Keith Beardsley’s View From the Hill – Jason Kenney and a Boatload of Tamils – July 14, 2011 – Ottawa Ontario

Ottawa ON – Several media outlets ran with a story about a ship (the MV Alicia) with an estimated 90 Tamils on board that was detained while supposedly en route to Canada. Most featured comments from Jason Kenney, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration.

What is interesting is the full court press the minister gave to this issue without really having much to say and certainly not saying much that provided solid proof that Canada was the ships destination. He gave several interviews for both print and TV and he even went on Twitter to highlight a CP story that pushed his point of view.

However, at no time did Kenney actually say the MV Alicia was on route to Canada. Instead, he threw out the suggestion that the MV Alicia might have been heading our way and then sat back and watched the media not only ramp up his comments, but then go into much detail about previous boats that had arrived here, the numbers on board, the processing time etc. Of course the real point of his media push was to get solid quotes into each article on why we need his legislation to prevent similar human smuggling operations from bringing more people to our shores.

Look at some of his quotes and they are pretty vague.

“This vessel is believed to be have been destined for Canada.”

“There are indications that it may have been destined for Canada.”

“There was some reasons to believe that this particular vessel may have been destined for Canada,”

The bottom line is was it or was it not, coming to Canada? There are numerous reports saying the vessel was en route to New Zealand and at least in the public domain no solid proof that its destination was Canada.  If it was, why not be clear and say so. If it wasn’t or if there is no solid proof that it was heading our way, then the minister was simply piggy-backing on a media story to press his political agenda while doing a bit of fear-mongering to remind Canadians of what we can expect if his legislation isn’t passed.

Clearly Kenney was quick off the mark as he saw the detention of a ship in Indonesian waters as an opportunity to promote the need to pass his “The Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada’s Immigration System Act.”

This quote backs up that assumption. “This incident in Indonesian waters of a vessel believed to contain illegal migrants destined for Canada in a human smuggling operation underscores the need for Parliament to act in passing our anti-human smuggling legislation.”

Kenney side stepped questions about what proof he had by saying that he couldn’t discuss intelligence reports. Fair enough and I agree completely with him on that point. The intelligence reports either said nothing about the MV Alicia, said it was coming here, said it was going elsewhere or were inconclusive. Whatever the reports said, the minister was out there chasing the media.

Kenney is in a win-win situation. If it’s proven that the ship was not coming to Canada, he can say he never said it was. If it’s proven it was en route to our shores he can say I told you so.

Not a bad day’s work for the minister as he received substantial media coverage based on what on the surface appears to be pretty flimsy evidence.

Keith Beardsley is a senior strategist for True North Public Affairs in Ottawa, as well as a blogger and political analyst. He can often be found running or cycling on his favorite bike trails.

Best Western

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