Chris Alexander (politician)

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The Honourable
Chris Alexander
Minister's word of encouragement (18975272533).jpg
Chris Alexander speaks at the opening of the 2015 Pan American Games
Minister of Citizenship and Immigration
In office
July 15, 2013 – October 19, 2015
Prime Minister Stephen Harper
Preceded by Jason Kenney
Succeeded by John McCallum
Member of the Canadian Parliament
for Ajax—Pickering
In office
May 2, 2011 – October 19, 2015
Preceded by Mark Holland
Succeeded by Mark Holland
Ambassador to Afghanistan
In office
October 2003 – October 5, 2005
Prime Minister Jean Chrétien
Paul Martin
Preceded by Konrad Sigurdson
Succeeded by David Sproule
Personal details
Born (1968-09-09) September 9, 1968 (age 47)
Toronto, Ontario
Political party Conservative
Spouse(s) Hedvig Christine
Children 2

Christopher A. "Chris" Alexander (born September 9, 1968), PC[1] is a Canadian diplomat and politician. 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 Canadian House of Commons 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.


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 put in his name for the new position of Canadian ambassador in Kabul, Afghanistan. He won the position and took office in August 2003, relieving resident chargé d'affaires a.i. Keith Fountain.[2] From 2005 until mid-2009, he served as one of two deputy special representatives of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).[3][4][5]

In 2005, Alexander was selected as a Young Global Leader, an adjunct to the World Economic Forum.[6] In 2006 he was one of Canada's Top 40 Under 40.[7] 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.[8][9] In 2009 he was Honorary Chair of the UTS Centenary.[10] In 2010, he received the Birchall Leadership Award.[11]

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."[12]

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.[13]


Joining the Conservative party[edit]

On 21 September 2009, Alexander made the surprise announcement that he would give up his foreign service career and seek the Conservative nomination in the suburban Toronto area riding of Ajax—Pickering.[14] The choice of location made Alexander a parachute candidate,[15] moving to Ajax with his family from their home in Etobicoke.[16] Ajax-Pickering was considered a key battleground riding, held by Liberal Mark Holland. Holland was a Liberal star, well known for his performances during Question Period.[17]

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 leaving the combat role in 2011. Alexander disputed this, saying he had always had Conservative leanings and that the discussions with the Liberals had never been serious.[14][18][19][20]

Alexander won the seat in the 2011 federal election in a heavily contested race, winning with 24,797 votes over Holland with 21,569.[21][22]

Time in office[edit]

Shortly after taking office in May 2011, Alexander was appointed Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Defence Peter MacKay.[23][24][25] Alexander remained active on Afghanistan related issues, frequently speaking and writing on this subject.[26][27][28] 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".[29] 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 the Minister, MacKay, saying exactly that.[30] A follow-up appearance on CTV News's Question Period show was much stronger, noting that the Auditor General's report on the program had to be taken seriously, and the government was doing just that.[29]

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 numbers of "Canadians of convenience" with weak bonds to the country.[31] 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.[31][32][33]

Alexander's time in office was marked by what a number of commentators noted as a surprising change of nature. Initially thought of as a "moderate Ontario Tory", he was instead noted for the sorts of highly partisan politics considered typical of the Harper administration. Tim Powers, of the well-known Ottawa consulting firm Summa Strategies, noted that "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."[34]

2015 election[edit]

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

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 made comment on these issues, in one case tweeting that "Niqab, hijab, burka, wedding veil — face coverings have no place in cit oath-taking!"[35]

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.[36] However, it was immediately noted that no official application had ever been made.[37] In an appearance that night on CBC's Power & Politics, Alexander defended the Harper Government's handling the Syrian refugee crisis. He suggested the media was partially to blame for the crisis as they had ignored the issue, saying this was "the biggest conflict and humanitarian crisis of our time has been there for two years, and you and others have not put it in the headlines where it deserves to be." He went on to ask "why this is the first Power & Politics panel we've had on this?"[38] In response, Power & Politics host Rosemary Barton noted that the show had covered the events in Syria 32 times since 2011, and that Alexander himself had been involved in several of these episodes.[38]

