House of Commons Hansard #107 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was immigration.

Topics

The House resumed from June 4 consideration of the motion that Bill C-50, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 26, 2008 and to enact provisions to preserve the fiscal plan set out in that budget, be read the third time and passed, and of the motion that this question be now put.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008
Government Orders

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, we know the immigration system is broken and that it needs to be fixed. We also know we have a serious problem when 925,000 applicants are in the backlog. Unfortunately, the direction in which the government is heading is the wrong direction.

I first want to tell the House why there is a problem. During the immigration committee hearings, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business came before us and said that there was a complete mismatch of the people coming into the country and the kind of skills that we need. It said that at least 42% of our immigrants needed to be skilled in the technical category. However, when we look at the number of immigrants coming to Canada with skills in that category we see that only 19% of them were in that category.

If we look at professional and managerial occupations, it accounts for only 8% of the labour shortage and yet 74% of the immigrants coming into this country have that skill set. We are bringing in a lot of people whose skills are mismatched with what we need.

Instead of doing what the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration is doing, we need to set up a system where we bring in the skills that Canada needs, rather than what is happening now.

Recently, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration said:

We said publicly it isn't our intention for the bill to negatively impact on family reunification but I can't categorically say it won't. What I can say is that I won't.

The minister is saying that if she remains the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration she will not do anything to harm family reunification. However, the bill in front of us would allow any minister to change the category so much that a lot of families will not be united in Canada.

We understand that we need to find people who come to Canada with the skills we need. We can look at the kind of system Australia has and the number of immigrants entering that country. Its work rate is 81%, which means that unemployment for immigrants has dropped. For the families entering the country, 69% of them have decent jobs.

In Canada, however, only 60% of our immigrants have the kind of jobs for which they have the skills and only 60% of them are employed. For families, it is only 39%, which means that we have a lot of unemployed immigrants in this country because they do not have the kind of skills this country needs.

How did Australia manage to increase the employability of its immigrants? It transferred the onshore processing of most of the applications and it changed its point system. It frequently updates tracking for occupations in demand and it gives points for immigrants who have families in Australia, which is divided into four main categories: skilled labour, family, business and humanitarian.

As a general rule, it only takes 6 to 18 months maximum for immigrants and their families to get into Australia. It has a processing centre called Adelaide Skilled Processing Centre that looks at the skills Australia needs and then it gives points accordingly.

In Canada, we have a human capital model that was brought in by the previous government in 2002. It points to immigrants according to the kind of education level they have, not necessarily the kind of skills that we need in Canada.

Australia has a very centralized processing system that looks at best practices around the world. It also has electronic filing. Last night I went on its website and looked at its immigration section. Its e-filing is incredible. If people want a visa, whether they are a visitor or skilled labour, they can file online. They can also check online what is happening with their applications, how long they must wait and what kind of documents they need.

We have no e-filing in Canada. Half the time, a lot of people who have been waiting to come into this country go to the office of a member of Parliament, so we all become immigration officers. We send faxes and e-mails to visa offices asking for status updates. It is like a make work situation, whereas Australia has an e-file system where people can go online and find out what is happening with their applications.

One can just imagine the resources, the efficiency and how effective it would be to have that kind of system. The former Liberal government, five or six years ago, agreed that we needed to move immigration filing online and wanted to contract a company to do so. However, that did not work.

The Conservative government, instead of investing in technology, best practices and in a skills centre to update skills, it has put it all in the hands of one person, the minister. The minister will make decisions, based on what criteria we do not know. How will it speed up the situation if the department does not have the infrastructure?

To make this worse, the immigration section of the Department of Citizenship and Immigration has had a reduction of 32% in its budget between 2008 and the coming year. How will everything be fast-tracked if we do not have the electronic capacity, a decent website and a skills centre to test what kind of skills we need in this country? We do not even have cost effective quality control in terms of caseloads.

On top of that, if a visitor's visa is being denied, there is no appeal process. People would need to go to their member of Parliament who would then need to go to the minister and ask the minister to please allow the person into the country to attend, let us say, a funeral. In Australia, within 28 days people can have an appeal tribunal so that all the decisions are based on law and fact rather than sometimes inconsistent applications of the law.

