Politics behind the Olympic smokescreen

Is it political genius in terms of timing or naïve neglect on the part of media or a bit of both?

Is it political genius in terms of timing or naïve neglect on the part of media or a bit of both?

As Canada’s main broadcasters (and most print media) have been consumed by an enchanted frenzy over the Winter Olympics in Sochi over the last two weeks, Conservatives have unrolled two pieces of draft federal legislation that might have far reaching implications for the future of the governance and the social fabric of Canada.

News bulletins and political discussion programs have just paid lip service to the announcements without analyzing the timing, the background or the motives for the two drafts and continued to keep their focus on the run-up to Olympic games in Sochi.

Living in what is universally accepted as one of the coldest countries in the world and having hosted two Winter Olympics winning quite a number of gold medals, it is only natural for Canadians and Canadian media to be interested in Sochi games. What is not natural, though, is the negligence in attaching the due importance to the drafts.

One of the drafts is about updating the legislation governing the immigration and citizenship processes. Certainly, as should be, there are some substantial improvements in the new draft aimed at ensuring that those who want to come to Canada are more dedicated to their new homeland and readier to adjust to Canadian society than as suggested under the existing legislation.

The problem is, though, the new draft creates a large loophole in processing immigration and citizenship applications by “personalizing” many of the decisions to be made in the process, giving the minister in charge the power to single-handedly strip individuals off their actual or expected Canadian citizenship, while also authorizing immigration officers to turn down immigration or citizenship applications without setting any criteria for taking such decisions.

The pretext is fighting terrorism and preventing fraudulent practices, and no one can raise any objections to that. Given, however, the obvious tendency of the federal government to politicize federal bureaucracy, this draft, if it becomes law as it looks likely, can very well be used to vet immigration applicants as regards to their political backgrounds.

As for the other draft, it proposes to amend the election law. Again, it brings in new arrangements for prevention of fraudulent voting and stricter regulations for implementation of voting procedures, which should be considered improvements. But it also brazenly clips the powers of the chief electoral officer Marc Mayrand to launch investigations into allegations of election fraud.

One remembers the robocall voting scandal in 2012 elections and cannot help thinking whether Mr. Harper and his government are preparing the ground for more election day “practices” to cling to power, practices that they would rather have not investigated.

Let’s not forget that the new draft also raises the limits of contributions by individuals to political parties election campaign funds. And who do you think would benefit from that amendment?

As discussed recently in this column, the pipeline politics is fast warming up following the release of the US State Department report on the prospects of the Keystone XL pipeline. The report, which did not raise any serious objections to the construction of the pipeline which will carry bitumen to oil refineries in Texas, has probably already had several oil executives on both sides of the border start to ecstatically rub their hands. There is certainly a lot of money to be made through the construction and operation of that pipeline and Mr. Harper seems determined to stay at the command centre to be able to decide who gets how big a slice from the cake.