Indo-Canadian MP Deepak Obhrai, candidate for the leadership for the Conservative Party, the country's main opposition, says his political record speaks for itself and he was in favour of bringing 10,000 people annually on the lottery system into Canada, a country that on an average takes in 250,000 immigrants each year.
Though his chances are not rated too high, Obhral, the first Indo-Canadian to contest for the leadership of a major party, said: "I have all the advantages with my being the longest serving Member of Parliament – 19 years now and counting.”
Is that enough for him to clinch the leadership where the field is crowded with 14 candidates, the latest addition to the roster being ABC’s Shark Tank reality show personality Kevin O’Leary.
“I stand on my own record,” Obhrai told The Indian Diaspora in a conversation. “As I said, I have been an MP for 19 years, longest serving MP. I was Parliamentary Secretary to Minister for Foreign Affairs for 9 years and have, during that period, travelled to dozens and dozens of countries for interaction there at the highest levels of government.”
On his website, Obhrai says that with his 19 years “of political experience, along with my personal history and knowledge, I have the strength and vision of uniting this great party. It is all of the above that gives me the courage to put my name forth to lead, engage, and unify the voice of the Canadian people; who wish to see a Canada that embraces our heritage. To see a Canada that unifies our similarities and celebrate our diversities, create an environment of success for our children and their future and continue the true spirit of Canadian democracy through dialogue and grass root policies.”
“I am a grassroots kind of guy. My endorsement comes from people not from other politicians or big names.”
Of a total of 14 candidates, Dr. Kellie Leitch is deemed as most controversial because of her stance on immigration. She’s going round suggesting that “all immigrants, refugees, and (even) visitors to Canada to have a face-to-face interview with a trained immigration officer” to screen them “for Canadian values.”
Obhrai, however, is in favour of bringing 10,000 people annually on the lottery system. That would be open to everybody irrespective of their qualifications, experience and backgrounds. “They will be admitted on the basis of the luck of the draw,” he said. Obhrai supports the current immigration policy - with skilled workers coming under the point system and others under family class, etc. Canada admits an average of 250,000 immigrants each year.
He believes his message on immigration, on the economy, on employment, etc. is very strong. Obhrai repeatedly says Canada in 2017 “is a very different place from the one that was when I was first elected to the House of Commons in 1997.”
"The Canada now is of immigrants, of young people. Their views are so very different than that of Donald Trump and his followers on the southern side of the border."
“In my country of birth, Tanzania, I would henceforth be referred to by the respectful title of Mzee. In India, I would receive the title of Pradhaan. This means I have now reached the ranks of respected elders.”
The leadership election is scheduled in Calgary for May 27.
(Ajit Jain can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)