Tories Set To Announce Details Of Sweeping Immigration Reforms

Tories set to announce details of sweeping immigration reforms

The Canadian Press
November 28, 2008

MONTREAL—The Conservative government is set to announce details later today of hotly debated reforms to Canada's immigration system that it says will benefit skilled workers in more than three dozen fields.

The plan would fast-track immigration papers for workers in 38 high-demand occupations like health, skilled trades, finance, and resource extraction.

The Tories say their 2009 immigration targets – between 240,000 and 265,000 new permanent residents – will be roughly the same as this year.

But they say the reforms will seriously reduce wait times for the processing of coveted workers to between six and 12 months from the current five to six years.

Opposition critics and some immigrant groups lambasted the reforms when the government first promised them.

They said that while the changes might help some segments of the economy, they would create two classes of immigrant that would leave less-skilled workers permanently stuck at the back of the queue.

The Liberals had complained bitterly about legislation that allowed the government to fast-track workers instead of treating everyone on a first-come, first-served basis.

But fearing an election, the Liberals allowed the legislation to pass last spring.

The Conservatives say their opponents have little right to complain after allowing wait times to balloon for over a decade.

“The Liberal backlog prevented skilled workers from immigrating to Canada, and kept families from being reunited,” said a spokesman for Immigration Minister Jason Kenney.

“Under the Liberals, the immigration backlog grew from 50,000 to more than 800,000, with wait times longer than five years.”

He said Canada will maintain its immigration levels, while countries like the United Kingdom and Australia are cutting back.

Visa officers abroad will receive instructions to fast-track specific workers.

Opponents of the legislation, however, drew parallels between the current reforms and an effort by the Conservative government of the 1950s to privilege skilled workers over poorer ones.

The move created a rift between the Conservatives and some ethnic communities, and the Diefenbaker government eventually backed away from its reforms.