We have so much that is wrong in our immigration system. We can do a lot in terms of changing our point system, having the electronic capacity to streamline, work with the visa offices, train the staff better, give the right resources and give the right targets.

However, what the government is doing is it is centralizing the sweeping powers in one person's hands, making the minister above the law. Parliament would not have any say over how to reform our immigration department. That is really a shame because we can study the situation and improve on it. Instead, we are going in the wrong direction.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Trinity—Spadina for speaking for all of us in this room about the difficulties we have in trying to service the thousands of immigration cases that come to our office out of sheer desperation. People do not know where else to go. They are desperate by the time they come to an MP's office because they have tried and failed to get basic information from a system that is so clogged up, so bottlenecked and so dysfunctional that they feel they have no avenue of recourse.

People watching at home might be wondering why, in the context of a budget implement bill, we are talking about the Canadian immigration system and its foibles. They should be made aware that this budget implementation bill has a key element to it to reform, in a radical way, not improve, but change the immigration system.

The basic unfairness, as my colleague points out, is that we, as representatives of Canadians, will not get an adequate chance to debate properly the immigration changes while we are debating the budget implementation bill because it does not properly belong here at this time.

However, if the bill passes, and I have a hunch it will pass, immigration law and practice will change for the worse, we argue, in a very dramatic and significant way.

My colleague pointed out that the changes contemplated to the immigration act in Bill C-50 would actually enhance the discretionary powers of the minister. Did I understand her correctly? Will the minister be, more than ever, able to make arbitrary rulings on things that should properly go to a tribunal, a panel or some due process? Is this one of the hazards that she is alerting us to today, the enhancing of the discretionary power of the minister at the expense of due process, as most Canadians would understand it?

Budget Implementation Act, 2008
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, an objective system would have points and people who want to immigrate to Canada would be able to go online to look at the criteria and see if they have enough points to qualify. After doing the calculation to determine that they do have enough points to qualify, they could apply and, of course, be approved, which is the objective of the system.

Under the proposed change in Bill C-50, even if applicants have all the points, completely qualify, have submitted an application and have waited for several months or a year, their application can be returned. It would not even be processed or considered. The applicant would just be told to come back another time.

Applicants would have no right to appeal and no rights under any law to argue that they had qualified so why was their application not processed or even considered. That is what is alarming the Canadian Bar Association and various immigrant communities all across Canada, because it is arbitrary. It does not tell people whether they fit the criteria or not. I understand that we need skilled labour but this is not the right way to proceed.

Instead, we in the immigration committee should study the point system again and say that in 2002, Canada made a mistake. We changed the existing point system to a human capital situation and it is not working. We are not giving immigrants a head start in Canada. Many of them come into this country and become unemployed. We need a better system, with better tracking and a better match. The way to do it is to fine-tune the point system and actually look at the skills.

In Australia, for example, people are given extra points if they have relatives in the country. It does not necessarily have to be immediate family members. We should probably do the same. The system used to be like that. Under assisted relative class, people were able to get extra points if someone was willing to sponsor them.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Raymonde Folco Laval—Les Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to speak today about Bill C-50, which, in part 6, seeks to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

The first point I would like to make is this is a bill that actually is hidden in another bill, which is strictly against the kind of Parliament that we have had in the past. The budget implementation bill is a budget bill. Although an immigration bill also has budget implications, the kind of immigration bill that has been presented by the Conservative minister here is of such importance to Canada and Canadians that it should be a stand-alone bill.

The Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration should have full powers and as much time as it requires to study the bill and its implications and add whatever amendments it decides are necessary. With the way the Conservative government has presented this legislation, that is not possible.

We are stuck with a bill for which the government has told us that it will not accept any amendments. The immigration legislation has been hidden inside a budget bill, thereby forcing our hand. This is very much against the kind of parliamentary tradition that we have always lived under since Parliament was founded.

The bill also would give the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration unilateral power to decide on preferences in the treatment of applications for immigration and refugee status.

Under the system we have at present, all applications for immigration are examined. Once they have been examined, claimants receive a positive or negative response. However, all applications are examined, which allows a claimant whose application has been denied to appeal, because that person's application is on file.

