Ontario accuses Ottawa of waffling on immigration funds
Jul 09, 2009 01:31 PM
Queen's Park is accusing Ottawa of shortchanging Ontario's newcomers by grossly underspending the $920 million immigrant settlement funding promised in a groundbreaking five-year immigration agreement that expires next year.
About $600 million of the money should have gone into the province's language training, newcomer services and integration programs such as job search workshops by March, but so far only $407 million has reached the service providers.
To add insult to injury, Ontario Immigration Minister Michael Chan said his federal counterpart Jason Kenney recently informed him that another $90 million would be “reprofiled” or docked and spent under a new agreement, which is currently under negotiation.
“We try to negotiate and not fight all the time,” Chan told the Star in a recent interview. “But we disagreed on the ($193 million) underspending and reprofiling of the $90 million.”
Chan said his office has received numerous complaints from service agencies who have been told by Citizenship and Immigration Canada to put their new projects and expansion plans on hold.
However, Immigration Canada spokesperson Ian Darragh said the department has now decided not to withhold the $90 million and will spend the money as planned by the end of this fiscal year.
While being evasive about the underspending issue, Darragh said, “We will continue to expand services to newcomers in a way that maintains our responsible, accountable approach to spending and we will commit taxpayers' money only when we are satisfied…that we get value for our money.”
In the midst of the political wrangle between the province and Ottawa, Chan has put forward a “devolution” plan to take over the administration of settlement funding from the federal government in the new round of negotiation over the new immigration pact, a controversial move that alarms service providers who are concerned if the settlement money would go into Ontario's general coffer instead of immigrant needs.
Heading into the current recession, Chan said Ontario's immigrants were already experiencing significant challenges in the job market. Since the start of the economic downturn, immigrant unemployment here has risen dramatically from 12 per cent to 16 per cent over the last 12 months. Among the most affected were those who have been here between five to 10 years, whose unemployment rate doubled from 8 per cent to 16 per cent in a one-year period ended in April.
“Why is Ontario getting squeezed again?” asked Toronto MP Olivia Chow, New Democrats' immigration critic. “In an economic downturn, immigrant workers are the first to get laid off. They need every single penny of the settlement and adaptation funding and support for training and retraining to get back into the work force.”
As a funding administrator, Chan said the province is more flexible and accessible than Ottawa. By taking over the settlement funding, the government can also streamline services and avoid duplications. He pointed to British Columbia, Manitoba and Quebec, which administer the federal funding.
But those provinces “moved federal transfer payments for settlement into general revenue and did not spend those funds on immigrant settlement and integration,” said a discussion paper, prepared by the Ontario council of Agencies Serving Immigrants, which represents 200 member organizations across the province.
While the province under the Liberals has demonstrated a growing commitment to newcomers programs, its federal counterpart is increasingly involved in direct management of funding decisions through political interference, said the umbrella group, which will launch a province-wide consultation with members on the issue of devolution.
“As the Ontario government battles the recession, it may reduce the number of organizations funded as a way to maximize existing resources. Small organizations may be at a greater risk,” said the 8-page primer distributed to all settlement agencies.
When asked about the department's position on devolution, Immigration Canada's Darragh said it's up to the cabinet and requires a strong “accountability” framework in place to be viable.
Comments on this story are now closed :
have no problem screwing the provinces, especially some provinces. Ditto by the provinces to the municipalities; perhaps the Greeks were right, city states.
Submitted by biker650 at 8:00 PM Thursday, July 09 2009
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Announce the same spending 5 times and then give away the dollars with a tax cut for the rich. You get 5 and a half wins in the press and only one black eye. And you only get the black eye if somebody isn't fooled by a promise they will get the money in the next announcement.
Submitted by John_1 at 6:00 PM Thursday, July 09 2009
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Lets face it,immigration is a very large business/ Empire its understandable why those in control/power are concerned.
Submitted by speady at 3:44 PM Thursday, July 09 2009
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See “Vital organization shuts down” by Louie Rosella June 16, 2009 Mississauga News. The ICNSS (a settlement service provider)of Mississauga had its funding cut to zip by both the Feds and Province, the Feds citing 'financial and administrative mismanagement'. Lawsuits are flying, including one from MPP Bob Delaney and his common law wife, former ICNSS exec. director against three former ICNSS employees.
Submitted by Canadian at 2:16 PM Thursday, July 09 2009