@JohnIbbitson Our competitive advantage: Canada hasn’t completely gone off the deep end

My vote for the best slogan to attract highly talented and skilled immigrants:

At the moment, Canada enjoys the unique competitive advantage of being the only major developed, English-speaking country that hasn’t gone crazy.

As a result, once the pandemic travel restrictions are lifted, we should be able to attract many thousands of the world’s most skilled and talented workers, making Canada a global leader in the next generation of the knowledge economy.

The United States suffered yet another self-inflicted wound this week, when President Donald Trump suspended all new work visas – including the H-1B visa used to recruit foreign workers in the technology sector – until the end of the year.

“America is making a pretty big mistake here, and Canada and our tech sector are going to be the beneficiaries of that,” said Yung Wu, chief executive officer of the MaRS Discovery District, a high-tech incubator in Toronto.

“The thing that fuels the entire innovation economy and ecosystem is talent,” he said in an interview. “When you starve the supply of talent, your innovation and tech ecosystem wither.”

Talent might have been having second thoughts about moving to the U.S. even before the latest visa restrictions. America in the age of Trump is not a welcoming place. The rampant racism, the toxic polarization, the collapse of competence revealed by America’s mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic, the protests and clashes with police – who would want to move there right now?

Great Britain is not much better. The decision to leave the European Union was economically destructive, driven in part by a deeply ingrained resentment of foreigners felt by some Britons. The country’s per-capita death rate from COVID-19 is one of the worst in the world – almost three times as high as Canada’s – offering further evidence of Britain‘s declining competence and confidence.

“With the U.S. and the U.K. going crazy, sideways, whatever you want to call it … if you’re a highly skilled individual who doesn’t happen to be American or English, where are you going to go?” asks Dan Breznitz, chair of innovation studies at the Munk School of Global Affairs. The answer, he says, is Canada. “And that’s great.”

We are far, far from perfect. The police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis has forced Canadians to confront anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism in this country. My English settler culture has much to answer for.

But there is much to be proud of as well, including the hundreds of thousands of immigrants Canada welcomes each year. The federal and provincial governments actively encourage high-technology workers and students to come to and stay in Canada. The closing of American and British doors gives us the chance to bring in even more.

Our companies may never pay as well as the big players in Silicon Valley. But our cities are diverse and peaceful, our education system is one of the best in the world, and the pandemic proved how superior the Canadian health care system is to the American. Such things may matter more to newcomers today than they did even a few months ago.

We need every one of those who will come. Before the pandemic, analysts predicted more than 200,000 technology jobs would go unfilled in the tech sector in 2021. Canada competes with the United States for tech-skilled workers from other countries, and we have been decidedly No. 2.

But now the United States has taken itself out of the running. Even if presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden defeats Mr. Trump in November, it will take years to undo the damage. And America’s deep divisions will remain.

The key, for Mr. Wu, is for Canadian governments to recruit even more aggressively for workers in the life sciences, advanced manufacturing, energy transition, clean tech and agri-tech sectors. Mr. Breznitz would like to see governments investing directly in individuals and companies.

At the same time, we should hope the U.S. gets its mojo back. Canada’s tech sector is joined at the hip to the American tech sector. “They need to be strong for us to be strong,” said Mr. Wu. Every future in which the United States does not lead is a bad future for Canada.

But while we wait for the United States to recover, perhaps we can take advantage of the situation by luring more of the brightest and best.

In these times, apart from February, what’s not to love about Canada?

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/politics/article-our-competitive-advantage-canada-hasnt-completely-gone-off-the-deep/

Ibbitson: Tens of thousands of Canadians won’t be born due to COVID-19

Some serious thinking needs to be done regarding alternatives to solely relying on immigration to address the aging demographics, as immigration alone, even at higher levels, won’t eliminate the trend.

One or two missed years won’t make much of a difference in the longer term, and a too quick return to the existing plan, at a time when large segments of our economy will likely take a number of years to recover, is setting up immigrants for failure.

Previous recessions have resulted in worse economic outcomes for immigrants that arrive during downturns:

One of the worst long-term consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic for Canada will be the tens of thousands who won’t be born, a loss to this country’s future.

To make up for that loss, and for the immigrants who were unable to come to Canada this year because of the lockdown, the federal government would need to increase its immigration target beyond 400,000 next year and in future years, which may be politically and logistically impossible.

The lost potential population – the work not done, goods not consumed, taxes not paid – will be felt for decades to come.

The Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank, released a report this month that concluded “the COVID-19 episode will likely lead to a large, lasting baby bust.”

Like most developed nations, the United States has a fertility rate well below the 2.1 children per woman needed to sustain the population. (The U.S. fertility rate is 1.7; Canada’s is 1.5.) Women are choosing to have fewer children, and to delay their first child until their late twenties or their thirties. (The mean age at which a woman has her first child in the U.S. is 27; in Canada, 29.)

Economic uncertainty can cause a woman to put off having her first child even longer, which may lead to her having fewer children than she originally intended. Examining past recessions and recoveries, the Brookings study found that “a one percentage point increase in the state unemployment rate led to a 0.9 per cent reduction in the birth rate.”

More than simple economic calculation is at work. “Economic pressures and uncertainty cause enormous pressure and stress within households and relationships,” said Judith Daniluk, professor emeritus at University of British Columbia, where she specializes in women’s sexuality and reproductive health.

“Surviving, much less rebounding from, this type of economic and existential crisis is challenging and takes time,” she told me, which can lead to “some women being unable to bear a child when they have regained their economic and relational footing, or in having fewer children than they had hoped.”

Based on projected unemployment levels resulting from the coronavirus lockdown, and a drop in fertility that accompanied the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918-19, the Brookings study concluded that “we could see a drop of perhaps 300,000 to 500,000 births in the U.S.” in 2021.

