McGuinty Has Cash For Immigration: MP

McGuinty has cash for immigration: MP

Watson says part of $8B in federal funding is meant for refugee claims

Trevor Wilhelm,
Windsor Star,
with files from Sonja Puzic
Published: Monday, October 01, 2007

Premier Dalton McGuinty should stop holding out and help pay for the recent influx of Mexican immigrants to Windsor, because he's got a wallet full of federal cash to do it, says Essex MP Jeff Watson.

Watson said the province received $8 billion in federal funding this year for social service delivery, which includes money for refugee claimants.

He heard McGuinty might be in the Windsor area before the provincial election, and suggested it would be a good time for the premier to announce he's forwarding the money.

“I hope he's coming to extend that federal share,” Watson said Saturday.

MPP Dwight Duncan (Liberal–Windsor-Tecumseh) said Watson's suggestion is “astounding” because only “a fraction” of the $8 billion in question is set aside for refugees.

“The province is paying for 80 per cent of the costs. We're working with the City of Windsor and the mayor,” he said Sunday.

“With this kind of volume (of refugees), the other 20 per cent should not be on the shoulders of Windsor's ratepayers. It should be done by the federal government.”

Duncan said the sharing of financial responsibilities between the federal and provincial governments when it comes to refugee claimants has been the subject of debate for many years.

About 244 Mexican refugees have poured into Windsor this month claiming refugee status, apparently fleeing a crackdown on illegal aliens in Florida.

Jacquie Rumiel, director of the Newcomer Settlement Program at the YMCA, said 30 arrived last week.

“This week was a quiet week for us,” she said.

As many as 60 more are expected this week.

Watson said Diane Finley, minister of Citizenship and Immigration, has asked the Immigration and Refugee Board to expedite hearings for the refugee claimants.

In the meantime, the influx of refugee claimants has already cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars. About 40 of the refugee claimants attended a church service Sunday at the Christian Worship Assembly on Howard Avenue, which is also helping them get settled.

None of the newly arrived Mexicans wanted to talk about their experiences, but a church representative said all 40 had been placed in their own apartments through the city's social services department.

McGuinty said Friday that any financial help for Windsor would have to come from federal coffers. He said the feds are responsible for immigration and “the first line of accountability” rests with them.

“The premier's recent comments, while troubling, are not accurately portraying the relationship of the federal government,” Watson said. “I want to clarify what the federal government is doing on this.”

Watson said the federal government has done its job by previously transferring $8 billion in social service funding.

“The premier knows this,” he said.

McGuinty could even work out a deal with the city to pay for 100 per cent of the rising costs, Watson said. If the money ran out, he said, the feds would adjust the funding.

“Funding is not a problem (for the province),” he said. “It is for the City of Windsor because it has to pay out of its tax base. Dalton McGuinty should be forwarding the federal money.”

He added that when you look at the big picture, there haven't been that many refugees arriving in Windsor.

“We have to keep this in context,” Watson said. “So far, we are talking about just over 200 refugee claimants. This hasn't spiralled to any major flow. The number of refugee claimants is a bit of a red herring.”

Watson said he hadn't commented on the issue earlier because it took him time to understand the complexities of the situation.

“This is a complex issue, and one that takes some learning and understanding,” Watson said. “I can't be off-handed with a comment to the media. It takes time to do some learning and get some understanding. I am now at a point where I have some of my original questions answered and I can make a comment.”

Duncan said taking three weeks to understand the situation means Watson is “behind everyone else in the community.

“It may not be a big thing to Mr. Watson, but this is an extraordinary situation for Windsor,” he said. “What's important is that we quit playing political games and start working together.” or 519-255-5777 ext. 642