Saturday, April 19, 2008

Harper "Ready To Go To The Polls"?

Harper was out yesterday, defending his immigration reforms, with the inference that the government is ready to go to the polls over the issue:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper chose an important immigrant business audience in Toronto last night to launch a vigorous counterattack against criticism from ethnic communities of his government's proposed immigration policy changes.

His Conservative government is prepared to go to the polls over the proposals, Harper added.

"Frankly, this is becoming a crisis. And, if we do not fix this, the long-term performance of our economy will be affected."

Dion is already on record saying the Liberals will vote against (how many MP's seems to be an open question), if the reforms aren't altered. I think it is important to remember, that as this process moves forward, the Liberals will offer a series of amendments to the proposed reforms. The government have said they will reject any changes to their legislation. The end result of all this, the Conservatives will reject the Liberal vision on immigration reform.

My point, the Liberals will have a counter to present to Canadians in an election. This means Harper's cries of "crisis" (interesting that characterization given their manufactured crisis on refugees claimants), his attempt to frame their proposals as necessary, will be undercut by a Liberal counter. The Liberals can acknowledge the same "crisis", but offer a more compelling solution. This debate will not be a situation where the Conservatives sound the alarm, and the Liberals reject any action. No, it will be a flawed plan presented, which was altered, with possible support from other parties, and an alternative presented. The Liberals take the Conservative plan and try to "improve" it.

The Conservatives are cornered, in not accepting any amendments. There isn't an immigration expert alive that believes the expenditure allotted by the Conservatives is anywhere near sufficient to deal with the problem. The Liberals have the opportunity to present something which can address the same issues, but in a way that will be effective, a plan that can win support of those in the know.

Harper also stands to lose, because their proposal puts considerable power in the hands of the Minister, a situation many aren't comfortable with, particular when it involves this Conservative government. If the Liberals offer certain "checks" to unilateral decision making, a more comprehensive mechanism to fast forward certain claimants, again they can out-flank the Conservatives, offer a more acceptable remedy.

The final point, a matter of credibility. You will have an election with one plan, countered by another, with the added caveat of how said plan came to be. The Conservatives will argue this, the Liberals that, it will be a confusing storyline to sift through. The kicker for the Liberals, how these reforms came to be, which suggests reasonable suspicion. Canadians may lack a sophistication of parliamentary manoeuvres, but I think everybody can understand the strange circumstance of putting fundamental immigration reform into a budget bill, at the last minute. There is a superficial "trying to pull a fast one" aspect here, which will be echoed by the other opposition parties. Dion has the added advantage of presenting the counter as thoughtful, while painting the Conservatives with unclear motivations. If their proposals are so urgently needed, so sound, then why the lack of consultation, why the truncated process?

This looming debate in a election will hardly be framed as Harper assumes, a take it or leave it proposition. It is not one party trying to do something, where other parties offer nothing. In fact, it will be a Conservative proposal rejected, with an alternative that attempts to improve the flawed solution. In the end, a battle of ideas, ground which may be relatively firm for the Liberals.

13 comments:

Northern PoV said...

good post
Any amendments should focus on
1) Transparency in resolving the backlog - a properly adjudicated, open process NOT a gov't ministers discretion
2) Adequate funding

this is interesting
http://runesmith.blogspot.com/2008/04/immigration-bill-its-not-about-doctors.html

Steve V said...

pov

If Harper rejects those reasonable amendments, than in many respects the Conservatives are on the defensive, while we defend enhanced legislation. It's not like we reject the premise, but the content.

Anonymous said...

I predict that Harper will call the Liberals bluff yet again - and in the wake of yet another Liberal organizer being arrested due to the Sponsorship Scandal - Dion will cry Uncle and scurry away yet again like a dog with its tail between its legs.

Cherniak_WTF said...

in the wake of yet another Liberal organizer

That would be FORMER.... glad to see the talking points out already...

So do you think that little Steve will answer the questions about Cadman?

