If B.C. Premier Christy Clark is forced into an early resignation in the next couple of days it won't have much to do with "ethnicgate" -- the press' clumsy name for her party's recently-leaked scheme to use "government initiatives and projects" to rally the immigrant vote.
Clark's caucus never liked her. When she ran to lead the B.C. Liberals following the 2010 resignation of despised premier Gordon Campbell, only a single member of the legislature backed her, and he was basically the worst one. Since her ascension, she's been blamed mercilessly by her own tribe for ballooning deficits, embarrassing defections, cabinet resignations, corruption scandals, free-falling poll numbers, and various other things that were already happening under Campbell and would have continued to happen under any of her ideologically interchangeable rivals.
In a way, Clark's sort of the anti-Justin Trudeau: same magical personality, only hers makes the underlying flaws of her doomed party more apparent.
Ethnicgate fits nicely into the narrative that poor Christy is "disingenuous and incompetent," in the words of the National Post's Brian Hutchinson, and it may provide the salivating Brutuses in her party with a fun pretext to finally turf the boss amid much rhetoric of straws and camel spines. But that would be unfortunate, because the true scandal of ethnicgate has little to do with any Clark malfeasance in particular, and an awful lot to do with the disgustingly central role ethnic pandering has come to play at all levels of modern Canadian politics.
Canadian immigration has never been anything other than a nakedly political program. Even now, in the epoch of Jason Kenney and his Common-Sense Reforms™, the vast majority of Canadian immigrants arrive bringing no discernible benefit to taxpayers. A mere 26 per cent of last year's total were considered "economic class" -- the kind that supposedly help grow the GDP, etc -- a number so embarrassingly small the feds have to artificially inflate it by lumping econo-class children, wives, and relatives in the same spreadsheet column.
I tweeted Minister Kennedy about this a while ago, and he admitted his government hasn't even bothered to commission a study on the overall economic impact of our current immigration regime, and instead lazily directed me to a report from the Fraser Institute which claimed his ministry was actually operating at a loss. But the only math that matters in politics is vote counting, and I'll concede that Kenney does at least know how to win a majority government.
The Clark administration's leaked strategy for immigrant outreach wasn't much different from any of Kenney's various initiatives -- patronizing yet exploitative (remember the "very ethnic" ridings?), and unapologetic about using government power for electoral expediency. But does an alternative approach even exist? When immigration is run strictly as a political program, when we import immigrants without regard to economics or culture, but simply as a way to build a loyalty base, it becomes very difficult to determine where neutral government interests end and partisan ones begin.
The cynicism of the ethnicgate memo is striking. Assuming the generals of the Liberal war room know what they're talking about, immigrant voters in B.C. are simple folk obsessed with a handful of ancient racial grievances (a "quick win" can be scored from mourning incidents like the Komagata Maru, says page six) who exclusively consume "ethnic media," (as important as the "so-called mainstream media" we're told), trust only each other (concern is expressed over all the "photos of white people" in Liberal ads), and possess limited ability to function in anything but their impractical birth languages (MLA Dave Hayer is cited as potentially useful because he "apparently speaks some Punjabi"). Heed this advice and you've got their vote.
In the Gangs of New York era, such exploitation of ghettoized immigrants was a hallmark of machine politics, yet in 21st century Canada it's been rebranded as "multiculturalism," a constitutionally-entrenched principle that's so relentlessly propagandized as a foundation of modern Canadian identity (in beer commercials and whatnot) it's easy to forget it hasn't gotten any less self-serving for the politicians. The more integrated -- dare I say, assimilated -- immigrants become, or the more cautiously we select immigrants in the first place, the harder it is for politicians to sponge easy votes from segregated demographics and their predictable minority causes. So none of these things happen.
Ethnicgate is one of those scandals that's scandalous mostly because it involves political operatives saying things out loud that most have the decency to keep quiet. Immigration and multiculturalism of the style currently practised in Canada are programs that brazenly abuse one of the most extreme powers a government has -- the power to chose its own citizens -- for purposes that don't serve any public interest beyond the buying of loyalty and the winning of elections. (And for those who think immigration isn't a provincial jurisdiction, well, clearly you haven't been paying attention).
Though everyone's having a lot of fun pretending ethnicgate exposes some terrible sin of desperation from a government with one foot in the grave, even post-Christy, immigrant pandering will continue to be a staple of B.C. and Canadian politics. Future politicians will continue to waste tax dollars apologizing for last century's racist crimes, celebrating foreign holidays, and recruiting ethnic bagmen in the same fashion they've done since the days of Tammany Hall.
Clark's the easy amputee of an incurably sick political culture.
Leaked B.C. Liberal documents revealing a wide-ranging plan with links to senior officials in Premier Christy Clark's office to <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/02/27/bc-ethnic-vote-plan-liberals-leaked_n_2777292.html">win ethnic votes</a> in the upcoming May election are released by the B.C. NDP. Clark is seen here on a visit to India in 2011.
"No one has any dispute about the rich multicultural heritage in B.C. and the obligation of government to celebrate that and to build upon various communities in every corner of the province," said NDP House Leader John Horgan. "What we object to, and I think every British Columbian would object to, is their tax dollars being used to prop up the B.C. Liberal election machinery."