Since Canada has about one-tenth the population of the United States, and the unemployment rate is similar (13.3 per cent in May in the U.S.; 13.7 per cent in May in Canada), we can expect to lose on the order of 30,000 to 50,000 babies next year – the equivalent of West Vancouver (population 42,694) or Belleville, Ont. (population 50,720) in the number of babies not born.

The fewer babies that are born each year, the more immigrants who are needed to replace them. The alternative is a shrinking and aging population, with too few workers and taxpayers available to fill vacant jobs, to power the economy through consumption, and to support the pension and health-care needs of the elderly.

The Trudeau government had planned to welcome 341,000 permanent residents this year and 351,000 in 2021. But with the year half over, and immigration essentially frozen through border closings, Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino faces a difficult choice when he presents his immigration update this fall.

To prevent an overall drop in immigration, he will have to increase next year’s intake to compensate both for immigrants who didn’t arrive in 2020 and for babies not born.

But a target between, say, 400,000 and 500,000 would strain the resources of the department and of settlement services, and intensify protests from those who believe Canada is bringing in too many newcomers as it is.

Compensating for lost intake could be staggered over several years. Even so, we may be forced to accept that many thousands of people who should be with us in the years to come won’t be.

“That will be yet another cost of this terrible episode,” the Brookings report concludes.

To limit that cost, this Liberal government should do everything within its power to bring in as many new Canadians as it possibly can in the years ahead.

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/politics/article-tens-of-thousands-of-canadians-wont-be-born-due-to-covid-19/

Ibbitson: Neither the United States nor Canada can afford to ban immigration

As some have noted, this is more of a rhetorical argument than substantive, as the debate, at least in Canada, will be more with respect to levels and the mix of programs than a ban (which Trump will continue to talk about for political purposes):

However, Ibbitson is a bit too optimistic that Canada will automatically go back to the current immigration plan and a bit too accepting on the general demographic arguments without considering the expected impact of AI and automation.

Posing options as closing doors or returning the current immigration plan and levels is a false choice as the reality for Canada, I expect, will remain towards open immigration but with some adjustments once the medium-term effects of COVID-19 work through the economy:

The tweet may simply have been a bit of raw meat for his base. But if Donald Trump really does plan to ban all immigration into the United States, that would be the worst act of his presidency, which is saying something.

Banning immigrants would amplify one of the most important demographic trends of our time: declining fertility rates among millennials and Gen Z. Babies who are not being born must be replaced with people brought in from abroad. The inevitable alternative is increased joblessness and economic decline. This is as true for Canada as it is for the United States.

The U.S. President tweeted Monday night that “in light of the attack from the Invisible Enemy, as well as the need to protect the jobs of our GREAT American Citizens, I will be signing an Executive Order to temporarily suspend immigration into the United States!”

On one level, the tweet in nonsensical. Most countries have closed their borders as they grapple with this pandemic. Until the novel coronavirus is brought under control one way or another, both Canada and the United States will be largely closed to immigration.

But once economic life returns to something approaching normal, then not only will immigration need to return to previous levels – currently 340,000 a year in Canada’s case; traditionally more than one million a year in the case of the United States – they should be increased to make up for the immigrants who should be arriving today but aren’t.

“We desperately need immigration,” said Benjamin Tal, deputy chief economist of the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, in an interview. “We are an aging society that in 10 or 15 years will be totally dependent on immigrants that we are getting now.”

That Canadian fertility rate declined from 1.6 children per woman in 2010 to 1.5 last year, while in the United States it fell to 1.7, far below the 2.1 needed to keep a population stable. Fertility rates have been below the replacement rate in most developed countries for decades, which is why immigration is required for population growth.

But in recent years, a new trend has emerged. The birth rate for millennials and Gen Z is lower than it was for Gen X and the baby boomers. A study by Ron Kneebone, a professor of economics at University of Calgary, showed that fertility levels for Canadian women under 30 declined significantly between 2000 and 2017.

Citing correlations between past economic downturns and fertility, Prof. Kneebone strongly suspects that the current economic crisis will lower Canada’s birth rate even further. “When I’m uncertain whether I’m going to keep my job and be able to pay the mortgage, is this the time to be having another kid? Probably not,” he said in an interview.

And, as he points out, countries with low fertility, little immigration and declining populations struggle to preserve economic growth. Just ask Italy or Japan.

Mr. Trump has played to nativist sentiments throughout his presidency. The fabled wall on the Mexican border, banning visitors from certain Muslim countries, suppressing immigration levels overall – these are policies designed to appeal to Americans who fear their white, Christian culture is being overwhelmed by foreigners.

In that context, Monday’s tweet should be seen not as an update on pandemic border control but as a racist reassurance to his MAGA base.

But restricting immigration would be disastrous for the United States. One-quarter of all health care workers in the U.S. are immigrants. They account for half of all the entrepreneurs whose startups grew to be worth US$1-billion or more. They account for almost 40 per cent of U.S. Nobel Prize winners.

The American health care system and the American economy depend on immigrants. By stoking anti-immigrant sentiments, Mr. Trump is threatening the future of both.

Polls show that most Canadians continue to support the high level of immigration that this country has enjoyed under both Conservative and Liberal governments for three decades. But Quebec Premier François Legault has reduced the number of immigrants coming into the province and has said he may reduce the level even further in the wake of the pandemic.

That’s a policy for economic suicide. When the borders reopen, Canada should increase its immigration target above next year’s goal of 350,000. Every immigrant we don’t bring in this year and next is an opportunity lost for Canada’s future, unless we make it up further on.

Neither the U.S. nor Canada can afford to close its doors.

Source: Opinion: Neither the United States nor Canada can afford to ban immigration

Quebec’s religious symbols ban a major issue in federal election campaign

Good range of people interviewed. Odd conclusion given overall demographic changes and that most immigrants integrate:

The new Quebec law that bans many public servants from wearing visible religious symbols has become a major issue in the federal election campaign.

This isn’t a Quebec-versus-the-rest-of-Canada conflict. This is the shires against the cities, old stock versus those who welcome newcomers, the Canada that was against what Canada is becoming.

