Thank you, Ms. Sims.
As the chair, I want to address a couple of points. Some valid questions are being raised. In part, people are asking why this would be in a budget implementation act.
I would just refer members, for their own information, to the budget itself, pages 151 to 155, wherein these specific sections are dealt with. Particularly they may want to read pages 154 to 155, the “Federal Skilled Worker Fee Refund”. I'll read a little bit from there for colleagues' edification.
The Government recognized the backlog for the [federal skilled workers program] ...several years ago and has taken actions to eliminate it through our 2008 Action Plan for Faster Immigration. Before the Action Plan was introduced, the backlog had swelled to over 640,000 applicants, many of whom faced wait times of up to seven years. Through the judicious use of measures introduced by the Action Plan, the backlog has been cut to less than 300,000 applicants since 2008—a reduction of more than 50 per cent. Wait times for new applicants are now closer to 18 months on average, with some applicants waiting as little as 6 to 12 months.
I'd like to compliment our officials for their work in doing this.