Chris Alexander (politician)

The Globe and Mail Mark Holland Conservative Party of Canada

Chris Alexander

Chris Alexander 2015.jpg
Alexander in 2015
Minister of Citizenship and Immigration
In office
July 15, 2013 – November 4, 2015
Prime MinisterStephen Harper
Preceded byJason Kenney
Succeeded byJohn McCallum
Ambassador to Afghanistan
In office
October 2003 – October 5, 2005
Prime Minister
Preceded byKonrad Sigurdson
Succeeded byDavid Sproule
Member of the Canadian Parliament
for Ajax—Pickering
In office
May 2, 2011 – November 4, 2015
Preceded byMark Holland
Succeeded byMark Holland
Personal details
Born (1968-09-09) September 9, 1968 (age 52)
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Political partyConservative
Spouse(s)Hedvig Christine Alexander
Alma mater

Christopher A. Alexander, PC[1] (born September 9, 1968) is a former Canadian politician and diplomat. He served as Canada's Minister of Citizenship and Immigration from 2013 to 2015. He represented the riding of Ajax—Pickering, in Ontario, in the House of Commons of Canada from 2011 to 2015. He was defeated by his Liberal predecessor Mark Holland in the 2015 election.

Alexander spent 18 years in the Canadian Foreign Service, and served as Canada's first resident Ambassador to Afghanistan from 2003 to 2005. Following this he served as a Deputy Special Representative of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan till 2009. After winning his seat in the 2011 election, Alexander was appointed Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence. On July 15, 2013, he was appointed Canada's Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. He ran for the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada in 2016–17, placing 10th in a field of 14 candidates.


Alexander was born in Toronto, the son of Andrea, a high school teacher, and Bruce Alexander, a lawyer and assistant deputy minister in the Ontario government.[2] His grandfather, Don Lough, was mayor of Huntsville, Ontario.[3] After graduating from the University of Toronto Schools, Alexander earned a B.A. in History and Politics from McGill University in 1989 and an M.A. in Politics, Philosophy, and Economics from Balliol College, Oxford in 1991.


In 1991, Alexander joined the Canadian Foreign Service. He was posted to the Canadian embassy in Russia in 1993 as Third Secretary and Vice-Consul. In 1996, he returned to Ottawa to become an assistant to the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs. In 1997, he became Deputy Director (Russia) of the Eastern Europe Division responsible for political and trade relations. In 2002 he returned to the Canadian embassy in Moscow as Minister Counsellor (Political).

In 2003, Alexander applied for the position of Canadian ambassador in Kabul, Afghanistan. He was selected for the position and presented his credentials in August 2003, relieving resident chargé d'affaires a.i. Keith Fountain.[4] From 2005 until mid-2009, he served as one of two Deputy Special Representatives of the Secretary General (SRSG) of the United Nations in the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).[5][6][7]

In 2005, Alexander was selected as a Young Global Leader, an adjunct to the World Economic Forum.[8] In 2006 he was one of Canada's Top 40 Under 40.[9] He received the Atlantic Council of Canada Award in 2007, and in 2008 was made a 1st Class Grand Officer of the Order of the Star of Italian Solidarity.[10][11] In 2009 he was Honorary Chair of the UTS Centenary.[12] In 2010, he received the Birchall Leadership Award.[13]

Alexander's performance in diplomacy circles was widely lauded. He was described by various commenters as "sensitive to the Afghan culture, knowledgeable, persuasive, totally committed, and hardworking;" "perhaps one of the brightest and most capable diplomats that have come to Afghanistan over the past five years;" and "the best ambassador I've ever worked for." Major General David Fraser, commander of NATO forces in southern Afghanistan, referred to him simply as "an amazing man."[14]

On 12 April 2010, CBC News revealed that Alexander, as a senior official working with the United Nations, alleged that Asadullah Khalid, the former Governor of Kandahar Province in Afghanistan, had ordered the killing of five UN workers by bombing, presumably to protect his narcotics interests.[15]

On 12 December 2019, The Globe and Mail published a lengthy opinion piece written by Alexander in which he admitted that for most of his time in Afghanistan, he knew that Western strategy "was wrong" in that it did not focus on Pakistan's military support for the Taliban as the root cause of the conflict.[16]

Private sector career

Alexander became president of Red Mountain Energy Corp. in August 2010.[17] Red Mountain founder Denis Smyslov met him in the early 1990s while Alexander was stationed at the Canadian embassy in Moscow.[18]


