The Conservative Party is courting an increasingly emerging demographic and you will not believe who they are.
Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney recently sent emails to thousands of gay and lesbian Canadians boasting about his department’s protection of refugees escaping persecution for being gay in their home countries.
Forgive the incredulity, but he’s come a long way since his days with the Reform and Alliance parties, hasn’t he?
Little more than a decade ago, those parties didn’t shy away from expressing social conservative leanings. But a person can grow, right?
Gay rights advocates don’t think so. They’ve accused him of “pinkwashing” his real feelings along with the refugee policies that reflect them.
Kenney might have anticipated that waving and yelling a friendly “Hey gay person!” after the reference to gays was removed from the Canadian Citizenship Guide might open up wounds, even though he denies being involved. Recipients’ reactions were mostly along the lines of “How does he know I’m gay?”
Turns out he got the names of the email recipients from a petition signed by 10,000 people opposing the deportation of a Nicaraguan claiming refugee status because he’s gay.
But it might show a level of insensitivity or maybe it’s just naivety that makes Kenney ignorant to the fact that gay people may not want to be identified as such — especially by a government they perceive as unfriendly. But Kenney didn’t see the storm coming this time around. In fact, he acted gobsmacked.
“Quite honestly, I’ve been in Parliament for 15 years and I’ve never seen a more ridiculous reaction to an issue than people objecting to being corresponded with by a parliamentarian’s office after having contacted that office on that issue with their email address,” he said.
That’s a bit precious. Anyone with any marketing acumen knows that an email list of a specific demographic is gold — is in fact bought and sold as a commodity.
And using taxpayers’ funds in the form of government resources in order to boast about achievements sticks in plenty of craws. Sure, citizens need to be informed about the government’s goings on. (Funny thing, I’ve never seen a press release announcing unpopular initiatives like funding cuts or tax hikes.)
But the Conservative Party has pushed the line between governing and campaigning on more than one occasion.
It has placed its logo on oversized cheques during funding announcements. Kenney’s immigration staff issued campaign fundraising appeals on parliamentary letterhead. Kenney is also being accused of using his ministry’s resources to generate data and statistics to target a certain segment of voters.
Opponents are demanding an investigation into Kenney’s “concerted, directed and engaged and strategic attempt to go and pick up votes using a minister’s powers.”
That doesn’t mean he’s guilty, but there’s too much smoke to suggest there is no fire.
Easing off the throttle of political desperation would go a long way to ending the dubious ethics governing parties use to stay in power. After all, Canadians hate a blowhard.