Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney regards Peel Region "as the key swing area" in the next federal election and says the Conservative party faces more competition from its rivals in these ridings than it did a few years ago.
"The NDP is much more focused on ethnic outreach, and [Liberal Leader] Justin Trudeau is trying to cash in on his family name," Mr. Kenney said in a phone interview with The Globe and Mail.
Until the 2011 election, there were no South Asian MPs in the NDP ranks. There are now two – Jasbir Sandhu and Jinny Sims – both from British Columbia. As well, Jagmeet Singh, the federal NDP candidate who lost to now Minister of State (Sports) Bal Gosal in Bramalea-Gore-Malton by just 539 votes, sits on the front benches for the provincial NDP and enjoys growing popularity in the community, according to area leaders and ethnic media.
At the same time, there are a number of South Asians and other ethnic groups who are not happy with the Conservative government's decision last year to delete from the immigration backlog almost 300,000 applications under the federal skilled workers program – workers who had applied for permanent visas before February, 2008.
Based on his discussions with members of the Punjabi community and others in Brampton, Mr. Kenney says some people are critical of the changes but most support them.
"Only 2 per cent of those people [applicants affected] have immediate relatives in Canada," he said, so they have "no political constituency in Canada."
A more difficult issue is the eight to nine years of waiting time for landed-immigrant visas facing parents and grandparents of Canadians. To some extent this issue has been resolved by the introduction of the "super visa" under which parents and grandparents of Canadians can get a 10-year multiple-entry visa.
"It is a great step [and a] flexible tool for parents to come to Canada on extended visits," says Mr. Kenney. But the catch is a minimum income requirement of $43,292 for a family (of four) who is sponsoring their parents. This income "is close to the poverty line … and so we don't think you can support two elderly people into the cost of your household" if you are earning less than this amount, Mr. Kenney said.
Even though the next federal election is two years away, party fundraising is constant. One such Tory initiative is the Leaders Circle, whose members pay $1,200 annually. There are almost 1,000 members in the GTA alone, sources say.
The party is organizing a barbecue on Aug. 10 at businessman Vasu Chanchlani's home in Mississauga. The organizers' target is to enroll a minimum of 150 new members and raise more than $180,000. The event is limited to 300 people. Each member of the Leaders Circle is expected to bring a guest who could be a potential member.
Mr. Kenney and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty are among five federal ministers who have, according to sources, confirmed they will be at the event and will help "flip hamburgers." To give the event a South Asian flavour, samosas, chicken tikka and seekh kabab will also be served.
The organizing committee for the event includes Mr. Gosal, MP Parm Gill (both from Brampton) and retired Conservative senator Vim Kochhar.