The Sunday Magazine·The Sunday Edition

Kellie Leitch takes a few pages from Donald Trump's playbook

MP Kellie Leitch, who is a candidate for the leadership of the Conservative party, says all immigrants to Canada should be questioned to make sure they hold "Canadian values". And, says the paediatric surgeon and former cabinet minister, the "guys and gals on the street" like the strong message Mr. Trump sent to "the elites".
Kellie Leitch, candidate for the leadership of the Conservative Party and U.S. president-elect Donald Trump (CBC)

Kellie Leitch, a medical doctor and Member of Parliament for Simcoe-Grey, says she speaks for the average Canadian, and that she wants to bring Donald Trump's anti-elite message to this country. As a cabinet minister in Stephen Harper's government, she announced a "barbaric practices tip line." Now, as a candidate for the Conservative Party leadership, she proposes face to face meetings with all immigrants to ensure they espouse "Canadian values." Here is a condensed, edited version of her conversation with Sunday Edition guest-host, Laura Lynch.

Laura Lynch: Last week, you seemed enthusiastic about Mr. Trump's victory. This week some of your Conservative colleagues are pulling support from your leadership campaign. I wonder what kind of a week it's been for you?

Kellie Leitch: I think in the Conservative Party people have strong opinions and, like my colleagues, I have a strong opinion with respect to a couple of the ideas I'm bringing forward. I'm talking about screening for Canadian values and doing face to face interviews with each immigrant in Canada. I recognize that some people have a difference of opinion on that. But I'm not planning on backing down. Numerous opinion polls have come forward supporting this policy position, with about two thirds of Canadians supporting it, so I'm happy to be the voice for the average guy and gal on the street.

LL: What have you seen in your own constituency or in your own life that makes you feel that these Canadian values need protection?

KL: I grew up at a dinner table talking about what it meant to be Canadian and for me, and what I'm hearing across the country, is that we do have shared values and there is a unique Canadian identity: equality of opportunity, hard work, generosity, freedom and tolerance. I think those values built our country. And I think it's worth protecting so that we continue to be the beacon of hope around the globe, and the reason individuals want to immigrate to our country.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks with a young girl as he greets a family of Syrian refugees during their arrival at Pearson International airport in Toronto, on Friday, Dec. 11, 2015. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

LL: But there are people who would argue that a core Canadian value is that there is no one homogenous Canadian identity, that we're a country that celebrates difference, not conformity.

KL: I beg to differ. I think that we as Canadians share a value set. Without a common identity with common values, we cannot have integration of new people coming into Canada. And without integration, we can't have that shared future.

LL: You talked about the large number of Canadians who support your proposal of screening for Canadian values. There are other polls that show Canadians support overwhelmingly the right to physician-assisted death. And Canadians support, by almost two-thirds, bringing back the death penalty. Would you then support doing that as well?

KL: I think you're trying to put words in my mouth. I'm talking about a very specific policy item that I feel passionately about because I believe it's linked to our unique Canadian identity.

LL: Why don't you base your other positions on public opinion?

KL: I choose my policy items in my campaign on what I hear on the street, as well as on polling, as well as on my personal viewpoint. I support face to face screening of immigrants, a cap on government spending, because I think Canadians should have more money in their pockets as opposed to the state deciding how to distribute it. I support supply management. I also support that marijuana should remain illegal, but behind a pharmacy counter where people can get access to it. As a physician I feel strongly about that.

Those are the four issues that I'm running on right now, in addition to the abolition of the carbon tax that is being brought forward by the Liberal government.
Mayor Naheed Nenshi and Enmax CEO Giana Manes show off 600 solar panels atop the roof of the Southland Leisure Centre. Most of the Calgary's 19 arenas, 14 rec centres, and thousands of vehicles still run on fossil fuels, however, which could bring cost increases with Alberta's new carbon tax. (Colleen Underwood/CBC)

LL: Last week you told your supporters Donald Trump's election is - quote - an exciting message and one we need delivered in Canada as well. What specifically do you find exciting about his victory? And what's the message that we need delivered here?

KL: I think the message that was delivered, was that there is this growing gulf between the average guy and gal on the street and what's happening amongst media and political elites.

I think the message that was delivered (by the election of Donald Trump), was that there is this growing gulf between the average guy and gal on the street and what's happening amongst media and political elites.- Kellie Leitch

And we saw that change of the average person on the street being able to have their voice heard in the American election. I want to make sure that every average Canadian out there -- every guy and gal on the street in Collingwood or Alliston, Abbotsford or Fort McMurray, Alberta, knows that they have someone that will be their voice.

LL: The key message of the campaign has been that you're running against the elites. How do you define elites?

KL: I define an elite as an individual who is out of touch and seems to think they know better what how someone should think.

LL: What concerns you about a government run by elites?

KL: Individuals that think they know better than anyone else. I think what's concerning is that the average guy or gal out there doesn't have their voice heard.

LL: You are an orthopedic pediatric surgeon with two advanced degrees. You've served as a member of parliament and as a federal cabinet minister. Aren't you a member of the Canadian elite?

KL: I grew up in small town Fort McMurray, Alberta. You're absolutely correct. I have an elite education and I've had some great jobs, but I'm not out of touch. I talk to people every day on the street in Collingwood and various main streets across Canada and I don't think I know better than everyone.
Syrian refugees receive welcome bags at the Toronto Pearson International Airport in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada Dec. 11, 2015. (Mark Blinch/Reuters)

LL: I wonder though what the average guy and gal would think of you. The fundraiser you had earlier this week on Bay Street with $500 tickets to get in. What would they think of that?

KL: You may want to call the people at that event elites but you don't even know who was there. The fact of the matter is that a lot of average guys and gals are in that room making sure that my campaign can be successful because they believe in what I'm doing and it's fabulous. I'm delighted that there are hundreds of Canadians across the country that join our campaign every single day.

LL: You've been generous with your time and I just have one more question I want to ask you about your values proposal. To what extent do you believe people's values can evolve after they come to Canada?

KL: Well I am hopeful that we as Canadians, we act as the beacon of hope for the world and we have, I think, a shared values set.

LL: But you don't want to bring them in and try to change their minds? Those who don't agree with Canadian values?

KL: I think that we should be talking to people in face-to-face interviews at the border with respect to what our Canadian values are.

LL: Kellie Leitch, I thank you very much.

KL: Thanks for having me. I hope you have a fabulous week.
Conservative leadership candidates Andrew Scheer, Maxime Bernier, Kellie Leitch and Brad Trost all met with supporters at the provincial Progressive Conservative meeting in Gander. (Peter Cowan/CBC)


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