This is a conflict on the rise, not the wane.

Mario Levesque, a political scientist at Mount Allison University, agrees that Bill 21, as the Quebec legislation was known before it came law, divides Quebec from the rest of Canada. But even more, he says, it divides rural Canada from urban Canada.

When it comes to accepting high levels of immigration and the racial and cultural diversity that follows, “I would almost limit that to some of the bigger cities,” he said in an interview. “In other parts of Canada, I think there is some support for Bill 21.”

Erin Tolley, a political scientist at University of Toronto, points to research she and co-author Randy Besco conducted that shows about a third of Canadians oppose multiculturalism, a third support it, and a third are “conditional multiculturalists” who, as they wrote, “approve of immigration and ethnic diversity, but only under certain conditions” – the most important being that immigrants integrate fully into Canadian society.

“There is some difference between Quebec and the rest of Canada” on the question of embracing multiculturalism, Prof. Tolley said in an interview, “but it’s not as big a difference as you might think.”

Daniel Weinstock, a professor of political philosophy at McGill University, said that an important difference between Quebec and the rest of Canada “is that, in Quebec, politicians and pundits have been able to couch the law, fallaciously in my view, as being in continuity with Bill 101 [Quebec’s language law], as a defence of Quebec identity.”​​

But even without the veil of protecting French language and culture as an excuse, many Canadians object to minority religious and cultural practices. Prof. Tolley says that when Stephen Harper’s Conservatives vowed to ban the niqab – the full face and body covering worn by some Muslim women – at citizenship ceremonies, “many Canadians sided with the Conservatives.”

Prof. Levesque believes that more time may be needed for people in rural areas of Ontario, where he used to live, or the Maritimes, where he teaches now, “to learn about and welcome new arrivals, since they typically get so few of them.”

Although Maxime Bernier’s efforts to leverage voter discontent over multiculturalism with his new People’s Party have thus far gone nowhere, most political leaders are treating the Quebec law as though it were a new third rail.

Andrew Scheer says a Conservative government would not join the court challenge against the law. At this stage, neither would a Liberal government, Justin Trudeau said on Friday, although “we’re not going to close the door on intervening at a later date. “Intervention if necessary, but not necessarily intervention.

At Thursday night’s debate, Green Party Leader Elizabeth May hoped “that we can find a solution where we leave Quebec alone but we find jobs for anyone that Quebec has taken off their payroll.”

Only NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh stands firm against the law, which would prohibit him from being a teacher or judge in Quebec because he wears a turban. “It’s legislated discrimination, and it’s sad and it’s hurtful,” he said at the debate.

Prof. Weinstock profoundly objects to Quebec’s new law because it “asks vulnerable minorities to do something that they can only do at the cost of enormous symbolic harm to themselves,” by publicly abandoning religious symbols “that they see as central to their identities.”

Yet, despite the openly discriminatory nature of the legislation, Quebec Premier François Legault has warned federal politicians not to support the court challenge.

“I want them to stay out of it – forever,” he told reporters earlier this week. “Not for the moment, but forever.”

No political fight is more useless than a culture war. Not a job is created, not a single child lifted out of poverty, not a jot of environmental progress made. It’s just Us and Them, with both sides the loser.

But there may be no escaping this fight, if enough voters in the future reject what Canada is becoming and demand the old one back.

Source: Quebec’s religious symbols ban a major issue in federal election campaign

Ibbitson: At the core of the SNC-Lavalin affair, a familiar case of he said, she said

The most interesting commentary on the SNC-Lavalin affair I have seen, given its gender take:

Justin Trudeau and the Old Boys at SNC-Lavalin will never understand why so many people are so angry at them. They’ll never understand why those women over at the Justice Department fought them and defeated them.

But others do understand. They know what frustrated privilege looks like, what happens when powerful men don’t get their way.

“I’m not going to apologize for standing up for Canadian jobs, because that’s my job,” Mr. Trudeau repeated, defiantly, Thursday, after Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion found the Prime Minister had repeatedly violated the Conflict of Interest Act in trying to prevent the criminal prosecution of the engineering firm. “I disagree with the Ethics Commissioner’s conclusions,” he declared, even though “I take full responsibility.”

Prime Minister: If you won’t apologize and you reject the report’s conclusions, you are taking no responsibility at all.

But this fits with Mr. Trudeau’s attitude and the attitude of those who surrounded him during this affair.

Consider: SNC-Lavalin had been pushing for a deferred prosecution agreement that would let it escape trial on corruption charges practically from the day the Liberals took office. It worked.

After then-chief executive officer Neil Bruce met with Finance Minister Bill Morneau at the Davos Economic Forum (of course), Mr. Morneau inserted a measure into the 2018 budget that would allow a company in SNC-Lavalin’s situation to secure a deferred prosecution agreement.

Mr. Morneau was shocked when Kathleen Roussel, Director of Public Prosecutions and the first woman to stand up against this Old Boys club, decided later that year that SNC-Lavalin did not qualify for a deferred prosecution agreement. Mr. Morneau and Mr. Trudeau believed Jody Wilson-Raybould, as attorney-general, should intervene. Ms Wilson-Raybould, the second woman in the line of fire, backed Ms. Roussel.

The Old Boys fought back. Former Supreme Court justice Frank Iacobucci, who is legal counsel to SNC-Lavalin, offered an opinion that an intervention by the attorney-general would be legitimate. Another former Supreme Court justice, John Major, weighed in on a related matter.

Meanwhile, aides to Mr. Morneau and Mr. Trudeau put pressure on Jessica Prince, Ms. Wilson-Raybould’s chief of staff, to make her boss see the light. They failed.

Mr. Trudeau and Michael Wernick, then-clerk of the Privy Council, met in person with Ms. Wilson-Raybould, to no avail. But aides Mathieu Bouchard and Elder Marques kept pushing. So did Gerry Butts, Mr. Trudeau’s then-principal secretary, and, to a lesser extend, Katie Telford, Mr. Trudeau’s chief of staff.

