Wednesday, September 7, 2011

If you want to win votes, play the ethnic card

It's true.

It's how the GOP have been able to divide and conquer for most of the last 3 decades in the States, it's worked marvelously well for the Cons in Ottawa and now Tim Hudak, trying to unseat Dalton McGuinty in next month's provincial election, is fuming at the Ontario Liberals' proposal for a $10,000 per head tax credit to hire immigrant workers while Hudak mutes his own proposal for a relatively paltry $400 tax credit -- for ESL (English) or DFLES (French) language training.   (Basically, the second one would allow corporations and family owned businesses to write off computer software that teaches the language which is about that cost more or less.)

Why is Hudak so up in arms about this?   Especially since he introduced a private member bill, last year, that would have offered virtually the same thing as McGuinty is proposing -- in Hudak's case, a 10% wage write-off.   But that seems to be missing from his platform now.

Sure, one has to be concerned that unscrupulous crooks will take advantage of the credit, hire unskilled people and exploit them in sweatshop like conditions and run away with a big cheque from the government (which could, of course, be applied against other payroll taxes owing including worker's compensation and the employer health tax).

For the first time in months, I have to admit I may actually change what I thought my vote this fall would be.  As I have stated, I consider myself an independent at the provincial level.  I was leaning towards the provincial  ND for the last two years, but more and more I am beginning to wonder if McGuinty, as slick as he is, might not be such a bad choice after all.  Especially with Hudak's take on the issue.

But McGuinty wouldn't have to do this if the regulated professions in Ontario faced up to their hypocrisies and hired skilled immigrants and fast-tracked their equivalency exams so they can work here in the jobs they were trained for.   The stories about architects and physicians who are working 18 hour days, 7 days a week "on contract" (and therefore not subject to the employment standards laws we expect to be enforced for the rest of us) are doing not their chosen profession but driving taxis and delivering pizzas, or even worse going door-to-door using shady pitches to get unsuspecting consumers to sign up for long term water heater or energy contracts, are not urban legends -- they are absolutely true.

I also suggest that Ontario is continuing to get shafted when it comes to the immigration settlement funds that it, along with the other provinces, gets from the feds (remember, that immigration is a shared field).   It is true that the gap that Ontario and the other so-called "rest of Canada" provinces in relation to Québec has improved considerably over the last ten years.

But when Québec gets $5000 per "regular class" immigrant, the other provinces get $3400 per capita and NONE of the provinces get anything to help settle Geneva Convention refuguees -- not to mention the rest of what has become yet another unfunded mandate from Ottawa, what are the provinces expected to do to get immigrants into the workplace so they start paying taxes and help fund our social programs?

It's also not the province's fault that the feds (under Conservative rule) did not do their jobs in relation to monitoring community based immigrant settlement programs that were essentially run as black holes -- not just pulling the funding but also refusing to reallocate that money to the more ethical agencies as well as the provincial governments.

McGuinty is on the correct track but he needs to take it one step further.   It's time for Ontario to go the route of Québec.   As far back as 1978, that province took matters into its own hands and said that it would take the lead role in selecting immigrants and temporary skilled workers to the province including its own "points system", with the feds' role basically limited to doing a background check and issuing the visa.   Why can't Ontario -- or the other provinces too for that matter?  It wouldn't in any way impair national unity; on the contrary it would be reflective of the fact that every province, and indeed regions within each province, are distinct and Canada is truly, as Joe Clark (a Con!) called us, a "Community of Communities."

Hudak would do better to promote the incentive programs that exist already to hire unemployed Canadians -- including demanding Ottawa pay its full share -- than slamming the door and saying all we should get for hiring an immigrant is the first level of Berlitz ™ or Rosetta Stone ™.

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