Shut up about the niqab already, Conservatives

The leadership race now risks getting sucked into a identity politics sideshow

Being an opposition Member of Parliament ought to be easy these days. Sure, Justin Trudeau’s Liberals remain popular, but sunny ways are giving way to storm clouds. Provinces are howling over health care transfers. The CETA free trade deal appears to have collapsed. Democratic reform is going nowhere (by the PM’s own admission). Civil servants are campaigning against the government (again). Economic growth is stagnant. Projected deficits may turn out to be three times the original estimate.

So many juicy avenues of attack. And what are Conservative leadership candidates talking about? Banning niqabs … again.

Yup, it’s the 2015 election, redux. And it’s not just candidates Kellie Leitch and Chris Alexander duking it out over the nebulous concept of ‘Canadian values’: The latest aspirant to the Tory throne, Steven Blaney, launched his campaign Monday by announcing his “comprehensive plan to ensure the sustainability of Canada’s integration model”.

Blaney’s plan includes, according to a press release, modifying the Oath of Citizenship “to ensure the future citizens of this country know and abide by Canada’s core principles, making their integration into Canadian society more successful”. He also wants to reintroduce C-623 — which would force everyone casting a ballot to do so with their faces uncovered — and extend it to apply to employees in federal government offices. And if the courts should find such a law to be unconstitutional (a safe bet), Blaney would go nuclear: “A Conservative government under the leadership of Steven Blaney will not hesitate to use the notwithstanding clause should the Supreme Court oppose the will of Parliament.”

“Uncovering your face is a day-to-day requirement for every Canadian, whether it is to obtain a driver licence or getting a passport for obvious security reasons,” Blaney said. “This same requirement should apply to all those who swear allegiance to our country, vote in-person at a polling station or work within the federal public service.”

Read the full article on iPolitics.

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