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 Kurdi's, who were privately sponsored by Alan's aunt, one of Donnelly's constituents.[39] 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.[40] 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.[39]

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.[41] 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.[42]

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.[43] 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).[44]

Electoral record[edit]


Canadian federal election, 2015
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%
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[45][46][47]


Canadian federal election, 2011
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

Private business[edit]

Alexander became president of Red Mountain Energy Corp. in August 2010.[48] He and Red Mountain founder, Denis Smyslov, met in the early 1990s while Alexander was stationed at the Canadian embassy in Moscow.[49]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Foreign Affairs Department. "Listing of Posts". Retrieved 31 May 2011. 
  3. ^ "UNAMA Biography of Chris Alexander". Retrieved 31 May 2011. 
  4. ^ "Afghanistan: Press conference by Chris Alexander, DSRSG and Nilab Mobarez, UNAMA Spokesperson's Office". Retrieved 31 May 2011. 
  5. ^ Goold, Douglas (Spring 2007). "What Does the Future Hold for Chris Alexander?". International Journal 62 (2): 393–402. JSTOR 40204276. 
  6. ^ "List of Active Young Global Leaders As of 11 April 2011" (PDF). World Economic Forum. Retrieved 31 May 2011. 
  7. ^ "Top 40 under 40". Globe and Mail. 2 May 2006. Retrieved 31 May 2011. 
  8. ^ "First Annual Atlantic Council of Canada Awards Dinner" (PDF). Atlantic Council of Canada Newsletter. Winter–Spring 2007. Retrieved 31 May 2011. 
  9. ^ "Alexander Sig. Christopher Grande Ufficiale dell'Ordine della Stella della solidarietà italiana". Office of the President of Italy. Retrieved 31 May 2011. 
  10. ^ "UTS Alumni Magazine" (PDF). University of Toronto Schools. Retrieved 31 May 2011. 
  11. ^ "Christopher Alexander To Receive 2010 Birchall Leadership Award At Legacy Dinner". eVeritas. 8 August 2010. Retrieved 31 May 2011. 
  12. ^ Goold, Douglas (Spring 2007). "What Does the Future Hold for Chris Alexander?". International Journal. 
  13. ^ "Afghan governor's rights abuses known in '07". CBC News. April 12, 2010. 
  14. ^ a b Gardner, Katie-Marie (18 September 2009). "The Liberals wanted him, the Tories won him over". Globe and Mail. Retrieved 31 May 2011. 
  15. ^ Blackwell, Tom (3 September 2015). "Syrian refugee story adds new twist to tight race in Immigration Minister Chris Alexander’s riding". The National Post. 
  16. ^ Szekely, Reka (Sep 24, 2009). "Former Afghan ambassador seeks Ajax-Pickering Conservative nomination". Ajax News Advertiser. Retrieved 31 May 2011. 
  17. ^ O'Connor, Joe (April 11, 2011). "Riding Profile: Scrappy Liberal incumbent battling star Tory challenger". National Post. Retrieved 31 May 2011. 
  18. ^ Geddes, John (September 17, 2009). "A new Tory star? Celebrated diplomat Chris Alexander may take a run in Ontario". Macleans. Retrieved 31 May 2011. 
  19. ^ Worthington, Peter. "Chris Alexander: The Best of the Best in Afghanistan". Retrieved 31 May 2011. 
  20. ^ Coren, Michael (April 23, 2011). "Tories’ shining star Ajax-Pickering candidate restores one’s faith in Canadian politics". London Free Press / QMI Agency. Retrieved 31 May 2011. 
  21. ^ Pazzano, Sam (May 3, 2011). "Holland among Durham Region defeated". Toronto Sun. Retrieved 31 May 2011. 
  22. ^ Morrow, Adrian (May 3, 2011). "Ex-diplomat Alexander wins Ajax-Pickering for Conservatives". Globe and Mail. Retrieved 31 May 2011. 
