Conservative immigration critique of the levels plan

When one takes away the partisan sniping, and the points that are easy to say but hard to implement (e.g., closing the loophole in the Safe Third Country Agreement with the Trump administration), the main points boil down to:

  1. establishing metrics to determine levels with transparent consultations with industry and provinces (agree, but all parties in opposition promise more transparency than they deliver once in power);
  2. Greater focus on privately sponsored refugees compared to government sponsored refugees or asylum seekers, a valid policy choice but the anti-United Nations role in selecting refugees is more playing to the base and picking up the tone of some of the debates South of the border;
  3. Promise to have difficult conversations regarding Temporary Foreign Workers to address concerns that Canadians are not first matched with available work; and,
  4. Vague language around economic levels matched to regions, and not providing a specific number (when in power, the percentage climbed to about 60 percent from about 55 percent, under the new levels plan, it will climb to 72 percent). Historic data shows that immigration has substantially responded to regional demands in the West, thanks in part to the Provincial Nominee Program but always important to consider and respond to regional needs.

As to numbers pulled out of a hat, my understanding is that has been longstanding practice under both Conservative and Liberal governments, so while I agree with her in substance, I am sceptical as to possible implementation:

So what would a Conservative government do differently? What levels would we set?

At the end of August, I sat in this very room and outlined some key changes an Andrew Scheer led government would make to Canada’s immigration system. To recap, our approach to setting immigration would:

  • First recognize that how we allow people to enter the country, and who we allow to do so, matters. Justin Trudeau has failed to recognize this principle.
  • End the practice of setting immigration levels by an auction for votes or a seat on the UN Security Council.
  • Immediately seek to dramatically decrease the number of people entering Canada illegally via upstate New York and subsequently claiming asylum. We would do so by seeking to close the loophole in the safe third country agreement, and significantly expedite the processing and removal of those who Trudeau allowed in. The lengthy process between entering Canada illegally and being removed, all while being able to access social welfare programs, is an incentive for this behaviour that must be ended. It is not acceptable that Trudeau has planned on this being a permanent situation.
  • We would also establish a set of metrics to determine what Canada’s immigration levels should be, based on transparent principles, with integration and self-sufficiency at the forefront. For Canadians to see immigration as a positive thing, they should be able to easily see the employment and social welfare statistics for immigration levels for any given year and stream.
  • We would also establish a transparent system for consulting with industry and the provinces to set immigration levels.
  • We would focus on setting humanitarian immigration levels that focus on higher utilization of the privately sponsored refugee program, where individual Canadians through their own funds, not taxpayer funds, support the entry of refugees, and would restrict the utilization of the government assisted refugee program to instances of the four atrocity crimes.
  • We would end the practice of allowing the United Nations to be the sole agency for selecting humanitarian immigrants to be resettled to Canada, and we would not cede our sovereign right in setting immigration levels to this agency.
  • We would reform the Temporary Foreign Worker program and not shy away from difficult conservations [nice to know even MPs occasionally make typos – should be conversations] around employment insurance, working conditions, and wage depression associated with the program and other reasons why Canadians don’t take or aren’t skilled for certain jobs, and ensure that Canadians are first matched with available work.
  • We would also change our immigration programs and support to better focus economic immigration levels and retention to regions with acute labour shortages. It is not enough to cite the Conference Board of Canada in saying that the economy needs more immigrants; immigration levels should be set to ensure that newcomers are matched with jobs in regions where Canadians are not out of work.

In short, a Conservative government would not pull a number out of the air in terms of how many people we would allow into the country. The number we would present to Canadians would be shaped by the above principles, and would be answered as follows:

  • There are X number of job vacancies in a certain industry or region, here’s the reason why Canadians aren’t doing the job, here’s what we did to try to fix that problem, and as such we are allowing X number of people to enter Canada, with X skill set, to fill this need. Then we would track our outcomes to make sure our programs are working.
  • On the humanitarian side, we would not allow people to enter Canada illegally and abuse our asylum system. The target number for that stream of entry should be zero. All other targets would be met by gaining consensus from Canadians that we should help a certain cohort of people (for example, genocide survivors), and then gaining consensus from Canadians on how much money we should spend to support the initiative, in terms of the cost of integrating into Canada, and in the context of putting the needs of Canadians first. We wouldn’t take a false morally superior position that excludes Canadians from helping to decide how our humanitarian immigration system should function, and be funded.

