There are valid reasons to criticize MP Maryam Monsef. Dredging up the benign details of her place of origin is not one of them.
Since September 2016, publications like the Peterborough Examiner have been hot on the trail of where Maryam Monsef was born. The articles take on a “we’re just asking questions” kind of tone, as if whether Monsef was born where she said she was has any impact on her performance as a representative of Peterborough.
All I can say to this is fuck off. Stop trying to insert American birtherism into Canadian politics. This attempt to frame Monsef as disingenuous or under investigation for something that is ultimately trivial is insidious. Its effect is to center the conversation surrounding Monsef not based on her merits but rather her identity.
Now, this does not mean that Monsef should be free of criticism from her constituents. Much has been documented around her failures as the Minister of Democratic Reform, in Arthur and in other publications. Arthur contributor Clay Duncalfe summed it quite eloquently in September 2017 in his article titled “Progress Report: Maryam Monsef”:
“It would not be unreasonable to assume Monsef’s clumsy tenure as Minister of Democratic Institutions was the result of blatant inexperience. A more cynical critic would likely affirm it was due to her being given the legislative “short end of the stick” in being tasked with advocating for policy that the Liberals never really intended on passing in the first place. Perhaps it was a bit of both.”
Since her role as Minister of Status of Women began in 2017, she has rolled out a Gender Based Violence program which offers grants “to further help organizations working in the GBV sector develop and implement promising practices to address gaps in supports for survivors and their families.”
The GBV has $20 million worth of funding behind it for these projects. The strengths of this program is that is allows community organizations to decide what it is that their community needs worth. The weakness is that the grant application process buries staff of these community organizations in paperwork in weeks at a time in order to prove that they are worthy of government money.
The effect of the grant application process is similar to that of the means testing in welfare, where costs all around are inflated in order to determine the worthiness of the poor. Means testing in welfare means that there must be officers in the state who are paid money to give a stamp of approval to the applicant. The other result of this is that the applicant is buried in paperwork in the process of proving that they are a “hard-working” and “deserving” poor person.
The bureaucratic burden through this process is also thrust upon on the GBV organizations. The result of means testing ultimately funnels money that could have been spent on programs back into the pockets of government employees. That is how you criticize without being racist — looking at you, Facebook dads commenting on every Peterborough Examiner post.
The other — and frankly, secondary — role of Minister Monsef is to use her leverage as a highly visible Cabinet minister in order to bring federal funding into Peterborough. Here she has been successful as Clay Duncalfe wrote in his piece:
“In the local economic sphere, it has recently been announced that Peterborough-based biotech start-up Noblegen has been awarded a $600 000 repayable contribution from the federal government. Another $200 000 investment has also been announced for Peterborough’s Innovation Cluster to increase employment opportunities in the clean-tech sector. Earlier this year, it was also announced that the federal government would be providing just over $5.4 million in contributions toward the modernization of Peterborough’s public transit infrastructure. One could speculate this influx of federal funds towards the Peterborough community is, at least in part, the result of Monsef leveraging her proximity to fellow Cabinet members as a means to promote the needs of the region.”
Now, the $5.4 million to upgrading transit is a huge policy that targets the most marginalized in society in a positive way by making busses more accessible and increasing the amount of sheltered stops. The $100 000 to creating a transit app is questionable but it’s all for the sake of modernization.
The $600 000 to Noblegen, a company that as long ago as 2016 was valued $50 000 000 seems to be a bit egregious. Repayable grants like these are just a government’s way of putting its name on private companies and being able to claim that they supported them. The amount $600 000 to Noblegen in the long term is a minor contribution to their bottom line. This money spent elsewhere would have benefited the social welfare of Peterborough beyond making the Liberal government feel like they were supporting local business.
The same goes for supporting young entrepreneurs with $200 000 instead of buying more hospital beds or a few more busses.
One can be critical of our Member of Parliament and Cabinet minister without being a buffoon, frothing at the mouth. Arthur has done it in the past and probably will do so in the future.