Saturday, March 05, 2011

Kenney's ethnic media strategy comes from a place of weakness

With all the justifiable hullabaloo over Jason Kenney and his improper fundraising letter, sent out of his ministerial office to raise money for a Conservative party ethnic media strategy, it's worth checking in on how he's actually doing on this file. Here is a helpful jumping off point for that. In respect of that media strategy, there was this quote from a member of the Chinese Canadian National Council on the likelihood of such a media campaign's success in this report from last night:
"I'm not so sure this type of campaign will be effective unless it's backed up by some concrete actions. A promotional campaign is not going to deliver you votes," he said. "You have to have some promises to the community and people will make their decisions depending on where they line up in terms of their political perspectives."
With respect to "concrete actions," Kenney has actually been having a bit of a rough ride on his file recently. About two weeks ago, the impact of the Conservative record on the immigration system came into focus. It may be, partly, a reason behind that pre-writ strategy that was inadvertently disclosed. Here is a recent synopsis of the Conservative immigration record that gives a sense of their vulnerabilities:
They have made four main changes:

• They have converted a system with one gateway and one set of entry admission criteria into a system with a dozen entry points, each with different rules. The provinces can now nominate immigrants, employers can recruit foreign workers and international students can stay in Canada after university if they’re job ready and fluent in English or French.

• They have opened the floodgates to a stream of temporary foreign workers. What was once a modest program designed to bring in nannies, farm workers and foreigners with specialized skills, is now a major source of low-cost labour. Last year Canada admitted 180,000 “guest workers” to do everything from clean offices to program computers.

• They have made it harder for immigrants to reunite their families. Four years ago, spouses, children, parents and grandparents of new Canadians made up 28 per cent of the total. It’s now down to 21 per cent.

• They have diminished Canada’s role as a haven for people fleeing violence and persecution. The number of refugees allowed into the country has dropped by 25 per cent since they took power.
Here's more on the direction they've been taking which also clarifies where some Conservative political weaknesses on this file lie:
The untold story is this: Canada’s growing reliance on newcomers is increasingly turning to temporary foreign workers -- “guest workers” -- rather than new immigrants and future citizens to propel growth.
...
Immigration is driven by people wanting to settle in this country, and the entry quotas are set by public policy to meet the public interest of Canadians. Temporary foreign work permits are issued to meet the needs of employers who, ostensibly, face labour shortages that cannot be addressed by Canadian workers. This process is not based on quotas. In principle and practice, there are no upper limits.
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In 2010, Canada allowed 182,322 temporary foreign workers to enter Canada to meet employers’ needs. This is the second-highest number on record, the highest being in 2008.
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In 2010, there were 283,096 temporary foreign workers in Canada, doing work that employers asserted there was no Canadian available to do.
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"The temporary foreign worker program is really about contracting out immigration," says Yessy Byl, a lawyer who volunteers with the Edmonton Community Legal Centre. “In fact the government is setting the stage for a bizarre non-immigration program because those workers can’t immigrate.”
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For a country that has grown into one of the most diverse, peaceful and prosperous nations on the planet, this shift in immigration policy signals a troubling new direction.

Throughout our history the long-standing offer to newcomers, through unifying families and providing citizenship, was the promise of becoming full participants in Canadian society.

In its place, official policy increasingly sanctions and supports employers who use newcomers as cheap and disposable labour. It's bad for diversity, it's a terrible trend for workplaces, and it affects everyone.
The Conservatives, in their leaked draft ad scripts, hint at their direction, emphasizing symbolic gestures they've made (e.g., Komagata Maru apology), general statements about increased immigration and their "values" pitch (wink, wink). Needless to say, it seems that there is room to make a clear and substantive counter punch to the Conservative lines come election time, in those targeted ridings in particular. Canada's immigration system is premised on values, historically, that the Conservatives are not doing justice. Their emphasis increasingly lets business drive our immigration choices and quite significantly, downgrades family reunification. Those are their trends. So this values framing that they like to tout in relation to immigrant communities can be turned against them too. For example, what kind of family values are these that see dramatic cuts to family reunification?

The Kenney record is not as glowing as they like to tell us. They as much as admitted that point in the infamous slide show by stating that they were still losing among these communities, just less badly. Why do we think they have to constantly elbow for unfair advantage with these groups, as they did last night?