A Tribute to Canada’s Joe McCarthy
I should have known.
I really should have known that my friend Erin Weir is affiliated with the New Democratic Party.
But it took a brave Conservative MP from Saskatchewan to open my eyes.
On Wednesday at parliamentary committee meeting, Weir testified on behalf of his employer, the United Steelworkers, about changes to the Investment Canada Act. He spoke about broken commitments by foreign multinationals that bought large Canadian companies, resulting in significant job losses.
Fortunately, mid-way through his testimony, MP Randy Hoback interrupted Weir. After lambasting him for daring to criticize the Premier of Saskatchewan, Hoback dropped his bombshell:
“In 2004 were you not a candidate for the NDP Party in Wascana?”
My jaw dropped. It was all becoming clear.
On many occasions, I heard Erin speak of his race against Liberal MP Ralph Goodale in 2004. But I just assumed it was a sprint, or perhaps a friendly 10k.
Turns out, Erin ran for the NDP against Goodale for the latter’s seat in the House of Commons.
This revelation jogged other memories. For instance, I knew Erin worked as an economist for the United Steelworkers. Yet I assumed he was non-partisan.
But looking back, he had a strange affinity for meeting outside Union Station when we went to baseball games. Union. The Labour Movement. The NDP.
My mind had become a veritable crystal. I felt like a modern day Archimedes.
Hoback acted like the parliamentary prosecutor he is, pressing Weir to state his affiliations.
“Have you or have you ever been a member of the NDP Party?”, he demanded.
Erin immediately confessed that yes, he had been a member for 15 years.
Next time I see him all dressed in orange, the colour of the NDP, I won’t be so naïve. We’re on to Weir, and we’ve got courageous Randy Hoback and his crack research staff to thank. We owe them a debt of immense gratitude.
Kidding aside, welcome to Canadian politics circa 2012. From the government that brought you “Stand with us or with the child pornographers“ to anyone who dared to believe in civil liberties, we now have a bizarre form of McCarthyism in which expert witnesses are grilled not on the content of their presentations, but instead their well-known political affiliations.
The latter aspect is what makes this episode so pathetic. Both Erin Weir’s NDP membership and the linkage between the Steelworkers and the party, are not exactly secrets, as Weir pointed out.
So if Randy Hoback truly wants to be the second coming of Joe McCarthy, he’s got a lot of work to do.