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Evidence of meeting #70 for Finance in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site.) The winning word was clauses.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Gordon Boissonneault  Senior Advisor, Economic Analysis and Forecasting Division, Demand and Labour Analysis, Economic and Fiscal Policy Branch, Department of Finance
Sue Foster  Acting Director General, Policy, Appeals and Quality, Service Canada
Margaret Strysio  Director, Strategic Planning and Reporting, Parks Canada Agency
Stephen Bolton  Director, Border Law Enforcement Strategies Division, Public Safety Canada
Michael Zigayer  Senior Counsel, Criminal Law Policy Section, Department of Justice
Garry Jay  Chief Superintendent, Acting Director General, HR Workforce Programs and Services, Royal Canadian Mounted Police
Jeff Hutcheson  Director, HQ Programs and Financial Advisory Services, Coporate Management and Comptrollership, Royal Canadian Mounted Police
Darryl Hirsch  Senior Policy Analyst, Intelligence Policy and Coordination, Department of Public Safety
Ian Wright  Executive Advisor, Financial Markets Division, Financial Sector Policy Branch, Department of Finance
Nigel Harrison  Manager, Legislative and Parliamentary Affairs, Department of Fisheries and Oceans
David Lee  Director, Office of Legislative and Regulatory Modernization, Policy, Planning and International Affairs Directorate, Health Products and Food Branch, Department of Health
Anthony Giles  Director General, Strategic Policy, Analysis and Workplace Information Directorate, Department of Human Resources and Skills Development
Bruno Rodrigue  Chief, Income Security, Federal-Provincial Relations and Social Policy Branch, Department of Finance
Gerard Peets  Senior Director, Strategy and Planning Directorate, Department of Industry
Suzanne Brisebois  Director General, Policy and Operations, Parole Board of Canada, Public Safety Canada
Louise Laflamme  Chief, Marine Policy and Regulatory Affairs, Department of Transport
Judith Buchanan  Acting Senior Manager, Labour Standards Operations, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada
Mark Hodgson  Senior Policy Analyst, Labour Markets, Employment and Learning, Department of Finance
Stephen Johnson  Director General, Evaluation Directorate, Strategic Policy and Research Branch, Department of Human Resources and Skills Development
James McNamee  Deputy Director, Horizontal Immigration Policy Division, Department of Citizenship and Immigration
Graham Barr  Director General, Transition Planning and Coordination, Shared Services Canada

10:55 p.m.

Conservative

Shelly Glover Conservative Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Chair, in all fairness, that's exactly what I did. I asked the witnesses to clarify comments that did not make any sense, that had no factual basis to them whatsoever. They were, in fact, nonsense, which is not unparliamentary—

10:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative James Rajotte

Okay—

10:55 p.m.

Conservative

Shelly Glover Conservative Saint Boniface, MB

To the point of order, Mr. Chair, to be very fair, the other side has accused this government of some terrible things. Not once have we used inappropriately a point of order to say that we're sick of being told that we're attacking poor people, we're attacking people who are unemployed, or we're attacking this or that. Not once has this side inappropriately used parliamentary procedure to try to get a point across.

So I would ask that you take that into consideration, Mr. Chair, when you make a ruling on this point of order, because I have been very fair. I've been very patient. This is not a point of order, nor is it unparliamentary to say that it was nonsense when it was based on non-factual evidence.

10:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative James Rajotte

Well, do you want to go further on this? I've already in fact said that it's not a point of order, technically. What I've done, though, is I've used the opportunity.... And Ms. Glover is right: there have been some strong accusations launched by opposition members against the government on certain issues. So what I was doing, frankly, was just asking all members to follow the practice of saying that here's an issue, here's where I stand, here's what I believe, and here's what our party believes, and to not try to launch an accusation across the aisle.

Ms. Glover, I didn't mean to say that it was one side or the other. I've seen things go across both sides tonight that I would consider disrespectful, frankly, as your chair. Again, I would just reiterate to everybody that if we could just get our own views on the record, ask the officials questions, and go to the vote, we'd all be much happier at the end of the day.

