Immigration, a new proposal 25 years old

By Angelo Persichilli                                                                                                                       The Hill Times (Nov. 6, 2017)

There are two sets of immigration policies in Canada. The first is the one prepared by politicians to promote during the elections or in preparation of an election. The second is the real one, the one that nobody talks about, and, most likely, nobody cares about. In fact, voters have short memories and are easily engaged in debates about the fake immigration stories.

Here is one example of this fake debate.

In the lead-up to the 1993 election, the Liberals under then-leader Jean Chrétien promoted themselves as a pro-immigrant party, promising in the famous Red Book to increase the influx of immigrants to Canada to a level of one per cent of the population every year. Fast forward 24 years and the Liberal government of Justin Trudeau who again announces that his party, of course a pro-immigration party, wants to hasten the influx of the new immigrants in Canada by 2020 to 340,000 a year, or one per cent of the Canadian population.

Of course, everybody is happy, big applause to the Canadian government, especially when compared to the heartless, anti-immigrant Donald Trump administration in the U.S. However, considering the original commitment to let in new immigrants at a level of one per cent was made more than 20 years ago, why are we so exited now about this old, unfulfilled promise? And why should we believe them this time?

This is like the Kyoto Accord: it was signed by many countries but implemented only by those already within the requested reduction of polluting emissions. And Canada was not one of them; in fact, we increased our pollution. In the meantime, we were involved in a nasty debate about being pro-or-against the environment, but governments of both stripes were doing exactly the same thing, which is nothing.

Making promises and signing agreements is just politics, implementing them is the real challenge, especially because it implies spending more money, and delivering that news to voters.

Immigration is no different. Talking about papers and numbers means nothing if governments don’t commit spending more money. Letting in more immigrants requires more money to pay for things like hiring more people in the federal Immigration Department. Shuffling the same people around to deal with the emergency of the day doesn’t help to increase the number of new permanent residents.

Furthermore, it is important to streamline the process to become a permanent resident or a Canadian citizen. People can skip interviews (not necessarily for important reasons) and reschedule them I don’t know how many times, forcing the bureaucrats to work twice, and even more, for the same applicant. People in the ministry are overloaded with convoluted rules and burdened with legislation changes that sow confusion and waste time. And, if they make one mistake out of hundred of thousands of files properly assessed, they are exposed to harsh media criticism without being defended by the political system.

As NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan said, it is important to have a plan aimed at immigrants of all skill levels. “The current approach of only targeting the high skilled suggests that this government will continue to rely on temporary foreign workers instead of building our nation,” she said, as reported by The Globe and Mail. “It’s wrong that there are more TFWs [temporary foreign workers] than immigrants since 2006. It is time for Canada to act on the principle that if you are good enough to work, you are good enough to stay.”

To make it clear, the current system allows unneeded engineers to immigrate to Canada and drive taxis in Montreal, while we have needed bricklayers working illegally in Toronto. Those are real issues, not the one per cent influx in 2020, after we neglected to implement the same promise for 24 years.

Angelo Persichilli is a former Prime Minister Stephen Harper Director of Communications, a former GTA-area citizenship judge, and a former Toronto Sun and Toronto Star columnist and political editor at Corriere Canadese, Canada’s Italian language newspaper based in Toronto.

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