Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Immigration Policy, Dion & Confidence . . . .

As a "newbie" Canadian I am finding it more and more difficult to understand the Opposition's role in federal government.

From todays Globe and Mail:

Dion blasts Tories' immigration proposals

GLORIA GALLOWAY - April 1, 2008

OTTAWA — Liberal Leader St├ęphane Dion blasted the Conservative government yesterday over proposed immigration changes that he says will tell many hopeful immigrants they simply “need not apply.”

But Prime Minister Stephen Harper taunted the Liberals for panning legislation they will ultimately have to support if they want to stave off an election. And he said his government is merely trying to deal with a massive backlog of potential immigrants who wait years to fill necessary jobs.

“It is unfair to immigrants, unfair to Canada,” Mr. Harper said. “That is why it is a confidence measure. That is why it is a part of the budget and we appreciate the support of the Liberals to that goal.”

Mr. Dion does not dispute the fact that he and his party may, once again, find themselves backing away from a fight rather than taking on Mr. Harper in an election campaign.

Instead, he said, the Liberals could allow the measures to pass and then try to undo them if they eventually regain office.

“Each time that we vote against something without triggering an election, it's a marker,” he said. “That means that when we will be the government with the help of Canadians, we'll change these bad policies by much better policies.” (Emphasis mine - Ed.)

Personally, a "marker" doesn't seem to change the status quo. Isn't it about time the Liberals actually performed like an opposition party and joined with the Bloc and NDP to bring down the Tory government? What am I missing here?

(While we're on the topic of Canadian politics: What's with the parties arbitrarily appointing someone to run for office in a riding even if they don't reside there? I can't quite grasp that practise, either. But I digress . . . . )

Statistics available on Immigration Canada's own website show that 50 per cent of all applications from skilled workers are processed within 36 months. In the Americas, 80 per cent of all applications from hopeful immigrants are processed in a little over two years.

Other government statistics show that the queues are concentrated in a small number of places. Someone who currently applies to immigrate to Canada from New Delhi will wait 12.8 years. In Manila, the wait is 11.9 years, and in Bogota the wait is 16.5 years.

But those processing times are far above average.

Someone applying to permanently enter Canada from Warsaw or Buffalo, for instance, will have to wait just 1.8 years.

As someone who recently gained Permanent Resident status I find it intriguing that Dion and Company may use this topic to lay down a "marker".

Should be quite interesting to follow this one to the end result.

Let's see if concrete actions match the political rhetoric . . . .


cls said...

There's no point in defeating the government unless you're pretty close to certainty that your party will form the next government. If we ended up with another Tory minority government that would set the clock back another 4 years. And heaven forbid we end up with a Tory majority.
Calls for an immediate election strike me as akin to Brian Mulroony's infamous 'roll of the dice'. Because of the dire consequences if the dice land the wrong way, I'm prepared to be patient.

West End Bob said...

Yes, I understand that.

It appears to me that by the Libs abstaining, not voting, or voting with the Tories they will not garner public support in order to achieve enough votes to form a government.

Any suggestions? Or, do we just plod along allowing harperco to do incremental damage the longer he is the PM ? ? ? ?

cls said...

Part of me thinks that most voters will either not notice or not care if the Liberals have abstained or not. Few people follow politics that closely. What people might notice is the negativity produced by election 'hawks'.

The Liberal party needs to heal some rather longstanding problems ie the Quebec Liberal party, the change in election financing rules that hit them worse than any of the other parties (and made worse by tweaks made by the Harperites), and so on. I'm not a great believer in public squabbling because, quite honestly, what does it achieve?

As to what we do in the meantime? Well, for starters, keep track of what they're doing and then explain the consequences via blogs or conversations, etc. Canadians by and large do not trust this government. The polls show it over and over again. Even when the numbers get close to 40%, almost immediately they go back down. The Tories know they are really vulnerable to Canadian unease about them. That's why they're keeping their 'wackos' incommunacado. Did you read that article in the Globe about the Tories and women?

My gut sense is that Rove-style wedge politics won't work in Canada. The Tories just don't have a strong enough base. Besides, did Rove's tactics really work on their own in the US? Didn't he need help from Bush's brother in Florida, the Supreme Court, and rigging voting machines? (Hey, as long as we keep using bits of paper and pencil to vote, we should be safe!)

Remember how right-wing Gordon Campbell was when first elected? Well, if he continued down that path he was going to be defeated. Instead he moved centre. Harper is too ideological to do that. Instead, he'll be sneaky. The polls suggest it hasn't paid off quite the way he thought it would.

That's why I think it's important to record what he's tried to or actually has snuck past the public.

