Saturday, April 10, 2004

The true test of Paul Martin's leadership 

The Village Voice: Features: Soldiers Choose Canada by Alisa Solomon
Forget the sponsorship scandal, the nominations battles, committee chairmanships, that steamship line -- the true test of Paul Martin's leadership will be how he handles these deserting soldiers.
He needs to signal clearly that Canada will accept US soldiers as refugees. This will be an extremely difficult path to take, because it will totally infuriate the United States government. Quite likely, such a decision wouldl lead to tit-for-tat revenge that will deeply affect our economy, because the US government would do things like fingerprinting Canadians at the border, refusing to reopen the border to Canadian beef, imposing more lumber tarrifs, etc. Thus, it will be deeply controversial position, and Martin will need all his leadership skills to talk Canadians into supporting such a position based solely on moral principle. It will be expensive, both in political and economic capital -- opposition politicians (the ones who would have got us into the Iraq war a year ago) will pounce all over him, Canadian travellers will be howling at the even longer border delays, Canadian exporters and farmers will bear a disproportionate share of the economic fallout.
But the alternative -- either to reject them as refugees or to just sit back and say its all up to individual refugee boards -- would condemn Canada in the eyes of the rest of the world as a morally bankrupt nation. If we refuse to protect these boys from the facists now in charge in the US, we will have abandoned our deepest national principles. History will not forgive us.

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