Minister: immigration bill designed to limit immigration applications to Canada
Article online since April 28th 2008, 0:00
OTTAWA – Sweeping immigration reforms now before the House of Commons were designed to limit the number of immigration applications Canada gets each year, the minister responsible said Monday.
The frank assessment came from Immigration Minister Diane Finley, who said controlling the number of applications to Canada will help reduce future immigration backlogs and waiting times.
The minister defended the contentious legislation against a hostile opposition at the Commons finance committee.
She said the changes are necessary to process papers faster for the skilled workers the country desperately needs.
Finley was asked why the government simply couldn't speed up processing times by pouring more cash resources into its immigration operations.
She replied that the current system is broken, and that spending cash without making structural changes would be like throwing money into a black hole. This year's federal budget has included $109 million to help reduce immigration wait times.
Finley was later asked what specific flaws with the system would result in any additional money going down the drain.
She replied that spending more money on immigration services would actually lead to more applicants seeking to come to Canada – and she indicated that the government wants to do the opposite.
“Throwing more money at the problem would not limit the number of applications that we would have to receive and process in any given point in time,” Finley said to reporters.
“And the faster we got at processing, the more money we threw at it, the more applications we'd get. It becomes a spiral.
“What we need to do is be able to control … like other countries, the United Kingdom, Australia, we need to be able to manage the number of applications.”
The government has included its immigration changes in a wide-ranging budget implementation bill.
They would allow the government to:
-produce a list of skills that Canada desperately needs, and then fast-track applicants who have those skills; and
-limit the number of applications Canada looks at in any given year.
The government has offered some strong hints about some of the workers they intend to fast-track, with doctors high on the list.
But it has been far more cagey when asked to elaborate on which prospective immigrants could see themselves shut out as a result of the changes.
New Democrat MP Olivia Chow asked the minister: “If you have winners, you're going to have losers. … Who are the losers?”
The government has avoided answering that question.
It has also avoided another opposition demand – that it split the measures from the budget bill, a confidence measure that the election-shy Liberals appear willing to let pass.
Finley said the measures belong in the budget bill because they're key to the national economy. She said the government's objective is “to help business stay in business.”
That was just about the only thing the NDP agreed with.
“I'm not surprised that this is at the finance committee because the Conservative Harper government sees immigrants as economic units – as basically here to work and provide cheap labour,” Chow said.
“They see immigrants as economic units rather than human beings.”
She said that such logic would have barred the parents of ex-Gov. Gen. Adrienne Clarkson and of Tommy Douglas, the founder of the NDP and of medicare, from entering Canada.
The Liberals accused the minister of misleading Parliament.
Finley and other Conservatives have repeatedly claimed that the country is letting in a record number of “new Canadians.”
In fact, the number of landed immigrants has dipped slightly in both years since the Conservatives took office. What has increased is the overall number of foreigners in Canada – including temporary and seasonal workers, as well as international students.
Finley was non-committal when asked what impact the legislation would have on family reunification.
“Family class could actually, conceivably, be made one of the priorities,” she replied.
But when asked whether that was a specific promise, she demurred.
“We're not committing to anything. The only thing we're committing to do is get this legislation through Parliament, so that we can get on with it and clean up with the mess the Liberals left us.”