Chris Alexander is out of a job. He admits the past week has been tough. But the former Conservative immigration minister is hardly repentant.
“We’re still the party that sees reality as it is, doesn’t want to go on some hippy-trippy jaunt down memory lane and put marijuana in the windows of every store,” he said in an interview Tuesday on Ottawa’s Sparks Street.
“We’re trying to deal with the real issues that Canadians are facing. And we’ll continue to do that.”
The Liberals have promised to legalize and regulate pot but haven’t actually said it would be in the windows of every store.
And Alexander takes issue with the way his opponents characterized the Tories’ stance on immigrants and refugees, especially in the wake of a photo of three-year-old Syrian boy Alan Kurdi lifeless on a Turkish beach, which focused the world’s attention on a refugee crisis many feel Canada and other countries have failed to act on with urgency.
WATCH: Outgoing Citizenship and Immigration minister Chris Alexander speaks to Global News’ Mike Le Couteur and Leslie Young.
This scrutiny only increased when Kurdi’s Canadian aunt said she’d tried to get members of his family to Canada only to have them refused.
“I spent two weeks being called a baby-killer by other MPs and by people in the media. That was not pleasant.”
The Liberals and NDP took citizenship, immigration and refugee issues for “pretty unpleasant purposes,” Alexander charged.
“That’s the story that people insist on telling, that we are cold-hearted Conservatives, that we’ve never done the right thing. And it’s wrong,” said Alexander.
“We started bringing Syrian refugees to Canada on a large scale in January,” he said. “But nobody covered it. Somehow it became divisive that we hadn’t brought them all, by the middle of the campaign.”
Alexander predicts Liberal leader Justin Trudeau will have trouble following through on his promise to bring 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada by the end of the year.
“Nothing’s impossible, but cost, safety, the operational standards for which Canada is renowned, are all issues,” he said.
“We have the best record in the world for refugee resettlement because we do it well. We meet certain standards. We check out who people are. We make sure human smugglers aren’t involved. We make sure identity theft isn’t involved. We make sure people are who they say they are. We make sure criminals don’t benefit from Canada’s generous refugee policies. When you start moving large numbers of people in short periods of time, all of that can be compromised.”
As Global News has reported, Canada doesn’t have the best record in the world on refugees, although we have taken in more than the United States. Advocates have argued there’s no reason Canada couldn’t bring in more people while maintaining security standards.
Alexander also takes issue with the campaign’s focus on new laws that gave him the authority to unilaterally strip dual citizens of their Canadian citizenship if they were found guilty of terrorism.
The Conservatives were accused of making it an election issue when they announced during the campaign their intention to strip the citizenship of people arrested on terror charges almost a decade ago. Justin Trudeau kept the issue in the headlines, repeating “a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian” in his speeches and saying that the Conservative change was creating two classes of citizens – something that Alexander believes was a mischaracterization.
“Suddenly we ended up in a campaign talking about second-class citizens? That concept does not exist in Canadian law. It should not exist in public debate. We did not introduce it to the debate. When it was introduced by the party that’s now won the election, we didn’t counter it enough,” he said.
“We don’t have room in this country for poison like that and people deserve in an election to know what the law actually says, the protections they enjoy in this country, what opportunities they enjoy in this country compared to virtually every country in the world. But that failed to be communicated.”