Kenney speaks to the media after the 2019 Alberta Leaders Debate in Edmonton, Alta., on Thursday, April 4, 2019. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Codie McLachlan)
Is Jason Kenney a wolf in sheep’s clothing?
By Ted Alcuitas
The enigmatic leader of the United Conservative party (UCP) is hard to define that once, he was asked by k.d. lang if he was gay.
Jason Kenney, who is poised to be Alberta’s next premier if polls are correct, has the uncanny ability to transform himself from a rabid social conservative in his younger days to a champion of gay rights and equality as he portrays himself today.
But on the eve of the leader’s debate on April 3, 2019, he was literally crucified by his good friend, Charles Adler, in a fiery radio interview that exposed Kenney’s true colours.
Repeatedly asked if he would take out his candidate Mark Smith who made homophobic remarks in a sermon, Kenney adroitly weaved in and out of the issue.
ADLER: Do you see a woman’s choice to have an abortion — her reproductive choice — is that a choice to murder a baby?
KENNEY: I don’t think any woman goes and has an abortion with that intention, with a bad intention. They make choices for lots of …
He refused to condemn or judge Smith, even quoting Pope Francis “Who am I to judge?”.
KENNEY: Charles, I’ve said that I regret many things I did when I was a young man and I wouldn’t take the same position-
ADLER: That’s not an apology, Mr. Kenney, that’s not an apology.
“Charles, my own record is that of the minister of immigration, who welcomed more newcomers to Canada than any immigration minister in Canadian history.”
Full transcript of the interview:
But let’s look at Mr. Kenney’s record as immigration minister during the Harper era.
It was under Kenny’s watch as architect of Harper’s immigration program that many onerous changes were made.
While it’s true that he made major reforms that cut wait times and made it more focused on newcomers who could help the Canadian economy, he also introduced controversial regulations.
He cut refugee health care, falsely claiming that they received “gold-plated” benefits better than Canadians. He introduced a ban on women wearing a veil or face-covering for citizenship ceremonies — an order that was later struck down by the courts as was the refugee health care cut.
The Conservatives raised the residency, language and knowledge requirements, as well as the citizenship application fee.
Harper also made it difficult for parents and grandparents to come to Canada to join their children allegedly because they were a burden to the medical system. Ultimately, they came up with the 10-year ‘Golden Visa’ program and required applicants to have an expensive insurance policy to cover their medical costs.
All these policies were recommended by the ultra-right Fraser Institute which became Harper’s and Kenney’s de-facto consultants on immigration.
The impacts of these changes were analyzed in an article by The Star a year ago.
According to The Star, “ at the time of the 2011 national survey, 77.2 per cent of immigrants who had been in the country between five and 10 years had citizenship. By the time of the 2016 census, after the Tory reforms had been in place for several years, the rate fell to 68.5 per cent.”
“Under the Conservative government, citizenship applicants had to be physically present in Canada for four out of six years (instead of three out of five) with a minimum of 183 days in each of the four years, before applying. The Tories also introduced a more stringent citizenship exam, raised the passing score of the citizenship test to 75 per cent from 60 per cent, and required proof of proficiency in English or French.
“Although the Liberals have reversed some of their predecessor’s citizenship policies last year, Griffith said the unchanged citizenship fee remains “a major deterrent to naturalization.”