Thursday, April 10, 2008

On categorization

Greg highlights one point which deserves more discussion about the latest machinations around the Cons' plan to centralize control over immigration in Diane Finley's hands. But there's one other aspect of the story which seems to have been largely lost in the shuffle - particularly in the Libs' messaging.

The Libs seem to be focusing their current critique on the possibility that the Cons would value economic immigrants (particularly the temporary workers who they're already trumpeting to mask a decline in permanent immigration) rather than any other type. Which is reasonable enough as a point of dispute, but falls far short of telling the whole story.

Remember that as part of the Cons' ethnic targeting strategy, they've already written off "one-fifth of all ethnic groups" as unlikely to vote for the Cons under any circumstances. By assigning to the minister the ability to set up "categories" by fiat, the Cons would be able to conveniently exclude applications from those communities who wouldn't figure to help their electoral cause.

And the potential for abuse only gets worse when considering how the other 80% of ethnic communities would be treated. Particularly if the Cons do plan on paying more attention to economic immigrants than other types, there figures to be a limited number of spots available in other categories - making a position at the top of any category list essential for any community which wants to be able to bring new members across the border in the future. Which would enable the Cons to force different communities to compete as to who does the most to help out their partisan cause, and give top priority to whoever answers the call.

Of course, any categorization would be subject to the Charter and to other applicable law. But it wouldn't figure to be all that difficult to find non-partisan excuses for a set of choices which would have serious partisan effects. And the Cons have done nothing to suggest that this would be an exception to their general rule of governing in their party's interests rather than those of the country as a whole.

Needless to say, neither a system based on politics rather than genuine merit nor a system skewed in the Cons' favour would figure to be anything but a disaster for Canada in the long run. And that - not the contrast between economic and other types of new arrival - looks to be the aspect of the Cons' bill that needs to be highlighted to show what's most wrong with the Harper government.

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