Evidence of meeting #11 for Citizenship and Immigration in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was immigration.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Neil Yeates  Deputy Minister, Department of Citizenship and Immigration
  • Claudette Deschênes  Assistant Deputy Minister, Operations, Department of Citizenship and Immigration
  • Daniel Paquette  Acting Assistant Deputy Minister, Chief Financial Officer, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

Jason Kenney Calgary Southeast, AB

Sure.

One of the things we should really be grateful for in Canada is that we've never had a serious organized political expression of xenophobia or anti-immigrant sentiment, that generally Canadians are remarkably open and welcoming to newcomers. We want to keep it that way. We want to maintain the broad public consensus in favour of immigration, because we need newcomers to build our country in the future. In order to maintain that broad consensus, I think it's very important that we constantly demonstrate to Canadians that immigration is working for Canada and that we are welcoming a number of people who we can realistically accept, employ, and integrate.

It's interesting, Mr. Menegakis, that in the polling I've seen, typically new Canadians, foreign-born Canadians, are those most opposed to increasing immigration levels. I don't think that's because they're cynical; I think it's because they're realistic. I think it's because in their experience it's not easy for many newcomers to find good jobs or to start successful businesses. They recognize there's a very competitive labour market, and in parts of the country there are unacceptably high levels of unemployment. They also want to make sure that on a cultural and social level we have the capacity to welcome and integrate people into Canadian society.

My point is that we should listen to those 80% of Canadians who are telling us consistently that immigration levels should not go higher than what are already the highest sustained levels in our history and the highest per capita levels in the developed world.

I would refer back to our colleague, Mr. Davies, who sent me a thoughtful letter on October 14, which I really do appreciate. It's the first time I've had an immigration critic actually provide specific advice on levels, and I commend him for that. We may not agree on the substance of everything, but I appreciate his good faith. I would invite Mr. Davies, if he wants to clarify it, to send me a revised version, but in that letter he calls for an increase in levels to 1% of population, 336,000, and he says which categories that should come in. Then later he says, “...we urge your government to provide an option to all [temporary foreign workers] to apply for permanent residency”.

Well, we grant work permits to about 180,000 temporary foreign workers per year. About 40,000 of them already have access to permanent residency, either through the live-in caregiver program, the Canadian experience class, or the provincial nominee program. That means it's another 140,000—the way I read this—on top of the 336,000. I would invite Mr. Davies to send another letter to clarify.

I think that is disregarding the 80% of Canadians who are telling us not to increase immigration levels, but let's focus on settling the people we're already receiving.

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

Costas Menegakis Richmond Hill, ON

Minister, the NDP proposal is to significantly increase immigration levels.

In relation to the backlog, what would that do to the backlog if that were the only tool we were using?

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

Jason Kenney Calgary Southeast, AB

If that were the only tool, it would have a very negligible effect on the backlogs, unless at the same time there were limits on new applications.

We demonstrated at our last committee meeting—I showed you the graphs and the charts—how this applies. Let's put it this way. Both opposition parties here opposed Bill C-50 in the 2008 Parliament, which gave the government the ability to manage the intake of new applications. They said this was unfair. It was cherry-picking. Some even went so far, demagogically, to suggest that it was somehow anti-immigrant. However, the bill did pass, and we have used that tool to limit the intake of new applications.

If they had won that fight, had we not put in place Bill C-50 and the action plan for faster immigration, the backlog in the skilled worker program alone would have gone from 640,000 in 2008 to over a million this year. Thanks to the action plan and that legislation, we have been able to reduce the old skilled worker backlog from 640,000 to 310,000.

I've heard members of the opposition during these hearings say—and by the way, I do read all the transcripts, and I really am interested in what goes on here—that this hasn't worked. I've heard certain witnesses, I think invited by opposition parties, say that C-50 and the action plan for faster immigration has been a failure. Well, it's true that we haven't eliminated the backlog, but it's true that we have reduced it by 50%. And had we not taken these measures, which were opposed by everyone else in Parliament, we would be over a million in that one program alone. This demonstrates the velocity....

Under the previous government, in many years they were receiving up to 400,000 to 450,000 applications in all of the programs, but they were admitting 220,000 people. Let's say we take away controls on incoming applications for all of our programs. I think it's fair to estimate that we would be receiving between 400,000 and 500,000 applications per year. So even if we were to increase the level of admissions to 330,000 to 340,000, we would be adding to the backlog by 100,000 to 200,000 per year. The backlog and the wait times would continue to go up.

The only way you can avoid growth in backlogs, let alone reduce backlogs, by increasing admissions is to admit each year the number of people who apply. Without limits on applications, that's again where we're going up to the 400,000 to 500,000 range.

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Costas Menegakis Richmond Hill, ON

Thank you. I'm done.

How much time do I have?

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair David Tilson

You have 30 seconds.

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Costas Menegakis Richmond Hill, ON

Oh.

Minister, in your opinion, if we do significantly increase it, what do you think the financial implications of doubling immigration levels, for example, would be?

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Jason Kenney Calgary Southeast, AB

Every new permanent resident is a new customer for our publicly funded health insurance system and is someone who's eligible for our entire suite of social benefits.

What we're trying to change in our immigration selection is the unfortunate trajectory of the last 25 years, where we saw a decline in incomes and employment and an increase in social dependence on the part of new immigrants to Canada.

The good news is that we're starting to see the results increase. But that's a point we should all be mindful of.

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Costas Menegakis Richmond Hill, ON

Thank you.

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair David Tilson

Ms. Sitsabaiesan.

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Bourassa, QC

A point of order.

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair David Tilson

Stop the clock. We have a point of order.

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Bourassa, QC

Mr. Chair, I am looking at how the panels are arranged. In the other committees, when the panels show charts, I have no objection to that. However, that looks a lot more like advertising for the Conservative government.

It looks like a prop, and frankly, I don't believe it should be there.

It is blocking the media's view and they can't see. They would like to see your public performance. I think these two panels should be removed. I have no objection to the charts because that is information, but the rest is advertising. It seems to be advertising for the Conservatives. In the public interest, they should be removed.

November 24th, 2011 / 11:45 a.m.

Conservative

John Weston West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, BC

I have a point of order in reply.

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair David Tilson

Yes.

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

John Weston West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, BC

Mr. Chair, I would like to thank my colleague for his comments. I understand, but it really is the name of the program we are discussing at the moment. It is a constant reminder of what we are discussing in this committee.