Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The Immigration Bill vs. Julie Couillard

I'd like to thank Susan Delacourt and Paul Wells for pointing out the obvious stance I've taken. Two writers I have a lot of time for.

For about a week - maybe even two - Liberals danced on the heads of the Conservatives, taking great joy in a scandal involving an inept Foreign Affairs Minister and his biker-associated ex-girlfriend and the international media frenzy that ensued.

To be sure, the whole demeanor of the Conservative caucus changed. They weren't the normally arrogant PRs they have been these past 2.5 years. They were a little more contrite. EMBARRASSED EVEN.

For Liberals it was a week of glory. The Conservative and NDP blogs were fairly silent. Email after email arrived on my Blackberry urging me to continue my pounding of the Conservatives. Go Jim Go! Go Jim Go! The cheers were deafening.

What a difference one week can make. Now it's me...and those hundreds of frustrated grassroots Liberals that are EMBARRASSED BY OUR OWN PARTY. EMBARRASSED AND FRUSTRATED. FRUSTRATED AND EMBARRASSED.

Naturally, I don't pretend to speak for the masses. I'm sure that the thousands of card-carrying members that don't have immigrant parents or, perhaps, aren't immigrants themselves are okay with 11 of our MPs showing up to vote for an NDP amendment on the immigration bill that would have toppled this stale, rotten, scandalous Conservative government.

But for those card-carrying Liberals that have immigrant parents and relatives or are immigrants themselves, I am certain I speak for most of them.

My question is how these MPs never found their way into the House of Commons to vote on this motion (just out of principle):

Ruby Dhalla - Parents from India
Navdeep Bains - Parents from India
Omar Alghabra - Saudi Arabia
Pablo Rodriguez - Argentina
Mario Silva - Portugal
Maruizio Bevelacqua - Italy
Joe Volpe - Italy
Sukh Dhaliwal - India
Ujjal Dosangh - India
Hedy Fry - Trinidad and Tobago
Albina Guarnieri - Italy
Raymond Chan - Hong Kong
Maria Minna - Italy
Massimo Pacetti - Parents from Italy
Lui Temelkovski - Macedonia
Sue Barnes - Malta
John Cannis - Greece
Stephane Dion - Mother born in France (he voted)
Raymonde Falco - France
Jim Karygianis - Greece
Gurbax Malhi - India
Keith Martin - London, UK
Yasmin Ratansi - Tansania
Belinda Stronach - Father is an Immigrant Austrian (she may have a valid reason)
Andrew Telegdi - Hungary (he voted)

Oh boy. What a mess. I have removed some items from my sidebar as I feel more embarrassed than most.

1 comment:

Koby said...

As Guidy Mamann of the immigration law firm Mamann & Associates notes, changes to immigration act are largely redundant. [http://thecanadianimmigrant.com/index.php?option=content&task=view&id=982]

"In an interview last week with CTV’s Mike Duffy, Finley confirmed that our backlog now stands at about 925,000 applications. The government maintains that the Minister needs these powers to cherry pick applicants who are needed here on a priority basis. She was asked by Duffy, if under the present system, the department was able to fast track, say a welder who was desperately needed in Fort McMurray. Finley answered 'The way the law stands now we have to process the oldest application first. If that person is number 600,000 in line we’ve got a lot of applications to get through before that.'

"This is simply not true. Our current legislation states that the federal cabinet 'may make any regulation ... relating to classes of permanent residents or foreign nationals' including 'selection criteria, the weight, if any to be given to all or some of those criteria, the procedures to be followed in evaluating all or some of those criteria… the number of applications to be processed or approved in a year' etc. In fact, in the case of Vaziri v. The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, the Federal Court held in September 2006 that our current legislation 'authorize[s] the Minister to set target levels and to prioritize certain classes of PR applicants' without even a regulation being passed. Accordingly, Finley has more than enough power under our current legislation to make virtually any changes that she wants subject to the Charter."

Which begs the question why all the hoopla about today's vote?

Immigration is a big issue yes. Indeed, in my mind it is more pressing then even global warming. However, you are mistaken in applying that Canada’s immigration system is anything other than a mess.

Canada has to get younger. The average Canadian in 2004 was 39.7; in other words Canada is one of the oldest nations on earth. However bad things are now things promise to get a lot worse. The percentage of Canadians over 65 is set to go from 14.7 now to 27.6 in 2050. If the situation was ever allowed to get this bad, the economy would be in sharp decline, the federal government would surely be in deficit, and virtually ever public entitlement program would have collapsed or would be close to. The public health care system would surely have collapsed under the demands placed on it.

Part of the problem is that average immigrant to Canada (37.1) is not much younger than the average Canadian (39.7). The situation is akin to baling out a boat by moving water from one part of the boat to another. The average immigrant to Canada needs to be under 30 and Canada should aim to let in at least 500,000 economic class immigrants a year.

