Thursday, January 11, 2007

Liberals: You've Always Supported Us, Why Leave Now?

Originally posted at Prairie Wrangler

Watching Ruby Dhalla today was a real pleasure; she's well spoken, articulate and smiles a lot. She was on Don Newman's brooaaaaadcast responding to Harper's recent efforts in courting the "ethnic" vote, and handled herself just as an impressive politician would - by bullshitting as much as was possible under the circumstances...

She spent the majority of the interview (video, Thursday, cue to 31:30) arguing that ethnic minorities really don't like the Conservatives, because they're "right wing" (little known fact: ethnic minorities genetically predisposed to be left wing). This may come as a shock, but Dhalla tells us "honestly" that people prefer the Liberals, because they have a "affinity historic in nature" with "the culture communities", as apparently they're now called. If this truly vacant line is going to be the position of the Liberal party - you've always supported us so why leave now? - they're in trouble.

Liberals often like to portray themselves as the party of multiculturalism with a monopoly on the ethnic vote, because they "understand" immigrants, while Conservatives are more indifferent. For recent memory, this has indeed been the case - the Reform Party was never accused of being terribly responsive to the concerns of the ethnic community, and there were anti-immigration undertones in some of their policy positions. But that was then.

Harper has since poached two relatively high profile new Canadians from within the Liberal Party, Wajid Khan and just today Marc Persaud, former chairman of the Liberals Standing Committee on Multi-Culturalism, no less, who "has wasted over a decade supporting a Liberal party which is ideologically bankrupt" (his words, not mine). He also redressed the divisive Chinese head-tax and established the Air India inquiry. Although Harper took a lot of heat for trying to "buy votes" with moves of only symbolic value (a move quite foreign to Liberal governments, cough), it worked.Most important of all, in my opinion, he reduced the Right of Permanent Residence Fee by half, making it that much easier for less than wealthy immigrants to enter the country. Call it pure, political calculation if you want. Insinuate without evidence that Harper is just an anti-immigrant clone from the Reform party. But if the Liberal Party wants to remain relevant in fast growing ethnic communities, they're going to have to do much more than reminding those communities that they've always supported the Liberals.

UPDATE: Steve from Far and Wide has an interesting post on Wajid Khan up, and conveniently for me, plays the "Harper's from the Reform Party card and thus is anti-immigrant".


saskboy said...

I just heard about this blog now.

Olaf said...

Glad to have you on board, Saskboy...

hiti said...

Ahhhhhhhhh.......... did you ferget that it was originally Paul Martin who appointed Bob Rae to conduct an Air India inquiry?? And Steve dismissed Rae and put his own choice in. Also it was Paul Martin who "first" said he would "kill" the Residence Fee, "eliminate it" and then Steve started to babble about reducing the fee by half.

But guess all you tories keep on forgetting that we the unwashed still have our memories.

BleedsBlue said...

"Also it was Paul Martin who "first" said he would "kill" the Residence Fee, "eliminate it" and then Steve started to babble about reducing the fee by half."

Maybe so... but he didn't do jack about it... Steve did.

And I think Steve probably dismissed Rae because he thinks he's an incompetent boob. Need proof of that? Think Rae Days.

A BCer in Toronto said...

I'm not up much on multicultural politics. But I think it's safe to admit the Liberals haven't been doing a good job over the years on that front. We've taken the community for granted, thought of it as blocks of votes, and not paid attention to their issues. That has to change.

But, despite all the attention the Cons are paying to the file, I'm not sure they're not making some of the same mistakes the Liberals have made. Reading some of Kenney's comments he seems as well to be thinking of multicultural communities as big voting blocks...comments like new Canadians are more conservative, and so on. I think that's the same insulting attitude the Liberals have had for too long.

Increasingly, multicultural communities are becoming more and more diverse politically. Some are conservative. Some are liberal. Some are socialist. You can't anymore say multicultural Canadians are more conservative then you can say white Canadians are more liberal.

Olaf said...


The question, I suppose, is what did Martin do. Not what did he promise. He had more time than Harper has to get things done, but he had other priorities.


All good points, as usual. Kenney does not seem like the best fit for the job. As I argued over at Far and Wide, however, politicians often will speak in generalities to make it sound like they have more support than they in fact do. Eg. "Canadians want (insert prefered policy position here)" All politicians do this on a regular basis, even though many Canadians don't "want" what is attributed to them.

In the same vein, I think that Kenney's rather qualified statement that Immigrants are Conservative was an attempt to make the Conservatives sound more appealing to all Immigrants than they really are.

In this respect, if Kenney and the conservatives attemt to craft "one size fits all" policies, it will be in vein. However, as they seem to be making different sops to different groups (head tax for the chinese, air india for indo Canadians, etc.), I think he may be onto something. Time will tell if they're really interested in appealing to ethnic communities, or whether they just want to appear as such.

Chuckercanuck said...


Why wouldn't he be serious. Why cede any demographic slice to Liberals? Shouldn't every political party, ultimately, aim to appeal to every demographic slice in order to legitimately represent them?

should a government be formed of only urban ridings? or the converse? or maybe only ridings in Ontario and Montreal? etc.etc. (think Emerson/Fortier troubles)

There are many, many reasons why people who immigrate to Canada should ideologically side with Conservatives - at half of immigrants I'd say, letting the left split the other half they way they want to.

When I went to meet Stephen Harper on his GLAD as HELL tour, I sat at the lunch next to a philapino lady and that's all she and I talked about as a priority.

And we were both Harpermaniacs in a room full of Harperskeptics.

A BCer in Toronto said...

If only Toronto was a culturalo group Chucker. We want some good, 'ol fasioned Conservative lovin too! Why won't he pander to us too?

Chuckercanuck said...

Ha! You want proof that Liberal delagates spent the leadership convention drunk and full of poutine?

Howard Dean's very message to the Liberals was - don't give up an inch of the country.

Dion is in Alberta right now, making the very same point. Feebly, I agree, but he's making it.

A BCer in Toronto said...

Actually Chucker due to the new campaign finance laws and the ban on corporate donations the free alcohol at the convention was very scarce. I spent far too much time sober. It was a travesty!

Chuckercanuck said...

its almost a human rights abuse to make someone sit through a convention sober. i'm deeply shaken by that - my faith in political action is gone.