Gurpreet Singh: B.C. Liberals' communist bashing backfires
The B.C. Liberals—who have virtually ran out of fuel and ideas to beat the opposition NDP in polls—recently found a new weapon to silence their opponents.
The B.C. Liberal caucus branded NDP MLA Jagrup Brar as a "communist-infatuated MLA" for admiring social equality and health care in Cuba. And Opposition Leader Adrian Dix was asked whether he "agrees" with Brar that state-run everything is the right model for B.C.
Since the end of the McCarthy era in the 1950s, this strategy has backfired because left-bashing in this manner has not elicited the desired results.
Brar, who recently returned from vacation in Cuba told me during a live radio interview that he was greatly influenced by social equality in the Communist country, offers free health care and education to everyone.
Little did he know that the B.C. Liberals would brand him as being communist-infatuated" afterward.
To set the record straight, it was my initiative to invite him to discuss on the radio his first-hand experience in Cuba. Brar never approached me or any media outlet on his own to speak on the subject.
Brar had earlier accepted a challenge from the Raise the Rates Coalition to live on a welfare income for a month earlier this year to better understand poverty, I wanted to ascertain his views about the situation in Cuba, where the state-sponsored social-safety net is much stronger. Also, I wanted to know if Canada can learn something from Cuba, just as Cuba needs to learn from our country.
Though Brar also expressed his concern over lack of freedom of speech in Cuba and lack of opportunities for Cubans to move out of country for better opportunities abroad, his favourable comments were sufficient to spark fireworks. This was despite the fact that the B.C. Liberals also circulated the transcript of the radio interview carrying his critical views on Cuba. But these remarks were conveniently overlooked.
Shortly after the interview, a B.C. Liberal communications official sent me a funny text message saying that I should let him know if any Liberal MLA returning from vacation can come and share holiday stories. I told him that I will be more than happy to interview any Liberal MLA returning from Cuba with a more critical approach. I never anticipated what was coming next.
The day the B.C. Liberals brought out a news release attacking Brar, I had an open-line segment on the issue. To my surprise, even some of the anticommunist callers came to the support of Brar, and accused the B.C. Liberals of indulging in fear mongering.
Most callers agreed that the B.C. Liberals have lost their credibility and support, and are now trying to rake up nonissues. Others asked what was wrong in calling spade a spade. If the Cuban society has something good about it, how can one become politically incorrect for appreciating that?
It is amusing that the B.C. Liberals have chosen to bracket Brar with communists for appreciating Cuba when our former Liberal prime minister, the late Pierre Trudeau, decided to have relationship with Cuba despite U.S. sanctions against the island nation. Then there are many Canadians who go there for health tourism.
And what about the priests and church groups in Canada who consistently oppose U.S. sanctions on Cuba? Can they all be branded communists? Of course not.
I, too, visited Cuba early this year. Of the course the political system in Cuba has its limitations, but I was also enamoured by social equality in that country, where you don't see a yawning gap between the rich and the poor.
Everyone gets free education and health care. I did not come across many beggars or panhandlers. If flashy cars, high-rise buildings or big food chains or megastores are signs of development, Cuba or any other society is better without them. There is no over projection of the ailing Cuban leader, Fidel Castro, in public places unlike in many other totalitarian states, where ruling dictators greet visitors from every corner.
The girls move around until midnight without fear. I also mentioned these things on air after returning from my trip to Cuba. I dare the Liberals to brand me a communist. I promise I won't whine or complain.
For Brar and his party—which is not even a leftist party from the communist perspective—this can be best described as mudslinging.
Nevertheless while in Cuba, I also noticed some negative things like, prostitution, which should be totally unacceptable in a socialist society that bars all forms of human exploitation. Some other political parties should also be given a chance to fight in an election to avoid a counterrevolution. But those changes have to come from within the society. Much as communism cannot be exported, social democracy and capitalism cannot be exported either.
Instead of playing such politics, the B.C. Liberals should try to adopt a more humane development model in B.C., where the most underprivileged and poor can live with dignity. The least the government can do is fix the health-care system and reduce wait times for those in need of surgeries to prevent people from travelling to Cuba for treatment.
If human rights matter to B.C. Liberals, they can at least restore the B.C. Human Rights Commission. They disbanded it in 2001, making B.C. the only Canadian province with no such body.
Gurpreet Singh is Georgia Straight contributor, and the host of a program on Radio India. He's working on a book tentatively titled Canada's 9/11: Lessons from the Air India Bombings.