Canada's Tories Show How the GOP Can Win Immigrant Votes

Freebies are not the way to the heart of minorities.


The reason why Democrats favor immigration reform is also why Republicans don't: More Hispanic voters. With whites slated to lose their demographic dominance by 2042, the GOP fears that amnesty will hand the Democratic Party and its Big Government agenda an unbeatable electoral coalition into perpetuity. Republicans will be able to win national elections not by sticking to their limited government ideals — but promising free goodies to minorities.

But Republicans need simply look north to realize that such defeatist thinking represents a failure of imagination.

Canadian conservatives were in the exact same boat as the GOP in the 1990s.  Rapid immigration from Asia and elsewhere had allowed liberals to cobble together a seemingly invincible block of French-speaking Quebecers plus immigrants in Toronto and Vancouver for three consecutive electoral wins. Conservatives were viewed as a scary "anti-immigrant, rural white man's party." In 2000, 70 percent of all identifiable minorities voted for the Liberal Party.

That was then.

In the last three elections, Canada's conservatives have made rapid strides in wooing immigrants. By 2008, minorities were as likely to vote conservative as liberal. Three years later, of the 23 seats that Tories picked up in national elections, 20 were in the greater Toronto region where immigrants constitute over 30 percent of the population. In fact, so popular are conservatives with immigrants that Haroon Siddiqui, a liberal Toronto Star columnist (ironically, an Indian émigré), recently complained that Prime Minister Stephen Harper wants more immigrants because "'ethnic voters' helped him win his majority."

How did Canadian conservatives turn the tables?

The man credited with crafting the conservative charm offensive toward immigrants is Canada's minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Jason Kenney, an Irish white man with a reportedly a superhuman capacity for outreach — and wolfing down samosas and perogies.

But Kenney hasn't simply relied on his personal charisma with immigrants. He has also persuaded conservatives that immigrants' attachment to their native religions, customs and tongues enrich — not threaten — broader Canadian culture. Strong patriotism in Canada now correlates with strong pro-immigrant attitudes, according to the Migration Policy Institute.

But Kenney's party has also backed its words with policies — big and small.

On the small side, it has lowered arrival fees, showing that it sees immigrants not as an economic liability — but as an asset. Republicans, by contrast, are perfectly happy to raise visa fees, even on high-skilled foreigners.

Nothing is more conservative than combating bureaucracy. And Canada's Tories have made reform of Ottawa's red-tape-ridden immigration system their top priority. The GOP likewise could have made cutting the decades-long wait that, say, Chinese computer engineers endure to obtain their green cards its cause du jour, but it's been mostly AWOL on the issue.

Immigrants are not monolithic; each group has its own special issues and needs. So the Harper administration made it a point to listen and incorporate their concerns in its platform — not simply market its existing agenda in multiple languages, as Mitt Romney tried.

For example, it has promoted family tax cuts in part because suburban immigrants are deeply family-oriented and frugal. Asian Indians tend to own mom-and-pop stores and so the Harper administration has made small business tax cuts its key plank. Many Middle Eastern Christians flock to Canada because of religious persecution and to them the administration has emphasized its commitment to religious freedom.

In each case, Canadian conservatives have appealed to immigrants through its own principles of less government and more freedom — not by playing Santa Claus. Nor has the Harper administration shied away from cracking down on welfare use by immigrants. Kenney himself recently crafted new rules for sponsoring foreign parents to ensure that they don't end up on the dole. Immigrants, like natives, accept the need for reasonable border restrictions and stopping welfare abuse so long as such initiatives stem from a need to address specific problems, not broader anti-immigrant animus.

Canada's lesson is that the GOP can't win immigrants by being liberal lite and shouldn't try. Instead, it has to consult its own principles and offer a credible alternative package. And that's nothing to fear.

This column originally appeared in the Washington Examiner.

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  1. In each case, Canadian conservatives have appealed to immigrants through its own principles of less government and more freedom ? not by playing Santa Claus. Nor has the Harper administration shied away from cracking down on welfare use by immigrants.

    If that was being done, you’d probably see a lot of the Republican rank and file resistance evaporate.

    But that’s half the issue – absolutely no one with half a brain cell trusts or expects it to play out that way.

    1. Maybe the lesson here is we need to replace the Republican party with a Reform movement the way Canada got rid of the Progressive Conservatives.

      1. And as a result of all of that we got Harper and the Spawn of Trudeau. Yay!

        1. Still, it’s a mild improvement over the Prog Cons and Alpha-Trudeau, eh?

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      2. Or that our immigration policy should be geared towards high net worth or skilled immigrants, as in Canada, and not to ‘refugees’ and family reunification.

  2. “The reason why Democrats favor immigration reform “

    – is purely cosmetic, and never actually comes to fruition, because they have no intention of actually reforming immigration, they’re simply aware of the fact that their voterbase is so domesticated by this point that all they need to do is pay lip service to demonstrate how “progressive’ they are, even while signing bills and passing acts that achieve the exact opposite.

