September 15, 2019

Winnipeg
13° C, Partly cloudy

Full Forecast

Secrecy on border payments speaks volumes

Editorial

When a government dishes out taxpayers’ money in a secretive way, alarm bells should ring. So it is with the federal Liberals’ hush-hush payments to Quebecers living near an entry point for irregular asylum claimants.

Governments have large communication teams that usually herald spending with press releases and media conferences, an essential foundation of transparent governance and, not incidentally, a way for governments to solicit the support of citizens who are directly affected by the spending announcements.

So when details of payments to about 45 Quebec homeowners were contained in an internal document labelled “secret,” it didn’t take a forensic detective to deduce something suspicious was afoot. The document was only pried open by a freedom-of-information request by the Free Press.

The spending outlined in the document — Manitobans didn’t get any, it all went to Quebecers — revealed why the federal Liberals were anxious to keep the $405,000 in payments under the table.

Keep reading free:

Already have an account? Log in here »

Keep reading free:

Already have an account? Log in here »

Subscribers Log in below to continue reading,
not a subscriber? Create an account to start a 30 day free trial.

Log in Create your account

Your free trial has come to an end.

We hope you have enjoyed your trial! To continue reading, we recommend our Read Now Pay Later membership. Simply add a form of payment and pay only 27¢ per article.

For unlimited access to the best local, national, and international news and much more, try an All Access Digital subscription:

Thank you for supporting the journalism that our community needs!

Your free trial has come to an end.

We hope you have enjoyed your trial! To continue reading, we recommend our Read Now Pay Later membership. Simply add a form of payment and pay only 27¢ per article.

For unlimited access to the best local, national, and international news and much more, try an All Access Digital subscription:

Thank you for supporting the journalism that our community needs!

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

Mon to Sat Delivery

Pay

$34.36

per month

  • Includes all benefits of All Access Digital
  • 6-day delivery of our award-winning newspaper
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

When a government dishes out taxpayers’ money in a secretive way, alarm bells should ring. So it is with the federal Liberals’ hush-hush payments to Quebecers living near an entry point for irregular asylum claimants.

Governments have large communication teams that usually herald spending with press releases and media conferences, an essential foundation of transparent governance and, not incidentally, a way for governments to solicit the support of citizens who are directly affected by the spending announcements.

So when details of payments to about 45 Quebec homeowners were contained in an internal document labelled "secret," it didn’t take a forensic detective to deduce something suspicious was afoot. The document was only pried open by a freedom-of-information request by the Free Press.

Some Quebec homeowners living near the border received payments for being inconvenienced by asylum claimants being nuisances and making noise outside their doors. (Charles Krupa / The Canadian Press files)

Some Quebec homeowners living near the border received payments for being inconvenienced by asylum claimants being nuisances and making noise outside their doors. (Charles Krupa / The Canadian Press files)

The spending outlined in the document — Manitobans didn’t get any, it all went to Quebecers — revealed why the federal Liberals were anxious to keep the $405,000 in payments under the table.

The background is that the southern borders of Quebec and Manitoba were the main crossing points where asylum claimants bypassed traditional immigration procedure and entered Canada from the United States. They can skirt formal crossing posts without being prosecuted if they immediately report to authorities and file an asylum claim.

The Liberals decided to financially compensate Quebec homeowners who were "inconvenienced" because the asylum claimants caused more traffic and noise outside their doors. Homeowners in Emerson had similar experiences — some reported asylum claimants peeking in their windows or resting in their sheds — but the Manitobans shouldn’t wait at their mailboxes for government cheques.

It would be understandable if Quebec got the bulk of the money; it was the crossing point for about 90 per cent of the 40,000 people who have entered Canada from the U.S. outside regular border points over the past two years. But to freeze Manitoba out completely? It’s a reminder of an ugly Canadian tradition of federal parties stroking vote-rich Quebec and giving the figurative middle finger to less populous provinces like Manitoba.

Such an image is a crude but accurate way to depict the unease of many Manitobans who feel this province’s traditional insignificance in the federation was epitomized in 1986, when then-prime minister Brian Mulroney’s government awarded a maintenance contract for CF-18 fighter planes to Quebec-based Bombardier despite a better and cheaper bid from Winnipeg’s Bristol Aerospace. The issue was so polarizing it helped spawn the Reform Party.

We long for Manitoba’s seven Liberal MPs to assure us things have changed since then, and that the Ottawa power brokers are now able to locate Manitoba on a map. But, so far, none of them have offered public comment on why the $405,000 payment to Quebecers was considered a secret, and why Manitoba was ignored.

Asking Manitoba's senior MP Jim Carr about financial equality on the issue of border crossers is fair. (Sasha Sefter / Winnipeg Free Press files)

Asking Manitoba's senior MP Jim Carr about financial equality on the issue of border crossers is fair. (Sasha Sefter / Winnipeg Free Press files)

There remains opportunity for Ottawa to do better. Asylum seekers have cost Manitoba $17 million for housing, welfare, education, Legal Aid, health and child welfare. Premier Brian Pallister has repeatedly asked the federal government to pay these costs out of a $100-million fund Ottawa earmarked "to support the increased volume of asylum seekers."

When will Manitoba get financial fairness on the issue of border crossers? During the campaign for the Oct. 21 federal election, it’s a fair question to ask Manitoba’s Liberal MPs: Jim Carr, Terry Duguid, Doug Eyolfson, Kevin Lamoureaux, MaryAnn Mihychuk, Robert-Falcon Ouellette and Dan Vandal.

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board.

You can comment on most stories on The Winnipeg Free Press website. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

By submitting your comment, you agree to abide by our Community Standards and Moderation Policy. These guidelines were revised effective February 27, 2019. Have a question about our comment forum? Check our frequently asked questions.