Don Martin: Pre-election grandstanding behind federal francophone huddle
Consider the parliamentary emergency which rushed a handful of federal political party leaders, including the prime minister, into a huddle of five-alarm concern this week.
Obviously it was General Motors abandoning its Oshawa base after 100 continuous years of car production, leaving 3,000 jobs in the departing dust, right?
Then it had to be an Alberta economy in crisis over record low oil prices at U.S. refineries amid talk of government-ordered production cuts until prices rebound.
What triggered a very rare all-party leadership-level fret was the bureaucratic relocation of a low-profile French language services commissioner in Ontario and the deferral of a French language university in Toronto which earlier Liberal governments consistently deferred during their 15 years on the Queen's Park throne.
Oh, the horror.
This is Exhibit A of how politics in a federal election cycle twists priorities into a pretzel, sidelining real issues while campaign considerations seize center stage.
Sure, Conservative leader Andrew Scheer called for emergency emissions-generating debates on the General Motors decision and the oil patch woes this week.
But it took this tepid move by Ontario Premier Doug Ford, acting entirely within his provincial rights, to drive Scheer’s request for an all-party federal leaders' summit in the Prime Minister's Office.
This commissioner, who doesn't have an English counterpart in Quebec by the way, handled all of 186 complaints last year, largely franco-Ontarians upset at the level of French provided in health or legal services.
Somehow repositioning this low-profile official on the Ford organization chart doesn’t stand out as worthy of urgent federal attention while thousands of pink slips are landing on an industrial workforce with gloomy next-career prospects.
But the flexing of francophone power is something to behold when party leaders are eying a road to election victory running through Quebec.
It even sent Doug Ford into full reverse thrust, cancelling the commissioner shift even as one of his MPPs quit the caucus in a huff to sit as an independent.
Even that flip-flop didn't matter. The leaders’ meeting went ahead anyway, nothing was accomplished and the group adjourned without any hint of a decent headline.
In these challenging economic times, something is clearly lost in translation if all party leaders in Ottawa declare a francophone irritant in anglo-Ontario to be worthy of their urgent attention.
That's known as pointless pre-election grandstanding – in both official languages.
That's the Last Word.