In the final days of the 2011 Canadian federal election, many prominent immigration lawyers and academics released an article detailing reasons why ethnic minorities and newcomers should not vote for the Conservative Party of Canada. The gist of the article was that the Conservative record on immigration has been dismal. The article raised many good points, however, it completely ignored many positive feature of the Conservative immigration record.
Many newcomers to Canada or people interested in immigration are probably uneasy with the prospect of the new Conservative majority. However, in my opinion, and as has been repeatedly stated on this blog, the Conservative record on immigration is quite good. In today’s post I will detail some of the premises for this conclusion, with the goal being that readers “don’t panic” now that the Conservatives have a majority.
1) As someone who attended undergrad from 2002-2006, I remember how frustrated international students were over the fact that they could generally not work off-campus, and how difficult it was for them to work in Canada after graduating. One of the first things that the Conservatives did was end their frustrations by introducing the off-campus work permit and the Post-Graduate Work Permit.
2) The Conservatives have greatly expanded upon the Provincial Nomination Program, which provides provinces greater discretion in selecting immigrants that meet their region’s specific needs. The number of PNP principal applicants accepted under the Conservative government has soared from 8,664 in 2006 to 22,563 in 2010.
3) The Conservatives have doubled the amount that business immigrants have to pay under the Federal Investor Program, without a significant decline in the number of applicants. This money goes directly into government revenues.
4) The processing times for Labour Market Opinions have declined substantially under the Conservative government. From 2004-2006 the processing time in British Columbia and Alberta could take up to 6 months. Now it takes an average of 3-5 weeks. This was made possible because of specific funding increases to the Labour Market Opinion program.
5) The Conservatives have taken significant steps to combat fraudulent representatives that lie to, cheat, and rip off thousands of people every year. The measures include a visible education campaign against such actions, the introduction of legislation to increase the penalties for immigration consultancy fraud, and trips by Minister Kenney to Asia to address the issue.
6) Under the Conservatives, the number of people immigrating to Canada each year has increased. In 2010 a record 280,636 people immigrated to Canada.
7) The Conservatives have increased the number of Government Approved Refugees admitted each year. Furthermore, they do not cherry pick refugee camps for those who are most skilled, but rather will re-settle thousands from the same ethnic group (Iraq, Bhutan), into Canada at once.
8 ) The Conservatives recognized that the Canadian Society of Immigration Consultants did not appear to be representing the interests of its members, and have committed to replacing it. While it is unknown whether the replacement will actually be better, the Conservative government at least recognized a problem, and went about trying to fix it.
9) The government is taking steps to ensure that companies comply with the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. I did not realize how big an issue this was until I started getting phone calls from foreign workers that had been deceived by companies that hired them. While there are significant issues with the solution that need to be addressed, the government is at least taking steps to ensuring the continued integrity of this program.
10) The Conservatives are taking steps to modernize Citizenship and Immigration Canada, including the introduction of on-line applications, a Global Case Management System, and e-mail communications with embassies.
Now, the point of this post is not to say that the Conservative Party of Canada is perfect when it comes to immigration. I have significant concerns with Bill c-49, which will likely be re-introduced, the incredible processing times for parental visas, and other specific policies that they have introduced. On the whole though, I think that the Conservatives deserve a lot of credit for many of the reforms that they have introduced, and are not the boogy-men on immigration that they are often portrayed to be.
So to those who are interested in immigration and are dreading the next four years, at this point I say to you, “don’t panic.”