Michael Chong wants to be leader of Canada’s federal Conservative Party, replacing former Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who stepped down from the position following his government’s election defeat on October 19th, 2015.
First elected in 2004 at the age of 33, he was included in Stephen Harper’s first cabinet in 2006. Eight months later, however, he resigned the position feeling unable to support the Prime Minister’s motion declaring the mainly French-speaking province of Quebec, a nation within Canada.
‘It’s time to tell our stories’
Earning respect as a principled politician, Chong worked hard as a backbencher to gain more independence for MPs from their party leaders.
Last year his Reform Act passed, which now provides MPs the right to vote within their party caucuses, at the beginning of each new parliament on whether to give themselves the power to vote for their own caucus chair or, in extreme circumstances, to vote to remove their leaders.
But in annoncing his candidacy yesterday, it was his family story he stressed. The son of a Chinese immigrant father and a Dutch immigrant mother. He said his father watched Canadians soldiers defend Hong Kong in the Second World War, while his mother was liberated by Canadians in Holland.
His father arrived in Canada in 1952, just five years after the repeal of the Chinese Exclusion Act by the Parliament of Canada. Working at one point as a lumberjack, his father eventually put himself through medical school.
“He worked hard and he persevered and he built for himself and his family a life of opportunity. And I’m the beneficiary of that,” Chong told reporters. “And so my family owes everything to this country. I literally would not be here today were it not for the sacrifice of Canadian soldiers in two theatres of war. I say that without any hint of hyperbole. It’s a fact.”
‘I think I represent a new Canada’
He supports a tax system that would be “flatter,” “simpler,” and “fairer” but not flat, and he would reduce the number of tax brackets and eliminate loopholes. He says the Conservative Party should change its official policy defining marriage as between a man and a woman only. And he thinks the party needs to attract “new people”.
In an interview with the CBC’s Aaron Wherry last week, Chong said, “I think I represent a new Canada, a rising new Canada,” he said,clarifying that in a few years more than half the country will be foreign born, or have at least one parent who was born overseas.
“The country is changing rapidly as a result of immigration and I think my family’s story represents that new Canada. And so that will be a big part of my campaign, because I think as Conservatives we need to tell that story, we need to tell those stories because it will attract new people to our party.”
The Conservative Party will chose their new leader on May 27, 2017.