Under the new system, however, the immigration minister can tell his officials that he is going to change the order of priority of immigration categories. The minister can decide at any time that, for this year, the largest number of immigrants to be accepted will be in the independent category, for example. That would not only lower the priority of the other categories, but also reduce the number of immigrants in those categories who would be accepted, because in a given year Canada accepts a fixed number of immigrants that is approved by the Parliament of Canada.

This decision by the minister will therefore have a significant impact on family reunification, something that concerns me a great deal, and also on not only the number of refugees we accept in Canada, but the number of refugees we seek out in refugee camps around the world.

Perhaps even more important is the fact that the minister can make this decision without consulting with NGOs that work with immigrants, with the business community or with this Parliament. In other words, the minister can make a completely unilateral decision without having to answer to the Parliament of Canada. This is extremely serious. Since 1867, and even earlier, with the Parliaments of Upper and Lower Canada, Parliament has always been accountable. “Accountable” means that cabinet ministers are accountable to Parliament and consequently to the Canadian people.

Now, with this immigration bill, the minister will no longer have to answer to Parliament because he will no longer have to consult Parliament. He will not be accountable to Canadians. Something very serious is happening here. It is more of what the Conservative government has given us for two years now: a government that acts in secret, does not answer questions in the House, refuses to talk to the media and, now, refuses even to be accountable to Parliament and Canadians.

What is going on right now is a serious matter. I hope Canadians are watching this very closely because having such a secretive government that keeps information to itself is unprecedented in Canada.

The Prime Minister promised Canadians an accountable, honest and scrupulous government. The more time goes on, the more we get to know this government. We are seeing the Conservative government for what it is: a government that does not want to be accountable to anyone, not to Parliament and not to the Canadian public.

This also means that the immigration minister and officials responsible for applying the legislation would have carte blanche with respect to processing applications. Their first decision would be on which applications to examine. A large number of those applications will likely be rejected. Some will be returned to the claimants without even being looked at. That means that the large number of claimants whose immigration applications are returned to them will have absolutely no recourse. They will not be able to come back to see an immigration officer. They will not be able to ask why or how. They will not be entitled to an appeal since, for all intents and purposes, their application no longer exists, as it was not accepted and examined.

Again, this is an attempt to limit judicial review of the decisions made by immigration services. Under the bill, immigration and refugee status officials will have to follow instructions from the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration before examining claims and, when they do examine them, they will have to prioritize them by category of immigration.

This bill eliminates the right to equal opportunity in the processing of claims. Equal opportunity is a fundamental principle of our Canadian society: equal opportunity in employment, housing and in the possibility of immigrating to Canada. A number of us sitting here in Parliament have benefited from this equal opportunity.

I find it especially hard to accept that some members opposite, on the government side of the House, who came to Canada as immigrants through this equal opportunity, are now closing the door behind them in a way by voting with the Conservative Party. They came to Canada and now they are saying too bad for those who want to come behind them. They are closing the door.

This bill could reduce the number of new immigration applications accepted by the federal government and, as I said earlier, notably those applications for family reunification and permanent residency on humanitarian grounds. Giving one category priority will only serve to reduce the number of applications in other categories because there is a limit to the number of immigrants accepted in any one year.

The government would go ahead with a subjective selection of applications without imposing any limits on the minister. It would also focus its attention and resources on economic immigrants, those who are wealthy and more qualified.

Obviously, there must be a focus on qualified immigrants. In fact, before its defeat, the Liberal government organized a number of major projects with the provincial governments as part of bilateral agreements with each province. The federal government would ask each province to submit the number of immigrants they would like in each of the trade categories, for example. That is something very important that my colleague across the way did not mention. Agreements already exist between the federal government and each of the provinces that allow them to make their needs known in terms of qualified immigrants.

On this side of the House, we ask that qualified immigrants be able to continue to enter the country and meet the needs of the provinces. More importantly, we ask that family reunification not be forgotten.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I commend my colleague for an excellent presentation on the bill. I would like to ask her opinion on a couple of issues.

If the bill is so important, as the minister claims, why is the minister trying to hide this bill under a budget implementation bill? Why is this bill not going to its respective committee? Standing committees have been established under the democratic process of this Parliament so they can review bills thoroughly. Why is the minister trying to hide this under a budget bill and force an election if the bill does not go through?

