Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Liberal cowardice and hypocrisy

‘What is a Caucus-race?’ said Alice; not that she wanted much to know, but the Dodo had paused as if it thought that somebody ought to speak, and no one else seemed inclined to say anything.

‘Why,’ said the Dodo, ‘the best way to explain it is to do it.’ (And, as you might like to try the thing yourself, some winter day, I will tell you how the Dodo managed it.)

First it marked out a race-course, in a sort of circle, (‘the exact shape doesn’t matter,’ it said,) and then all the party were placed along the course, here and there. There was no ‘One, two, three, and away,’ but they began running when they liked, and left off when they liked, so that it was not easy to know when the race was over. However, when they had been running half an hour or so, and were quite dry again, the Dodo suddenly called out ‘The race is over!’ and they all crowded round it, panting, and asking, ‘But who has won?’

This question the Dodo could not answer without a great deal of thought, and it sat for a long time with one finger pressed upon its forehead (the position in which you usually see Shakespeare, in the pictures of him), while the rest waited in silence. At last the Dodo said, ‘everybody has won, and all must have prizes.’ --Alice in Wonderland

Tough new anti-immigrant measures cleared the House of Commons yesterday, thanks to Harper's Liberal backbenchers, running away from yet another opportunity to go to the people.

Bill C-50 is a travesty of our tradition as a country that has historically welcomed immigrants (if not always of all colours and nationalities), and has indeed been built largely by the labour of immigrants. The Bill concentrates power in the hands of the Minister of Immigration, allowing the Minister to make decisions about any immigrant or class of immigrants without judicial review. Wide, untouchable discretion is permitted to establish quotas based upon national origin, refuse family reunification, and turn down humanitarian or compassionate applications. The Minister will also have the power to determine in what order applications will be processed. (H/t)

The Cons claim that this will fix the current backlog of immigration applications. So it might well do, but it is analogous to shortening hospital waiting lists by deeming patients inadmissible, without review or appeal.

The Liberal collaborationist role in all this, as the putative Opposition, has been appalling. The Liberal party has always been viewed as the party that supports immigrants, and has enjoyed considerable support in those communities, even though their actions against immigrants have always spoken louder than their soothing words.

In 1995, under the iron rule of Jean Chrétien, Paul Martin (Finance Minister at the time) reintroduced the head tax (for all immigrants this time around), reopening a shameful chapter of our past. Indeed, the Liberals steadfastly refused to apologize for the original anti-Chinese racist tax, replaced in 1923 by the Chinese Immigration Act that simply excluded Chinese immigrants altogether. Stephen Harper, of all people, was left to do the right thing in 2006.

Bill C-50 will reopen a lot of wounds, and produce a few more. But the Liberal Party response, as always under the Dion leadership, has been to duck and cover. Summer isn't the right time for an election, they bleat. Of course, Fall isn't great either, kids going back to school and what-not, everything in turmoil.... And winter--too cold, that would discourage voter turnout.... And Spring...who wants to talk politics during that time of love and rebirth? And--whoops, it's Summer again.

So yesterday we were treated to the shabby spectacle of empty Liberal benches, while Stéphane Dion, making a rare appearance in the House, hypocritically rose against the Bill to a chorus of well-deserved jeers. And his two leadership rivals, Michael Ignatieff and Bob Rae, who had earlier urged the Liberal caucus to vote against the Bill, were nowhere to be found.

The Liberal party, as I've noted before with many examples, is all things to all people, but it stands for nothing. It has no core principles, no commitments, no values that aren't subject to change without notice. In power it has proven to be less a party than a gigantic spoils-distribution machine. And now, in opposition, it has become utterly paralyzed by an attack of monumental cowardice. Paul Martin morphed into Mr. Dithers, and the disease was obviously catching. It's a whole party of ditherers now, of gutless wonders who have supported the Conservatives in piece after piece of reactionary legislation over the past several months--while speaking against each one. Whom do they think they're kidding?

A harsh or imprudent judgement on my part? The Liberals' capitulation on Bill C-50 is proof positive of their utter lack of principle, morality or common decency; a sickening display of pusillanimity and hypocrisy. The Liberals have shamefully betrayed the very people who have formed a key constituency of theirs since the 1960s. Let's hope that these loyal allies, whose party has now decisively turned on them, don't have short memories when election day finally rolls around.

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