The levels Justin Trudeau has put forward in this report are unfocused, unplanned, and ill thought out. There is no justification included herein on how he would change the system to make it more just, fair, or lawful. It is simply a continuation of his failed  immigration policies. The reality is that Canada can’t sustain high immigration levels under Justin Trudeau’s failed immigration policies. A change in government must occur before Canadians will be able to regain faith in our immigration system.

For all the reasons I’ve given you today, the Conservative Party of Canada strongly opposes the levels set out in this report.

Source: Canada Can’t Sustain High Immigration Levels Under Justin Trudeau’s Failed Immigration Policies

And CTV’s reporting:

One day after the Liberal government unveiled plans to ramp up immigration levels to 350,000 people by 2021, the Conservative immigration critic won’t say what she believes the figure should be.

The number is not the point, according to Michelle Rempel.

“Justin Trudeau has no credibility to set Canada’s immigration levels,” she said Thursday at a news conference.

Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Ahmed Hussen announced on Wednesday that Canada will increase its immigration target to 350,000 by 2021, up from the current level of 310,000.

Hussen told CTV’s Power Play on Thursday that the plan is “responsible and ambitious” and focuses on bringing in “highly-skilled talent that creates middle class jobs for our country.”

“Canadians are asking us to provide them with more workers, more skilled immigrants who can grow our economy and create good-quality, full-time middle class jobs,” Hussen said.

Hussen added that the Federal Skilled Workers program, which offers residency to people like international students who find work, makes up the single biggest component of immigration.

“The vast majority of those folks are people applying from within Canada,” he said. “They already have a job.”

At her press conference, Rempel cited an Angus Reid pollfrom August which found that 49 per cent of Canadians wanted to see the country reduce its immigration intake – up from 36 per cent four years earlier and the highest number in the 43-year period since the question was first asked.

She said that Canadians’ appetite for increased immigration has hit its lowest level on record because of how the Liberals have handled an influx of people crossing the border and claiming asylum.

Federal numbers show that 15,726 people crossed into Canada irregularly at all points in the first nine months of 2018, up from 15,102 in the same time period one year earlier.

The Safe Third Country Agreement between Canada and the United States requires most people seeking refugee protection to file their claim in the first of the two countries they arrive in. It means people cannot pass through the U.S. to seek asylum at the Canadian border checkpoint, but does not apply to people who cross at places other than standard border checkpoints.

Rempel argued that people who are not legitimate refugees are taking advantage of the Safe Third Country Agreement “loophole,” knowing that they can live in Canada for years before their claims are even processed.

“Having reached upstate New York, these people are not fleeing persecution and should not be treated as such by Justin Trudeau,” she said.

Rempel said the Conservatives would crack down on irregular border crossings by closing the loophole. The Liberals say they have repeatedly asked the U.S. government to reopen the agreement.

Rempel also accused the government of spending “hundreds of millions” to normalize the crossings, including $50 million on temporary accommodations for people. Many of them are now living in Toronto hotels.

Hussen told Power Play that the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) is in charge of deciding whether irregular border crossers are legitimate refugees and that those who are not legitimate refugees will be told to leave.

“We’ve reinvested in the Canadian Border Services Agency as well as the IRB to make sure that these claims are heard expeditiously,” Hussen said.

“A big percentage of those found not to be genuine refugees voluntarily leave Canada,” he added.

Rempel also singled out the temporary foreign worker (TFW) program for criticism. Under the government’s new plan, the number of migrant workers allowed into the country will rise to nearly 250,000.

Rempel said that the TFW program was “rife with abuse,” and that it lowered wages and working conditions while keeping certain jobs out of the reach of out-of-work Canadians.

“That this government has made no move to radically change Canada’s economic dependence on this abusive and ill-thought-out system also undermines the credibility of the numbers in this levels report,” she said.

She said the Conservative preference would be to have migrant workers instead “settling in those communities and staying employed” – or to have those positions be filled by people already in the country.

“Is there a way that we can reform that program such that Canadians are matched with those jobs?” she added.

A Conservative government would also look to increase the focus on having refugees be sponsored privately by Canadian citizens, with the government-assisted refugee program being reduced to people fleeing the “atrocity crimes” of war crimes, ethnic cleansing, crimes against humanity and genocide, according to Rempel.

Source: Rempel says Trudeau has ‘no credibility’ on immigration

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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