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Michael TaubeTory leadership candidate Kellie Leitch’s proposal to screen would-be immigrants for “anti-Canadian values” has started a national conversation. For all the wrong reasons.

Every right-leaning and left-leaning political party has an Achilles’ heel or two. There are proposals, plans and policies that, no matter how well intentioned, just don’t sell with the general public because it doesn’t come from a believable political voice.

Conservatism’s biggest Achilles’ heel has been identity politics.

Right-leaning parties are commonly perceived as being narrow-minded on concepts like race, religion, culture, ethnicity and gender. Canada’s Tories are supposedly the party of angry white men who are intolerant, bigoted, anti-immigrant and opposed to change.

It’s complete nonsense. Canadian conservatism has long had a diverse political tent when it came to voters, supporters, members, candidates and elected officials.

But when it comes to hard-ridged debates about identity politics, Canada’s Right has attempted to keep them to a bare minimum. It’s not out of fear of broaching certain topics and proposing controversial ideas. Rather, there are more intelligent, thoughtful ways to spin policies, and couch language, to make things palatable to all Canadians.

A proposal to screen immigrants for “anti-Canadian values” isn’t one of them.

It’s obvious why Leitch, a relatively unknown MP and former cabinet minister, decided to make this pitch to grassroots members. She was barely registering as a Tory leadership candidate – around two percent in popular support, according to an Ipsos-Global News poll – and needed to make a splash.

Still, this is the same politician who helped propose the “barbaric cultural practices” tip line in last year’s federal election, and then got emotional about it during an April appearance on CBC News Network’s Power and Politics. Doesn’t seem like the best person to take another tough stance.

Regardless, does the issue have merit?

Toronto Sun columnist Candice Malcolm pointed out on Sept. 8, “Until 2002, Canada conducted in-person interviews with all potential immigrants.” In other words, we screened them.

That’s true. But here’s what Malcolm and others tend to forget: If this was such an effective policy, then why didn’t then-prime minister Stephen Harper and the Tories reintroduce it between 2006-2015?

Oh, that’s right. It fell under the scope of identity politics, which always put Canadian conservatism at a disadvantage. That’s why many ex-Harper staffers, who support tough-on-crime policies and the war on terror oppose Leitch’s similar strategy.

Hang on. A recent Forum Research poll showed that 67 percent of respondents favoured screening immigrants for “anti-Canadian values.” The breakdown was 87 percent among Tory voters, 59 percent for New Democrats, and 57 percent for Liberals.

That’s nice, but so what? The majority isn’t always right. Here are several concepts the majority of society once supported: blacks are inferior to whites, interracial and/or interfaith marriage is morally wrong, women shouldn’t have the right to vote, Jews control the banks, and Catholics are papists who are only loyal to the Vatican.

Most Canadians, including small “c” conservatives, wouldn’t agree with them today.

I’m obviously not suggesting that vetting isn’t important. We want to ensure that new Canadians work hard, respect our values, and strive for a better life for themselves and their families.

Working under the assumption that all immigrants potentially have issues with Canada before they even step foot on our soil, however, is impossible to defend.

Meanwhile, how do you prevent people from lying during a screening process? That’s just it: you can’t. Hence, it’s not only wrong-headed, it’s completely ineffective.

Leitch’s decision to enter the lion’s den of identity politics (which she has repeatedly denied, albeit not convincingly) has pushed the Tories into a conversation they would surely have wished to avoid. Let’s hope they overwhelmingly reject her candidacy, and condemn her foolhardy screening proposal that reeks of intolerance.

Michael Taube, a Troy Media syndicated columnist and political commentator, was a speechwriter for former Prime Minister Stephen Harper. He holds a master’s degree in comparative politics from the London School of Economics.

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