Blame Trudeau for back­lash to im­mi­gra­tion

Calgary Herald - - OPINION - CHRIS NEL­SON

Even now, af­ter 36 quite won­der­ful years, I still some­times pinch my­self. Maybe some­one will fi­nally fig­ure me out and that dreaded knock on the door will echo be­fore I’m dragged away and shipped back to where I came from.

The late-night knock silli­ness is, of course, to­tal hy­per­bole. Yet my wife — who once bravely walked into the KGB’s Moscow head­quar­ters as a young woman and told them that, nope, she just wasn’t work­ing for them any­more — wor­ries me with her know­ing smirk.

Ah, but she’s Rus­sian, born and bred, which not only means she pos­sesses the planet’s most beau­ti­ful fe­male genes but also its most en­trenched skep­ti­cism. Still, I reckon it’s safe now: that af­ter this long no­body’s go­ing to bother send­ing me back to Eng­land.

I’ve long since con­sid­ered my­self Cana­dian, even if able to hit a cover drive (psst, it’s cricket) far bet­ter than any slap shot. You see, life some­times hands out lucky straws and I got an ex­tra long one, step­ping off that War­dair plane in lovely Le­duc, back in the spring of 1982.

I’m hardly alone. One in five peo­ple liv­ing here were born else­where. If you in­clude their born-in-Canada kids — like my two — then al­most a third of this coun­try’s pop­u­la­tion has strong, di­rect ties to else­where. Go back two gen­er­a­tions and we’re clos­ing in on a ma­jor­ity.

This is not new. Such a con­stant stream of im­mi­gra­tion, decade af­ter decade, is what built this coun­try into the re­mark­able place it is.

It was the most amaz­ing piece of po­lit­i­cal, cul­tural and so­ci­etal stu­pid­ity imag­in­able.

Which is why it was the most amaz­ing piece of po­lit­i­cal, cul­tural and so­ci­etal stu­pid­ity imag­in­able watch­ing how our prime min­is­ter man­aged to weaken, if not jet­ti­son, this tra­di­tional eco­nomic um­bil­i­cal cord in the minds of many Cana­di­ans who work, play and pay taxes across this vast land.

It is more re­mark­able yet be­cause the Lib­eral party has done very well for it­self for more than a cen­tury by be­ing seen as the party of im­mi­gra­tion (hey, politi­cians love new vot­ers — be­com­ing a cit­i­zen in­stead of a landed im­mi­grant back in 1985, let­ters of con­grat­u­la­tions from Prime Min­is­ter Brian Mul­roney, Premier Don Getty and Ed­mon­ton Mayor Lau­rence Decore ar­rived in a flurry).

What up­set this ap­ple cart was Justin Trudeau’s now in­fa­mous tweet about how Canada wel­comes you, aimed to ce­ment his then-bur­geon­ing rep­u­ta­tion as North Amer­ica’s open-minded an­swer to Don­ald Trump, who then seemed in­tent on kick­ing ev­ery­one out of the U.S. while not let­ting any­one else in.

Caught in th­ese tacky pol­i­tics were those peo­ple whose po­si­tion south of our bor­der was in jeop­ardy. So, not sur­pris­ingly, many headed north and sud­denly Cana­di­ans got a small taste of what we’d pre­vi­ously only seen on TV: des­per­ate peo­ple car­ry­ing what lit­tle they pos­sessed wan­der­ing across the bor­der to claim refugee sta­tus.

Thanks to Trudeau’s im­ma­ture grand­stand­ing, a care­fully con­strued and hard-headed “pick-the-ones-we-want” im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy was caught in this back­lash of soured cit­i­zen sen­ti­ment.

Af­ter 18 months of head-in-the-sand stub­born­ness, the Grits are now re­luc­tantly ad­mit­ting the surge in refugee claimants is over­whelm­ing the sys­tem.

Im­mi­gra­tion Min­is­ter Ahmed Hussen ad­mit­ted the num­ber of asy­lum seek­ers is ris­ing “far be­yond” what the sys­tem can han­dle, adding “with­out changes to im­prove ef­fi­ciency and pro­duc­tiv­ity of the asy­lum pro­cess, wait times and back­logs will only con­tinue to grow.”

The ef­fect is to dra­mat­i­cally harden at­ti­tudes to im­mi­gra­tion, with a re­cent sur­vey find­ing half of Cana­di­ans want to see the num­ber of im­mi­grants low­ered. Four years ago only a third of folk sought such a re­duc­tion.

That dra­mat­i­cally low­er­ing the num­ber of young, pro­duc­tive im­mi­grants will have neg­a­tive ef­fects on fu­ture GDP growth and the work­ing pop­u­la­tion re­quired to pay for those so­cial ben­e­fits a rapidly re­tir­ing baby-boomer gen­er­a­tion rightly ex­pects is lost in the emo­tive back­lash Trudeau’s asi­nine tweet set in mo­tion.

It’s re­ally quite amaz­ing what 140 char­ac­ters, typed in self-ag­gran­dize­ment, can ac­com­plish.

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