Former interim Liberal leader Bob Rae sparked controversy and debate Wednesday morning after he took to Twitter to say the temporary foreign workers issue currently dogging the Harper government has roots in an "anti-immigration bias" dating back to the Reform Party.
The remark clearly infuriated Employment Minister Jason Kenney, a former Reform MP and ex-minister of immigration currently on the hot seat over the TFW program, who unleashed EIGHTEEN tweets in response.
Kenney called Rae's words "obscene" — an opinion apparently shared by others who joined the fray online.
Kenney defended the government's immigration record and said only those suffering from "Harper Derangement Syndrome" could accuse the Conservative Party of Canada of being anti-immigration.
And the key member of Harper’s inner circle even dug into the immigration record of former Liberal prime minister Jean Chrétien.
Here is the full exchange (if you can even call it that) that quickly caught the attention of Canadian journalists and political junkies.
TFW issue has roots in Reform's anti-immigration bias - explosion in "temporary" category is all about segregating and excluding. #cdnpoili— Bob Rae (@BobRae48) April 30, 2014
That's obscene & beneath you, @BobRae48. We've increased immigration to record levels, the highest per capita level in the developed world.— Jason Kenney (@kenneyjason) April 30, 2014
in its first 5 yrs in office, Chretien govt *cut* immigration levels by 32%. Our govt has increased average annual levels by 14% @BobRae48.— Jason Kenney (@kenneyjason) April 30, 2014
Average annual admission of permanent residents 1994-2005 = 222K. Average levels 2006-2013 = 255K, @BobRae48. "Anti immigration bias"????— Jason Kenney (@kenneyjason) April 30, 2014
Since coming to office, we have tripled the number of "temporary foreign workers" who obtain permanent residency, from 13K to 38K @BobRae48— Jason Kenney (@kenneyjason) April 30, 2014
We created an entire new immigration category, the Canadian Experience Class, specifically to allow TFWs to transition to PR, @BobRae48.— Jason Kenney (@kenneyjason) April 30, 2014
We tripled settlement funding for newcomers from $200M in 2005 to $600M now, @BobRae48. That reflects an "anti-immigration bias?"— Jason Kenney (@kenneyjason) April 30, 2014
In 1995 Liberal govt imposed a $1000 Right of Landing Fee on new permanent residents, @BobRae48. In 2006 we cut it in half.Anti-immigration?— Jason Kenney (@kenneyjason) April 30, 2014
We increased 8-fold the Provincial Nominee Programs, which are often used to transition lower skilled TFWs to PR, @BobRae48. Anti-immigrant?— Jason Kenney (@kenneyjason) April 30, 2014
Our 8x increase in prov nominees has brought huge diversity to many rural western communities, tripling immigration to prairies, @BobRae48— Jason Kenney (@kenneyjason) April 30, 2014
We're also admitting record numbers of foreign students & visitors, @BobRae48. Is that all about "segregating and excluding?"— Jason Kenney (@kenneyjason) April 30, 2014
Largest growth in TFWP has been in reciprocal youth mobility programs, @BobRae48. Aussies working @ Whistler during gap yr are "segregated?"— Jason Kenney (@kenneyjason) April 30, 2014
The # of "temporary foreign workers" coming to do academic research & studies has tripled to 11K since 2005, @BobRae48. They're "excluded?"— Jason Kenney (@kenneyjason) April 30, 2014
4 of the top 5 source countries for the TFWP are the US, France, UK & Australia, @BobRae48. Germany & Ireland also in top 10. "Segregated?"— Jason Kenney (@kenneyjason) April 30, 2014
The # of TFWs entering Canada has gone from .7% of workforce in 2006 to 1.1% of workforce in 2012, @BobRae48. This is "anti-immigration?"— Jason Kenney (@kenneyjason) April 30, 2014
If Reform Party had an "anti-immigration bias" why did it elect the 1st Muslim, 1st Hindu, & 1st South Asian woman to Parliament, @BobRae48?— Jason Kenney (@kenneyjason) April 30, 2014
The Reform Party consistently won a plurality of the votes of immigrants in Western Canada, @BobRae48. Were they "anti-immigration" voters?— Jason Kenney (@kenneyjason) April 30, 2014
Your tweet is typical of Harper Derangement Syndrome:tendency on left to ascribe worst possible motives, even contrary to evidence @BobRae48— Jason Kenney (@kenneyjason) April 30, 2014
In parallel world of Harper Derangement Syndrome, the most pro-immigration govt in modern CDN history has "anti-immigration bias." @BobRae48— Jason Kenney (@kenneyjason) April 30, 2014
As mentioned, Kenney wasn't the only person to weigh in on Rae's barb.
Ian Brodie, the former chief of staff to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, didn't mince words.
@BobRae48 This tweet, really, might rank as the least useful contribution to Cdn public policy in years. A serious issue done a disservice.— Ian Brodie (@irbrodie) April 30, 2014
And former Harper spokesperson Andrew MacDougall was clearly pleased with Kenney's spirited response.
Unsurprisingly, Tory junior minister Michelle Rempel, a frequent tweeter, had a few things to say.
But Gerald Butts, principal adviser to Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, had a different take.
Regardless of where you stand on this simmering issue, one thing is now clear: if you want to get in a Twitter spat with Kenney, you best prepare — and probably clear your schedule.
UPDATE: More than eight hours later, Rae issued a response.
News item that Twitter stock has plunged. Jason Kenney better ease up. #cdnpoIi— Bob Rae (@BobRae48) April 30, 2014
What did you think of Rae's tweet? Was it offside? Tell us in the comments.
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President Bill Clinton famously admitted to trying marijuana while completing his Rhodes scholarship at Oxford. "When I was in England I experimented with marijuana a time or two, and I didn’t like it," <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/1992/03/30/us/the-1992-campaign-new-york-clinton-admits-experiment-with-marijuana-in-1960-s.html?gwh=B1648339901F9BBAADA0D9EC8C030343">The New York Times reported in 1992</a>. "I didn’t inhale it, and never tried it again.”
Virgin Group chairman and founder <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2012/12/06/opinion/branson-end-war-on-drugs">Richard Branson is an outspoken advocate of marijuana legilization</a>, once writing an op-ed for CNN that called for an end to the war on drugs. He reportedly asked <a href="http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0312/74111.html">President Obama during a White House visit if he could "have a spliff"</a> in 2012. "They didn't have any," he added.
New York City Mayor and Bloomberg L.P. founder Michael Bloomberg found himself in hot water when he admitted to smoking marijuana back in 2002, The New York Times reports. When asked by a reporter if he had ever tried pot, he responded: <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2002/04/10/nyregion/bloomberg-says-he-regrets-marijuana-remarks.html">"You bet I did. And I enjoyed it."</a>
Playboy founder Hugh Hefner credits his use of marijuana later in life with changing his perspective on sex. "I didn't know what making love was all about for all those years," Hefner <a href="http://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/2010/11/23/hugh-hefner-talks-monogomy-miley-cyrus-marijuana/">who supports legalization</a> is quoted as saying in <em><a href="http://www.amazon.com/High-In-America-Politics-Marijuana/dp/0670119903">High In America: The True Story Behind NORML</a></em>. <a href="http://www.druglibrary.org/special/anderson/highinamerica8.htm">"Smoking helped put me in touch with the realm of the senses."</a>
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