As shades of Donald Trump’s campaign for President in the US colour the leadership race of the Opposition Conservative Party of Canada, one aspirant for the post, Indo-Canadian MP Deepak Obhrai, is taking another tack, having crafted a platform based on diversity.
While the first of the party’s leadership race debates is scheduled for Thursday, Obhrai told the Hindustan Times: “Canada of 2016 is very diverse, it’s not the same Canada that existed. This fight is going on and which is why I am seen as an outsider because my campaign is based on diversity and inclusiveness.”
Two of the major contenders have taken positions that are considered controversial. Former Minister of Labour Kellie Leitch has pitched values-based tests for immigrants. She was quoted by CBC, the national broadcaster, as saying, “Screening potential immigrants for anti-Canadian values that include intolerance towards other religions, cultures and sexual orientations, violent and/or misogynist behaviour and/or a lack of acceptance of our Canadian tradition of personal and economic freedoms is a policy proposal that I feel very strongly about."
Meanwhile, another candidate, former Minister of Public Safety Steve Blaney, an MP from Quebec, has taken a stance against wearing the niqab while voting, taking the oath of citizenship or working in the federal public service.
Obhrai said he does “not agree” with Blaney’s stand. And as for the values-based test, he said, “I am saying ‘no’, Canada today is a diverse nation.” As in the case of Trump appealing to voters with a vision of an idealised past, a tactic that may be influencing the Tory leadership campaign .
“I’m the only first visible minority standing on that stage, I’m the first one born outside the country. I bring a different lens to the landscape in Canada. That starts from the time I immigrated. My lens is not looking backwards,” Obhrai said.
While Obhrai’s candidature was approved by Elections Canada in September, polls and the media have given him a slim chance of actually becoming the next party leader, succeeding former Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who resigned from that post after the Conservatives lost in the October 2015 Federal elections.
Obhrai claimed his support base is not reflected in polling numbers: “It is the new immigrants that I am looking for and the young people. I am going to the non-traditional Conservative base,” he argued.
Obhrai, 66, is the seniormost Tory MP in the Canadian House of Commons as has represented his constituency in the city of Calgary in the province of Alberta for nearly 20 years.