Why does the minister want the power to choose? What is the minister's hidden agenda? If she wants to choose the people and instruct the people, why is she bypassing those bureaucrats who make the decision to choose and review because they have been given the tools to do so? Why is the minister trying to take on that power?

Budget Implementation Act, 2008
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Raymonde Folco Laval—Les Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, obviously I do not know the reasons why the minister has done this, but the way that we interpret it and the way that I interpret it is that the minister does not wish to have a full debate on this question. As I mentioned in my speech, the question is an important one for Canadians. So many of us have immigrated from other countries, and if we ourselves did not immigrate, our parents or our grandparents did.

What the minister is trying to do is to hide this bill, knowing that the bill goes against what Canadians want. Canadians want more immigration. Canadians have learned their lesson from the terrible immigration of the Chinese in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, where families of Chinese workers were not allowed to come into this country. These Chinese men, for the most part, stayed in this country alone without their own families and were not able to integrate.

We learned our lesson and after the second world war, we opened our doors to family reunification. The Greek families and the Italian families who came, came as families, and they are now fantastic citizens of Canada. They have changed the economy of Canada. They have changed the face of Canada. This is something that the immigration minister and the Conservative government do not understand or perhaps refuse to understand. Families are important.

The second reason, I think, that the minister and her government are so secretive is that instead of coming forward and saying “This is what we believe, this is what we want, let us discuss it, and let us debate it in Parliament”, they are hiding bills under the guise of other bills so that we do not notice what is going on.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008
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10:30 a.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, the damage that this bill would do is irreversible. I have listened very carefully to the hon. member's speech. She talked about the dark history of what we experienced in the past. However, once we turn an immigrant away, once we turn a group of immigrants away, those immigrants will then be denied the right to come into this country. The damages would be irreversible.

How can it be that 92% of the Liberal members were absent the last time there was a vote in this House, only a few days ago, to delete the immigration portion from this budget implementation bill? If we were able to delete the immigration portion, then we would not have to face this kind of situation. Why is it that the member would not stand up for her principles?

Budget Implementation Act, 2008
Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Raymonde Folco Laval—Les Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I think I am standing up. I did not realize that I was sitting down. I am standing up for my principles. Everyone knows exactly what my principles are regarding immigration, in particular, and the rights of people, not just the rights of Canadians, but the rights of human beings, in general, around the world. This is what I have always done, and this is what I will always continue to do.

It is not irreversible. What we are hoping, what I am personally hoping, is that we will have an election soon, that our leader will call an election. We hope to have the support of the NDP across the way, as well as other parties. When we win this election, then we will be able to revert back to a fair law of immigration that accepts people no matter where they come from, no matter their skills, particularly families and refugees.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008
Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak here today on behalf of the Bloc Québécois regarding Bill C-50, the 2008 budget implementation bill. I am especially pleased that the Bloc Québécois's judgment has always been irreproachable in its analysis of Conservative government budgets.

I will list the reasons why budget 2008 and Bill C-50 should be defeated.

We all know that Quebec and part of Ontario are currently facing an unprecedented crisis in the forestry and manufacturing sectors. Yet this budget offers no direct and immediate assistance to those sectors. The problem will not be solved by announcing a diversification program.

Ultimately, what the Conservatives want to do, despite the fact that the forest continues to grow, is to rid that economic sector of its expertise and try to force workers into doing something else. That is what the government proposed in its budget, which offers no direct assistance, no programs to modernize businesses, no programs for refundable tax credits.

I do not need to remind the House that in order to benefit from tax credits, one must first be able to pay income tax. But businesses in the forestry and manufacturing sectors are declaring deficits and losses. Therefore they cannot take advantage of tax credits, unless they are refundable. The Bloc Québécois has always defended such a measure, proposed by the industry itself, in this House.

Once again, the Conservatives have decided to ignore the appeals from people in the industry. Yet they are the ones best suited to analyze the situation. The Conservatives, however, decided as always, based on their philosophy and ideology, to let free competition run its course and let market forces prevail. That is the Conservative way. Of course, in a market left to its own devices, usually, the big fish swallow the smaller ones, but the Conservatives do not seem to realize that this time the big fish are swallowing each other, and even the big ones cannot survive.

