Photo: Italian Minister Maria Elena Boschi and the Consul General G. Pastorelli
TORONTO - In Canadian political circles, Minister Maria Elena Boschi’s Toronto and Montreal visit would have been called a classic “charm offensive”. No pun intended. The government of Italy will soon fold its agenda and seek a renewed mandate from its citizens. The political climate, hardly ever stable or predictable, is proving challenging for the Partito Democratico (PD), the country’s ruling party.
PD party adherents in Canada will soon be called upon to ensure that the Party return at least two of the three Parliamentarians that North and Central America, combined as a “constituency”, are entitled to send to serve their interests in the Italian Parliament.
They could aim for three out of three, but the “proportional representation” principle virtually precludes a sweep by any of the major parties.
The Constitutional Reforms package, which Minister Boschi steered through Parliament, might have made that possible, but the required referendum for approval did not end as initially hoped.
Internal divisions within the PD, fear of losing influence by small parties and distrust fueled by the “populist demagoguery”, made “legitimate” by events in Britain and the USA, derailed the government’s plan.
Power shifted to dissidents within the government party and beyond - at least temporarily - as political certainty became decidedly less so. [Then] Prime Minister Matteo Renzi resigned to regroup. Some of his loyalists, of which Minister Boschi is one, either did the same or were “shuffled” to less prominent posts. A caretaker government, under the direction of Prime Minister Gentiloni, has been making efforts diligently to put Italy “back on track”. But now the proverbial “every vote (and every MP) counts” is the new call to arms. PD stalwarts and regular citizens alike need to be recharged and reconnected to the reasons why Italy, its government and its people are important for Canada and vice versa.
Minister Boschi fit that bill to a tee before a restricted, but quasi-adoring, crowd of representatives from various Italian organizations, Consular personnel, elements of the Italo-Canadian entrepreneurial class and active members of the PD “locally”.
They will all be key to her party’s electoral fortunes in North and Central America. Approximately 76,000 of the roughly 200,000 eligible voters reside in the GTA.
The next largest group live in Montreal, numbering just more than 35,000. New York is third. She came to stroke their ego.
They represent the largest group of Italian “ambassadors/diplomatic corps” on the Continent, she claimed. Canada is critical to Italy’s long-term interests, as is Italy to Canada’s – especially now as a gateway to Europe under CETA.
And Italy is starting to emerge from the economic crisis that had virtually paralyzed the country for the better part of this last decade. Italians everywhere have much to be proud of, she said, not only in their shared cultural history and impact on Western Civilization, but currently in the development and promotion of a values structure that emphasizes human dignity and a sense of responsibility for neighbours. Just last week the European Union publicly praised the country for its [single-handed] work in refugee rescue and settlement - 350,000 in the last 24 months (approximately ten times the number settled by Canada)!
And her message was elegantly delivered and clearly enunciated: this is no time to glory in our noblesse and nostalgia, it is the moment to exercise our obligation.
There is work to be done - together, she offered.
If the swarm of selfie aficionados who crowded her is any indication, her whirlwind tour and her message is being well-received.