  23. ^ "Parliamentary Secretaries". Prime Minister of Canada. Retrieved 31 May 2011. 
  24. ^ Kleiss, Karen (May 25, 2011). "Edmonton MP Laurie Hawn shuffled out of defence secretary post". Edmonton Journal. Retrieved 31 May 2011. 
  25. ^ Wherry, Aaron (May 25, 2011). "Secretaries day". Macleans. Retrieved 31 May 2011. 
  26. ^ "Chris Alexander discusses Canada's involvement in Afghanistan". Government of Canada. Retrieved 31 May 2011. 
  27. ^ Alexander, Chris. ""Afghanistan After Elections and Implications for Canada: What Will It Take to Finish the Job?" Remarks by Former Canadian Ambassador and Former Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary General Chris Alexander to the Empire Club of Canada Royal York Hotel, September 17, 2009" (PDF). Empire Club of Canada. Retrieved 31 May 2011. 
  28. ^ Fillion, Kate (November 3, 2009). "The Interview: Chris Alexander". Macleans. Retrieved 31 May 2011. 
  29. ^ a b Wherry, Aaron (10 December 2012). "Chris Alexander has the worst job in Ottawa". Maclean's. Retrieved 26 August 2015. 
  30. ^ Pugliese, David (22 September 2015). "Canada and the F-35, the Ups and Downs of a Controversial Fighter Jet Purchase". The Ottawa Citizen. 
  31. ^ a b "Bill C-24 is wrong: There is only one kind of Canadian citizen". Globe and Mail. 30 June 2014. Retrieved 29 August 2015. 
  32. ^ "Chris Alexander’s flawed overhaul of citizenship law". Globe and Mail. 6 February 2015. Retrieved 29 August 2015. 
  33. ^ McQuigge, Michelle (20 August 2015). "Civil rights groups launch constitutional challenge against Bill C-24". Global News. Retrieved 29 August 2015. 
  34. ^ Gulli, Cathy (20 October 2015). "Chris Alexander’s very bad day: A golden boy falls, but for how long?". Maclean's. 
  35. ^ Fekete, Jason (19 October 2015). "Turning point: The niqab and the NDP". The Ottawa Citizen. 
  36. ^ "Alan Kurdi drowned off the shores of Turkey. His family was trying to reach Canada". National Post. 3 September 2015. 
  37. ^ "Drowned Syrian migrant boy’s father says he blames Canada for tragedy". The Globe and Mail. 10 September 2015. 
  38. ^ a b Chevalier, Jennifer (3 September 2015). "Chris Alexander defends Canada's refugee response, blames media for ignoring crisis". CBC News. Retrieved 3 September 2015. 
  39. ^ a b Donnelly, Aileen (3 September 2015). "Chris Alexander suspends campaign after news that boy’s family was planning to come to Canada". National Post. Retrieved 3 September 2015. 
  40. ^ Tu Thanh Ha (3 September 2015). "Family of drowned boy did not apply for asylum: Ottawa". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 3 September 2015. 
  41. ^ Friesen, Joe (8 October 2015). "Prime Minister’s Office ordered halt to refugee processing". The Globe and Mail. 
  42. ^ Elliott, Louise (8 October 2015). "Stephen Harper denies PMO staff vetted Syrian refugee files". 
  43. ^ "Campaign shifts as Harper looks to protect seats in Ontario". CTV News. 12 October 2015. 
  44. ^ "Mark Holland heading back to Ottawa with win in Ajax: 2015 federal election results". 20 October 2015. 
  45. ^ Elections Canada – Confirmed candidates for Ajax, 30 September 2015
  46. ^ Elections Canada – Preliminary Election Expenses Limits for Candidates
  47. ^ "Election Night Results". Elections Canada. Retrieved 20 October 2015. 
  48. ^ Christopher Alexander (27 September 2015). "Christopher Alexander". LinkedIn. Retrieved 27 September 2015. 
  49. ^ Paul Waldie and Campbell Clark (29 April 2011). "Tory star assisting Russian businessman". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 27 September 2015. 

External links[edit]

28th Ministry – Cabinet of Stephen Harper
Cabinet Post (1)
Predecessor Office Successor
Jason Kenney Minister of Citizenship and Immigration
John McCallum