MAXIME BERNIER KEEPS HEADACHES COM­ING FOR AN­DREW SCHEER

StarMetro Halifax - - BIG OPINIONS - Chantal Hébert

One week be­fore the first Con­ser­va­tive na­tional con­ven­tion on An­drew Scheer’s lead­er­ship watch — and the last such gath­er­ing be­fore the next fed­eral elec­tion — one would not nor­mally ex­pect Con­ser­va­tive MPS to be de­bat­ing each other on so­cial me­dia about whether to draw a line on Canada’s di­ver­sity.

Against the back­drop of a sim­mer­ing trade war with the U.S., a high-pro­file diplo­matic con­tretemps over hu­man rights with Saudi Ara­bia and a fed­eral-pro­vin­cial col­li­sion in the mak­ing over the coun­try’s ap­proach to cli­mate change and car­bon-pric­ing, iden­tity and in­te­gra­tion-re­lated is­sues

have been closer to the bot­tom of the list of on­go­ing con­cerns this sum­mer.

That is true even in Que­bec, the prov­ince that has long been the ground zero of an of­ten-ac­ri­mo­nious po­lit­i­cal dis­cus­sion over the bal­ance be­tween the ac­com­mo­da­tion of cul­tural mi­nori­ties and the preser­va­tion of a com­mon

col­lec­tive iden­tity.

Against all odds, as Que­bec gears up for an elec­tion cam­paign, the sec­u­lar­ism is­sue that has so of­ten dom­i­nated the pro­vin­cial con­ver­sa­tion over the past decade ap­pears, at least for now, to be dor­mant.

The con­tro­ver­sial pro­vin­cial pre­scrip­tion that one can only

re­ceive or dis­pense pro­vin­cial and mu­nic­i­pal ser­vices with one’s face un­cov­ered re­mains sus­pended as the re­sult of con­sec­u­tive in­junc­tions that will likely be main­tained un­til the courts pro­nounce on the sub­stance of the law long af­ter the Oct. 1 elec­tion.

At the same time, there has been a no­tice­able shift in the de­bate over im­mi­gra­tion. Con­cern over Que­bec’s ca­pac­ity to in­te­grate new­com­ers in the fran­co­phone main­stream is in­creas­ingly giv­ing way to a search for op­ti­mal ways to ad­dress the labour short­ages that are re­sult­ing from the grey­ing of the prov­ince’s pop­u­la­tion.

That may go some way to ex­plain why this sum­mer’s wave of asy­lum-seek­ers us­ing ir­reg­u­lar cross­ing points in Que­bec to leave the U.S. for Canada has not caused the kind of stir it did last year. The num­ber of bor­der-crossers is also down by about half com­pared to last sum­mer.

It is in this rel­a­tive po­lit­i­cal quiet that Beauce MP Maxime Bernier fired off a se­ries of tweets last week­end, crit­i­ciz­ing what he called Justin Trudeau’s “ex­treme mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism.” It is Bernier’s con­tention that more di­ver­sity will, in his own words, “de­stroy what has made Canada such a great coun­try.”

THE CANA­DIAN PRESS FILE

MP Maxime Bernier is drag­ging his party into a de­bate over mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism that can only cause trou­ble for Con­ser­va­tive Leader An­drew Scheer and their party, Chantal Hébert writes.

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