Serving Toronto's most liveable community with the Annex Gleaner

Ignore the dog whistle, but know it exists

October 8th, 2015 · No Comments

It’s a myth that only the Conservatives can be trusted with managing the economy.

Under their “stewardship” we are the only G7 country in a recession, and while Mr. Harper argues how “risky” it is to trust either opposition party with managing the balance sheet, his government has run successive deficit budgets and our economic outlook is far from glowing. The relatively weak Canadian dollar has yet to spur a silver lining moment for the manufacturing sector. While the Conservatives pretend to want to focus the debate on the welfare of the economy, it’s really the last thing they want. There is more political ground to be gained on the low road: practising the politics of division and fear while sabre-rattling abroad and highlighting their management of the terror file.

In the first French-language debate of the federal campaign, Harper steered a familiar “us versus others” tack when discussing his government’s move to strip health care away from refugee applicants.

“We have not taken away health care from immigrants and refugees,” he said. The only place we have refused it is for bogus refugee claimants who have been refused and turned down; we do not offer them a better health care plan than the ordinary Canadian can receive. I think that’s something that both new and existing and old-stock Canadians can agree with.”

There is an inherent dishonesty and underlying racism in Harper’s comments.

Refugee claimants are applicants pure and simple, so his use of the word “bogus” is wilfully inaccurate and unnecessarily disparaging.

The Annex is full of “old stock” in the sense that Mr. Harper intends, but it’s also in the middle of a richly diverse city, and a university town in itself. We wonder what indigenous peoples think of the “old stock” reference; surely after over 10,000 years, their length of tenure in this country should trump the constituency to which Harper refers.

The federal government cast a wide net here when they withdrew basic medical coverage from all applicants, whether or not they are accepted as a result of their hearing. Under the limited policy, refugees claimants are eligible for care only when they pose a threat to public health. That means no coverage, for example, for heart problems, pregnancy, infant vaccinations, diabetes, or any other ailments that threaten the health of the refugee but aren’t a demonstrable risk to public health.

The meanness of the 2012 modifications to the Interim Federal Health Program is underscored by a 2014 decision that found the cuts unconstitutional after they were challenged in federal court.

“The 2012 modifications to the Interim Federal Health Program potentially jeopardize the health, the safety and indeed the very lives of these innocent and vulnerable children in a manner that shocks the conscience and outrages our standards of decency. They violate section 12 of the Charter,” wrote Federal Court Justice Anne Mctavish in her decision.

It’s the only time Section 12 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms — which protects against cruel and unusual punishment — has ever been used successfully outside of a criminal proceeding.

The federal government, which was denied a stay pending an appeal, has subsequently revoked the modifications to the program, but only under protest. Having spent $1.4 million in legal fees on the matter thus far, the Harper government intends to continue its appeal of the ruling should it be elected.

It’s time to stop falling for the “old stock” references — really a dog whistle call designed to be heard by only the voters Mr. Harper figures he needs to keep and those he can sway — and call his bluff.

Let’s talk about the economy: successive Liberal governments before Mr. Harper ran budget surpluses while managing to reduce the overall debt. Perhaps the Harper Conservatives are neither true conservatives nor the appropriate spokespeople for Canadian values.

Tags: Annex · Liberty · Editorial