09/12/2011 11:24 EDT | Updated 11/12/2011 05:12 EST

McGuinty's Tax Rebate For Immigrants: Divisive, Not Affirmative, Action

Dalton McGuinty's tax rebate for businesses who hire new immigrants means that other established citizens who are unemployed don't get hired. That alone seems a mockery of McGuinty's rather silly sentence that "a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian."

Flickr: Ontario Chamber of Commerce

A disquieting thing about affirmative action programs is that they can stigmatize the recipient as well as benefit him (or her) and create unnecessary (and unintended) resentments and unfairness.

Reducing standards in order to help visible minorities can discriminate against others who meet or exceed these standards.

Worse, affirmative action programs can inadvertently persuade a potential employer that someone who is a visible minority with superior qualifications got where he did by preferential treatment. Prejudice may prevent someone being hired.

In a move that reeks of desperation politics, Liberal leader Dalton McGuinty wants to introduce a $10,000 tax rebate to any business that hires newcomers, but ignores those who were born here and need a job and those who came to Canada in the past and no longer qualify as newcomers.

The plan seems a grotesque distortion of affirmative action.

What it seems to mean is that if a company gets a $10,000 tax rebate for hiring a rookie citizen, other established citizens who are unemployed don't get hired. That alone seems a mockery of McGuinty's rather silly sentence that "a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian."

What the proposal means is that some Canadians are more equal than other Canadians; "new" Canadians are preferred to "old" Canadians.

If you think about it, the plan is unfair to the 500,000 people in Ontario who are unemployed and looking for work.

Those who should be most annoyed are those who emigrated to Canada over the years, and are having problems now that times are tough. They are getting no favours, while newcomers will be hired by companies that understandably will want a tax rebate.

It's a bit like the resentment legal immigrants may have towards illegal immigrants who come here and go on welfare, get accommodation, medical treatment, exploit the system and give immigrants a bad name.

Those who enter Canada legally often have a more difficult time than those who cheat to get in, then claim refugee status.

McGuintys' tax rebate scheme has the potential of doing for him in the Oct. 6 provincial election what public funding for religious schools did for John Tory when he led the Conservative party in the last election -- turned possible victory into guaranteed defeat.

Granted the Liberals seem to have closed the gap in opinion polls. The Tories of Tim Hudak face a tougher fight than a coronation. But there's a feeling of desperation among Liberals that isn't evident among Tories.

One sign of Liberal panic (or is it hysteria? Or both?) is the charge that those who favour Conservatives are akin to the Tea Party in the U.S.

This is silly -- but also reflective on Liberal incumbents who fear for their future as well-paid MPPs. The great majority of Tea Partiers in the U.S. are middle-class Americans, distressed at the loss of jobs, the economic plight of their country, the failure of the administration to encourage confidence and optimism.

Sure, there are Tea Party nutbars, but they're an irrelevant minority.

Perhaps Dalton McGuinty will re-think the $10,000 tax rebate. If not, then he deserves to live to regret it, because thinking people (some of whom are voters) see it as a dumb and divisive idea.

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