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Friday, March 02, 2007

Playing political football - Politicians 1, Ukrainians $0

Recently I was reminded again of why so many Ukrainian Canadians scorn politics and politicians.

The other day I got a press release by email. It documented an argument in the House of Commons between (Liberal) MP Borys Wrzesnewskyj and Secretary of State for Multiculturalism and Canadian Identity, Jason Kenney.

The argument was, ostensibly, about redress for the WWI internment of Ukrainians and other East Europeans. I just can't help wondering, tho, if pitting the Canadian taxpayer against the Ukrainian community wasn't just a convenient smokescreen for Jason and Borys to continue an old grudge match from a different game.

But, decide for yourself. Read the press release and the ensuing argument here .

To me, it seems rather odd for politicians to be spending so much time and energy arguing over what amounts to a drop in the taxpayers' bucket. So I am beginning to doubt this issue will ever be more than a handy political football for opposition politicians.

After all, for the past 30 years, Prime Ministers from Jean Chretien to Stephen Harper have wasted little time tossing it back to the opposition benches once they got into power. (Even the NDP wants into the Ukrainian Redress game, judging by MP Peggy Nash's well crafted, heartfelt statement.

Anyway, to me this little political (melo) drama really isn't a whole lot different from those in Ukraine. I've long felt that since 1991 Ukraine has been getting a crash course on "democracy" from the west, and is a very quick study.

I mean, how much more likely is it that Canada will cough up the money to enact Bill C-331 than Ukraine will to prevent piracy of music CDs or ensure foreign movies are dubbed into Ukrainian?

It seems politicians the world over are way better at making promises than keeping them, and Canadians have no right to feel superior to Ukraine. (Don't get me started on income trusts and museum funding cuts!)

I wonder if anyone else shares my disappointment in politicians, or if am I just being a Pollyanna and expecting too much ...


Anonymous said...

History is about to repeat itself.

Problem is that people in our community are playing political football with the Internment issue.

Think about it, The Head of UCC HQ worked to get Sheila Copps elected as the leader of the Liberals in 2003. The Head of the Shevchenko Foundation ran as a Liberal in Alberta and is one of the 3 negotiators. Another negotiator representing UCCLA accepted a patronage position under the Liberal Government back in the late 1990's to the IRB. Borys W. is playing politics because the Liberals failed to settle the issue under the Martin Government and he would like to take credit for resolving the issue. The head of the UCPBF who has Liberal ties wrote some letters slamming the Conservatives under Harper for failing to resolve this issue in a timely manner. The letter sounds strangely political.

If the Agreement in Principle was a serious document and not a political ploy to cut the passing of Bill C-331 at the pass, why did they not give the Shevchenko Foundation a 2.5 million dollar down payment? Because it was a cynical political ploy with no substance.

The A.I.P. did say that $2.5 million was a down payment, there was no documentation whether the final amount was $12.5 million, $25 million or a $1.25. Borys W. was grandstanding and playing politics. That was supposed to be negotiated within 3 months of the signing of the A.I.P. Funny that 3 months preceded the fall of the Martin Government. Why where they not negotiating prior to that 3 month deadline?

Because it was a political ploy. Plain and simple. Political promises have no value.

There was a desire under the Mulrooney government to settle the issue but the Ukrainian community told him to bugger off because they were going to deal with Chretien when he comes to power. We all knew what happened there.

History is about to repeat itself with this stupid desire by insiders to take political shots at the Government negotiator and the Prime Minister. Sounds like the intentions are to sink the negotiations or delay them till a new government comes to power. Who's interests are these people representing, the communities? I think not.

A student of history

Pawlina said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pawlina said...

Dratted Blogger cut out big chunks of my response... (I must switch to WordPress soon!)

Anyway, what I wanted to say was that I should have clarified that I would put Ukrainian self-saboteurs on the same side as the politicians in this game.

By the same token, and to be fair, there may well be politicians who are more than willing to play this game nice and clean ... and try to keep the playing field level.

It's just impossible to escape that darned " bell curve" eh?

pumpernickel said...

The big prblem on this one has been that both the UCC and the community have not been taken seriously by successive Liberal and Conservative governments.

Look at the consistent under-representation of Ukrainian Canadians in the House of Commons, Senate, Cabinet, provincial politics...if Ukrainians wish to be taken seriously, then they will need to organize (like Stelmach did) and work to earn elected office.

At the end of the day, the community needs to be and be seen as a credible political force.


PS: I was in Regina for the announcement on redress - Mr. Kenney is a liar.

Pawlina said...

I dunno, pumpernickel. I'm inclined to agree with those who point out that the most intelligent and capable (or at least those who are not masochistic) tend to avoid politics, for the very pettiness illustrated in this sorry situation.

Prem. Stelmach is rare, and smart enough to stay in Alberta. (Sorry, a bit of western alienation coming through.)

Anyway, as for Mr. Kenney, I surmise that he was accurate enough regarding the AIP but have to wonder at his comment that his govt "will acknowledge and has acknowledged the internment ..."

May I suggest they make up their minds. Or else explain why, if they already have, would they again?

Oh well. I'm not very sophisticated politically so maybe I missed something.

Vasyl Pawlowsky said...

While I have been following this issue over the years, I will have to agree that politicians, for the most part, regardless of what country they are in do not always come through on what is promised.

Though, at the current time the situation in Ukraine is in fact becoming such a football match that many people here are totally in the dark of what is happening.

Sure Ukraine has moved towards being more of a democratic system than it was during Kuchma's reign; however, most of the population really hasn't got an inkling of what is really going on. Ukraine has really returned to a clan system of democracy with one particular group dictating they way they want to see things.

The Canadian system while much more democratic also has the fault that there are those who try to pander to the interests of one group or another, though when it comes to keeping promises, politicians always try to find a way of getting out of them, regardless of whether the discussion is about 1.2 million or 12 million. The matter is that the Canadian government of today has to at least recognize that it made a mistake, and as a result set the history right. What happened to new Ukrainians during the First World War is well documented here.

The section of this site was originally put together by myself and Yaroslav Kokodyniak of Infoukes when the CBC did little to properly give fair coverage of the topic and not giving fair announcement of the airing Yuri Luhovy's film Freedom Had a Price. The awards received by the site justifies that the Canadian government do everything in its power to rewrite the history of this period by putting its money where its mouth is and cough up the money for restitution and education of the Canadian public about a black page in its history.

Pawlina said...

Thanks, Vasyl, for your insights. I don't know where the fault lies with the ongoing failure to reach an agreement on a dollar amount... but it's pretty likely due to a clash of egos on all sides.

However, the onus is still on the government. But, given the recent cuts to museum funding, our current one seems no more interested in, much less committed to, promoting Canadian heritage and culture than the ones before it.

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