Kevin Lynch, chairman of SNC-Lavalin and a former clerk of the Privy Council, and Robert Prichard, legal counsel for SNC-Lavalin and former president of at University of Toronto (among many other things), took the matter to Scott Brison, then-president of the Treasury Board. Mr. Brison was sympathetic, but he got nowhere with Ms. Wilson-Raybould, either.

SNC-Lavalin proposed that Beverley McLachlin, the former chief justice of the Supreme Court, mediate a settlement. But Ms. McLachlin had her own reservations and Ms. Wilson-Raybould saw no need to consult her. So that was that.

Put it all together. On one side, a coalition that included Mr. Trudeau, two cabinet ministers, the clerk of the Privy Council, political advisers and the leadership at SNC-Lavalin. Almost every one of them a man, steeped in the Ottawa establishment and used to being obeyed.

On the other side, a group of women, led by Ms. Wilson-Raybould, that included her chief of staff, the Director of Public Prosecutions and deputy minister Nathalie Drouin. They were joined by Jane Philpott, who ultimately resigned from cabinet in solidarity with her friend.

According to the report, Mr. Trudeau’s lawyer described the Prime Minister’s relationship with Ms. Wilson-Raybould as “challenging and tense.” He alleged friction between the minister and cabinet colleagues, and described her decision-making as “infected by legal misunderstanding and political motivation.”

So which is it? Did a difficult and unqualified attorney-general resist the reasonable advice of the Prime Minister and his senior advisers, who were trying to save a valued company from an unnecessary prosecution that could put it out of business, costing thousands of jobs?

Or, did a domineering group of entitled men unsuccessfully try to bully Ms. Wilson-Raybould into interfering in a criminal prosecution, for which the Prime Minister should apologize?

We know what Mr. Trudeau thinks. What do you think?

Source: Opinion At the core of the SNC-Lavalin affair, a familiar case of he said, she said

Early commentary on the Liberal omnibus provisions regarding asylum seekers: Contrasting views Ibbitson and Urback

Starting with Ibbitson, who supports the planned change but not it being done though the omnibus budget bill:

“Our country is full,” Donald Trump told asylum seekers last week. The President is wrong, of course, but uncontrolled migration is a crisis in the United States and a problem in Canada, because it undermines confidence in the immigration system.

This is one reason the Trudeau government introduced legislation this week to stem the flow of people who cross at unauthorized points of entry from the United States.

Another might be that, even though the Liberals have done a good job over the past year of slowing the flow of unauthorized crossings, they fear the public might think they haven’t done enough.

In either case, it’s also important to remember that the core purpose of immigration is to stoke the economy and prevent population decline. The intent of deterring crossings at unauthorized places should be to bolster the overall system.

The total fertility rate in the United States has fallen to 1.8 children per woman, and will likely continue to fall. The Canadian rate is 1.6. Both countries are reproducing far below the average of 2.1 children per woman needed to prevent population decline.

This is good news. Teenage pregnancy rates have fallen by two-thirds in the United States since 1990, and 80 per cent in Canada, thanks to improved access to sex education and birth control. In the United States, white, African-American and Latino birth rates are converging, reflecting improved education and economic opportunity for minorities. More women are waiting to establish their careers before having a child, a reflection of increasing equality. Low fertility means social progress.

But fewer babies eventually means fewer young workers to pay the taxes needed to sustain health care and pension for older folks. It also means lower economic growth, because there are fewer young consumers buying that first car, first house and so on. Two dozen countries are losing population each year, and in many cases their economies are struggling.

The United States and Canada counter the effect through high levels of immigration, which is why their populations continue to grow, and to age more slowly.

But the United States faces a growing crisis of uncontrolled immigration, with more than 100,000 crossers from Mexico detained in March alone. In Canada, the number of people who crossed at unauthorized points of entry was just less than 20,000 for all of 2018, mostly from the United States into Quebec.

Mr. Trump wants to build a wall, which would be ineffective, and is threatening to close the southern border completely, which would be an economic disaster.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government is taking a different approach. The budget bill introduced Monday includes a new law that would prohibit people from making refugee claims who have already made a similar claim in the United States and certain other countries. And Canadian officials are working with their American counterparts to toughen the Safe Third Country Agreement so as to further deter crossers.

The Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers has condemned the new legislation as “callous.” But Canada will continue to take in refugees who make legitimate claims through regular channels, such as the refugees from Syria.

The immigration system is not humanitarian; it is economic. In Canada, we bring in almost 1 per cent of our population each year so that our economy and population will continue to grow. Mr. Trump encourages nativist, anti-immigrant sentiment. If Americans listen to him, their country will eventually start losing people − with or without unauthorized migrants − surrendering a key geopolitical advantage, since the Chinese and Russian populations will both start to decline in a few years. (In Russia, it may already have begun.)

Some people argue for policies − enhanced parental leave, subsidized daycare, even cash payments − that will encourage couples to have more children, while limiting immigration. Such policies are very expensive and research shows they don’t work. Women in developed countries today for the most part don’t have children because the state, or God, or their kinfolk, or domineering husbands want them to. Parenting for most couples is an act of personal fulfilment. And they are quickly fulfilled.

The Trudeau government should not have placed these new rules in an omnibus budget bill. And those rules may not survive a judicial challenge. But the goal is sound, even if it was opportunistic. Governments have a duty to control their borders. Failure undermines confidence in the immigration system. And closing the door to immigrants is demographic suicide.

Source:     Liberals’ immigration plan is sound policy delivered poorly John Ibbitson April 11, 2019     
Urback, in contrast, focusses on the “crass political” calculations, and is largely silent on the merits or not of the change:

The Liberal caucus would have had a collective aneurysm just few months ago if a senior political opponent had talked about “asylum-shopping” when referring to refugees who cross illegally into Canada. The implication, they’d cry, is that those risking their lives to seek refuge in Canada are simply economic migrants — not families desperate to find a safe place to call home.