West End Bob said...

Did you read that article in the Globe about the Tories and women?

Nope - missed it. I'll try to find it. Why do I have the feeling that it is not a positive article? :)

Remember how right-wing Gordon Campbell was when first elected?

No, not really. Our first extended trip to BC was in February of 2005. Then we were getting acclimated to Vancouver, looking for a residence, etc. We weren't paying too much attention to the local politics at that time. Now, however, we are. It appears we have a lot of work to do . . . .

cls said...

Politics in BC is fairly wacky; in fact, one of the premiers in the 50s/60s was called 'Wacky Bennett". In many ways, the politics of this province has been out of step with the rest of the country for quite some time If you want to get a sense of about some of the background I suggest Stan Persky's books about the Social Credit Party (Socreds). One of the reasons we have a (so-called) provincial Liberal party in BC is because the Socreds imploded under Bill Bennett (the guy who owned a biblical fantasy garden). Gordon Wilson of the Liberal party (a small ne-er do well group) happened to 'kick ass' during a leadership debate in the 90s and suddenly there was an alternative to the wrestling match between the NDP and the Socreds. Low and behold it looked like there was an alternative to politics as usual in BC.
So what does a right wing party in decline do when faced with extinction? Well, it does a hostile take over its nouveau rival, off course. The 'Liberal' party of BC resulted from a hostile takeover.
Politics in BC in many ways is quite different from other parts of the country. In many ways it's more similar to British politics -- at least the Britain of the 19th and early 20th century versions of class divisions. Class has been more important here than elsewhere (hence Bill Tielmann's recent article.) Unlike other provinces BC did not have an agricultural class, and hence middle class. (There's very little agriculturally viable land in the province because of all the mountains.) Consequently, if you wanted to work you did so in an industry owned by somebody else. Logging, fishing, mining, etc were classic examples of big capital screwing labour. The conditions could be bloody awful.
Because so many of the early settlers were imported directly from Britain they brought with them the attitudes and practices of the 'old country'. So for instance, when Dunsmuir brought over coal miners to work in this Nanaimo/Wellington mines they quickly went on strike.
Carlos Schwantes (sp?) a history professor in Oregon wrote a book called 'Radical Heritage' to explain why the politics of BC, Washington, Oregon and Utah (I hope my memory is right) had such similar conditions and yet differed so greatly from the BC experience.
BC isn't called 'British' Columbia for nothing. Nowadays it's very different from the way it was when I was growing up. (This is very good.) But it was deliberately designed to be as British as possible to make it as non-American as possible. (All those wagon-ho films of the 50s where the settlers are heading off to Oregon ... well, that was actually part of BC/Hudson Bay company land. The settlers declared themselves to be part of the US; British policy towards the expense of the colonies had changed (to summarize a complex tale) and voila the 49th parallel becomes important.
I'm assuming you don't know about President Polk's 1854 campaign slogan 54 - 40 or fight. Well,manifest destiny decreed that the western US extend from California to Alaska. To prevent this (it's a bit like a dog pissing out its territory) the name of the British territory was changed to British Columbia. The gold rush happens and there's a big worry that BC is about to become American so it's very important to stamp Britishness on it. Also to establish British justice. Hence, hanging Judge Begbie to keep the Americans under control. So if we were to have films about our wild west it wouldn't be about cowboys and indians; rather it would be about British justice controlling the threatening chaos of American miners (or traders selling booze to Indians). The early colony of Victoria depended on freed US slaves to defend it in case of trouble from US gold miners.
The history of the place you're moving to is rather interesting; at least I thought so when I was studing it at UVic. Are you familiar with the "Ilustrated history of British Columbia" by Terry Retsken? That's a quick way to familiarize yourself with some of the historical broad brush strokes.

West End Bob said...


Wow! You're a wealth of information on BC politics - Can't wait to dig in to some of the publications you recommended - Thanks!

My exposure to BC history is quite slim at this point. I have read "Canadian History for Dummies" which gave a broad overlook of the whole country.

Are you a BC resident now? Thanks again, I enjoy your insights . . . .

Scott M. said...

There's a "Canadian History for Dummies" book? Wow.

cls said...

Unfortunately, I live in Ottawa but spend about 5 months of the year in BC on one of the Gulf Islands. My next trip to BC happens in less than 2 months. Perhaps by then the obscene amounts of snow Ottawa received will have melted. :)

West End Bob said...

Five months on a Gulf Island and the rest of the year in Ottawa - Not a bad gig, Cara.

Enjoy your summer . . . .

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing.

Leonila A. Dalanta
Media Relations Manager