Members of some of Canada's largest immigrant communities say plans to give the Immigration Minister more power to decide who gets to stay are misguided and they are urging the Dion Liberals to vote against the proposals, even if it means plunging the country into an election.
Victor Wong, the executive director of the Chinese Canadian National Council. "“The Liberals have been promoting themselves as the party of immigration and they have so many seats in the urban areas where they draw heavy support from the immigrant communities … I think they should listen to their constituencies.”
And the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants said in an e-mail last week that “responding to Canada's economic needs should not compromise Canada's vision to build this country through the settlement and integration of immigrants as fully equal participants in society.”
Immigration is a bread and butter issue for many Liberals, anything that elevates a perceived Liberal defence of that tradition is something which could solidify support and motivate. On the flip side, abstaining on these immigration changes, and you send another message to key constituents that you are weak, ineffective advocates.
Politically speaking, taking a stand on this issue is a no lose proposition for the Liberals. A fairly simple frame, a not quite ready Liberal Party decides to draw a line in the sand, based on a principle they must defend. On the ground, you would effectively inspire, demonstrate the stakes, firm up any potential erosion (talking to you Jason Kenney). The Conservatives effectively allow you to champion an issue, they have allowed you to bring out the "anti-immigration" card. You can argue the details, but the soundbite is priceless, and I guarantee it wouldn't be the Liberals on the defensive.
Eventually, the Liberals have to take a stand. In the words of everybody's polling guru:
"What it does is that it validates perceptions that Stéphane Dion is weak or that the Liberals are afraid to have an election. In a way, it validates the messaging that the Conservatives are trying to put out there in regards to Stéphane Dion and the Liberals. Every time the Liberals abstain from a particular confidence measure vote, the question becomes, what won't they abstain from? What is the breaking point for the Liberals?
In so many ways, this is clearly the breaking point. To my mind, the Conservatives may have miscalculated, slipping these changes in, thinking the Liberals too weak to make a fuss. When you think about, the Conservatives arrogance may just be a gift here, provided you still have some spine. Even if you subscribe to Rae's "strategic patience", calling an election on this issue is a move worthy of any quality chess opening.