Tories to sell immigration changes with ad blitz
From Tuesday's Globe and Mail
April 15, 2008 at 4:43 AM EDT
The Harper government is poised to launch an aggressive advertising campaign aimed at countering attacks on its proposed changes to Canada's immigration system.
A senior government source, who has seen the script of the ads, predicted that the campaign, which is to begin in the next two weeks, will “provoke some media howls about government advertising being used for partisan purposes.”
The campaign will start as the all-party Commons immigration committee's hearings on the controversial changes get under way. And another government source said that the ads “will inform the public about the proposed amendments to the act.
“I think it will be beneficial to get more facts out with the public, who have reacted positively when the details have been laid out for them,” the source said.
Changing the immigration system is a touchy issue for Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Tories, who have been working to win the support of ethnic groups in an effort to expand their base, with an eye to forming a majority government.
Immigration changes are “very toxic as a political issue,” said Peter Donolo of the national polling firm the Strategic Counsel. Mr. Donolo noted that the Reform Party, the predecessor to the current Conservative Party, was not seen as friendly to immigrants.
“Harper seems to have been quite sensitive to this. He probably finds himself in a bit of a bind in that if he needs to expand, he needs to be seen to be kind of open-minded,” Mr. Donolo said. “On the other hand, for core supporters, immigration is red meat,” he said, in the sense that it is an issue some people fight over.
The opposition has been up in arms about the proposals, which it charges will give the immigration minister broad and arbitrary powers to pick and choose who will come into Canada.
What has particularly enraged the Liberals and the NDP is the fact that the initiatives are buried within an omnibus budget bill. The opposition has accused the Conservatives of trying to change the system by stealth.
Liberal immigration critic Maurizio Bevilacqua said he thinks the Tories are realizing they have a problem as they've been “doing some major spinning and damage control.” He said they are trying to “sell a message that is not connecting with Canadians.”
Immigration Minister Diane Finley, however, argues the proposals are necessary to deal with the backlog of about 900,000, which in some cases take six years to process.
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