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Populist political wave now penetrates Canada
Ottawa, Oct 13 (IANS) A populist political wave has seemed to arrive in Canada, which goes to polls on October 21, as immigration has become one of the hot topics of debate, with conservative parties vowing to limit migrant numbers.
On October 3, Prime Minister and leader of the ruling Liberal Party, Justin Trudeau, said during a televised debate that Quebec has every right to test immigrants who want to settle in the predominantly French-speaking province, reports Efe news.
Although Trudeau did not expressly mention it, but Quebec is in the process of imposing a controversial test of immigrants that would include proof of their "core values" to determine that they align with those of the Canadian province.
"If (he) wants to apply a test for the certificate of selection, that’s okay and it’s appropriate for him to do so," Trudeau said during the French debate in reference to the intention of Quebec Prime Minister Francois Legault to implement the test.
The statement, which Trudeau repeated again during a press conference on Friday, has surprised many in Canada, especially because the Liberal leader came to power in October 2015 with a diametrically opposite platform.
In fact, one of his first government actions was to accept some 40,000 refugees from Syria into the country.
But since his electoral victory, many things have happened, especially the election in the US with a populist and anti-immigration programme that has also begun to penetrate Canada.
In these elections in Canada, the conservative former Minister Maxime Bernier leads the populist Popular Party, which has as one of its central policies the aim to drastically cut the number of immigrants and refugees who arrive each year.
Bernier proposes to limit the number of immigrants to between 100,000 and 150,000 a year, less than half of what the country currently receives, and accept only those who prove they have "Canadian values".
Bernier, who from August 2007 to May 2008 was the Foreign Minister under former conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, has criticized what he says is the "extreme multiculturalism" of Canada and the government´s "globalist vision" that, according to him, is destroying the essence of the country.
"Support for immigration will continue to diminish and social tensions are likely to rise. We need to slow down," Bernier said in July this year.
Meanwhile, the separatist party Bloc Quebecois (BQ), which all but disappeared in the last elections, has gained momentum in the polls with an identity programme and at a time when immigration control policies are popular in Quebec.
The BQ, for example, wants Quebec to be exempt from the application of the federal law that since 1988 promotes multi-culturalism in the country, and for the province to have absolute freedom to decide the number of immigrants it accepts each year.
With the polls pointing to a technical tie between Trudeau´s Liberal Party and the Conservative Party, the difference between forming a government or staying in the opposition could come down to a handful of votes.
And in these elections, the province of Quebec, which makes up 75 of the 338 seats of the Lower House of Parliament, could be key to government formation.
So both liberals and conservatives, and even the social democrats of the New Democratic Party, are doing everything to snatch as many votes as possible in the Francophone province, where testing the "core values" of immigrants is a popular proposal.
When the centre-right government of Quebec presented the measure, Trudeau and the NPD expressed their opposition and described the measure as discriminatory against religious minorities, especially Muslims.
But during the election campaign, both the Liberal Party and the NPD have tempered their criticism and indicated that they will let the courts decide on the constitutionality of a measure that is popular in Quebec, especially in rural areas.
Meanwhile, the Conservative Party has already indicated that it will not oppose either the test of values or the law on religious symbols of Quebec, while announcing measures to limit the number of refugees arriving each year in the country.