Monday, November 08, 2010

On questionable supporters

For much the same reasons I pointed out when non-big-name or even anonymous endorsements became a major presence in the Saskatchewan NDP leadership race, it's fair enough for the Cons to point to support from small and relatively unknown groups for their legislation if it's actually based on support in principle. But the picture looks rather different when the motives are something else entirely:
The list of endorsements the Tories are showcasing to support their proposed crackdown on human smuggling is running into some trouble.

Tory MPs have been quick to rhyme off the names of local groups who have thrown their weight behind their controversial bill, and supportive letters from groups far and wide have popped up suddenly in the in-boxes of reporters covering the story.

But many of those supporters receive federal funding, their websites show. Some of the groups are so small that they have no office or website or official mission statement. And some of the supporters are now qualifying their endorsement.
Immigration Minister Jason Kenney says he is certain the support for his bill among new Canadians is rock solid, however, and he gives not one whit about the size or the background of the groups who lend him support.
And at least one endorser is making absolutely clear what his actual goals are:
(W)ithin a day of the government announcement, small ethnic organizations started sending press releases to journalists covering the story, and Conservatives speaking out in support of the bill began listing their names.

Our way of working is to work with the government to get something from the government,” said Balan Ratnarajah, whose phone number appears at the bottom of one widely distributed press release in favour of the bill.

He said he set up his group, the Peel Tamil Community Centre, about a year ago and it is too new and underfunded to have an office, staff or website.

He’s hoping his support of the human smuggling bill will encourage the federal government to back his group financially. But he also says he has some serious reservations about the bill, despite his press release

“We don’t support the whole bill,” Mr. Ratnarajah said. Stiffer penalties for human smugglers are fine, he said, but he is concerned about how the bill would have Ottawa treat refugees.

He said he has been assured that the troubling elements on refugees will never see the light of day.

“Eventually I think that’s not going to be there. That’s what we were told,” he said.

Still, his reservations did not stop Conservative MP Devinder Shory from trumpeting the group’s support during debates in the House of Commons.
Of course, I wouldn't expect Ratnarajah to actually receive any funding now that he's gone public with his true intentions. After all, even if the Cons do plan on using the supporters list as a basis for future funding, his name is bound to bring up red flags as a matter of government patronage.

But it's well worth wondering how many of the other groups so regularly cited by the Cons also have current or future funding in mind rather than actually agreeing with the policy. And Jason Kenney should be plenty concerned that the groups who are merely looking for funding based on their policy positions might offer far less than the "rock solid" support he's claiming.

For more, see impolitical.

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