government lawyer was wrongly blocked from running for the NDP in the last election. The ruling doesn't give Emilie Taman her job back, but it does clarify the rules for public servants running for office in the future.

> Ottawa public affairs firm Ensight has hired a top Liberal aide. According to iPolitics, John Delacourt won't be subject to the Accountability Act's five-year ban on lobbying because he worked for the party, and not the government.

> And your lunchtime read: a deep profile of rocker-turned-politician Charlie Angus and his likely run for leader of the NDP.


By John Ibbitson (@JohnIbbitson)

By calling on immigrants to be screened for adherence to "Canadian values," Conservative leadership candidate Kellie Leitch has reopened a very old and tired debate over who makes a good Canadian. She may not remember that the answer for many used to be: someone who's white.

A reader sent an electronic clipping of an article from Legion Magazine printed in 1974, three years after Pierre Trudeau first declared multiculturalism – the celebration and preservation of distinct cultures within a united Canada – as the official policy of the federal government. The Liberals were working on a new immigration plan and sought the Legion's input. As the organization that represented veterans at a time when there were many more of them, the Canadian Legion was a powerful voice. That voice called on the government to shut the doors.

From Confederation until the 1950s, this country had imposed quotas and other measures to encourage European and prevent Asian immigration. Those quotas "permit a greater flow of immigrants from countries that have historically given fine citizens to Canada," wrote Robert D. McChesney, the society's executive vice-president, in a report that was reprinted in the magazine.

But the Diefenbaker government started dismantling those quotas, and the Pearson government replaced them with the colour-blind points system still in use today. Since Europe was now prospering, this meant most new immigrants would have to be recruited from what was then called the "Third World."

The Legion believed this was a mistake. "Precedents already exist to restrict immigration from certain parts of the world," McChesney wrote. The Legion's members "are not yet prepared to see these restrictions lowered, and indeed there is some evidence that they should be extended."

Rather than using a points system, immigrants should be selected based on "the ethnic composition of the country as recorded in the census." Since Canada was still overwhelmingly European, this would ensure a European-based intake.

Not wishing to appear intolerant, the 1974 report stressed that "the quality of a prospective immigrant is of prime importance, and that the place of origin and ethnic background should be of a secondary consideration."

The Legion also opposed admitting refugees because of the impact they might have on "the cultural well-being of the country," and because "their interest in becoming Canadian citizens is remote or at the best incidental."

Finally, the report recommended "some system must be devised to screen the applicant more efficiently."

In 1974, the Legion represented more than 367,000 Canadians, many of them veterans of the Korean War and the First and Second World Wars. Those veterans sacrificed for their country and when the wars ended they built the Canada we live in today.

But the country was changing in ways they found difficult to accept. Already, demographers were warning that the birth rate had fallen to the point that more immigrants from developing countries would be needed to sustain the population in the long term. They were right. Today, one Canadian in five was born elsewhere, and population growth is almost entirely reliant on immigration.

It is only human nature that the Boomers' parents resented the ethnic transformation of their country. But in demanding strict screening of all immigrants coming into Canada for "Canadian values," Kellie Leitch is not simply echoing the preachings of Donald Trump; she is evoking a Canada that was already in eclipse half a century ago.

How can she hope to win the party or the country by being so far outside her time?


André Picard (Globe and Mail): "The most remarkable aspect about the radical changes that provinces have implemented [to health-care agencies] is that they are evidence-free and there have been virtually no follow-up studies to examine whether there have been benefits, financial or otherwise. Too often, it is change for the sake of change – or to give the illusion of reform – and it amounts to little more than shifting the position of the deck chairs on a listing ship."

Margaret Wente (Globe and Mail): "Mr. Trudeau may be the most popular prime minister we've had in quite a while, but he doesn't have the populist touch. Why would he? As a trust-fund baby, he was insulated from the ordinary anxieties of middle-class life – how to pay for university, make a living wage, save a down payment for a house, worry about the mortgage, find decent child care, gain name recognition."

Hugh Segal (Globe and Mail): "There is no conflict between moderation in public policy, both foreign and domestic, and modern conservatism. The need to make this point underlines how far Canadian conservatives have drifted from their successful, more moderate roots. From Sir John A. Macdonald to Stephen Harper, moderation and balance almost always predicted electoral victory. When set aside for the self-indulgent extreme and ideological, defeat often ensued."

Bruce Anderson (Maclean's): "Media fascination with the dark arts and 'evil political masterminds' isn't new. Readers have long been encouraged to see these individuals as winners – people who have what it takes. Those they defeat are simply unwilling to do whatever's necessary. The outcome is neither good nor bad – just the law of the jungle. But journalism shouldn't try to have it both ways. It's fair to bemoan that politics is too often cynical, ruthless, amoral. But people notice when you stop bemoaning political thuggery for a moment, and heap praise on it."

Andrew Coyne (National Post): "If it seems odd that the same idea could be simultaneously praised on all sides and condemned on all sides, it may be because it is not in fact the same idea. Not only do its advocates have very different notions of what a basic income would involve, but so do its critics. In the absence of a specific proposal for a basic income, everyone is responding to their own imagined model, or indeed to their perception of what other people are proposing, or perhaps even their perception of how other people perceive their perception."

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