The reality, of course, is that while many migrants might genuinely see Canada as the only safe place for them in North America — and perhaps that’s true — many who have crossed into Canada at unofficial entry points have not met the criteria for refugee protection, for various reasons. Slightly more than half of finalized refugee claims from these applicants were rejected in the last quarter of 2018.

The situation is hardly straightforward; Canada has been forced to balance its humanitarian commitment to refugee resettlement with the practical limitations of a system unprepared for the recent wave of migrants.

The system has been under enormous strain, with asylum-seekers waiting up to two years for just a hearing. And the integrity of the process itself has been under intense pressure, based partly on the impression that migrants crossing into Canada illegally are using a “loophole” in the Safe Third Country agreement to qualify for a hearing, when they otherwise would have just been sent back to the U.S.

The situation is thus a fraught and messy one, which unquestionably makes it deserving of criticism and careful analysis. Yet that is something the Liberals have been fiercely intolerant of the past three and a half years.

Back in July, Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen called the Ontario government’s concerns about so-called queue-jumping “un-Canadian.” During an end-of-year interview, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the Conservatives were trying to stoke fears over refugee claimants. In late January, the prime minister responded to a town hall question about Canada’s migration policies with a diatribe lamenting “the politics of division.”

And yet now, a few months later, Border Security Minister Bill Blair has defended the government’s sudden overhaul of asylum laws as a measure to prevent “asylum-shopping.” This language, apparently, is now tolerable.

Buried in this year’s omnibus budget implementation bill is a series of amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act that essentially disqualify asylum-seekers who have made a claim for refugee protection in any other country. Once the bill receives royal assent, an asylum-seeker can be deported without a hearing, which would seem to violate the Charter as affirmed by Singh v. Canada, where the Supreme Court determined that Charter rights extend to everyone physically on Canadian soil.

Many Canadians will nevertheless welcome the Liberals’ unexpected about-face on asylum-seekers. Two-thirds of respondents to an Angus Reid poll published back in August thought the border situation had reached a crisis point. More than half said that Canada was too generous toward asylum-seekers who cross into Canada illegally. A more recent Ipsos poll found that 47 per cent of respondents believe most migrants aren’t actual refugees — they just want to come to Canada for its economic benefits. Perhaps Blair has that summary on his desk.

What’s noteworthy about the timing of the planned changes is that the number of asylum-seekers crossing into Canada at unofficial points of entry is actually on the decline. In 2018, 1,517 people were intercepted by the RCMP crossing into Canada during the month of January. A year later, that number dropped to 888 for the same month. In 2018, 1,565 people crossed illegally into Canada in February. A year later, for the same month, the total was 808. Numbers haven’t been that low since June 2017.

This is all to say — as if there was any doubt — that the Trudeau government’s decision to enact sweeping changes to Canada’s asylum provisions is just a crass political move; it will come into force months before an election, when illegal border crossing is actually on the decline, and right onside with public opinion in favour of toughening up asylum laws.

Tabling a stand-alone bill on changes to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act — as one would reasonably expect of policy changes of such enormous importance as Canada’s treatment of vulnerable people fleeing persecution — would take too long, and be subject to debate and revisions and multiple readings and so forth.

By using an omnibus bill (something the Liberals vowed they would never do), these changes can go into effect right away, eliminating a potentially defining wedge issue. Sure, it is potentially unconstitutional, but that can and will be sorted out later.

Three and a half years is not a long time to go from “Sunny Ways” and 25,000 Syrian refugees to deportations without hearings and unconstitutional amendments. This is type of realpolitik (on the backs of refugees, of all people) is the sort of soulless strategizing we’re supposed to expect of the other guys — the ones who talk about “queue-jumpers” and Canadian values and shopping around for places to seek asylum. But without the sun lighting the way, it’s hard to tell everyone apart.

Source: Changing Canada’s asylum laws is nothing but a crass political calculation by Trudeau: Robyn Urback

Tories pursue high-stakes strategy in condemning United Nation’s migrant pact: John Ibbitson and Chris Selley commentaries

John Ibbitson on the politics of the CPC’s opposition to the Global Compact on Migration:

A database search suggests that the first article in a mainstream Canadian news outlet that criticized the United Nations’ new migration compact appeared on the Toronto Sun website on Nov. 30.

That document – officially the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration – is now a high-stakes controversy from which both Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau hope to profit. One of them is making a mistake. But right now, it’s hard to know who.

Liberal Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen, along with representatives from more than 160 other countries, has signed the agreement in Marrakesh. Mr. Hussen called the compact “an effective way to address the challenges that migration can bring.”

This may well be true. But had it not been for the conservative media and Official Opposition sounding the alarm, most of us would never even have heard about the compact, much less Canada’s decision to join it.

Parliament hasn’t debated or voted on the agreement; the government hasn’t bothered to consult Canadians on whether they oppose or support it. This is foreign policy conducted in the dead of night.

However, there is one significant problem with Mr. Scheer’s claim that the compact will “erode our sovereign right to manage our borders.” The problem is that the thing is innocuous, a succession of bland paragraphs promising to promote this and consult on that.

The document stresses that it is not legally binding and “reaffirms the sovereign right of States to determine their national migration policy and to govern migration within their jurisdiction.”

There is a foolish clause on “sensitizing and educating media professionals.” Otherwise the document mostly commits states to sharing information, fighting human trafficking and abiding by the rule of law. Nothing to see here. Move along.

Except that’s not how others treat the document, pro and con.

Pro: Former Canadian Supreme Court justice Louise Arbour, who is now the United Nations Special Representative for International Migration, called the compact “one of the defining projects of our generation,” which “will remain the reference for all future initiatives dealing with cross-border human mobility.”

