Just politics, my friends


The Hill Times: Monday, Aug. 29, 2016

TORONTO—If we all agree that immigrants have contributed to the growth of this country in the past and we all know that Canada needs more immigrants in the future, why are we debating if we want more immigrants in this country?

Politics my friends, politics.

Immigration Minister John McCallum recently spoke about a plan to increase the number of immigrants admitted to Canada. There is nothing new in this proposal. Early in the 1990s, the Liberal Party promised, in the famous Red Book, to allow into Canada a number of new immigrants equal to one per cent of the population each year. Considering that Canada’s population went from about 30 million to 35 million since then, according to the mathematics, we should have allowed at about 300,000 to 350,000 immigrants a year for the last 20 years. Under the previous Liberal governments, that target, by far, was never reached.

The Conservative governments never made a promise, but did better then the Liberals. The Conservatives, however, promised to get rid of the backlog of new potential immigrants, and they didn’t.

The fact of the matter is that they tell us what they intent to do, but don’t tell us how they’ll do it, simply because they don’t know how.

The last example is the promise of Minister McCallum to allow more immigrants to Canada. Because of an aging population and labour shortages, “why not substantially increase the number of immigrants coming to Canada? And that is, I think, I hope, what we are about to do,” McCallum said, in Manila, Philippines, according to a transcript of his remarks obtained by CBC News.

“I think, I hope,” but to date, we have no commitment, no details about the program in terms of numbers or strategy. We know that being in favour of more immigrants in Canada appeals to many voters and it is the proper thing to say, and he said it.

We also know that there is a section of the Canadian population that is against such a policy, especially because new immigrants tend to be concentrated in large urban locations like Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal.

No problem. Mr. McCallum hints at the possibility that new immigrants would be better off in resettling in less populated areas. “We would like to spread the immigrants across the country relatively evenly. The last thing we want is that every immigrant either goes to Toronto or Vancouver,” The Globe and Mail reported last week.

“We would like,” but no commitments. Furthermore, how is he going to implement it? Can you imagine Jason Kenney saying it? What about the Charter of Rights, freedom of mobility, and so on?

Of course, we can still wait for a few weeks for the details of the plan. Mr. McCallum says that, by next month, his ministry will tell us how many more immigrants he will let into Canada. We also hope that he will tell us how he will let them in and how he will entice them not to live in Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver, and move to other areas.

Speaking of politics and rhetoric, I’ve recently read about a couple instances where federal Liberal ministers spent thousands of dollars to be moved around using pricey limousines or hiring expensive photographers to immortalize their worldwide activity. I remember the fuss about former cabinet minister Bev Oda’s $16 glass of orange juice as though she had looted Fort Knox.

I didn’t agree then with the overzealous reporting in the media of a miniscule event, nor I do agree now. Not that this stupid grandstanding attitude should be condoned (and I am not sure that the ministers are even aware of that) but such journalistic hyperactivity should be directed at much more serious issues.

Still, I believe that Environment Minister Catherine McKenna should find a communications staff that can come up with a better answer to the media other than, as CTV reports, “McKenna’s office points out that Conservative environment ministers who preceded her hired photographers, too.” Does it mean that whatever her predecessor did was right? If that’s the case, I am wondering why she is in government and her predecessor is flipping burgers during summer picnics.

Politics my friends, politics.

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