Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Explaining the Harperite infatuation with Ukraine

Canada's Conservative government has made a point of aligning itself with the un-elected leaders who seized power in Kiev a few weeks ago. In their haste to justify their embrace of the new non-elected leaders, both PM Harper and FM John Baird have made numerous convoluted statements about how the democratically elected Yanukovik government was in fact a dictatorship, while the coup itself was a product not of mob rule and years of US-led agitation, but some more authentic manifestation of true democracy.

The following article was written by Lee Berthiaume and appeared in a number of PostMedia titles on March 5th. It does a great job of showing why an incoherent and contradictory foreign policy is actually the result of opportunistic political maneuvering by the Conservatives.

While it might be understandable that a party declining in popularity would bend over backwards to attract the votes of those million plus Ukrainian-Canadians, they might want to remember that there are over 30 million Canadians who are not of Ukrainian ancestry who might be sufficiently put off by the Harperite grand-standing and double-talk to take their vote somewhere else.


“I think you have a lot of Ukrainians who will look at a member of Parliament and say ‘He’s really good for the riding and done a nice job, but the party that he or she comes from failed us on this issue,’ ” said Royal Military College professor and Ukrainian-Canadian Lubomyr Luciuk. “Or the party worked with us on this issue. And that can swing some votes and be decisive.”
Here are a few examples:
In the last election, there were several close results around Winnipeg, where Ukrainian-Canadians represent a significant percentage of the population. None was closer than in Winnipeg North where Liberal MP Kevin Lamoureux beat his NDP opponent by just 44 votes. The riding is home to 11,105 Ukrainian-Canadians, representing 13.3 per cent of the population.
Luciuk says Ukrainian-Canadians actually helped Lamoureux win, as the Liberal MP opposed the Holocaust being given higher billing in the Winnipeg-based Canadian Museum for Human Rights than other genocides. That includes the Holodomor, a famine in Ukraine in the 1930s that Canada has recognized as a deliberate genocide perpetrated by Soviet Russia.
“So Lamoureux got some votes because he took a position that was positive,” Luciuk said.
Meanwhile, in the nearby Winnipeg riding of Elmwood-Transcona, Conservative MP Lawrence Toet defeated NDP incumbent Jim Maloway by only 300 votes. The riding counts 16,935 Ukrainian-Canadians, or about 20.6 per cent of the population.
And Conservative MP Joyce Bateman beat Liberal incumbent Anita Neville by 722 votes in nearby Winnipeg South Centre, where 10,240 Ukrainian-Canadians live, representing 13.4 per cent of the population.
Outside Winnipeg, Conservative MP Larry Maguire edged out Liberal challenger Rolf Dinsdale in a byelection in Brandon-Souris in November, 2013. Maguire won by 389 votes, in a riding where 17,360 people, or 11.3 per cent of the population, identified themselves as being of Ukrainian descent.
If there’s one riding that screams “Ukraine!” more than any other in Canada, it’s Yorkton-Melville in Saskatchewan. That’s because fully 29.3 per cent of the population self-identifies as being of Ukrainian descent, which is nearly five per cent more than the next closest. But it doesn’t appear Conservative MP Garry Breitkreuz has anything to worry about; he’s represented the riding since 1993.
The same can’t be said for some other Saskatchewan MPs, starting with Conservative MP Kelly Block. The representative for Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar defeated her NDP challenger by 538 votes, in a riding where Ukrainian-Canadians number 9,720, or 13.7 per cent of the population.

Fellow Conservative MP Ray Boughen, who represents the riding of Palliser, near Regina, edged out his own NDP challenger by 766 votes. Palliser is home to 7,520 Ukrainian-Canadians, who represent 11.1 per cent of the population.
And Liberal MP Ralph Goodale, the only Liberal to have been elected in Saskatchewan since 2006, held onto his seat in Wascana in the last election by just over 1,500 votes. The riding is home to 10,530 people who identify themselves as being of Ukrainian descent, representing 13.1 per cent of the population.
Luciuk says Goodale is an example of an MP who has been a stalwart champion of Ukrainian-Canadian interests and earned the respect of the community, which has translated into continued electoral success.
Thunder Bay was the mecca for Ukrainian-Canadians settling in Ontario. The two ridings that surround the northern Ontario city, represented by NDP MP John Rafferty and NDP-turned-Green Party MP Bruce Hyer, are each chockful of people of Ukrainian descent. Both Rafferty and Hyer earned comfortable victories in 2011.
On the other hand, Conservative MP Ted Opitz barely eked out victory in the Toronto-area riding of Etobicoke Centre over Liberal incumbent Borys Wrzesnewskyj, who is of Ukrainian descent. The margin of victory was 26 votes.
Before the election, the Conservatives accidentally released documents that confirmed they were targeting the riding’s Ukrainian-Canadian community, which numbers 7,955 and represents 7.1 per cent of the population.
Luciuk says the Ukrainian-Canadian vote played a critical role in Etobicoke Centre, and while Wrzesnewskyj is a member of the community, this was a situation where party affiliation mattered more than the individual MP’s identity — a situation he says is the norm.
“There were Ukrainian-Canadians working for Ted Opitz against a Ukrainian-Canadian because he was in the wrong party at that time,” Luciuk said. “Whereas the Conservative party was making all the right sounds about things Ukrainian.”
“And I think most Canadians of Ukrainian heritage, even those who would not necessarily politically support (Prime Minister Stephen) Harper if there were an election next week or next month, are looking at his general overall performance on (the current crisis in Ukraine), and saying: ‘Good for you. Thank you Mr. Prime Minister.’ ”

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