Con: The United States – well, of course, with Donald Trump as President – Australia, the Dominican Republic and Chile have not signed, along with Israel and a clutch of countries in Eastern Europe, where migrants are deeply unpopular. Rightly or wrongly, some analysts see things in those bland paragraphs that could force countries to increase their immigration and refugee intake.

This is one reason why the Conservatives are making such a big deal of the accord. Another is that demonizing the compact fits with a narrative they wish to construct: that the Liberals have lost control of the immigration system, that tens of thousands have streamed across the border illegally and that now the government is surrendering sovereignty to a dysfunctional, even corrupt, United Nations.

The truth is that, over the past six months or so, the government has managed to greatly reduce the flow of asylum claimants entering Canada from the United States. And, as I and wiser minds read it, the migration compact surrenders not a jot or tittle of Canadian sovereignty to the UN.

But many Canadians do worry about losing control of the border. This doesn’t make them anti-immigrant; it just makes them anti-uncontrolled-immigration. And even those who support increased immigration may shake their heads at the Liberal inability to manage major files. As the Tories might put it, the Liberals can’t build a pipeline, can’t control the border, won’t balance the budget.

But on the immigration issues, at least, this strategy comes with great political risk for the Conservatives. More than half the population of Mississauga is not Caucasian. Fifty-three per cent of the population of Richmond, B.C., is ethnic Chinese.

If suburban immigrant voters decide that the Conservatives have become anti-immigrant, even nativist, they will shun the party and the Conservatives will lose the next election. You cannot win at the federal level without substantial support from immigrant voters. There are just too many of them.

The Liberals take pride in how they’ve handled immigration and are happy to campaign on it. The Conservatives think the Liberals are vulnerable on immigration and are happy to campaign on it. Who is right? It will take an election to find out.

Source:     Tories pursue high-stakes strategy in condemning United Nation’s migrant pact Subscriber content John Ibbitson December 10, 2018     
And Chris Selley suggests the CPC could have made a more sophisticated critique of the Compact rather than playing the identity politics card (which the Liberals are also happy to play):
One hundred and sixty-four countries agreed to the UN Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration in Morocco on Monday. And while the ship has long since sailed, in theory, there are quite a few things in there that Canadian conservatives might have gotten behind.

John Ivison: Budget officer finds illegal migrants entering via a ‘loophole within a loophole’

The loophole, allowing those in the asylum process who arrived as irregular arrivals to sponsor their relatives during the determination process, should be relatively easy to close, in contrast to the provision in the Safe Third Country Agreement that it doesn’t apply to those not arriving at official border crossings, which would require highly unlikely agreement with the Trump administration:
While a politician may wish something to be true, simply saying it in the House of Commons does not make it so.

Bill Blair, the newly minted minister for border security, made a claim about the refugee system in question period Thursday that cannot be supported by the available facts.

“The system is working,” he said.

He was responding to questions about a new report by the Parliamentary Budget Officer, which pegged the cost of “irregular” — for which read “illegal” — migration at $340 million for the cohort of migrants who arrived in Canada in 2017-18 – a cost-per-migrant to the federal government of $14,321. (That does not include provincial expenses, which Ontario claims come to around $200 million. The PBO estimated a similar amount for Quebec. The federal government has reimbursed the provinces a total of $50 million.)

Technically, Blair is correct. The refugee system is working — in much the same way the Russian military’s Antonov Flying Tank worked during the Second World War.

In that case, the plane could leave the ground and drop a tank by parachute, albeit without crew, fuel or armaments. It worked. It just didn’t work well — and the project was rapidly abandoned.

A Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer in Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, Que., advises migrants that they are about to illegally cross the border from Champlain, N.Y., and will be arrested, on Aug. 7, 2017. Charles Krupa/AP

The federal government should adopt a similar approach and go back to the drawing board.

The PBO report is revealing, and not just for the cost estimates. In fact, it emerges in a footnote the costs are likely more than $14,321 per migrant — Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada estimates the number at $19,000.

But during its investigation, the PBO team elicited some interesting responses from government departments that show how bizarre the migrant story has become.

Another footnote revealed that Canada Border Services Agency officers have identified a phenomenon where one claimant enters Canada illegally and acts as an “anchor relative” for other family members. Those family members can then enter at a port of entry and not be considered illegal migrants. (The PBO asked for data but CBSA said it is not currently being tracked).

But think about that for a minute — a practice Conservative immigration critic Michelle Rempel has called a “loophole within a loophole.”

This means a migrant can cross into Canada from the U.S. between official entry points, avoiding the Safe Third Country Agreement that would have otherwise made them ineligible. (The agreement between Canada and the U.S. states that migrants seeking refugee status must make their claim in the first “safe” country they arrive in — either Canada or the U.S.)

Once a claim has been made, the migrant can access Canada’s generous welfare system as he or she navigates the asylum claims process that gives them multiple hearings and appeals. In the meantime, they can effectively sponsor other members of their family, who can then arrive as regular migrants — also avoiding the Safe Third Country Agreement.

Blair tried to sanitize this blatant abuse of process by pointing out that 40 per cent of migrants crossing illegally are children — postulating that this is a question of humanity and human rights obligations.

But due process should work both ways, and in this case the integrity of the system is being violated.

The anchor relative provision does not just apply to nuclear families but to parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, nephews and nieces.

The obvious solution is to close both loopholes in the Safe Third Country Agreement — amend it so it applies between official points of entry, and more tightly define who migrants can bring in.

But there appears to have been little progress in persuading the U.S. to change an agreement that sees people it clearly does not want within its borders effectively deporting themselves.

There are other reforms that could be undertaken. Experts who have looked at the system talk about the “failure of finality” — the endless appeals process that effectively gives migrants a new hearing at the Refugee Appeal Division if their claim is rejected by the Refugee Protection Division, and still another one at the Federal Court if the appeal fails.

The Liberals have done little beyond what they do best — throwing money at the problem. In response to the new arrivals, budget 2018 allocated $173.2 million over two years to “manage the border.”