This is yet another example of the right-wing ideology that is still not working. When an entire sector is in crisis and does not receive help, it will disappear. What the Conservatives have proposed in the budget is to change the economy. The economy is being diversified and the fate of the manufacturing and forestry sectors is being decided. They want to create call centres and retrain the employees. For example, they will be asked to learn about computers, regardless of their age. That is unacceptable.

It is unacceptable for the regions. We cannot take all the workers in a region and send them elsewhere. The Minister of Labour even had the gall to say—although he later retracted his statements—that there were jobs to be had in western Canada, in the oil industry. When the oil companies, nuclear power plants and our military need help, the Conservatives are there; there is no problem. But when it comes to helping the manufacturing and forestry sectors or seniors, the Conservatives are nowhere to be found, because those matters are not important to them.

This brings me to the second part of my speech. The budget did not provide for any assistance for workers or for an older worker adjustment program, such as the one abolished by the Liberals, which ensured that workers over the age of 55 would have an income until they retired. This program provided compensation for workers by helping them find a new job and retrain. The program always covered the salary they were earning up to a certain percentage—70% or 75%. The difference was covered until they turned 65. This program cost only $70 million.

Once again, the Conservatives told us that there were jobs available elsewhere. That is basically what the Minister of Labour came out and said. Workers are being asked to move and go work in areas were jobs are available. But if workers do that, it will empty out the regions of Quebec, and the Bloc Québécois will never agree to that.

Once again, no measures were proposed to help seniors. There was a vote concerning the guaranteed income supplement program. The member for Repentigny introduced a bill here that was passed by a majority of the members. The bill sought to return to seniors what had been taken from them, but the Conservatives, once again, did not support it. Those entitled to the guaranteed income supplement were granted just 11 months' retroactivity, but we asked for full retroactivity because the government has owed that money to seniors from the time the supplement was first paid out.

It is just like income tax. When people owe money to the Canada Revenue Agency, the agency can go back as far as it wants, any number of years, if money is owing. We wanted justice and equity, and we wanted the government to increase guaranteed income supplement payments by $100 per month. Seniors certainly deserve it, because everything—drugs, insurance, fuel and groceries—is costing them more and more. The price of everything is going up.

We wanted the guaranteed income supplement to go up by $100 per month, but once again, there is nothing in this budget for seniors.

Worse still, the government has taken advantage of this bill to sneak in a measure giving more power to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration to reject applications without having to provide any justification for doing so, and to prioritize certain classes of immigrants. They want to bring in economic immigrants to develop some parts of the country rather than others.

That is the Conservatives' way of doing things. They like to dispense patronage. They managed to do that with immigration. Now they are planning to engage in even more patronage in the sector. They are governing just like the old Conservatives did. As it turned out, the old guard disappeared from the political landscape because citizens were sick and tired of having masters of patronage in power. That is the truth.

Just as unacceptable is the fact that the Conservative Party includes members from Quebec who, quite simply, have poor judgment. The member for Beauce, the former minister of foreign affairs, who was a rising star in the Quebec wing of the Conservative Party, proved that in spades. Imagine what the others are capable of. He lacked judgment, so what does that say about the other members from Quebec who have seats here? It says that all of those members lack judgment and toe the line without considering Quebeckers' values and interests. That is what it means to be a Conservative member from Quebec.

Therefore, this is not of interest to us. Obviously, it is no better being a Liberal member. I was listening to the member for Laval—Les Îles grandstanding earlier about immigration measures being introduced through the back door. Quebec's Liberal MPs simply have no judgment because they simply will not vote. It is fine for them to talk and do what they want, but then they are going to let these measures through. That shows either a clear lack of judgment or that their decision-making is driven by monetary concerns. They do not have the money to head into an election and the leader does not have the money to repay the debt incurred in the leadership race. Thus, they let bills pass that run counter to the interests of Quebeckers. We, on the other hand, defend our citizens. The member for Laval—Les Îles said that she would stand up in the House. Well, she will stand up, but she will not vote.

