ontario news watch

As the year draws to a close, there have been a handful of year-end interviews from the Conservatives, but vanishingly few from mainstream legacy media outlets. The closest that Pierre Poilievre came were interviews with Rex Murphy at the National Post and Brian Lilley at the Toronto Sun, but neither interview can credibly claim to be anything other than a friendly chat with absolutely no pushback from the interviewers. Deputy leader Melissa Lantsman did one year-ender with CTV, but otherwise, Poilievre mostly stuck to independent right-wing outlets and with right-wing talk radio hosts. While there were some attempts to get Poilievre to talk about his plans if he were to form a government, the answers were, not unsurprisingly, vapid and unserious, with no credible path laid out.

One such example was around immigration targets. This is one area where Poilievre has to walk a tightrope between appealing to the nativists in the base he has been actively trying to cultivate, while also trying to ensure that he has the support of enough ethnocultural minority voters, primarily in the suburbs of Canada’s largest cities, where these demographics can make or break an electoral victory for a party. So how does Poilievre hope to play to both sides? By pretending that he can set immigration targets with a “mathematical formula” that takes into account things like housing, the number of doctors required, and availability of jobs. While that may have a whiff of credibility and thoughtfulness to it, which is what Poilievre is hoping to project, the problem is that it falls apart the moment you actually think about it for more than five seconds.

If we tied immigration levels to housing, we would never bring in more immigrants, ever. Yes, things are at a crisis level right now, but it’s also because of the complacency that provinces and municipalities have lulled themselves into (along with the plaintive wails of NIMBY constituents who want less housing so that their property values can continue to increase along with scarcity of supply). If anything, the current situation has given said provinces and municipalities the kick in the ass that they needed to start taking this seriously, while the federal government is deploying what few tools they have—namely money, in the form of the Housing Accelerator Fund—to get them to start making the necessary changes. It’s also forced the immigration department to start looking to skilled trades workers from other countries who can help with our construction needs, rather than just keeping the focus on highly skilled immigrants in mostly STEM fields. There is also finally attention being paid to the colleges, particularly in Ontario, who are running “degree mills,” that are abusive and exploitative of international students. That may not have happened without things reaching the current situation.

As for Poilievre’s continued insistence that he can speed up foreign credential recognition, particularly for healthcare workers, whether doctors, nurses, or pharmacists, that remains something of a pipe dream because he has no levers at the federal level to do that—not even money. This is the domain of private professional colleges, not governments, and they have been overly protective of their turf. Provinces have not helped because they have refused to fund enough residencies that can ensure that these foreign-trained professionals can properly meet the Canadian requirements, and again, Poilievre has no real levers there, unless he wants to send a lot more money to the provinces and hope that they won’t spend it on other things (which leads to questions about what he would cut to send that money). As for a “Blue Seal” program for these credential recognition to practice around the country, again, no federal government could make that happen.

When it comes to the deficit and spending, this is again where things are unserious. This was where Lantsman took the lead in the CTV interview, and insisted that they would achieve savings by reining in spending on “things that we don’t need or want,” which is handwavey bullshit. Every program has someone who needs and wants it, and that’s why deficit reduction programs are extremely difficult to deal with. It’s also opened up the attack line from the Liberals that it means the Conservatives will come after the Canada Child Benefit, dental care, or $10/day child care, all of which the Conservatives opposed, and who have not stated categorically that they will protect them, even though they can lead to larger savings overall, or in the case of child care, ensures that more women are in the labour force, which we need.

Lantsman did say that they would cut the ArriveCan app, which is money that is already spent so it wouldn’t achieve savings, the Canada Infrastructure Bank, or the “green slush fund,” a reference to Sustainable Development Technologies Canada, which was a Conservative creation under the Harper government. She also made reference to cutting the federal carbon price, which would do absolutely nothing about the deficit because it’s a revenue neutral levy where all funds are returned to the province in which they are collected, and redistributed in the way the province has decided (which is mostly the carbon rebate program, which the Conservatives deliberately omit from admitting it exists).

The Conservatives also keep insisting that slaying the deficit will bring down inflation and interest rates, which is not at all true. The current deficits are not being financed by printed money, and are thus only marginally inflationary (the biggest part is where provinces are using spending to juice growth beyond what the economy can sustain, hence stoking inflation). And if you look at the United States, they brought down their high inflation through productivity gains, and are still running massive debts and deficits, so the Conservatives’ logic doesn’t hold. Inflation is coming down thanks to the Bank of Canada’s measures, and rate cuts will follow soon, which will leave Poilievre to shift his goal posts on this file again.

Whether trying to justify their votes against Ukraine or how they’ll combat climate change with “technology not taxes,” there are no credible lines from the Conservatives—only slogans. But when they stack up against the government, who delivers its own meaningless pabulum lines that don’t explain their policies or how they’re addressing the various crises around the country, it’s one more reminder about how nobody is being well-served by politics right now, and that hurts everyone.

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