But the PBO report gives lie to Blair’s claim the “system is working.”

In the 2017-18 fiscal year, the Immigration and Refugee Board had capacity to hear 24,000 claims. During that period there were 52,142 new asylum claims, of which illegal migrants represented 23,215. The system was flooded with claims beyond its capacity, creating a backlog of 64,929 cases.

More than half of the refugee claims were made by irregular migrants from Nigeria and Haiti. That is not a dog-whistle for swivel-eyed racists, or “fear-mongering,” as one senior Liberal put it. It is a fact.

They are flooding from those countries because word has got out that the Canadian system can be gamed with great ease — that an entire family can set up in the Great White North for the cost of a plane ticket from Lagos to New York City and a bus ride to the Quebec border.

Canada has seen similar surges in refugee claims before. In 2010, the Conservatives introduced visa requirements for Mexicans and Czechs, after a flood of bogus claims. The intake of refugees fell from 25,783 in 2010 to 10,227 in 2013 and the backlog halved. For the 2017 calendar year, claims were at 47,427 and the backlog was of a similar magnitude.

If the system was working, as Blair claimed, it would be fast, fair and final.

Currently, it is the very opposite — sluggish, arbitrary and inconclusive.

Source: John Ivison: Budget officer finds illegal migrants entering via a ‘loophole within a loophole’

And John Ibbitson on the potential electoral implications of the costs:

The problem of people crossing the Canada-U.S. border illegally and then seeking asylum just became a bigger headache for the Liberals, one they emphatically do not need less than a year before the next election.

The situation at the border appeared to be improving. In 2017, more than 20,000 asylum-seekers crossed illegally into Canada from the United States. In the early months of 2018, the flow was actually increasing, compared with the year before. But then the numbers started to taper off – at least on a year-over-year basis. Ottawa seemed to have things under control.

“There is a challenge, but it is not a crisis,” Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale insisted in July.

But if the numbers aren’t increasing, the cost sure is. In a report released Thursday, the Parliamentary Budget Officer estimated that handling the claims of asylum-seekers cost the federal government more than $14,000 a case in the last fiscal year, will cost almost $15,500 this year and will cost $16,700 next year. By that time, taxpayers will be doling out $400-million a year to handle these claims and to provide the migrants with health care.

As the Tories quickly pointed out, the accumulated costs will be more than $1-billion by the end of the next fiscal year.

“Justin Trudeau’s failure to address the crisis he has created has real consequences for Canadians,” Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said in a statement, “and this report brings those consequences into sharp focus.”

These sums don’t include the cost of sheltering, feeding, clothing, educating and otherwise caring for the needs of these asylum-claimants, which are largely borne by provincial and municipal governments, and which has set the Ontario government back an estimated $200-million.

It gets worse. Asylum-claimants who cross the border illegally are overwhelming the tribunals established to hear refugee claims, creating a current backlog of 65,000 cases. It will take about three years to handle the claim of someone arriving this year. Next year, the backlog could stretch to four years.

Each individual claim is unique. Each person seeking asylum in Canada has a story to tell, and that story can be heartbreaking. But, on its face, most of the people crossing into Canada illegally from the United States appear to have a weak case.

Last year, many of the migrants were Haitian citizens who feared being forced to return to Haiti by the Trump administration. To be blunt, that’s not Canada’s problem.

This year, many of the claimants were Nigerians who obtained a visa to enter the United States and then headed straight for the border. These appear to be economic migrants, whose claims for protection as refugees should not be accepted.

What will happen next year? Will a fresh crop arrive at our border seeking asylum – Latinos who fear deportation from the United States, or nationals from Caribbean or African countries seeking a chance for a better life? Will the ever-lengthening wait times for hearings, which allow asylum-seekers to stay in Canada, convince more and more migrants that they have nothing to lose and everything to gain – including free health care – by crossing the border illegally? Or will the numbers drop down below 2017 levels? No one knows.

What we do know is that the problem of people crossing the border illegally corrodes confidence in Canada’s immigration and refugee system. This country’s future well-being depends on a robust intake of immigrants to compensate for a low natural birth rate. If people conclude that bogus refugee claimants are gaming the system, they could lose confidence in the entire program, which would be a disaster for Canada.

None of this is lost on the Conservatives, who will accuse the Liberals of failing to secure the border – which is, it must be said, one of the core responsibilities of any sovereign government.

Of course, the Tories have no good explanation for how they would handle things if they were in charge. But that may not matter. The opposition mantra will be: The Liberals can’t get a pipeline built. They can’t balance their budget. They can’t even secure the border.

Not a pleasant narrative for a governing party to confront in an election year.

As others go backward, Canada moves forward: Ibbitson

Good sense of perspective:

Australia’s coalition government blamed an “administrative error” after many of its senators supported a motion that declared: “It’s OK to be white.”

The motion, which also decried the “deplorable rise of anti-white racism and attacks on Western civilization,” was narrowly defeated, by a vote of 31-28 on Monday, thanks to opposition by Labour, the Greens and independents.

After the government forced a revote, the motion was decisively defeated. But the fact that the Australian Senate could even be debating these noxious words is remarkable. Any Canadian politician who tried to introduce such a declaration into a legislature would surely be expelled from whatever caucus they belonged to.

In that sense, the legalization of cannabis use on Wednesday is simply the latest evidence that Canada has set itself apart from the world.

We are the only Group of 20 country to have legalized cannabis use at the national level, and to offer pardons to those convicted in the past.

We are also the only large developed nation that continues to embrace high levels of immigration. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada expects to take in 330,000 immigrants and refugees next year, and 340,000 in 2020.

In Sweden, which accepted a record number of refugees from the Middle East on a per-capita basis during the migration crisis of 2015, anti-immigrant sentiment powered the far-right Sweden Democrats to a strong showing in September’s elections. Six weeks later, the mainstream parties still haven’t figured out how to form a government.

