An issue that was a hot button topic in the 2015 election became the top talking point on Wednesday.
Conservative leader, Andrew Scheer, went to the Quebec – U.S. border to focus on illegal border crossings. Scheer said illegal border crossings are “driving down support for immigration.” He promised 250 more border service officers as well as placing more refugee judges closer to border hot spots. Scheer said; “For Canadians to have faith in the immigration system the rules have to be followed and the laws have to be enforced.” Raising doubts about the fairness of immigration touches a hot issue in Canada.
Liberal leader Justin Trudeau was in the GTA this morning and was quick to respond to Scheer’s immigration gambit. Trudeau rebutted the suggestion that U.S. border crossers get preferential treatment. “There are no shortcuts, there are no skipping steps within our immigration system. Everyone arriving in Canada goes through the same immigration system, a full rigorous immigration system that is being applied,” Trudeau said.
The Conservative tactic on immigration did not go over well at a Wednesday CP24 discussion with four GTA candidates. Mae Nam, the NDP candidate in Beaches-East York said the Conservatives were “capitalizing on fears in Canada” about illegal immigration. Annamee Paul is the Green Party candidate in Toronto Centre. She said many of the border crossers are found to deserve refugee status. “We are talking about people’s lives here,” Paul said. Liberal Mary Ng from Markham-Thornhill pointed out that the Harper government cut funding for the Canadian Border Services.
That left Barry O’Brien, the Conservative running in Etobicoke-Lakeshore to defend his party’s initiative. O’Brien said the Conservatives have always stood up for immigrants but the 50,000 crossing the border have resulted in “a backlog” of the immigration processing system.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Scheer was in Quebec tapping into the immigration issue a day before the last French TV debate. The government of Quebec has announced plans to cut immigration by 20 per cent in 2019. Quebec’s plan also cuts the number of refugees that will be accepted. Scheer did commit to working with provinces to make it easier for immigrants with skills to be licensed to use those skills. Quebec has a serious labour shortage, an issue that came up in the first French TV leader debate.
The audience numbers are in for Monday’s English debate. There were more viewers that tuned in than for any of the debates in 2015. But remember, none of the 2015 debates aired on all channels simultaneously. A more valid comparison would be the 2011 leader debate. Monday’s debate reached 9.64 million on television compared to 10.6 million in 2011.
However adding digital viewers gives Monday the ratings win.
The leaders will all be back in Ottawa tomorrow for the last debate of the campaign. Like Monday’s debate all six leaders will take part in the French language session. The stakes will be high for the top four parties. Support for the Bloc Quebecois continues to climb in Quebec. Another strong performance from Bloc leader, Yves-Francois Blanchet could drain more support from the Conservatives, the NDP and the Liberals putting a lot of seats in the province up for grabs.