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Only majority of Conservative voters want tighter immigrant screening: Forum Research poll

By Tim Naumetz      

Kellie Leitch says Conservatives know more about immigrant screening thanks to the party leadership race, and new Canadians agree with her stance.

Canadians, including immigrants, want to talk about immigrant screening, says Conservative leadership hopeful Kellie Leitch. Screenshot courtesy of CPAC
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A new poll indicates a healthy majority of Canadians are satisfied with federal screening for immigrants before they’re admitted to Canada—with distrust in the system highest among Conservative Party supporters.

A recent Forum Research poll found fully 59 per cent of voting-age Canadians believe immigrants are being “thoroughly screened,” with only a majority of respondents who support the Conservative Party saying they disagree immigrant screening is thorough.

But Conservative MP and leadership candidate Kellie Leitch, whose call for tighter screening with Canadian value tests has become a lightning rod in the Conservative leadership race, says her campaign talks with “average Canadians” have shown more support for her position than opposition.

And Ms. Leitch said Tuesday the reason more Conservative supporters than any other bloc of party supporters across the country are dissatisfied with the existing immigrant screening system is because of the attention the issue has received in the party’s leadership race since she first raised immigrant screening in an email to thousands of party members in early fall.

“We in the Conservative Party, we’ve been discussing this and debating this for some time now, and we know that, and this is from large public opinion polls that have been done, that I think you’ve seen, two-thirds of Canadians do want more screening and do want screening on, as you say, non-Canadian values,” Ms. Leitch said in an interview.

“What I think most Canadians are not aware of, but Conservatives may be more aware of the discussion we’re having, is that only about one in 10 immigrants to this country actually receive a face-to-face interview. And when they’re made aware of that, even in our own party, in the beginning, people weren’t aware of that, they were sort of surprised. I know I was surprised,” Ms. Leitch said as she raised another aspect of her campaign focus on immigrant screening—personal interviews with immigration applicants.

Ms. Leitch (Simcoe-Grey, Ont.) said her campaign travels have shown her a need for more thorough immigrant screening, including the test for Canadian values, is “top of mind” for average Canadians, including those who have come from other countries.

“I think that this is an issue that’s top of mind for average Canadians, and that it is something that, once they know what the facts are, they find is very common sense,” said Ms. Leitch.

“It’s been interesting though to be out talking to people about it, because now that folks feel that they’re not being judged by others, that they think they can talk about this. I have a lot of Canadians coming up to me just to talk about it,” she said.

Ms. Leitch said she has encountered members of immigrant communities who also agree with her stand on screening.

“Absolutely, I find I’m getting a lot of support across all different backgrounds. I started talking about [us] having a Canadian identity and it’s grounded in shared value sets and those values I think are the reasons why new Canadians want to come to this country, and they want to embrace them as well,” she said.

Ms. Leitch cited a taxi driver who chauffeured her into downtown Ottawa as she was headed for the daily House of Commons Question Period and other duties on Parliament Hill.

“Just this afternoon, I’m in a taxi to come downtown and the driver immediately wanted to talk to me about this,” said Ms. Leitch. The driver she met was an immigrant, she said.

“Yes, he’s an Iranian, Iranian-Canadian, and he agrees with my position and he wanted to talk about it, he thought it was a really good thing,” said Ms. Leitch.

She added, as she has argued previously, that “media elite” and “Ottawa elites” who oppose her platform are out of touch with ordinary Canadians.

The Forum poll found only 41 per cent of Conservative supporters agree immigrants to Canada are thoroughly screened before being admitted to Canada, compared to 68 per cent of Liberal supporters who believe screening is thorough, 65 per cent of NDP supporters who feel the same way, 63 per cent of Green Party supporters and 77 per cent of Bloc Québécois supporters.

The poll found 51 per cent of Conservative supporters disagreed that immigrants are being screened thoroughly, while nine per cent indicated they didn’t know.

The survey found 79 per cent of respondents in Quebec believe screening is thorough, while 59 per cent of respondents in British Columbia took the same position. Only 48 per cent of respondents in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta believe immigrant screening is thorough, compared to 51 per cent in Ontario and 52 per cent in the Atlantic provinces.

“It is apparent that Canadians, even Quebecers, known to be cool to other cultures, agree that we screen our immigrants thoroughly, which would appear to fly in the face of some Conservative leadership hopefuls’ position that we admit everyone and anyone,” Forum Research president Lorne Bozinoff was quoted as saying in a release that accompanied the poll results.

The interactive voice response telephone survey of 1,304 Canadians aged 18 and over has a margin of error of plus or minus three per cent 19 times out of 20. The margin of error is 4.8 per cent 19 times out of 20 for the sample of 415 respondents who identified the Conservative Party as their current federal vote preference.

tnaumetz@hilltimes.com

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