It's not a point of order, but I'm just using the opportunity to express my view as chair.

Ms. Glover still has the floor, Mr. Mai. Is this another point of order?

10:55 p.m.

NDP

Hoang Mai NDP Brossard—La Prairie, QC

I was on the list to speak.

10:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative James Rajotte

Yes, I still have members on the list.

Ms. Glover, it's your turn.

10:55 p.m.

Conservative

Shelly Glover Conservative Saint Boniface, MB

Thank you.

I did want to continue with officials with regard to the backlog once again. When we talk about the backlog, those who are affected by the elimination of their applications do have an opportunity to still be engaged in the process. Can you just explain for the committee how they are still able to engage in the process?

10:55 p.m.

Deputy Director, Horizontal Immigration Policy Division, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

James McNamee

The termination of the applications does not prevent these individuals from reapplying if they meet the conditions of the other numerous programs, including the federal skilled workers program, which is still available to them.

11 p.m.

Conservative

Shelly Glover Conservative Saint Boniface, MB

There may be a net benefit to them, which is what?

11 p.m.

Deputy Director, Horizontal Immigration Policy Division, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

James McNamee

Under the current prioritized stream within the federal skilled workers program decisions are being made much faster, so if they're identified and if they qualify, the commitment is to process those applications within six to twelve months.

11 p.m.

Conservative

Shelly Glover Conservative Saint Boniface, MB

Six to twelve months, as opposed to sometimes how long has it taken?

11 p.m.

Deputy Director, Horizontal Immigration Policy Division, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

James McNamee

I believe the average is five to six years now for folks in the backlog.

11 p.m.

Conservative

Shelly Glover Conservative Saint Boniface, MB

Thank you for clarifying those comments.

Thanks.

11 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative James Rajotte

Thank you.

I have three more NDP members, but the NDP has done a very thorough job. Do we need to have three more members add to their position on this?

I have Mr. Mai, Mr. Caron, and Mr. Brison. Mr. Brison has not spoken to this division. Then I have Ms. Sims.

I just ask you to keep in mind what I just said, and let's make it relevant to the clauses we're discussing and make it as brief as possible.

Mr. Mai.

11 p.m.

NDP

Hoang Mai NDP Brossard—La Prairie, QC

When we initially started talking about it, we didn't know what the implications were overseas, and now I'm reading in that in Hong Kong there are protests, in China, and you mentioned India. So there are....

Obviously Canada's a great country. I was lucky to be born here. My parents are immigrants. But the implications that we have overseas are huge. I worked in Hong Kong in my previous life as a corporate lawyer over there, and a lot of people from Hong Kong came to Canada and are actually in my riding.

They knew about Canada. There was this hope, and I've been reading some stories. I won't go too much into details, because Jinny has mentioned some of the devastating stories, but we were seen as a country where law matters, and where you believe in the whole process, so people applied.

We mentioned the backlog. Some of the applications date back to 2003, so those people have put their lives on hold thinking that they would come here. And for some reason we decided that Canada does not need you. The government has mentioned needs: we don't need you; we need other types of immigrants, so your application no longer matters.

We mentioned fairness. I don't think this is fair. Seriously, I think if someone has applied.... We have to find solutions, but putting a delete button on this for me does not make sense. I think the officials mentioned $130 million in terms of application fees, but when we ask the question about what would happen to people in terms of interest.... For people who live in China, the application fee is a fairly big amount, so there are a lot of things they could have done with that amount. They could use it. We're not paying back interest, we're not paying back lost opportunities, we're not paying back....

My question is to the officials, since you're here and you were patient enough to wait for us. I know you considered litigation issues. Was there any evaluation in terms of how much litigation would cost us in terms of having to pay back indemnities or how much it would cost?

11 p.m.

Deputy Director, Horizontal Immigration Policy Division, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

James McNamee

I don't believe those costs were ever evaluated in terms of indemnities. It's a very difficult number to narrow.

