Monday, May 18, 2009

Conservative Vic Toews Blows a Gasket - Again

Conservative MP and Treasury Board President, Vic Toews, is nothing if not combative. He's also nothing if not trapped in a time warp, with views that would have been more accepted in the 1950's, than today.

His latest attack on bilingualism is just more of the same Reform Party jargon, that first won them West, but is also losing them the East.

This doesn't mean that Toews himself is awash in old fashioned values. It was recently revealed that he had fathered a child by another woman, that has subsequently cost him his 32 year marriage. Canadians rarely judge the personal life of politicians, though it does say something about his integrity. And then of course, there's his criminal record for campaign discrepancies, but I digress.

Though the Conservatives have lowered his profile lately, this Manitoba politician is obviously getting chafed by his muzzle, so is growling again over Canada's language policies. Rather odd that he is now responsible for language policy in the federal civil service. Is this the first step to no longer providing services in French?

Truculent Toews has too much to say about the bilingualism issue
Globe and Mail
May 7, 2009

Just when we thought we were well beyond the age of angst over French on cereal boxes and the like, in steps Vic Toews with the heavy linguistic lumber.

In a fit of pique - uggh, that's a French word - the President of the Treasury Board charged that the Liberals view unilingual Canadians as second-class citizens. "It's clear," he harrumphed, "that the Liberal Party considers those of us who speak one official language to be less Canadian."

The truculent Mr. Toews is responsible for language policy in the federal public service. He blew his anglophone gasket - Quebeckers will not be overjoyed - in a committee hearing on the Official Languages Act when Liberal MP Pablo Rodriguez had the audacity to ask whether, given his duties, the minister should be bilingual.

His skin growing thinner by the millisecond, Mr. Toews shot back: "I should feel free to be able to speak the language of my choice, and for you to even ask that question is an insult."

This aggrieved minister has been in Parliament for eight years. He represents a Manitoba riding with a large French population and he has a language-sensitive job. But he has chosen not to learn French. That's his right. Some MPs learn the language, some don't.

But was it really necessary for him to get so whacked up about it, to play so blatantly to the troglodyte wing of his party, to needlessly restoke the dormant bilingualism issue?

On the basis of a couple of questions, to make a charge that an entire political party views citizens who speak only one of the country's official languages as substandard Canadians is an exercise in excess.

The Liberals have senior members, such as Ralph Goodale, who are unilingual. Mr. Goodale doesn't view himself as an inferior Canuck. (Michael Ignatieff is attempting to make all of his MPs, if not fully bilingual, than at least have a basis in French. Around the office they conduct their business in the French language. Source: Martha Hall Finlay)

We have been making progress on the issue of languages. There are many arguments, some of them good, that one can mount against the bilingualism program.

But Canadians, seemingly more sensitive to the country's components, have come to debate it in a more mature fashion. The Reform Party used to be in favour of the repeal of the Official Languages Act. Today's Conservatives are not.
(In Deborah Grey's book she listed anti-Quebecois and anti-multiculturalism, as two of the things that drew her to the Reform Party. I guess Toews will look after the first and Jason Kenney the second)

Perhaps Mr. Toews, a former justice minister who was demoted to Treasury, thought that he could make political hay on the lightning-rod issue. He realizes that there are dormant animosities to be awakened. One of the more wretched aspects of politics is the abiding realization that big points can be scored by playing on people's base prejudicial instincts. The American Republicans - hello Rush Limbaugh! - are specialists at it.

Mr. Toews has a daughter whom he sent to French-immersion school and who is bilingual. He is an imposing, articulate man with a groomed vocal cadence who speaks English, Spanish and German. So he is capable of learning French and, as with any federal politician, the language would have served him. Does he need to speak French to do his current job? It would give him more credibility if he had the facility. But no, it isn't necessary.

In fact, the Liberals were being somewhat hypocritical on this point because they had a minister at the Treasury Board, Reg Alcock, who spoke French like John Diefenbaker.

But instead of calmly pointing out some of these things and moving on, Mr. Toews let rearward tendencies get the best of him

If his outburst was just a one-off thing, it would hardly be worth noting. But it has become the standard modus operandi of the Conservatives - they obviously spent too many years watching Liberal governments - to take any query and turn into a sweeping attack on the questioner.

They once branded the NDP as pro-Taliban and the Liberals as anti-Israel. In the House of Commons this week, they unabashedly responded to questions on employment insurance with wildly off-topic allegations that the Liberals would raise taxes.

Alas, the age of puberty in Ottawa is still a ways off. That Mr. Toews hasn't learned French is no grave sin. That the opposition raised the matter, given his position, is no grave sin either. There was no need for him to fly off the handle with fatuous and incendiary charges.

It's clear the Conservatives have no wish to govern. They have been campaigning for the past three years, and hope to give one more stab at a majority. If they lose the election or squeak another minority, Harper will be toast.

More Postings on Vic Toews:

1. Vic Toews anti-Gay Muster Bluster and Filubuster

2. Vic Toews Gets Lost in the Paper Shuffle

3. What are Vic Toews and Jason Kenney Up To Now?

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