Liberal MP launches Operation Cheque Drop: A Pre-Election Ploy
Do you know what the French word ténoise means?
I didn’t until I put it through Google Translate. It means NWT. As in Northwest Territories.
I came across that word in a news release earlier this summer from NWT MP Michael McLeod last week.
The territory’s federal rep announced Yellowknife “has been selected as the 14th and final Welcoming Francophone Community as part of the Government of Canada’s Action Plan for Official Languages.”
So what will the $305,670 of taxpayer money be used for?
“The strategy,” stated the release, “seeks to enhance the vitality of official-language minority communities through immigration, specifically by increasing the proportion of French-speaking permanent residents outside of Quebec.”
OK, anything else?
“The selection of Yellowknife,” stated Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Ahmed Hussen, “will make for a more diverse, stronger Franco-Ténoisecommunity that supports our workforce and community needs.”
And there’s another new term for me, the “Franco-Ténoisecommunity.” Cool.
So, James, do you have any issues with this announcement? Well, voice in my head, not really — except that it came in the run-up to the Oct. 21 federal election. And historically, the French-speaking community — and the entire immigration support sector — tends to vote Liberal. So it’s a convenient way for McLeod to shore up his base.
I also generally take issue with social engineering by any government. And Liberals are famous for doing just that. The feds have determined the number of people whose first official language outside of Quebec is in decline. And the feds admit there is a “lack of employer demand,” in some jurisdictions.
In reality, the primary employer who requires bilingual English-French speakers is government. The feds by law need to be able to provide services in both official languages.
What is actually needed in the NWT’s private sector are Mandarin-speaking workers (or, perhaps Cantonese) who can help with the burgeoning Aurora-seeking tourism industry, which largely cater to folks from China and other Asian countries.
I grew up in Montreal, and I am quite familiar with the French Canadian culture. I also know what it’s like to be a minority, as I was an Anglophone in a majority Francophone community.
I completely support Yellowknife’s French-speaking community — which is quite vibrant, by all accounts. I also hope Yellowknife City Council will support La Federation Franco-Tenoise’s bid to host the 2023 Francophone Canadian Arts and Sports Games in Yellowknife. It’s a five-day event where participants compete in events related to sports, arts and culture.
As someone who lived in Winnipeg for a couple of decades, I ambitiously enjoyed the annual Festival du Voyageur in the city’s French quarter, St. Boniface (the Caribou fortified wine sipped out of vessels made from ice was delicious). Massive cultural events are just, well, fun and informative.
The Yellowknife Francophone games would bring some 500 athletes to the city and, of course, their friends and families would follow.
But back to the fed’s Action Plan for Official Languages. It looks like a legacy-building vanity project for PM Justin, whose father, Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, introduced the Official Languages Act in the House of Commons.
And the Welcoming Francophone Community part of that broad action plan announced for Yellowknife offered no concrete details on what the money in would be used for. Just this vague bureaucrat babble: “… create programs and activities to help French-speaking newcomers feel welcomed and integrated into Francophone minority communities.”
And I can’t dispute NWT Liberal MP Michael McLeod’s statement that the program will (somehow, I remind readers) allow Yellowknife, “to welcome more Francophones who want to make the Northwest Territories their home.”
And we need more people ready to live and work up here, for sure.
But I note the announcement also struck a bad chord with more than a handful of people.
Cabin Radio’s Ollie Williams wrote a story on June 9 looking at the controversy.
Here’s an excerpt:
“On Friday, NWT MP Michael McLeod told reporters his Liberal government would provide a little over $300,000 to fund programs helping Yellowknife’s francophone new arrivals settle in the city.
“The announcement was met with near-universal opposition among those commenting beneath Cabin Radio’s reporting of the news on Facebook.”
“What about local Canadians struggling in poverty?” one comment asked.
Another wrote: “Someone please explain to me why French-speaking newcomers are so special that welcoming them warrants special funding. Frankly, I find this offensive, discriminatory, and potentially divisive.”
So I guess I’m not standing alone in questioning the optics of the funding announcement.
Like a few other brave souls in these overly ‘woke’ days, I am simply someone who likes to inject some common sense into issues that can be driven by desires that not everyone agrees with.
Speaking of disagreeing with something…
NWT Liberal MP Michael McLeod has been on a rampage of cheque drops throughout the summer, with newsrooms receiving notices of funding announcements almost every day in recent weeks.
And the local media have, dutifully, provided the perennial backbencher with the leg-up he needs over his competition in the fight for the territory’s sole seat in Parliament.
A few examples of recent headlines:
- Yellowknife to receive $6M in federal homelessness funding
- Northern youth leadership programs share $465,000
- Ottawa commits more than $30M to 19 NWT infrastructure projects
- Nearly $650K announced to advance gender equality in NWT
- Ottawa spends $2M on Gahcho Kué carbon-neutral mine research
- Federal and NWT governments to improve fuel storage capacity in North
- Federal government pledges $6M over 5 years for Yellowknife homeless programs
- Federal and NWT gov’ts pledge millions for roads, cultural sites, research
And of course, the coup-de-grâce came on Aug. 20, when the feds announced Thaidene Nene National Park Reserve. Now McLeod wasn’t directly involved in that announcement. Nope, for that we received a visit from Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna herself. (I refuse to demean her with the nickname Climate Barbie, as the environmental activist is a sworn minister of the Crown and deserves some deference.)
But the timing of the signing in Fort Resolution and Lutsel K’e with Carbon Tax Cathy is suspect. Clearly, all parties involved — including Indigenous governments — wanted to get the deal done for the semi-controversial park before the election.
You see, if the puppy-kicking Conservatives take power, they would likely side with the mining industry which has explained the massive park has no provision for a right-of-way for an access road to potentially lucrative natural resources on the other side of the thing.
That’s something the mining industry has been demanding. After all, the NWT does need to have some semblance of an economy? Or are we really to learn subsistence living on the land? Hmmm, while I would like to own a long gun, I can’t stomach killing Bambi (even in moose form). So I would starve to death trying to live on lichen and snow.
But I digress.
Campaigning is extremely expensive in the NWT. It’s horribly pricey to fly to Inuvik, Hay River, Fort Smith and all the smaller communities in between. So when McLeod gets to do so, while also bringing last-minute federal cash, it gives him a distinctly unfair advantage over his competing candidates in the Tory, Green, NDP and CPC parties. I would have included the NDP, but as of this writing, the Dippers haven’t scrounged up someone to run.
Now some of McLeod’s announcements likely do legitimately come as a result of the NWT’s 18th Legislative Assembly also coming to a close in advance of the Oct. 1 election. And there is also some minor benefit coming for the various MLAs and territorial ministers who have shared an announcement podium with McLeod.
But the cynicism of the bald-faced vote buying exhibited by the Liberals and McLeod is clear and present.
And a danger for those of us who believe in democratic fairness.