Still you can dress up in your ethnic garb and pose behind Stephen Harper in an excellent photo op for "you People" that makes Steve look like he doesn't mind you ethic types during the campaign. Even if you hate the joo you can still join in as long as you wear your costume to the photo op. If you happen to have had your picture taken with a Liberal or NDP you're not welcome. So you people should keep that in mind.
A Conservative candidate in the GTA is at the centre of a growing controversy after his office asked multicultural groups in the riding if they would like to wear “ethnic costumes” to a photo op with Stephen Harper.
The Star obtained an email sent by a campaign worker for Etobicoke Centre candidate Ted Opitz in which community groups are told Harper’s visit to the riding Thursday night creates a photo opportunity.
“We … are trying to create a photo-op about all the multicultural groups that support Ted Opitz our local Conservative candidate and the Prime Minister,” reads the email sent Tuesday night by Zeljko “Zed” Zidaric with the subject line: “Opportunity – Thursday night with the Prime Minister.”
“The opportunity is to have up to 20 people in national folklore costumes which represent their ethnic backgrounds. These people will sit in front row behind the PM – great TV photo op (sic).”
The email continues: “We are seeking representation from the Arab community. Do you have any cultural groups that would like to participate by having someone at the event in an ethnic costume? We are seeking one or two people from your community.”
In an email to the Star, Opitz said the message was sent by a campaign staffer without his knowledge.
“I do not support its characterization or intent,” Opitz said.
A spokesperson for the Conservative Party of Canada characterized the email as a “mistake.”
“It was a mistake sent out by a local campaign staff person,” said Ryan Sparrow. “The national campaign does not endorse this email and it is completely inappropriate.”
Opitz, a lieutenant-colonel in the Canadian military, is the senior regional advisor to Immigration Minister Jason Kenney.
It’s unknown how many recipients the email had, but it has already elicited reaction in ethnic communities.
Sukhminder Hansra, publisher and editor-in-chief of the Punjabi Daily newspaper, said he feels the email suggests the Conservatives are attempting to use different ethnic communities for political gain.
“If they’re going as far as bringing people in, asking them to dress certain ways for photo opportunities, that’s going a little bit too far,” Hansra told The Star. “It’s a major concern. The community is not there to be used for political gain. It’s as simple as that.”
Ironically, one of the recipients of the email was the Canadian Arab Federation (CAF), a group singled out by Kenney in 2009 for what he called its “hateful sentiments” toward Israel and Jews. The immigration minister subsequently cut $1.2 million in funding for the Federation’s language and job search workshops for newcomers.
“To parade people from ethnic communities in traditional costumes is such a superficial way for the prime minister to serve his own interests without looking seriously at the issues which concern these communities,” said CAF president Khaled Mouamar. “It’s disgusting actually.”
Liberal Party multiculturalism critic Rob Oliphant characterized the email as an extension of the Conservatives’ “very ethnic” ridings strategy.
In early March, a funding request from Immigration Minister Jason Kenney’s office detailing the party’s plan to target minorities through advertising in local media made headlines for its description of 10 ethnically diverse ridings — five of which are in the GTA. The document, entitled Breaking Through, Building the Conservative Brand, was written on Kenney’s MP letterhead and sought $200,000 in donations to target “very ethnic” ridings. The letter was made public after it was accidentally sent to NDP MP Linda Duncan. Kenney’s office apparently confused her with Conservative MP John Duncan.
Kenney later apologized, while the staffer responsible for the letter resigned.
“There is a kind of amateurish naivety to what the Conservatives are doing,” Oliphant said. “When I read this email from Optiz’s office, it sounded like a costume party. It sounded closer to Halloween than to a federal election. People don’t wear costumes, they wear clothes.”
“For someone to be inviting people to dress up for the prime minister in an ethnic costume for a photo op is the height of patronizing, pandering and belittling the contributions of new Canadians.”
But the email isn’t the first time during the election the Conservatives’ tactics to court votes has raised the ire of opposition parties.
Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff chastised Harper for referring to immigrants as “you people, you people who come from other lands” during a rally in Mississauga, Ont., last month.
“What an unbelievable way to talk about the Canadian people,” Ignatieff told a crowd of Liberal supporters during a campaign event in Toronto. “We have got to put an end to the language of divisions.”
Hansra said it is too early to judge how publicity surrounding the controversial email from Opitz’s office would affect Conservative support in Toronto’s South Asian community. He said Harper’s three visits to Brampton since the writ was dropped have helped the party brand.
“We just have to see how the campaign unfolds,” he said.
Harper is a man of you people.