The Trump administration wants to build a wall along the border with Mexico. In Britain, the Conservative government imposes tougher restrictions on immigration every year. New Zealand is also discouraging new arrivals: Parent-class approvals fell by 63 per cent in 2016-17, while 6-per-cent fewer skilled immigrants were approved.

While Australia continues to have a robust immigration policy, the United Nations has condemned rules that imprison asylum seekers in offshore detention centres, sometimes for years.

The UN has also condemned the deplorable conditions in which many Canadian First Nations live. And the federal Liberal government is internally divided over whether Canada suffers from systemic racism.

“That expression is not a part of my vocabulary,” Pablo Rodriguez, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Multiculturalism, told The Globe and Mail’s Daniel Leblanc. But Liberal MPs Celina Caesar-Chavannes and Greg Fergus maintain systemic racism is a fact of Canadian life.

We are far from perfect.

But if perfection is at the end of a scale, Canada is farther along than most. Not only was this country one of the first to legalize same-sex marriage, it is the only country to formally apologize and offer restitution to those who were dismissed from the public service and military in the past simply because of their sexuality.

Same-sex marriage in the United States arrived through a Supreme Court decision that LGBTQ advocates fear could be reversed, now that conservative jurist Brett Kavanaugh is on the court, tilting it further to the right. Advocates for women’s rights fear the court might also reverse Roe v. Wade, which made abortions legal in the United States.

In contrast, this Liberal government mandates that half the ministers in cabinet be women. More than half (55 per cent in 2016) of the federal public service is female.

At least 40 per cent of full-time university faculty are women (up from 37 per cent in 2010), although they make up less than 10 per cent of senior management in major companies.

And how do Canadians feel about this march toward greater tolerance? A recent international Ipsos poll says Canadians are less likely to feel their country is in decline than almost anyone else.

Only 30 per cent of us agreed with the statement: “Your country is in decline,” in contrast to 51 per cent of Americans, 49 per cent of Brits and 36 per cent of Australians. Among 24 countries surveyed, only the Germans and Chileans were more confident than Canadians that things are getting better rather than worse.

While much of the developed world stagnates or backslides in the struggle for greater equality, Canadians remain determined to keep going forward.

There is no excuse for complacency. But we might be permitted a moment or two of quiet satisfaction.

Source:     As others go backward, Canada moves forward John Ibbitson October 18, 2018     

Illegal border-crossers could erode confidence in Canada’s immigration system – and in the Trudeau Liberals: @JohnIbbitson

Ongoing political management issue (real and perceived):

All three national political parties, and a majority of Canadians, support high levels of immigration, and the multicultural matrix through which these new arrivals integrate into the Canadian fabric. All of this could be at risk.

Last year, more than 20,000 people entered Canada from the United States by avoiding regular crossings, where they would have been turned back. If the first four months of 2018 are any indication, the number this year could reach 60,000, which would threaten to overwhelm existing settlement services in Ontario and Quebec.

These are not conventional refugees. Some are migrants who fear being deported from the United States. Some are arriving in the United States on visas, and then heading straight for Canada. This is wrong.

But the Liberal government is playing down a situation that could soon become a crisis.

Unless Ottawa can re-establish control over the border, the public could lose confidence in the government and, far worse, in the immigration system itself.

In recent days, we learned that the Canada Border Services Agency wants to construct temporary housing units for more than 500 irregular crossers.

The Conservatives call the housing “a refugee camp” and blasted the secretiveness of the operation.

“I’m not sure any Canadian would think that this is an acceptable response,” Conservative immigration critic Michelle Rempel declared, according to The Canadian Press.

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale dismissed the refugee-camp label as “misleading,” because “most irregular crossers do not spend long in custody before being released.” This will not reassure people.

Previous waves of new arrivals from the United States originated in Somalia and Haiti. This year, people appear to be arriving in the United States from Nigeria, and then heading for the Canadian border. There are also fears that Hondurans at risk of being deported from the United States might also seek shelter in Canada.

Does the Conservative proposal − that the entire border be declared a point of entry under the Safe Third Country Agreement between Canada and the United Sates − have merit? This would allow officials to apprehend and deport anyone crossing the border, regardless of where they crossed. The Liberals say such a proposal is unworkable and dangerous because migrants would seek riskier crossings to avoid detention. What else could be done? Is it within the law to expedite the claims of border-crossers, reject those claims and return them to the United States, counting on the grapevine to send the message that seeking refuge in Canada is no longer an option?

That sounds cruel, but even crueller is forcing legitimate refugee claimants to languish overseas because the system has been overwhelmed by queue-jumpers.

Cruellest of all would be to close the Canadian border to immigrants and refugees entirely, because the public loses confidence in the ability of government to control the system. Nativist populists have come to power in the United States and Europe for exactly that reason. Canada is not immune to such demagogues.

The goal here is not to keep people from coming to Canada − quite the opposite. Canada’s future depends on bringing in hundreds of thousands of people each year to fill job vacancies, to innovate and invest, to make Canada stronger and wealthier and even more tolerant and diverse.

If we lose that openness, we lose our future. This is what the people crossing into Canada in hopes of gaming the system are putting at risk. Yes, it doesn’t help that the Trump administration appears uninterested in co-operating on border security. But ultimately, this is a Canadian problem and it’s up to the Canadian government to solve it.

It feels as though the Liberal plate is overflowing with difficulties, these days. Despite many months of talks, there is still no renewed North American free-trade agreement. The May 31 deadline for persuading Kinder Morgan not to walk away from the Trans Mountain pipeline project is fast approaching. The refugee-claimant situation at the border is getting worse instead of better. If Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford wins the Ontario election, Canada’s largest province may pull out of the national plan to fight global warming by taxing carbon.

More than anything else, Canadians expect their government to manage the store. If voters become convinced that the Liberals can’t handle the job, they will look for someone who can.

via Illegal border-crossers could erode confidence in Canada’s immigration system – and in the Trudeau Liberals – The Globe and Mail