09/12/2011 11:32 EDT | Updated 11/12/2011 05:12 EST

Tim Hudak's Hypocrisy Runs Deep in the Immigration Debate


Perhaps Ontario's Conservative Party leader Tim Hudak would like to find a new issue with which to drive a wedge between the Ontario electorate and Premier Dalton McGuinty. Why? Because in recent days, his decision to use an immigration pledge in the recently-released Liberal platform shows both his lack of experience as a party leader and his hypocrisy.

The pledge in the Ontario Liberal platform says, "We'll create a tax credit for business to give our highly skilled newcomers the Canadian work experience they need." In the end, that pledge comes out to providing up to $10,000 to employers to defraying the costs of hiring and training Ontarians who have been Canadian citizens for less than five years.

Basically, it is a simple subsidy program to encourage job creation for new Canadians.

Simple, right? Wrong. According to Tim Hudak and the Conservatives, not only is this affirmative action, but the tone in which they discuss this 'affirmative action' plan overtly showcases how ugly a concept they believe it to be. And what's more, Hudak's insinuation in stating that this subsidy pledge is simply affirmative action for 'foreign workers' has an even uglier stench about it: namely, that new Canadian citizens living in Ontario and having a difficult time finding work are still foreigners. They are, as McGuinty pointed out recently, being made to feel othered, somehow different from established Ontarians. And McGuinty has smartly asked for Hudak to apologize for the remarks.

Hudak's hypocrisy is nowhere more apparent than on his personal flip-flop on the immigration file. Warren Kinsella has a piece in the Toronto Sun of all places where he showcases Hudak's remarkable devolution on the immigration issue. Witness the measured and rational Hudak of a year ago as he introduced a private member's bill in the Ontario legislature that aimed to "offer a big tax credit to employers who arrange language training for immigrants -- immigrants who weren't even Canadian citizens," according to Kinsella.

Back then, Hudak claimed that "(we need) practical and affordable measures to help new Canadians find employment and create jobs." Makes sense, right? It does! And this from a measured and senior Conservative leader. And now, when a surprisingly similar measure emerges in the Liberal platform, Hudak simply cannot abide Premier McGuinty providing subsidies to employers of new Canadians.

The Conservatives can call this 'affirmative action' all they like and inject the term with as much venom as possible, but it does nothing to take away from the benefits that such a program can bring. It is a measured balance between government subsidy and private initiative to spur job growth: and the net result is more jobs for Canadian citizens who may find getting work extremely difficult without assistance.

We do not flinch when the exact same program is offered to employers from a group such as Eco Canada to help recent graduates find work in the environmental sector. So why do certain elements in society take umbrage with the same assistance being offered to new Canadians? Eco Canada offers employers who hire recent graduates looking to get into the environmental sector a subsidy of upwards of $12,000 to help offset the cost of hiring someone with few on-the-job skills.

Sound familiar? It should.

Hudak is picking the wrong fight on the immigration issue, and it underlines how politicking trumps reason for this rookie leader. I would not be surprised if he drops this topic in favour of a new 'wedge' issue in the coming days. Considering the recent success of the federal Tories in the 416 and 905 area codes around Toronto and ultra-conservative Rob Ford's recent election, Hudak would be foolish to squander what inroads Harper and Ford have made.