11 p.m.

NDP

Hoang Mai NDP Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Okay, but my understanding is that litigation issues were considered. Because definitely when we make a promise to someone and say that if they pay for their application we’ll look at it and look at the merits, and then when they come back to Canada and ask the immigration department if everything is fine and their application is fine, and we tell them yes, it’s fine, and they’re on the waiting list, at the end of the day they might come back and say you guys told us this and I lost money, so I'll sue you.

From my understanding, the department has considered litigation issues, but what you're telling me is we have no clue about how much it would cost or how much litigation we'd have. Was there any small evaluation, a ballpark, or anything like that?

11:05 p.m.

Deputy Director, Horizontal Immigration Policy Division, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

James McNamee

The department explored possibilities, and it is very difficult to assess what that ballpark is. It could be a very broad spread. It's difficult to say with certainty.

11:05 p.m.

NDP

Hoang Mai NDP Brossard—La Prairie, QC

So the department did consider that there will most likely be litigation issues?

11:05 p.m.

Deputy Director, Horizontal Immigration Policy Division, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

James McNamee

The department of course considered the litigation implications of doing this. Certainly one of those is, as you mentioned, being sued.

11:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative James Rajotte

Thank you.

Mr. Caron, you have the floor.

11:05 p.m.

NDP

Guy Caron NDP Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

I will skip my turn.

11:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative James Rajotte

Okay.

Mr. Brison, go ahead, please.

June 5th, 2012 / 11:05 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

We have concerns, and some of those concerns have been expressed. We heard from witnesses that this decision will negatively affect Canada's international reputation. But more broadly, we also heard some positive stories on immigration, particularly in Manitoba, where there's a much more open approach. Their cap on immigration is much higher than that of other provinces. We need more people coming to Canada and building their lives here. That's the reality, particularly in regions like mine, where we have a declining population and an aging demographic. I'm concerned about some of the changes and what it does to our capacity and to or our brand as a country.

Beyond that, I'm also concerned about some of the messaging coming from the government. When Minister Finley went to Halifax a few weeks ago, the headline in the paper was "Immigration not the answer for fulfilling jobs". She said that rather than turn to immigrants, we should hire from within Nova Scotia. The reality is, there's no evidence that immigrants take jobs from our population here. Immigrants in fact create jobs, in many cases, for themselves and for Canadians who've been here a long time. That's the Manitoba example. The Manitoba example is that since the inception of its program, unemployment rates have actually decreased with significant massive immigration.

I'll use one more example. Part of politics is pedagogy, where we change people's minds. I think there is a perception in parts of the country that immigrants take jobs and actually increase the levels of unemployment. The evidence does not bear that out. A poll was done in Nova Scotia a couple of years ago that asked, "Would you support programs to attract and retain new Canadians to Nova Scotia?" Sixty-five percent of Nova Scotians said no. I disagree with that perception. However, Edmund Burke said that a member of Parliament owes his constituents not simply his work but also his judgment, and to sacrifice his judgment to their opinions is to do them a grave disservice. We have responsibility on both sides of the House, from all parties, to change people's minds, not to affirm negative perceptions of immigration but in fact to work together to do more on this.

I am concerned about some of the messaging from the government that would create the perception that there's massive pressure on the Canadian immigration system by crooks. We have to be careful. Are there people who abuse the system? Absolutely. Do we have to be strong in our approach to them? Yes, but we also have to be careful not to contribute to or foster an attitude or a prejudice towards immigration and immigrants that is inconsistent with the economic dynamism that comes with new Canadians.

I am concerned about this decision, but more broadly, I would like to see us emulate the Manitoba model with provinces across Canada. I'd like to see us welcome many more immigrants than we're welcoming right now. It's important for our country to do that.

11:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative James Rajotte

Thank you, Mr. Brison.

I'll go back to Ms. Sims, and I will expect very new and relevant arguments to be put before the committee before we vote on the clauses.