News from British and Canadian Conservatives

Friday, September 12, 2008

Liberals still missing the point on immigration

I find it mind boggling that any Liberal candidate in this election would try to score political points on immigration. Are they really that clueless about what the last Liberal Government of Canada actually did to the immigration system? Do they not realise that the Liberals, combined with the NDP, then opposed sensible Conservative efforts to sort out the mess they had left behind?

As a recent immigrant to Canada with first hand experience of the system, let me spell things out for them:
  • Jan 1, 2002. Liberal Government introduced a new scoring system for the Skilled Worker programme. Means that even the most highly educated candidates were often unable to fit the bill.
  • Subsequent court cases rules that the above rules could not be imposed retro-actively. As a result, many refused applicants who had applied prior to Jan 1, 2002 had their cases reopened, creating a backlog in the process.
  • Sep 18, 2003. As an election neared and defeat looked like a real possibility, the Liberal Government decided to respond to protests by immigrant groups. The pass mark was reduced by 8 points. Additional resources were not allocated to Citizenship and Immigration Canada to allow them to process the huge number of eligible applications this created.
  • Backlog developed. Earlier this year the applications which were being processed were typically 3-4 years old. Estimates suggested that, on average, new applicants would have to wait 8 years for a decision.

As a potential immigrant, such a long wait time must be pretty daunting. I'm sure that many people would not wish to put their families through the torment of so many years in limbo, in which time their lives would effectively be on hold. I suspect that many of the best applicants with skills which are in demand in Canada were put off, and either stayed home or applied elsewhere.

The worst aspect of the system from the Canadian perspective was that the system was not responsive to the needs of the Canadian economy. Businesses were crying out for people with the right skills, but would have to wait years before filling the positions from overseas, even if there was no-one in Canada to fill the post. Meanwhile, the people arriving in Canada had the skills which were in demand when they applied 3-4 years ago, but found their services no longer required. So we have highly qualified immigrants driving taxis. Others left Canada disillusioned and considerably worse off financially. The Canadian taxpayer was out of pocket too, having paid to administer the immigration applications of people who didn't end up staying.

Many found that the only realistic option they had to fast-track their applications was to find a temporary position and apply for a Work Permit. After a year in Canada, they were then able to apply for Permanent Residency with a much faster turnaround time. So it's rather disingenuous for a Liberal Candidate to complain that the number of temporary visas has increased!

So what is the Liberal proposal to sort out the mess? A search of their website only throws up press releases claiming that the Conservatives don't have the answers. No policies to fix the problem they created. Nothing constructive. Nothing positive. Just good ol' fashioned mud-slinging. The Liberal caucus even objected to the Conservative proposals, which were eventually forced through by attaching the bill to the budget, making it a confidence motion.

So what will the new immigration rules which Stephen Harper's government introduced mean? They will fast track applicants whose skills are currently in demand in Canada. That will help the Canadian economy, by bringing in the expertise which it needs. It will mean that immigrants who invest time and money coming to Canada won't find that they aren't needed when they get here. There's a period of short term disruption while the process is changed, of course. I certainly feel for anyone who is caught in that bubble right now. But there really had to be a change.

The status quo would have seen the problem getting worse and worse, with ever increasing numbers of immigrants being forced into temporary jobs on temporary work permits. Often, they find themselves with few rights and little recourse against unscrupulous employers as well. And that's all that the Liberals are offering this time around

NB: I came to Canada through the Spousal Sponsorship route, so didn't have the long wait. I found even those few months hard to deal with, so I can't imagine what it must be like to live in limbo for years on end.

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