The sudden renewed focus on the Syrian refugee crisis is a sharp turn away from what has been the election campaign's steady march on the economy — and the parties' responses have been wide-ranging.
After the tragic image of Alan Kurdi's lifeless body on the sand emerged on Wednesday and struck the hearts of people worldwide, Canada's federal leaders and their parties have taken turns to address each other's (and the media's) failings on refugee action, simultaneously accusing their opponents of playing politics with a tragedy while turning the tragedy into a political issue themselves.
- Refugee crisis coverage, rivals' criticism frustrates Conservative campaign
- NDP, Liberals urge government to accept thousands more Syrian refugees
- Greg Selinger, Manitoba premier, asks feds to double refugee sponsorship cap
Public mourning and outrage have also prompted the candidates to one-up each other on possible resettlements.
The Conservatives have committed, during the campaign, to resettling an additional 10,000 refugees over the next few years (on top of a January commitment to resettle 10,000 people). The NDP would resettle 10,000 refugees by the end of this year, and then 9,000 government-sponsored refugees each year for the next four years. The Liberals would accept 25,000 by Jan. 1, 2016.
And yet, perhaps realizing the ineffectiveness of barb-throwing and political jabs over such an emotional issue, the parties have pivoted to a more collaborative approach, making pleas to put to rest partisan-style fighting in order to work together to accept refugees.
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau on Sunday was only the latest to strike a note against partisanship.
During a television interview with CTV News, he called for a meeting of party leaders to craft an improved Canadian response to the crisis.
Later, at a festival in Laval, Que., Trudeau reiterated his request, saying that the Liberals "are in the process of sending out invitations."
Conservatives mum on bipartisan action
"There is a need for Canada to step up ... and do more and I would be happy to sit down with [NDP Leader Tom] Mulcair and [Conservative Party Leader Stephen] Harper in particular to talk about what we can agree Canada can do effectively to not make this as political as it has become," he said to reporters.
Trudeau said he heard that Mulcair would be open to a meeting through media reports but has yet to hear back from Harper.
In a statement Sunday, the NDP said Mulcair's objective was to meet with Harper "because he is the one who can act."
"The NDP believes that the Conservatives must do more and must act swiftly to get refugees to Canada. Mr. Mulcair has requested a conversation with Mr. Harper to discuss the possibility of an immediate appointment of a Syrian Refugee coordinator to coordinate government departments to oversee processing, travel to Canada and resettlement."
The party added it supported the use of the Canadian military in the region to transport refugees to Canada.
Rewinding back to Thursday, as the issue was reaching a boil on the campaign trail, Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe made an early plea for nonpartisanship. In a statement, Duceppe called for an "electoral truce."
Providing logistical support and immediately opening Canada's doors to refugees, he said, is a "humanitarian duty."
Meanwhile, the Conservatives have stopped short on agreeing to work with the other parties to increase Canada's role in the refugee crisis.
Immigration Minister Chris Alexander said during an interview on CBC News Network on Sunday that Canada needs to "accelerate the processing times" of refugee applications, saying that the government is currently far from hitting its goal.
"We call on private sponsors across the country, municipalities, provinces and territories to join us and put partisanship aside and come together as Canadians and do one of the things this country does best, which is resettle refugees from dangerous places," he said.
Canada has taken in approximately 2,500 refugees from Syria since the start of the conflict.