Welcome to Tim Hudak’s Tea Party

TheStar.com – opinion/editorialopinion
Published On Mon Sep 12 2011.    Charles Pascal

Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak’s public response to a program designed to help well-educated and trained citizens gain Canadian experience by providing modest support to those employers who hire them is a prime example of bringing north the ugly and divisive politics below the 49th parallel. And American politics have never been uglier.

As memorial reflections of 9/11 begin to wane, I can’t help but hold onto the most important, the most indelible hope that I noted in my diary on Sept. 20, 2001:

“So wonderful to see those who normally put down government services realize their importance at a time of crisis. Maybe they will continue to value the role that government can play in more normal times. So wonderful to see adversaries, political and otherwise, rise above division to imagine something greater than their narrower perspectives.”

That was then. I’m not sure what took the U.S. to its current place of pathological dichotomy where the simplest of issues seem unresolvable because of divide and conquer contemptuousness. Perhaps one trigger was president Bill Clinton’s clever theft and implementation of the Republican agenda. That made the right mad and a good deal of the remaining left as well, as Clinton implemented a less than progressive approach to welfare — among other things. Who knows what has brought America to this destructive place?

But I know that I want no part of extremism and gross misrepresentation of evidence and facts. I want to see “nasty” in the rear-view mirror of our politics. And I want no part of Hudak’s attempt to play to the worst of the human condition through his deliberately misleading response to Liberal Leader Dalton McGuinty’s idea regarding supporting fellow citizens who were educated elsewhere. Citizens who, as Hudak’s federal political cousin Jason Kenney has noted, are discriminated against because of the “experience paradox.” Citizens who were well-educated and trained elsewhere, but are having trouble gaining access to experience in Canada.

Let me get personal. I am a foreign-trained worker. I received my education in another country with my elementary and secondary education paid for by the citizens of my birthplace, went to a university where about 25 per cent of my education was subsidized by taxpayers, and the rest I paid for.

I became a citizen of Canada as soon possible more than 38 years ago. I had no trouble gaining Canadian experience because there were employers then, as there are now, who don’t see folks with U.S. training as “foreign.” Unfortunately for so many citizens who are “foreign trained” in so many other countries, their access to experience has been a rocky road of disappointment for far too long.

As far back as 1984, an Ontario report discussed the requirement to remove barriers for foreign-trained professionals so that our labour-market supply needs in many areas could be filled more adequately. We have not made the kind of progress that our economy needs. And this hurts us all.

As well, the changes made to our immigration policy several years back require an unprecedented level of education to qualify for immigration to Canada and citizenship.

Hudak claims discrimination while invoking alarming discriminatory images. Of course we need to do all we can do for all who are unemployed. But equity doesn’t mean sameness. Having all qualified hands on deck for a productive economy requires special initiatives for special and different populations in our midst. But that’s too complicated to explain on a hot-button bumper sticker.

McGuinty’s idea is about a special initiative for those who face barriers that need to be removed. As for unemployment more generally, the premier’s education reforms have moved high school graduation rates from 68 per cent to 81 per cent.

Taking a holistic and integrated approach to an issue as challenging as unemployment will take us to a better place. Playing American-style wedge politics is not helpful, it is hurtful. Our leaders need to be driven by moral purpose and decency designed to bring out the best in us. While I think Hudak is a fine person, I will resist an electoral invite to his tea party.

Charles Pascal is a professor of human development and applies psychology at OISE/University of Toronto and a former Ontario deputy minister.

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