Where the Liberal Party of Canada Stands on Immigration

On October 19, 2015, Canada will have a federal election. There are four political parties that will likely win seats in Canada’s Parliament. One of them is the Liberal Party.

The Liberal Party has made the following election promises regarding immigration:

  • Expand Canada’s intake to 25,000 refugees from Syria and Iraq through immediate, direct sponsorship by the government of Canada. We will also work with private sponsors to intake even more.
  • Invest an additional $200 million over this fiscal year and next to increase – without reducing health and safety standards – refugee processing, as well as sponsorship and settlement services capacity in Canada.
  • Provide an immediate $100 million new contribution to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees to support the critical relief activities in the region.
  • Fully restoring the Interim Federal Health Program.
  • Establishing an Expert Human Rights Panel for determination of designated countries of origin and to provide a right to appeal refugee decisions for citizens from these countries. This panel will include representatives from international human rights groups.
  • Ending the practice of appointing individuals without subject matter expertise to the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada.
  • Nearly doubling the budget for family class immigration processing, in order to restore processing times to the levels achieved before the Harper decade.
  • Doubling the number of new applications allowed each year, for parents and grandparents, from 5,000 to 10,000.
  • Providing greater access to applicants with Canadian siblings, by granting additional points under the Express Entry system. We will also conduct a review of the program, ensuring that processing times are efficient.
  • Restoring the maximum age for dependents to 22 instead of 19, allowing Canadians – often live-in caregivers – to bring their children to Canada.
  • Granting immediate permanent residency to new spouses entering Canada, rather than imposing a two-year conditional status that puts spouses – often women – in a position of extreme vulnerability.
  • Repeal the unfair elements of Bill C-24 that create second-class citizens and the elements that make it more difficult for hard-working immigrants to become Canadian citizens. Restore the residency time credit for foreign students and other temporary residents applying to become Canadian citizens.
  • We will make changes to the Canadian Experience Class to reduce the barriers to immigration that have been imposed on international students.
  • Eliminate the $1,000 Labour Market Impact Assessment fee for families seeking caregivers to care for family members with physical or mental disabilities.
  • We will reverse the roadblocks that the Harper Conservatives have needlessly added to the immigration system – roadblocks that have created unnecessary inconveniences and costs for Canadians and Canadian businesses. This will include removing the new visa requirement imposed on Mexico, and studying the implications of phasing out new visa requirements for several other countries as well.
  • Will work with the provinces and territories to develop a system of regulated companies to hire caregivers on behalf of families.

https://www.liberal.ca/files/2015/09/A-new-plan-for-Canadian-immigration-and-economic-opportunity.pdf

Comments

As I previously wrote in Policy Options, “if it is true that the Liberals are essentially a party of de facto public servants who eschew an ideological agenda in favour of public policy rooted in facts and analysis, then they are unlikely as government to completely undo the Conservative legislative changes of the past decade, which, for the most part, appear to be popular among the public and civil service.”

I feel like the above promises substantiate this.  There is nothing in the Liberal platform which suggests that they will do away with Ministerial Instructions, or go back to admitting people to Canada as permanent residents immediately instead of granting them admittance as foreign workers and then transitioning them to permanent residence.

As well, the Liberals appear to have completely embraced an immigration system that features application intake management systems, which did not exist when they were previously in power.  While it is true that the Liberals will double the number of applications admitted to the Parents & Grandparents Sponsorship Program from 5,000 to 10,000, however, the bigger story is that there is even a cap.

As one journalist just stated to me, she was shocked that the Liberals are even keeping the designated country of origin concept in the refugee system.

This is not to say that there are no substantial changes.  Reducing the age of dependency is big, as is ending conditional permanent residency.  I still think though, that, at least as far as the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act is concerned, there is no reason why the Conservatives and Liberals could not work together on all of the above.

Finally, it is worth noting that the Liberal immigration platform is much more detailed than in 2011.  I have reproduced what I wrote in 2011 below.

Oh. And absolute silence on the foreign worker program.

The 2011 Election

On May 2nd 2011, Canada will have a federal election. There are four political parties that will likely win seats in Canada’s Parliament. One of them is the Liberal Party.

The Liberal Party has made the following election promises regarding immigration:

  • Make fixing the immigration and refugee determination processes a top priority.  Specifically, they will improve information and communication, reduce wait times, increase efficiencies, and make the procedures less confusing.  They will consult with stakeholders to achieve this.
  • Increase the number of family class visas that are issued.
  • Expand language training for new Canadians.
  • Making the recognition of foreign credentials a priority.
  • Phasing out the Mexican temporary resident visa requirement.

Comments

What is perhaps most striking about the Liberal Platform’s immigration proposals is how unambitious they are.   There is a lot less about immigration in the Liberal Platform than I would have thought considering that the Liberal Party is generally seen as the creators of Canadian multiculturalism and openness.  I am evidently not alone in my surprise either, as an article in the Toronto Star written April 18 described the near silence from the Liberal Party on immigration as “baffling“.

Considering that the Liberal Party was the only party in Canada that opposed Bill C-11, I am surprised that there is not anything about reversing or amending some of the recent changes to Canada’s refugee system.

Of course, the Liberal Party platform is not completely empty.  It does propose some specific noteworthy changes.  I’m surprised that there hasn’t been more publicity about the promise to phase out the Mexican temporary resident visa requirement.  This visa requirement – imposed in 2009 – has infuriated just about every Canadian of Mexican origin that I have met.

The promise to increase the number of family class visas that are issued is also interesting.  What is not clear, however, is if the Liberals would increase the total number of annual immigrants, or if they would reduce the number of immigrants admitted in other categories.

All in all, the Liberal Party of Canada is not making any major promises regarding immigration.  Considering that the Liberals were the party that brought us the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, this is perhaps not surprising.  However, considering the sheer number of changes that the governing Conservative Party of Canada has either introduced or plans to introduce, the lack of an alternative Liberal vision does raise some eyebrows.


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