"I want to sincerely apologize to British Columbians," said a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/02/28/bc-ethnic-vote-plan-inquiry-christy-clark-apologizes_n_2784464.html">statement from Premier Christy Clark</a>. "The document did not recognize there are lines that cannot be crossed in conducting this outreach and it is unacceptable."
The <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/02/28/bc-ethnic-vote-plan-inquiry-christy-clark-apologizes_n_2784464.html">B.C. Liberal government promises a review</a> into a plan to woo ethnic voters.
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/03/01/kim-haakstad-resigns-christy-clark-ethnic-vote_n_2793904.html?1362197245&utm_hp_ref=canada-british-columbia">Kim Haakstad</a>, the B.C. premier's deputy chief of staff, resigns. She sent a strategy document to several of the premier's staff that outlined a plan to woo ethnic voters.
"This proposed outreach plan was insulting to the intended targeted communities and was, when I found out about it, insulting to me and to all other MLAs who believe in doing things properly, fairly and within the rules and laws of the legislature," Liberal MLA <a href="http://www.davehayermla.ca/">Dave Hayer</a>. "In all my 12 years as an MLA I have always reached out to all communities, regardless of ethnic background, because that is the right thing to do. I believe in doing the right thing, regardless of whether it will, or will not, 'win the vote' of any particular group."
"For the record, been given an early summary in 24 hrs, the terms of reference are out, a number of interviews needed. Plan progressing," said a tweet by deputy premier Rich Coleman. He added: "I am satisfied with the first steps to review what occurred here and fully support @christyclarkbc."
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/03/01/bc-ethnic-vote-plan-chinese-community_n_2792877.html">Bill Chu</a>, chair of the Canadian Reconciliation Society, called the premier's apology "not acceptable." "In the leaked document, you can see the wording in it, how they want to manipulate our community — not just our community, but the entire multicultural community," Chu said. "It's full of disrespect."
Christy Clark calls an <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/03/03/christy-clark-emergency-cabinet-meeting_n_2800276.html">emergency meeting</a> of her cabinet held on a rare weekend.
A calm, confident <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/03/03/christy-clark-emergency-cabinet-meeting_n_2800276.html">Christy Clark brushes aside questions about her leadership</a> after a three-hour emergency cabinet meeting. "This group is absolutely united and we have a lot of work to do on behalf of the people of British Columbia" she said. "We're going to get on to that work."
"Christy Clark is our premier. She's going to be our leader," said <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/03/03/christy-clark-emergency-cabinet-meeting_n_2800276.html">Bill Bennett</a>, minister of sport and culture after an emergency cabinet meeting. But he added: "We've made some mistakes. This last one was a doozy."
Liberal party member Virkram Bajwa said the leaked document has "made the ethnic vote a joke," and <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/03/03/christy-clark-emergency-cabinet-meeting_n_2800276.html">demanded the premier's resignation</a> on behalf of a group of Indo-Canadian Liberal members. "In order for us to gain and come back to the government, she has to resign and somebody new has to come and lead the party into elections," he said.
"We shared some inner feelings," said Ben Stewart, minister of citizen services and open government after an emergency cabinet meeting. "There's certainly disappointment at so many people close to government involved in these activities."
"This was the first chance we had to talk about last week (with the premier)," said Health Minister <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/03/03/christy-clark-emergency-cabinet-meeting_n_2800276.html">Margaret MacDiarmid</a>. "Everybody's very concerned about it, disturbed by it and wanted to move forward. We talked about that."
"We're all here to stick together and do our jobs," said Jobs Minister <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/03/03/christy-clark-emergency-cabinet-meeting_n_2800276.html">Pat Bell</a>. "I'm as committed as I've ever been to Christy."
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/03/04/bc-ethnic-vote-john-yap-resigns-christy-clark-caucus_n_2807240.html?utm_hp_ref=canada-british-columbia">John Yap</a>, the minister responsible for multiculturalism, steps aside during the review into the ethnic votes strategy. He said he's taking responsibility for the report's contents — but also said he had never seen the document, which was written several months before Yap joined cabinet.
Former B.C. premier <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/03/08/ujjal-dosanjh-bc-ethnic-vote-debate_n_2840019.html" target="_blank">Ujjal Dosanjh</a>, seen in this 2005 photo, says the ethnic vote-winning debate that has hammered British Columbia's Liberals and forced them to issue numerous apologies is nauseating, sanctimonious and holier-than-thou.
A <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/03/14/bc-ethnic-vote-plan-report-dyble-liberals_n_2877534.html" target="_blank">report by deputy minister John Dyble</a> into the ethnic outreach plan finds the B.C. Liberal government misused public money and breached standards of conduct.
Brian Bonney, a former Liberal government communications official, spent half his time working on the ethnic outreach plan for the Liberal party while being paid as a government employee, concluded a report. "This ... amounts to a serious breach of the standards of conduct," said the report by deputy minister John Dyble.
After John Dyble's report is released, Premier Christy Clark tells media that the B.C. Liberal Party has written a $70,000 cheque to the government to repay some of the work ex-communications official Brian Bonney did on government time.
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