The MLA for Emerson says he regrets tweeting "Drain on society" about the large number of asylum-seekers entering Canada.
After being exiled on this matter by his Progressive Conservative colleagues and pilloried by the public, Cliff Graydon says he’s remorseful.
He chose foolish wording for his tweet, but, if it’s any consolation to him, the backbencher wasn’t wrong to suggest that accepting asylum-seekers comes at a cost.
As a politician, he’s supposed to care about whether public funds are spent responsibly. His concern about government finances is not why his tweet was judged reprehensible.
As the MLA for Emerson, the border village of 700 people that was flooded with hundreds of asylum-seekers last year alone, he represents the concerns of his constituents, some of whom have discovered asylum-seekers hiding in their yards or garages. His regard for his constituents is not why he’s been sentenced to sensitivity training.
The reason his tweet got him in trouble is that the word "drain" is insulting to asylum-seekers and offensive to the many Manitobans glad to help.
It’s true there are expenses involved in assisting people in dire circumstances who arrive unannounced in Manitoba, but the label of "drain" implies that the expenses are huge and not worthwhile. Neither of these is true.
Some immigrants hit the ground running and immediately help build Manitoba economically. These are usually the ones who arrive under the government category "economic immigrants," mainly skilled workers and businesspeople.
But that’s not the case with asylum-seekers. Most arrive without personal funds, but with great needs: housing, medical treatment, dental care, education to learn English, training to learn job skills and counselling for the indescribable horrors many have experienced.
Yes, these services need to be funded. Taxpayers pay through government programs, and volunteers, including church groups, pay with personal donations of time and money.
An important aspect to remember, though — and this was the aspect missing from Graydon’s controversial tweet — is that Canadians helping asylum-seekers are answering a high calling. We can afford it, and it’s our privilege as a rich country to step up and help out.
Here is the message Graydon should have sent:
"Yes, some people may consider asylum-seekers a drain on society, but if it’s a drain, it’s a drain that shouldn’t be plugged.
"The people in my fine constituency of Emerson, and Canadians in general, are not the type of people to turn a cold shoulder to people in need.
"When we see a car struck in a snowbank along a Manitoba grid road, or when we see a pedestrian has slipped on ice, we stop to help. That’s the Manitoba way. We don’t worry whether helping this person will be a drain.
"We’re not the type of selfish people who ask, ‘What’s in it for me if I help?’ We’re not the type of selfish country that asks, ‘What’s in it for Canada if we help asylum-seekers?’
"Manitobans who were born here have won the lottery of birthplaces. We live in a province of wealth and safety that is considered paradise to the asylum-seekers who are fleeing persecution, systemic brutality, sexual assault and poverty that are unimaginable even to the poorest Manitoban. Because we have so much, we can share a little.
"That said, Manitoba could use a little help from Ottawa. Most of the asylum-seekers who arrive in the fine community of Emerson are taken directly to Winnipeg, and to Welcome Place. That agency is run by the Manitoba Interfaith Immigration Council, which gets no federal funding, not a cent. The Trudeau Liberals are quick to take credit for Canada’s open-door policy; it wouldn’t hurt them to cut a cheque to help Manitoba help the border crossers.
"One more thing. Speaking of the prime minister, I’m sorry that last week I retweeted a post that called Trudeau ‘a disgrace’ with the hashtag ‘#scumbag,’ and also about an earlier retweet that referred to ‘turdeau’ and questioned ‘How can any woman vote for that SICK/RETARDED/TRAITOR?’
"Oops. Sorry about all that. I hope Mr. Trudeau won’t let my tweets and retweets interfere with my request to get federal funding to help Manitoba settle asylum-seekers.
"I’ve learned my lesson and I promise that, from now on, I will think before I tweet. After all, we don’t want the tweets of a Manitoba MLA to sink to the level of those issued by a certain high-profile politician in the country directly to the south of the fine community of Emerson."
Carl DeGurse is a member of the Free Press editorial board.
Senior copy editor
Carl DeGurse’s role at the Free Press is a matter of opinion. A lot of opinions.