Tea Party Tim & Foreigners

Spot political quiz time: Who said this?

“(We need) practical and affordable measures to help new Canadians find employment and create jobs.”

Here’s another one. Who said this?

“(Immigrants) have great challenges in having their foreign degrees and qualifications recognized by the relevant licensing bodies here in Canada — we all have a role to play in helping new Canadians make the transition into our workplace.”

Weak-kneed lefty politicos? Soft-hearted Liberal premiers like Jean Charest? Christy Clark? Dalton McGuinty? Were those welcoming words uttered by Grit politicians, seeking re-election in Quebec or B.C. or Ontario with the help of so-called “ethnic” communities?

Nope. No, they weren’t.

Those words were voiced by senior Conservatives. They were the words of Ontario Conservative Leader Tim Hudak, in fact, and federal Immigration Minister Jason Kenney.

Hudak made his statement a year ago when he tabled a private member’s bill in the Ontario legislature to offer a big tax credit to employers who arrange language training for immigrants — immigrants who weren’t even Canadian citizens.

“I want to do my part to help other new Canadians realize their dreams,” said Hudak at the time, for which he deserves credit (and I say that as a guy intimately involved in McGuinty’s effort to defeat Hudak).

Hudak’s private member’s bill — which he tabled himself, as immigration critic, and which had his name attached to it — would have also lowered investment requirements for immigrants applying in the “investor” category.

And it would have forced regulated professions to make training materials and information available to immigrants.

Kenney, meanwhile, was (rightly) trumpeting the Harper government’s tripling of investment in integration, settlement and language training for newcomers to Canada. It was the right thing to do, morally. And it was the smart thing to do politically because it helped the Conservative Party finally win enough ethnic votes to secure a majority government.

But Hudak’s now against all that “help new Canadians” stuff, it seems. So are Kenney’s colleagues like MP Dean del Mastro, who is currently feverishly stumping for Hudak’s bid to render Ontario a sort-of Arizona North.

Why the whiplash-inducing reversal that will have assorted Conservative politicians all wearing policy neck braces?

Well, in Hudak’s case, as noted, it’s because an election is now underway in Ontario. Hudak’s dropped like a stone in the polls in recent weeks, and so he’s grasping at straws. He figures bumper-sticker race baiting is the shortest route to power, I guess.

And, federally, perhaps Harper’s cabinet has concluded they’ve won their coveted majority and they don’t need new Canadian voters anymore.

Either way, I think they’re wrong. Helping highly skilled folks — doctors, accountants, engineers — to get jobs in their chosen professions, as opposed to driving cabs or flipping burgers, is a pretty good idea. All of these Conservatives used to think so, and they were right.

Now, that’s not to say measures like Hudak’s, from May 2010, were without flaws. Hudak’s proposal would have offered unlimited taxpayer assistance to people who weren’t even Canadian citizens, while McGuinty’s idea is to limit the dollar-value and target only Canadian citizens. But at least Hudak’s heart was in the right place (if not his head). I won’t bother calling him a “duplicitous” hypocrite — Hudak’s predecessor as leader, John Tory, did that on a radio show this week.

No, what Hudak et al. are, mainly, are politicians on the campaign trail.

And, mainly, they’ll say just about anything to get elected. Even if it means completely reversing themselves on something that is pretty important.

Is that unspeakably hypocritical? Is that offensively wrong?

If you’re fair, you already know the answer to those questions. And they’re not even part of a spot political quiz.

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