And, if we do not fix this, the long-term performance of our economy will be affected
I'm glad little steve is thinking long-term, because in the short term clownservatives have already fucked the Canadian economy...

Mushroom said...

I believe in going further.

We try to appeal to the NDP by calling for an amnesty of all illegal immigrants that are staying in Canada. At the same time, we need to strengthen the labour laws to ensure that they are not replacing the jobs of Canadians willing and able to work.

One of the blowback to Harper's policy is that many will come in with their visas and overstay their welcome. Also creates a stronger underground economy. Some of Harper's nativist so-cons will be up in arms over this. We need to foment this blowback as soon as possible.

Calgary Junkie said...

Steve, you make a lot of good points. But there's a big challenge facing Dion during the election campaign--he will have to go from opposing to proposing.

Up to now, Dion has been reasonably good at criticizing and attacking whatever Harper does. The media and the voters pretty well let him play that role for now, seeing as we are not in an election campaign. Plus, Dion has a legitimate case to make that he doesn't want to tip his hand by giving out too many details of his election platform. Even me, a true blue Conservative, will cut him slack on this approach of playing his policy cards pretty close to his chest (Harper did much the same prior to the last election).

However, Dion can't ride this constant opposing (plus some fear mongering) through an election campaign. He is going to be pressed by reporters on his campaign to do more explaining and advocating of what he would actually do that's different from Harper.

Is Dion up to that challenge ? Time will tell. But I suspect many Liberal partisans are nervous about how Dion will perform. I think he will be OK in explaining policy details. But he will have problems in defending them, advocating them, and
packaging them as part of a larger
"narrative" (the word Chantal Hebert likes to us).

Steve V said...

junkie

Fair enough, but you could say the same about every opposition leader- sort of the nature of the beast.

mushroom

That would be an interesting argument.

anon

You know what's funny? If this sponsorship charge came out against the Cons, they would telling the world that the RCMP is biased against them, there are Liberal moles in the department.

Möbius said...

We try to appeal to the NDP by calling for an amnesty of all illegal immigrants that are staying in Canada. At the same time, we need to strengthen the labour laws to ensure that they are not replacing the jobs of Canadians willing and able to work.

Wow, that'll be popular during an election. Governments are always so talented at forcing people into little boxes with legislation!

Gayle said...

"If this sponsorship charge came out against the Cons, they would telling the world that the RCMP is biased against them, there are Liberal moles in the department."

A BT blogger named Hunter told me she thinks the RCMP deliberately charged this guy because they are mad at EC for "using them" to smear the liberals.

For some reason she could not understand she was accusing the RCMP of being biased against the liberals, and that makes her hypocritical.

Of course the fact this guy is charged with defrauding the liberals is way over their collective heads. According to wilson it does not matter because she is happy the liberals will get bad press, even if it is unjustified.

It is amazing how quickly some people embrace the double standard.

Steve V said...

Let's see how happy wilson and and the rest of the koolaid crowd is Monday, when Harper is parading with Bush and Calderon, the great photo-op, and all the press is focused on is the details of the warrant. I'm quite fine with the Cons as bad as the Libs, given that the cornerstone argument is accountability, honesty, clean government. Wipe away that veneer, and you are left with what exactly? "Canada's New Government, Much Like Canada's Old Government", advantage Liberals in the grand scheme.

Möbius said...

Of course the fact this guy is charged with defrauding the liberals is way over their collective heads.

Charged with defrauding the Libs, to the benefit of the LPC, is what you seem to be missing....

Steve V said...

mobius

No, DEFRAUDING the Liberal Party. Nice try though.

Anonymous said...

"Wipe away that veneer, and you are left with what exactly? "Canada's New Government, Much Like Canada's Old Government", advantage Liberals in the grand scheme."

I don't see any advantage to the at all in that. The Liberal game plan is all about depicting the Conservatives as ideologically extreme so they do their CHOOSE YOUR CANADA routine. If people perceive the Conservative as being essentially the same as the Liberals then it will turn into just a personality contest between Harper and Dion and then Dion will be destroyed.