Joining the Conservative party

On 21 September 2009, Alexander announced his resignation from the foreign service and his intention to seek the Conservative nomination in the suburban Toronto area riding of Ajax—Pickering.[19] The choice of location made Alexander a parachute candidate,[20] moving to Ajax with his family from their home in Etobicoke.[21] Ajax-Pickering was considered a key battleground riding, held by Liberal Mark Holland. Holland was a Liberal star, well known for his performance during Question Period.[22]

Alexander had been considered a potential star candidate by both the Liberals and Conservatives, both of whom actively recruited him. According to accounts given to the press, Alexander ultimately rejected Michael Ignatieff's offer due to differences in policy over Canada's role in Afghanistan, reportedly due to the party's insistence on ending Canada's combat role in 2011 (a policy subsequently adopted by the majority Conservative government of which Alexander became part). Alexander disputed this, saying he had always had Conservative leanings and that the discussions with the Liberals had never been serious.[19][23][24][25]

Alexander won the seat in the 2011 federal election in a heavily contested race, winning with 24,797 votes over Holland with 21,569.[26][27]

Time in office

Shortly after taking office in May 2011, Alexander was appointed Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Defence Peter MacKay.[28][29][30] Alexander remained active on Afghanistan related issues, frequently speaking and writing on this subject.[31][32][33] In late 2012 Alexander frequently defended the government's position on the F-35 contract. The procurement was a major political hot potato and the press referred to the dossier as the "worst job in Ottawa".[34] His initial appearances on the topic did not go well; in a CBC interview he claimed the press was confused about the issue and that the government had not actually agreed to purchase the aircraft, while the video roll in the background showed Minister MacKay saying exactly that.[35] A follow-up appearance on CTV News's Question Period show was judged by Canadian journalist Aaron Wherry to have been "a bit better", noting that Alexander had conceded the Auditor General's report on the program had to be taken seriously, and had conveyed that the government was doing just that.[34]

In July 2013, he was promoted to Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. Alexander sponsored Bill C-24, the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act, which changed the residency requirements for gaining citizenship to reduce the number of what the party called "Canadians of convenience" with weak bonds to the country.[36] The bill also allowed the Citizenship and Immigration Minister to revoke Canadian citizenship from dual citizens convicted of treason, espionage, or terrorism charges as well as those who engaged in armed conflict against Canada, which effectively created a two-tier Canadian citizenship.[36][37][38]

Alexander's time in office was marked by what a number of commentators described as a surprisingly adversarial approach to politics, in contrast with the expectation of some that he would be a moderate figure. Tim Powers, of the well-known Ottawa consulting firm Summa Strategies, stated, "When you see a guy whose career has been built on diplomacy and a persuasive life in a pugilistic position, it can be a conflicting image."[39] In a June 2015 debate on Twitter, leading Canadian political journalist Paul Wells criticised[40] Alexander for distortions of Canadian history and of his own policies, adding "Chris Alexander's jaw flaps like a barn door and he has no control over what comes out of it" and "if this is what smart gets us in a cabinet minister, I'd gladly trade it in for some stupid".

2015 election

Alexander in India in 2015[41]

For the 2015 election, Alexander ran in Ajax, essentially the southern portion of his old riding. He faced Holland in a rematch.

During the 2015 election campaign, Alexander was known for toeing the party line, and accepted the position as front man on a number of highly charged and divisive issues. Many of these, notably the niqāb issue, were seen as key elements of the ultimate Conservative downfall. Alexander often commented on these issues, in one case tweeting that "Niqab, hijab, burka, wedding veil—face coverings have no place in cit oath-taking!"[42]

On 2 September, shortly after the start of the campaign, Alexander became embroiled in the Alan Kurdi affair when Alan's father Abdullah blamed Canadian immigration officials for his son's death. Kurdi stated they attempted to travel to Greece after Immigration Canada refused his asylum request.[43] However, it was immediately noted that no official application had ever been made.[44] In an appearance that night on a CBC News Network's Power & Politics panel discussion, Alexander defended the Harper Government's handling the Syrian refugee crisis. In response to a question where host Rosemary Barton wondered why the government had taken so long to act if the crisis had been going on for years, Alexander suggested the media was partially to blame for the crisis as they had ignored the issue. Calling it "the biggest conflict and humanitarian crisis of our time", he stated that journalists (including Barton) were responsible for not drawing enough attention to the issue and noting that it was the first time he had been on a Power & Politics panel discussion on the topic"[45] Barton responded that Alexander's comments were "completely false", noting that the show had covered the events in Syria 32 times since 2011 and that Alexander himself had been involved in several of these segments.[45]