We were elected to exercise the right to vote and to use that right to the fullest as the representatives of the voters in this House. They did not elect us so we would stay seated and wait for our party to have the money and our leader to have repaid his debts to run in an election. That is the reality.

The New Democrats are no better, because they wait before making a decision. They wait to see what the Liberals will do. If the Liberals oppose a measure, they support it. If the Liberals are in favour, they vote against it. That is no better.

All that to say that the only party representing the interests and values of Quebeckers is the Bloc Québécois. We are not afraid of elections. We are not afraid of anything at all. We are not even afraid of power because we do not want it. The only power of importance to us is the power entrusted to us by the citizens who elected us. We are proud to rise in this House to vote against Bill C-50, which runs counter to the interests of Quebeckers.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to point out some facts about what the Bloc members have done in committees.

New Democrats want both the immigration committee and the finance committee to go across Canada, including Quebec, to talk to workers who are unemployed and are seeing their EI funds being taken away, or immigrant groups that have serious concerns about the legislation in front of us, Bill C-50. We moved those motions, yet the Bloc members, along with the Liberals and the Conservatives, at both committees said no to public hearings.

In the finance committee we said that we have to speak to these issues. When we were about to deal with clause by clause consideration of the bill in the finance committee, the Bloc was silent. Bloc members did not speak out in the finance committee to say why they are opposed to the immigration portion of Bill C-50, and why they are opposed to setting up a crown corporation which will only be provided with $2 billion, instead of the $15 billion that is needed, as the Auditor General said. They said nothing. There was no response, complete silence.

If the hon. member's party is so concerned about this bill, and I am glad that unlike the Liberals at least Bloc members are standing up, why is the Bloc afraid to agree to conducting hearings across the country, especially during the next few months when we have a bit of time? Why rush this bill through? Why was the Bloc silent in the finance committee where this bill was considered only a week and a half ago before it was reported back to the House? Why the silence?

Budget Implementation Act, 2008
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10:45 a.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is simple enough. The Bloc Québécois represents the interests of Quebeckers. We have represented the majority of Quebec ridings here in the House since 1993. We are well aware of Quebeckers' opinions. We do not need to tour Quebec or Canada to be able to express our views.

If the NDP needs to tour around Canada to decide on its position, then it can go right ahead. I know that there are not many New Democrats in this House, and I have a feeling that that will not change after the next election, given that they do not know their Canada, and they definitely do not know Quebec.

If they want to do a tour, then they should do it, but we will not do it with taxpayers' money. We know the position we want to defend and it is the position of Quebeckers. That is why we have been representing them in this House since 1993.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008
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10:45 a.m.

Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to take a deeper look at budget 2008 and Bill C-50, the budget implementation bill.

In the normal course of parliamentary debate a budget discussion would ordinarily reflect a thorough examination of the government's fiscal policies and state of the nation's finances. However, for some strange reason the Conservative government has chosen to depart from this parliamentary tradition and to effectively attempt to sneak through a major shift in immigration policies, literally through the back door. This is a strange course of events.

Our parliamentary tradition calls upon the government to introduce legislation according to departmental responsibility, which is to say, a transportation bill would be proposed by the Minister of Transport, or a defence bill would be proposed by the Minister of National Defence. On what grounds does the government justify lumping an immigration bill with a budget implementation bill? If the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration is so convinced that her proposal is of vital importance to the country, why is she so afraid to introduce a separate act and face the scrutiny of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration?

Under normal circumstances a proposed act is debated separately for the simple reason that respective parliamentary committees, for example, the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, or the Standing Committee on National Defence, will have an opportunity to review the proposed legislation according to the committee's area of responsibility. This is how a democracy works.

We are in a democracy. We are not in an autocracy. We are not in a dictatorship. We are in a democracy. Therefore, democratic institutions have to be respected. There are long-standing established processes within Parliament that are available to the minister. Those are what she should be using. It is quite straightforward.

Canadians are not gullible. They are well aware that the Conservatives are attempting in an underhanded way to force an election on the backs of immigrants. The Conservatives have been putting advertisements in the papers trying to justify their stand. They probably think immigrants are gullible. The government has been sending the junior minister out to meet with people. Immigrants are not stupid. People understand where the government is coming from.

