Immigration Cases Take Over From E.I.

Immigration cases take over from EI
Saint John MP Paul Zed says he opens up new file 'every single day'

By Rob Linke
Canadaeast News Service
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August 12, 2008

OTTAWA – Some MPs in southern New Brunswick are witnessing a telling shift in the concerns their constituents bring to them as they deal with fewer Employment Insurance cases and more involving immigration.

Fredericton MP Andy Scott says his constituency office now deals with far more immigration cases than it does EI, while Saint John MP Paul Zed estimates his office opens up a new immigration file “every single day.”

Zed said his staff have dozens on the go at a time, yet from 1993 to 1997, when he represented more rural Fundy Royal, Zed didn't have one immigration case to his recollection.

“I would describe the increase as dramatic,” said Zed, but does not see the growing difficulties as an indictment of the federal immigration department.

“I wouldn't see it as anything more than growing pains,” he said.

Saint John is still building expertise on immigration matters among lawyers, employers and immigration consultants, he said, so newcomers who run into delays or need other help with the immigration department turn to their MP.

The immigration files the MPs handle are a mix. Some are easily fielded enquiries from newcomers to Canada, while others are more complicated and time-consuming, involving the MPs acting as advocates with the department about roadblocks that frustrate recent arrivals trying to reunite with relatives.

“They're the most heart-tugging — the spouses that are separated, or sometimes the folks trying to bring in elderly parents,” said Moncton-area MP Brian Murphy.

Murphy said he's never had to deal with many complaints about EI claims, while immigration files have been steady since the rookie MP was elected in 2006.

“It's a sign of the healthy, robust economy in the southeast, which I believe is here to stay,” said Murphy.

Fundy Royal MP Rob Moore says his office has had a steady flow of immigration files since he took office in 2004.

“There's been so much happening in the way of major projects and economic growth in my region that inevitably it's going to lead to requests for help in MPs' offices,” he said.

The immigration department seems to respect the MP's role in advocating on behalf of constituents.

“The MP has a fair amount of influence in ensuring the proper procedures are followed,” said Murphy. “And the MP can plead that discretion be exercised there that's appropriate.

“But an MP cannot ask the department to break the rules.”

Premier Shawn Graham's government has made population growth a priority, building on efforts begun late in former premier Bernard Lord's time in office.

With record growth in immigration, most are settling in the southern cities.

But in the north and rural ridings, problems with EI still appear to dominate in MPs constituency offices.