Rae, Liberals want the ethnic vote back

Liberal MPs’ roundtable with members of the ethnic media - Photo by Salam Toronto

Liberal MPs’ roundtable with members of the ethnic media - Photo by Salam Toronto

They have learned from their mistakes and want a second chance.

That was the general message Liberal Party MPs expressed to members of the ethnic media at a multicultural roundtable last weekend in Toronto.  

“W,w,w,” announced Scarborough-Agincourt MP Jim Karygiannis. “We’ve changed. We listened. We want you back.”

“(The Conservative Party) is claiming they are eliminating the backlog for people who have applied to come to Canada,” said interim Liberal leader Bob Rae (middle). “But their way of eliminating the backlog is not to increase the speed to which claims are being considered, but is simply to eliminate the backlog.” - Photo by Salam Toronto

“(The Conservative Party) is claiming they are eliminating the backlog for people who have applied to come to Canada,” said interim Liberal leader Bob Rae (middle). “But their way of eliminating the backlog is not to increase the speed to which claims are being considered, but is simply to eliminate the backlog.” - Photo by Salam Toronto

Liberal Party leader Bob Rae echoed Mr. Karygiannis’ remarks and went further, saying they have taken the ethnic communities in Canada for granted.

“I think that for a long time we assumed that because of our rich history and association and connection with the multicultural organizations and realities of the country, particularly in Ontario, that we could assume that life would continue in a positive way with respect to the support of those communities for our party,” said Mr. Rae.

“But I think it’s very clear to all of us that that is not in fact the case, that in every part of the country, people are assessing their choices and assessing their commitments and their engagements,” said Rae.

Ironically, some of the changes in immigration policy the Liberals are currently mulling are similar to the ones former leader Michael Ignatieff, who resigned after leading the party to third-place-status, promised at an ethnic media roundtable in Brampton last year.

Mr. Rae said two areas of immigration policy – recognizing foreign credentials and increasing permanent residency and family reunification grants – are where “we have great work to do to see change happen.”

“It’s not clear to us whether the decision that was made by Mr. Baird was made for reasons of safety or what the reasons might have been,” Mr. Rae said about Canada closing its visa office in Tehran. “But we continue to believe that there is a responsible consular role that Canada can play in Iran. And we realize there are many consular issues affecting Iranian-Canadians in Tehran as well as Canadians living here who want to connect with their families. We want to continue to work with the community to understand what the impact of that decision is.” - Photo by Salam Toronto

“It’s not clear to us whether the decision that was made by Mr. Baird was made for reasons of safety or what the reasons might have been,” Mr. Rae said about Canada closing its visa office in Tehran. “But we continue to believe that there is a responsible consular role that Canada can play in Iran. And we realize there are many consular issues affecting Iranian-Canadians in Tehran as well as Canadians living here who want to connect with their families. We want to continue to work with the community to understand what the impact of that decision is.” - Photo by Salam Toronto

Many at the roundtable, including Salam Toronto, were curious to know how the Liberals are planning to rise from the dead.   

“We are going to be looking at a new platform, we are going to be looking at new policies, but based very much on Liberal principles,” Mr. Rae told Salam Toronto when asked if a new approach will be made towards the next election.  

Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act, or Bill C-31, was a hot topic among questioners looking to gauge Rae’s stance on the bill aimed at restructuring Canada’s immigration system.

“(The Conservative government) is not bringing in the policies that people have been asking in this country for a generation,” said Rae. “And I think everyone needs to wake up to that.”

“Things back in Iran are not the best,” MP Jim Karygiannis said before asking “how to provide Iranians the tools to make sure that democracy is exercised in Iran.” - Photo by Salam Toronto

“Things back in Iran are not the best,” MP Jim Karygiannis said before asking “how to provide Iranians the tools to make sure that democracy is exercised in Iran.” - Photo by Salam Toronto

Mr. Rae, who is expected to resign his interim position to run for the party leadership in 2013, said the he is currently “building” towards the 2015 federal election and that “the party needs to commit itself right away to the principal that we will have open races, we will have open nominations…and we will allow those candidates to present themselves in open, democratic and transparent ways.”

While the Liberals rebuild, the Conservative majority is busy passing omnibus bills that are changing “the Canadian way,” as Mr. Rae put it.

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