Canada is a land of immigrants. Everyone in this House, with the exception of the aboriginal people, is an immigrant, whether one came here three years ago, or one's ancestors came here 300 years ago. It has been through thoughtful debate and discussion that our immigration policies have evolved. Immigrants are here to stay and the government cannot cherry-pick whom it wants.

In previous years immigrants were brought in for specific labour purposes and we have seen the repercussions of that. Canada, having learned lessons from its immigration policies and its stand on immigration since World War I and World War II, has become more thoughtful. As a nation we have become more thoughtful. It has been Liberal prime ministers, such as Prime Minister St. Laurent, who started the formal process of immigration from European countries. As an immigrant myself, I remember well that it was Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau who opened immigration from countries other than European countries.

Canada is a choice for a lot of immigrants. That is because we are a people who have a very good view of what it means to live in a pluralistic society. We have seen societies that cannot comprehend pluralism. Canada has been thoughtful. Canada has been respectful. I think all members in the House should understand that and should behave in that manner toward this bill.

My colleagues in the Liberal caucus are committed to make this Parliament work. We do not want to be constantly in an election. This is not the same as a hamster on a treadmill. This is not how Parliament should function.

Let us take a closer look at the immigration proposal that we now have before us. Bill C-50 proposes a series of amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act which quite frankly is regressive. Under that bill the Conservatives are seeking to abandon all sense of transparency and objectivity in the selection process and simply empower the minister with absolute discretion and the ability to cherry-pick applications at will. Previous ministers had that power but they decided not to utilize it. They decided to give away that power.

The current bill allows the minister to give instructions. What sort of instructions is the minister proposing to give to the immigrant officer abroad or here in Canada? What does the minister think she will be doing? Is she the one that will be reviewing every file? Is she the one that will be reviewing everyone's qualifications? Is she the one who has the authority to determine who comes in and who does not? Objectivity is being dispensed with so that the minister or the government of the day can be extremely selective.

Under the new legislation the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration would have the discretion to determine not only which applications will be processed quickly and which ones will be held at the visa office until a later date, but also to return some applications without any consideration at all. These are the ones that people are concerned about. The Conservatives are attempting to toss out objectivity and fairness under the guise of expediency.

Yes, there is a backlog in the application process, but any intelligent person knows that the process requires resources, not cherry-picking by the minister. The Conservatives have not made immigration policy their priority. They have been withholding funds. They claim that they have put in money, but they have actually extracted money from the immigration department.

If the government does not put resources in the right area, how can it be determined how the process will work? It is important that resources be allocated to streamline the process.

The bill also represents a major change in the way in which we choose who is to become a Canadian citizen. Yet the Conservatives feel it is okay to tuck this into a budget bill and somehow bamboozle the Canadian public, which is what it is trying to do with money from the government coffers. The Conservatives are putting forward an advertising campaign to bamboozle the immigrant population. It is not going to work because my colleagues and I, as we have stood in the House, have been standing to fight for fairness, for equity and for transparency.

It appears that the Conservative members have a fixation on forcing an election rather than acting as a responsible government. We have seen in the weeks and months that have passed that the government has no agenda, no vision and no direction. It just wants to go on a treadmill like a hamster.

When an election is called, I can assure the House that Canadians will surely remember which party acted responsibly and in the interest of the country.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

In light of the time, I believe we will now move to statements by members, but there will be 5 minutes for questions and comments on the hon. member's speech when debate is resumed a little later this day.

D-Day
Statements By Members

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

Betty Hinton Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, on June 6, 1944, Canada was involved in the largest amphibious operation in military history, involving Allied forces from land, sea and air. It is remembered as D-Day. It was the opening day of the Allies' efforts to free western Europe from the enemy.

Fifteen thousand of Canada's finest would battle on D-Day and in the Normandy campaign that followed. Sadly, 359 Canadians lost their lives that day and more than 1,000 were wounded.

Through the summer of 1944, the fighting continued against a relentless enemy. The Allied troops persisted and, by August, Paris was liberated. The Normandy campaign was over.

However, what will never end is our duty to remember all those who fought and served so long ago so that tyranny would be driven away and security and hope would take its place.

Lest we forget.