August 18, 2018 11:00 am

COMMENTARY: Maxime Bernier offers a disappointing and distracting diversity diatribe

New numbers reveal more asylum-seekers have entered Canada this summer. The news comes as Conservative MP Maxime Bernier is accused of stoking anti-immigrant sentiment. And as Mercedes Stephenson reports, there are now calls for Bernier to be kicked out his party.

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As someone who has previously suggested that the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) ought to embrace the ideas of Maxime Bernier, I should add that this advice does not necessarily apply to everything that comes out of his mouth — or his Twitter feed.

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Bernier has some well thought-out and valuable ideas about such issues as supply management, free trade, corporate taxation, and competition in the telecom industry — just to name a few. But on the question of Canada’s diversity, he has very little of substance or value to offer. In fact, through his own platitudes, posturing, and pandering, he’s shown himself to be no better than the prime minister he’s ostensibly criticizing.

READ MORE: Here’s why Andrew Scheer isn’t kicking Maxime Bernier out of caucus

For whatever reason, Bernier decided to dive headlong this week into a debate around diversity and multiculturalism. This has consisted exclusively of tweets, since Bernier has also been avoiding media interviews.

There is, I suppose, something to be said for independent-minded politicians. And certainly, no topic or issue should be off-limits for discussion and debate. Unfortunately, though, Bernier’s musings seem more about promoting his own political brand or perhaps some other personal political agenda.

Bernier has spent the week offering various thoughts on multiculturalism, identity politics, Canadian culture, and immigration levels. But this all seems like backpedalling from his original tweets warning of the supposed dangers of “more diversity” and “ever more diversity.”

It’s not unreasonable to question the doctrine of official multiculturalism and whether we’d be better off as a so-called “melting pot” society, or at least be able to define a Canadian culture that unites us all. It’s not unreasonable to assert that we, as Canadians, share certain values and that new Canadians understand what sort of society they’re wishing to join. Those who would reject those values or denounce Canadian society probably aren’t the best fit for this country.

READ MORE: Maxime Bernier clarifies that he’s all for diversity in Canada – just not ‘more diversity’

It’s also not unreasonable to make an economic case for more modest immigration targets, although an economic argument can certainly be made the other way, too.

But diversity is merely a demographic statistic. Yes, it is silly for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to assert that “diversity is our strength,” when it would be more accurate to say that Canada has been largely successful in becoming more diverse due to our strengths as a country.

But if one accepts that as a truth, then it does not automatically follow that more diversity will lead to problems. This is where Bernier’s own platitudes run into a logical wall. Is he arguing that we are worse off as a country as compared to, say, 30 years ago? If so, then by what metric? Crime is down. Surveys of new Canadians suggest they’re as proud to be Canadian as any previous generation of newcomers, perhaps even more so in some cases.

WATCH: Conservative MP Bernier slams Trudeau’s “extreme multiculturalism”

There are those who would argue that we are indeed worse off as a country simply by virtue of the fact that we are more diverse. I wouldn’t accuse Bernier of being in that camp, but politicians ought to be very cautious about pandering to that crowd, or creating the perception that mainstream politicians hold such views.

If we’re talking about uniting around Canadian values and Canadian culture, then the percentage of the population that is of a certain race or religion is a moot point. Increased diversity means increased percentages of certain ethnic groups — or a decrease in the percentage of white Canadians — and it’s a dangerous game to whip up public fears about that.

WATCH: Diversity is what makes Canada strong, Justin Trudeau says

Trudeau’s platitudes may be tacky and overwrought, but is this the hill Conservatives want to die on? Do they really want the next election to be about acceptable levels of diversity as opposed to the wide array of much more relevant issues that are problematic for the Liberals? I’m sure Trudeau would love an election where he could define the battle lines as “pro-diversity” versus “anti-diversity.” It’s no surprise, therefore, that the reaction from Bernier’s caucus colleagues has been one of frustration.

Even Bernier himself seems to concede that there isn’t really a diversity problem to speak of in Canada, per se, but merely the existence of a theoretical possibility that the future crossing of an undefined threshold might lead to some potential unspecified problems.

So then maybe this isn’t Canada’s most pressing issue. And maybe Maxime Bernier isn’t Canada’s most thoughtful spokesperson on this issue, either.

Rob Breakenridge is host of “Afternoons with Rob Breakenridge” on Global News Radio 770 Calgary and a commentator for Global News.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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