Several Conservative ministers made a great fanfare in revealing their new bill to “get tough on human smugglers” yesterday, and they made a big point of using one of the ships carrying Tamil migrants as a backdrop. Listen to the ministers, however, and you soon notice that they say right off that the Canadian public is losing confidence in our immigration system with events like these Tamil ships coming in. Um, okay – who created that moral panic? Why, it was your government (with fuel added by the official media arm of The Party). And there are already laws in place, but they’re not being enforced, and the entire refugee system is under-resourced. Whose fault is that? Why, the government’s. They also talk about refugees who “wait in line” for a better life in Canada. Um, no – there is no queue for refugee claimants. It’s a rhetorical conflation with immigration (where the problems once again go back to under-resourcing of relevant departments).
But then there’s the substance of the bill – giving the minister power to declare certain classes of refugee claimants “irregular,” and giving him the power to lock them in detention for up to a year, and denying them the ability to apply for family reunification for up to five years (you’d think that if someone is a genuine refugee that maybe their family is also in danger). Oh, and there are no provisions for greater resources for enforcement, so it’s just something that looks good on paper and gives the minister more powers that he can abuse. Yeah, that looks like a real winning proposition. I see this bill going far.
(And, oh, look – parallels between when Toews’ parents came to Canada as refugees and his rhetoric today. Funny that.)
Meanwhile, back in Ottawa, Question Period started off with questions about the Potash situation in Saskatchewan, and after some back-and-forth with John Baird over the issue of foreign takeovers, Baird declared that the Liberals had undergone a foreign takeover last year. Oh, yes, he said that. Scott Brison was on his feet to follow up, talking about the government’s commitment to fiscal restraint, using his new favourite line about a finance minister that can’t add, and a prime minister that can only divide. Ted Menzies said he was just talking down the economy.
Pierre Paquette and Diane Bourgeois were on the Christian Paradis/construction contract issue (and for those of you who haven’t been following the story, here is the full recap of the whole Parliament Hill construction contract issue, now that it’s heading before a parliamentary committee). Meanwhile, there are new lawsuits with the companies involved. But won’t somebody please think of the crumbling West Block?
Back in QP, Jack Layton also asked about the Potash takeover bid. Lise Zarac and Marlene Jennings wondered if there wasn’t a sexist double-standard in Harper protecting Paradis, where he fired Helena Guergis and demoted Diane Ablonczy for less. Bonnie Crombie and Justin Trudeau asked about open government – on the very day their party announced a platform on it. Imagine that! Paule Brunelle asked about the resource negotiations on the St Lawrence seabed (and was accused of trying to pick a fight with Newfoundland and Labrador), Jean-Yves Laforest about cultural exemptions in a potential Canada-EU trade agreement, Mike Savage about the census and Canadian Council on Learning cuts, and Geoff Regan on the lack of competition on the F-35 bid.
Rounding it off were questions on the middle-class recovery, fixing a Quebec bridge, wondering how exactly it was in Canada’s best interests to lose our base and access to the UAE (this from Bob Rae), support payments for federal employees, Quebec highway funding, and the UN Declaration on Indigenous Peoples.
Sartorially speaking, it was a pretty blah day in the House, but I’m going to award snaps to Alexandra Mendes for her lovely chocolate dress with an off-white jacket and a brown Louis Vuitton scarf done tastefully. Style citations are given to Marlene Jennings’ loud floral top, complete with neck ruffles, and Jim Abbott, for one of the worst ties in creation (brown, with these solid orange and green diamond-shapes arranged at random).
There’s a new court challenge on restoring the long-form census. Call me pessimistic, but I’m not sure a) that the court can do anything at this point, and b) that this government would actually do anything, given their track record with obeying the rule of law.
Over in the Senate, the head of the Correctional Service couldn’t provide any numbers on what the government’s new drug laws will do to prison populations or jail costs. That’s encouraging.
And possibly one of the worst ledes ever, a Canadian Press article rather uncharacteristically torques comments Michael Ignatieff made about the Russell Williams case into fears that it set back gender relations. Err, really? I was there, and that’s not what I took away from his comments.