POLITICS

André Savoie, Quebec Tory Candidate, Retracts Refugee Remarks

09/18/2015 03:46 EDT | Updated 09/18/2015 03:59 EDT

OTTAWA — A Quebec Conservative candidate says Canada shouldn't be taking in too many Syrian refugees because taxpayers will have to house them.

During a debate with Cégep students on Tuesday, André Savoie, the Conservative candidate in Avignon–La Mitis–Matane–Matapédia, suggested that if he were a refugee he would get free housing in Quebec.

"Me, coming from Montreal, I will get myself a ticket and I would go to Syria, where I would lift my hand in the air so I could get adopted over there, so then they could take me back to Quebec and they would house me. It would be wonderful," he said in French.

On Wednesday, however, Savoie was forced to retract his statement, but with a hedge.

"I am agreeable to more refugees, but in the limit of what's acceptable, after we have taken care of the people in our own country," he later told Radio-Canada.

The public broadcaster reported that this was one of Savoie's first appearances in the riding during the campaign.

The Conservative party did not comment but noted Savoie's clarification.

During The Globe and Mail leaders' debate on Thursday, Conservative Leader Stephen Harper, who has been criticized for his handling of the Syrian refugee crisis, said the government is bringing in more refugees and bringing them in more quickly. But so far the federal government has announced only $100 million for a fund to match private donations.

Harper has not increased the number of refugees to be admitted or the speed at which they would come to Canada, although the Tories have been saying for several weeks that an announcement is coming soon. The Conservative have pledged to bring in 20,000 Iraqi and Syrian refugees over four years, plus another 10,000 persecuted religious minorities.

Canada has resettled 2,374 Syrian refugees, between January 2014 and Aug. 24, 2015, three-quarters of whom were settled through private sponsorships.

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