  3. This article is like so last week. Oh, that’s because it ran last week.

    1. I’ve noticed a few articles getting rerun, and I wonder why.

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  5. How many times can Dalmia write this column?

    1. This one’s a literal rerun from last week, isn’t it? So I’ll rerun my comment:

      The difference between Canada & USA re immigration isn’t between “conservatives'” policies, it’s in the immigrant popul’ns that differ between the countries: Asian vs. Latin American & African.

  6. Arguing with an asshole on FB that letting Mexicans into the country would mean a permanent Democrat majority. That’s not a reason to abandon your principles, but a reason to fix the Republican Party. But he doesn’t want the party fixed, he just wants to avoid having to move into the 21st century.

    He kept using the word “immigrants” WITHOUT any “illegal” prefix. He wants to halt ALL immigration, especially from Mexico. What a fucking douchebag.

    1. That’s not a reason to abandon your principles

      It depends on your priorities. If your highest priority is open borders, OK. If your highest priority to moving the USA in a more libertarian direction when it comes to economics and government policy in general, it’s self defeating to support the importation of more anti-libertarian voters.

  7. This article is quite a bit disingenuous. I’d love to adopt Canada’s immigration policy, which favors high-skilled immigrants over low-skilled immigrants. But to do that the US would have to stop the vast amount of illegal immigrants pouring across the border, Or alternately we cut our welfare policies and in that case even low-skilled immigrants are a net positive.

    But the US can’t maintain an expensive welfare state, allow 1-2 million immigrants per year (most low-skilled) and extend those welfare benefits to them. The math doesn’t work.

    1. This. Allowing their children to vote ain’t such a great idea, either. When your only ties to American institutions come from the odious K-12 education system, you’re not going to be a good voter.

      1. but you will believe fdr got us out of the depression, so you will be an excellent voter-for the democrats

    2. Those immigrants use welfare at a lower rate than natives. We tire of the same debunked talking points you people spew.

      1. Those immigrants use welfare at a lower rate than natives.

        No they don’t. They use less welfare than “similarly situated” (ie poor) natives.

        1. That must explain why CA’s welfare rates are more than double the national average.

          1. …and TX?

            1. Check back in 20 years when the demographics are the same.

              1. Seriously? In terms of hispanic populations, the demographics are EXACTLY the same at 37%.


                1. I’m not a big believer in “Hispanic” demographics. For one thing, the term itself is applied to them by outsiders. If you are a Mexican, you think of yourself as Mexican. If you are Chilean, you think of yourself as Chilean, or so I’ve been told by people actually from Spanish-speaking countries.

                  Besides that, you can look back in history at “concerns” about the influx of Irish, or Italians, or Poles, in earlier times. Guess what? They all assimilated within a couple of generations. Why should today’s immigrants prove to be any different, especially given how common cross-cultural relationships and marriages have become compared to past decades?

                  1. Because the US closed the border from 1924-1965 thus allowing to “digest” them?

            2. Using the 1st chart here, I calculate the SNAP usage rate [(# eligible)*(% participating)/(population)] in California at 8.44% and Texas at 12.77%.

              (# eligible)*(% participating)/(population)

              1. Sidd, TX spends less than 1/3 (%-wise) of what CA spends on welfare.


  8. Bear in mind, Canadian immigrants are almost entirely middle class people from Asia and other wealthy regions, and almost all speak English.

    People act like Canada is so open, but it’s far more restricted, because people can only get there by plane or boat.

    When you have so many people unemployed, adding millions of low skilled people people(and their families) who don’t even speak English and won’t learn is not a good idea.

    How is a family of 6 with 2 people working at minimum wages going to generate enough economic to support the other 4? They can barely support themselves.

    1. Yeah thats exactly right if we would have 3rd world muslims lighting our cars on fire and decapitating people in broad daylight i’m sure we would become less welcoming

      1. Yeah, I don’t know how the French and British are going to handle this. It’s fucking INSANE what happened. I really hope they find their inner-brass balls – fast.

  9. And there is also the fact that sweden was wealthy BEFORE socialism. You need to create the wealth prior to redistributing it. And Sweden is also liberalizing more and more, they’ve been cutting taxes and slowing down on spending-the country is moving right. And there is also the whole “social capital” thing, those intangible cultural advantages-Lutheran work ethic, less “diversity” and so on that make the effects of socialism easier to bear.

    1. You’ll never convince me socialism is what made Sweden wealthy. How did the industrial revolution come to Sweden? I doubt it was via a socialist crown or government.

      1. I wouldnt try to convince you. Im saying that they were wealthy enough before socialism that its effects were less terrible than the third world. It’s still shit though

  10. I don’t check reason for one afternoon and I miss an immigration throwdown where someone’s comments get removed. Bad luck I guess

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