The next day, rumours circulated that in March 2015, New Westminster—Coquitlam MP Fin Donnelly had personally requested that Alexander look into the refugee application of the Kurdis, who were privately sponsored by Alan's aunt, one of Donnelly's constituents.[46] Alan's aunt clarified that the application was for Alan's uncle, Mohammed, and his family, but that she was planning to apply for Alan's father, Abdullah, once she had enough funds, so she had her MP deliver a letter to Alexander pleading her case.[47] On the same day, Alexander announced that he would be temporarily suspending his campaign for re-election the next morning to return to Ottawa to resume his ministerial duties, receive updates on the refugee crisis, and investigate the case of Alan Kurdi.[46]

On 8 October it was revealed that Canadian immigration officials had been ordered to stop processing all claimants from Syria earlier in the year, and that all such claims would have to be vetted by the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) and personally signed off by the Prime Minister. Processing was stopped for several weeks, and all previous referrals from the UN in 2014 and 2015 were put under review. Alexander stated that this was done to ensure the security of process.[48] The same day, Stephen Harper personally denied that his staff had anything to do with the process. He did agree that a review had been started, but this was not carried out in the PMO, and that no security threats were discovered as a part of the investigation.[49]

Days later, just two weeks before the election, sources reported to CTV News that Alexander was one of a dozen Tory MPs in the Greater Toronto Area at risk of being defeated.[50] This came to pass as Alexander won only 16,611 votes to Holland's 27,039—a deficit of almost 12,000 votes—as part of the Conservatives' collapse in southern Ontario (the Tories only retained three seats in the GTA).[51]

A week after the election, Alexander repeated his claim that the media had not sufficiently covered the Syrian refugee crisis and the defeated government's plans in a scrum with Global News.[52] He has subsequently argued in media interviews that in the context of the election he was prevented by his own party from advertising his government's achievements on immigration and refugee policy.

2017 Conservative Party of Canada leadership election

On October 12, 2016, Alexander announced his intention to run for the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada. His leadership platform detailed policies on employment, taxation, innovation, families, education, competitiveness, energy self-sufficiency, cities, agriculture, poverty, homelessness, First Nations peoples, the Métis, refugees, the Monarchy, justice, health care, protecting wilderness, forestry, mining, international diplomacy, terrorism, democratic reform, cyber-security, Canadian culture, northern development, and national defence.

During the campaign he advocated increased immigration as the key to economic growth; in this regard he proposed increasing immigration to 400,000 a year, to include 40,000 refugees. He also called for doubling defence spending and "for an accelerated push to settle all outstanding land claims and to sign treaties with First Nations communities that would empower them to govern themselves".

Alexander finished 10th in a field of 14 candidates (the 11th-place candidate having withdrawn several weeks before the ballot). He received a maximum of 1.23 percent of the total vote before being eliminated in the fifth of thirteen rounds of voting.

Post-political career

Since the 2017 Conservative Party leadership election, Alexander has maintained a relatively low public profile. He remains an occasional commentator in Canadian media, offering views that are sometimes at odds with those of the Conservative Party; for example, Alexander has defended the UN Migration Pact which is criticized by Conservatives.[53] His current source of income is not a matter of public record.

Electoral record


2015 Canadian federal election
Party Candidate Votes % ±% Expenditures
Liberal Mark Holland 31,460 55.7% +17.77%
Conservative Chris Alexander 19,488 34.5% −9.73%
New Democratic Stephanie Brown 4,639 8.2% −6.8%
Green Jeff Hill 791 1.4% −1.32%
United Bob Kesic 57 0.1% −0.03%
Total valid votes/Expense limit 100.0     $221,131.96
Total rejected ballots
Turnout 56,435 66.72%
Eligible voters 84,584
Source: Elections Canada[54][55][56]


2011 Canadian federal election
Party Candidate Votes % ±% Expenditures
Conservative Chris Alexander 24,797 44.07 +6.12
Liberal Mark Holland 21,569 38.33 −6.20
New Democratic Jim Koppens 8,284 14.72 +5.64
Green Mihkel Harilaid 1,621 2.88 −4.40
United Bob Kesic 72 0.13
Total valid votes/Expense limit 56,268 100.00
Total rejected ballots 187 0.33 −0.05
Turnout 56,455 61.22
Conservative gain from Liberal Swing +6.16


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