There aren't too many columnists out there still trying to paint Stephane Dion as being effective. Even the traditional left-leaning pundits seem to be jumping ship. I suppose you can only support an illusion up to a point.
Chantel Hebert thinks that Dion blew it when he sold out on the environment issue. And now Dion is facing an even bigger test, with the immigration bill being tied to the budget, and thereby forcing him to either take a stand or cut and run once again.
But the immigration issue is so entrenched in Liberal folklore that it would be difficult for Dion to sit this one out. In two different newspapers columnist Angelo Persichilli outlines the dilemma - and the hypocrisy of their so-called self-acclaimed title as Champions of Immigration.
In the Sun (Will Immigration Issue bring down the Tories?), Persichilli states:
Will the issue of immigration do what the environment, crime bill and Afghanistan failed to do? Will the debate over immigration help Canadians get rid of this dysfunctional Parliament?
The answer seems positive. However, it seemed positive in the past but, in the end, one opposition party or another chickened out. This time it looks like the Liberals are tired of their new bend-and-run fitness program on Parliament Hill every time there's a confidence vote and they may actually want to get rid of the Harper government.
So what they are talking about?
All of them know the immigration system is in a complete state of chaos. It's also clear this deterioration took place mainly under the Liberals' watch since 1993. They know what the problems are, but they don't know how to solve them.
They know Canada's economy needs tradespeople, but they don't know how to let them in. They know criminals abuse the system, but they don't know how to kick them out. They let highly educated immigrants in, but they don't know how to find them jobs other than driving taxis in Toronto. They want to help refugees from around the world settle in Canada but don't know how, forcing them to join the huge ranks of "undocumented" workers...
He goes on to point out that only immigration lawyers and consultants are benefitting from the present chaotic and sluggish system.
And then comes the clincher:
...In reality, the Liberals are not looking for a debate that would expose their shortcomings on this issue, but a platform to revitalize the myth about the Conservatives being against immigrants and them the champions of the poor and the weak. And, with this image in mind, throw (Dion) Quixote into the campaign.
Persichilli's Hill Times piece is even more revealing - Liberals now thing of June election:
..Last week, at a quasi-emergency meeting of the Liberal shadow Cabinet, the need to go to the polls as soon as possible was debated, recognized, and there was a general consensus that the Conservative immigration reform plan would be the trigger. According to Liberal sources, Canadians should go to the polls in June. This seems to be the plan.
After voting down the NDP motion last week to force the government to extrapolate the immigration issue from the budget bill, the bill will be debated in committee. At the Citizenship and Immigration Committee, Liberals are going to present their amendments to the reforms presented by Minister of Immigration Diane Finley. Liberals are very confident that these amendments will be approved with the help of the other opposition parties and sent back to the House for a vote.
Of course, the government could choose to accept them and change the budget bill in the House. If it does, the government is safe and the Liberals are stuck with Stéphane Dion for the summer, at least. However, in answer to a question asked by Mike Duffy last week during his afternoon Mike Duffy Live show, the Immigration Minister Finley said clearly that the government has no intention of changing anything and the Liberal amendments will be rejected. This means that the Liberals will vote the government down; at least that's what they were saying last week.
If the Liberal plan holds—and the "if" is necessary considering the twists of the last few months—the final vote against the budget will take place during the first half of May and Canadians would go to the polls in June.
"Of course the best for the Liberals," a party strategist told The Hill Times last week, "would be the removal of Dion before the vote and, even if this development is highly unlikely, it doesn't mean that some Liberals have completely given up their hopes..."
The Liberal party's biggest enemy is not the Harper government, but rather their own in-fighting and problems with moles, which are apparent with the Quebec wing's inner turmoil and with comments like this:
...Dion seems to be convinced that the only development that could save his leadership is a national election. However, even if an election was widely welcomed a few months ago by the majority of Liberal MPs and strategists, there are now doubts. The polls are so bad that many MPs, even in Toronto, are fearing for their own seats. Some are concerned that even Etobicoke-Lakeshore is not a sure bet.
"I'm not saying that Michael Ignatieff is not going to win. I'm only saying that he has to work hard to keep it," a Liberal insider told The Hill Times...
And here's the conundrum:
...And that's why they are using immigration to defeat the government. They, the Liberals, created the mess, they failed to correct it, and they don't have a plan solve it. Still they believe that the old antics about this issue ("Conservatives are racist and we are the good guys") will be enough to bring them back to power or, as a Liberal strategist said half-jokingly last week, spare them the humiliation, 15 years after the Conservative experience, from becoming "the party of two."
L. Ian MacDonald points out the further hypocrisy of the Liberal's opposition to changes in the Immigration policy - Harper is playing truth or dare on the immigration bill:
...Then the Liberal deputy leader, Michael Ignatieff, turned to refugee claimants and determination, always a hot-button issue. Under the previous Liberal government, he noted, "the queue for refugee claimants had been effectively reduced to zero."
He continued: "Under the Conservative government, the backlog has ballooned to nearly 60,000 and is said to be heading to 100,000 by 2012."
Ignatieff concluded: "What does the government have against refugees?"
Well, nothing. The real question is the reverse of the one posed by Iggy. If there are 60,000 refugee claimants today, how come there were none two years ago?
The answer is that since there are 800,000 people lined up at the front door, 60,000 people are trying to get in through the back door of refugee claims. The system isn't working in the front, and has been systematically abused by lawyers and claimants in the back. And everyone knows it. Lawyers for Karlheinz Schreiber could file a refugee claim on the grounds he would be tortured by his jailers if extradited to Germany.
The Liberals are trying to whip ethnic communities into a frenzy largely over the discretion the bill gives the minister to instruct her department to give priority to immigrants whose job skills are needed in the Canadian workforce. "Cherry-picking," Dion called it. Imagine, prioritizing immigration according to the demands of our economy. Aha. Queue jumping. Putting the economy ahead of family unification and refugee claims, sensitive issues in multicultural communities....
In view of all this, it boggles the mind that Liberal brand continues to stay afloat nationally, and even be on top in Ontario.
All of which makes me wonder what would happen if the Liberals finally did somehow get it together? Would they be back in government?
I can only hope their problems last for a long, long time.