MP’s Question P.M.’s Plan On Immigration; Present Backlog Must Be Cleared Before More Recruited: Liberals

October 2, 2005: MP's Question P.M.'s Plan On Immigration; Present Backlog Must Be Cleared Before More Recruited: Liberals

October 2, 2005
By Anne Dawson
page A5,
The Ottawa Citizen

MPs question PMs plan on immigration; Present backlog must be cleared before more recruited: Liberals

Liberal MPs say they were caught unaware when Prime Minister Paul Martin announced he intends to bring 100,000 more immigrants and refugees to Canada over the next five years.

They say before Canada opens its doors to any more newcomers, the many mechanical problems that already plague the system, including a 700,000-person backlog, must be addressed.

Some even question the need for expanded immigration to counter the shortage of trades people, questioning why we're relying on other countries to train our workers when Canada already has thousands of young aboriginals that could fill many of these positions if they upgraded their skills.

“No, I was not aware of that and I would like to know what the reasoning is,” said B.C. Liberal MP David Anderson, in reference to Mr. Martin's new immigration plan.

“They're going to have to improve the processing system before they start expanding it, in my view.”

Although many immigrant applications are processed in a matter of months, others can take years with some reports of a decade or longer.
In a major address two weeks ago, Mr. Martin told a group of senior civil servants that immigration recruitment will be a government priority this fall.

“Canada needs more immigrants, plain and simple, and we need them to succeed,” he said, adding immigration will be crucial to address a low birth rate, a shortage of skilled workers and an aging population.

Mr. Anderson, a member of the Commons immigration committee, said he simply does not buy the prime minister's argument that Canada has no choice but to open its doors to thousands of newcomers because of the economic competition it is facing from the emerging economies of India and China. Nor does he believe such a plan will address Canada's demographic problem that is expected to take place in the next decade when the bulk of the baby boom generation retires and fewer people are left in the work force to support them.

“This argument I find difficulty with. It would mean that places like Switzerland and Sweden with smaller populations than ours haven't a hope and yet those countries are doing very well,” competing in the new global economy, he said.

“Just increasing numbers does not make one a more successful or less successful society. I'm going to have to look and have explained to me the reasoning behind some of these assumptions that are made in speeches such as the one (Mr. Martin delivered.)

Mr. Anderson says the government should be working to upgrade the skills of young aboriginals, noting they are Canada's largest growing sector of the population.

Immigration Minister Joe Volpe is required to present the government's annual immigration plan, which details how many immigrants and refugees Canada will allow into the country next year, by Nov. 1. He said that report will flesh out the plan to increase immigration levels, and provide a price tag.

The Liberal plan is to increase the number of newcomers to Canada by one per cent of Canada's population of 32 million each year by 2010.