It is imperative that Canada undertake such a project now. After all, Canada is not alone in having to deal with aging population. Some Europe have an even worse problem.
"World Bank projections show that the working-age population of the present EU will drop from 230m now to 167m by 2050, a fall of 63m. Most of this is concentrated in the 12 current euroland countries, where working-age population is projected to drop from 186m to 131m. The worst-hit individual countries are Italy , with a 15m, or 42% fall, from 36m to 21m, followed by Spain and Germany. Britain is not immune but fares relatively well. The World Bank projects a 5m fall in working-age population, from 35.2m to 29.9m In general, though, Europe's position is dire. As Lombard Street Research writes: "The last demographic shock on a similar scale was the Black Death of the late 14th century. Even two world wars did not stop Europe 's population rising by nearly a fifth in the first half of the 20th century."

If Europe continues on as it is, the median age in Europe will go from 37.7 today to 52.3 by 2050!
As professor Charles Kupchan notes,

"today there are 35 pensioners for every 100 workers within the European Union. By 2050, current demographic trends would leave Europe with 75 pensioners for every 100 workers and in countries like Italy and Spain the ratio would be 1 to 1."

Another area of concern is that the ratio of principle skilled principle applicants as percentage of the over number of immigrants to Canada is way too small. Currently less than one in 5 immigrants is a skilled principle applicant. This is a huge concern for a whole host of reasons not the least of which is that it is only skilled principle applicants that earning anywhere close to what their Canadian peers are earning and skilled principle applicants are the only category of immigrants that are working in numbers that even approach the Canadian average.

"At 26 weeks after their arrival, 50% of all immigrants aged 25 to 44 were employed. This was 30 percentage points below the employment rate of about 80% among all individuals aged 25 to 44 in the Canadian population. ... At 52 weeks after arrival, the employment rate among prime working-age immigrants was 58%. This narrowed the gap to 23 percentage points. At 104 weeks, or two years after arrival, the employment rate among prime working-age immigrants was 63%, 18 percentage points below the national rate of 81%. ... Immigrants admitted as principal applicants in the skilled worker category had an even better record for employment. At 26 weeks after arrival, the gap in the employment rate between them and the Canadian population was 20 percentage points. By 52 weeks, this had narrowed to 12 points, and by two years, it was down to 8 points."

If you tease out the numbers, 55% of non principal skilled applicants in the 25 to 44 age group are working after 2 years! Canada needs to do a better job of ensuring that immigrants are able to succeed and the natural to place to start is eliminate those categories of immigrants that are less likely to succeed economically. Economic immigrants make up only 55% to 60% of all immigrants. They need to make up 90 plus. The earning power of immigrants is such now that the possibility of large urban immigrant underclass, a la Europe, exists. Canada needs to nip this situation in the bud. The low earning power of immigrants will eventually affect our ability to attract immigrants to Canada as well as the affect the general population’s willingness to accept them.

For similar reasons Canada must resist the siren song of business demanding that the government allow in guest workers to meet labour shortages. Never mind the fact that in many cases such demands amount to little more than a request from business that government assist them in quashing growing labour unrest, e.g., in the oil sands, such thinking is short sighted. There is ample evidence that armies of disenfranchised workers, whether they be illegal or guest, are a recipe of disaster. It is great way to, create an underclass, suppress wages, encourage black marketing, increase xenophobia and racism. Currently Alberta is hopping to fill the following positions through immigration: Front desk clerk, short order cook, baker, maid, assembly line worker, server, buser, bellhop, valet, and cafeteria worker, laundry attendant, pet groomer, general labourer, and hair dresser. All that is required of such would be immigrants is that they score 4 or 24 on the language assessment. In other words, they can still be functionally illiterate and still get it in. Great swaths of guest workers turn out to be anything but and as soon as the economy experiences a downturn they are trampled under foot and to add insult to injury are generally resented for being so unfortunate.

What reforms would I like to see.

1)Limit family unification to spouses and dependents under 18

2) Lift the cap on the number of immigrants allowed in each year.

3)Greatly Increase the number of visa officers aboard

4) Allow people to apply for refugee status only in Canada and not abroad

5) Process refugees in half or third of time it takes to process claims now and make it much easier to deport

6) Tighten up the concept of refugee, making it harder to be accepted as one.

7) Stop allowing people in on humanitarian grounds and compassionate grounds

8) Rework of the points system so that more emphasis is placed on youth, education and language skills and that bonus points are assigned if the applicant has his or her professional skills pre-recognized by the appropriate regulatory body and or the applicant has a university degree from Canadian university

9) Grant citizenship to foreigners earning a graduate degree in Canada

10) Do more to attract economic immigrants to Canada. Such a plan should include the targeting of students that come to Canada to study in Canadian universities or learn English.