Thank you very much.
Mr. Chair, I've been around this committee long enough to recognize bureaucratise coming from the department and the department speaking through members of Parliament. I'm going to touch on the integrity of the system.
The integrity of the system has been seriously shaken. We have a system that doesn't allow people whom the economy needs to come into this country through legal means. We've reached the point where we have a crisis. This whole issue has been kicked around for a long time. In the last Liberal government we were working on regularization. I dare say it was one of those things that didn't come to fruition because of the short term of the Parliament at that time.
But I can tell you, from the evidence we have heard, that we have something like 200,000 to 500,000—and nobody really knows the number—people, and that includes dependants, undocumented workers who are essentially working underground.
I'm going to give credit, and very much in public, to the government. About a year ago we had a situation in which immigration officials raided schools and used kids to trap their parents who were undocumented workers. The government--Stockwell Day--made a proper response and told the department this was no longer acceptable, that this was not to be done.
I'm really hoping the government will come to its senses on this, because I think we need common sense to prevail. The economy is looking for people who can fill positions that are vacant, and I dare say that if we got rid of all these undocumented workers by some magic tomorrow, our economy would go into a recession.
We have worker shortages across the country. I don't need to tell the Conservatives the problems they're having attracting workers to the tar sands. Just a couple of days ago we saw the case of a worker shortage in P.E.I. that threatens the survival of a fish processing plant because they cannot find workers.
This problem goes right across the board. The committee has travelled extensively. We had representations made to the committee by people in the Maritimes who said, send us all your undocumented workers; we need immigrants.
But we need immigrants who fit the system. What we need is people with trade skills that the present point system does not allow into the country.
I think this is an opportunity for the Conservative government to really take a commonsensical approach, and they will get lots of credit for it because it's a problem that has to be fixed. But maintaining the line put out by the bureaucracy has grown quite tiresome, because it's been the same line for many years. They want to maintain the integrity of a system that is broken.
It's time we exercised some political will, and it's time the government of the day exercised political will to fix a broken system.
This motion speaks to that. I am glad it's being debated in the House and I'm glad we're going to be studying the issue. This is a commonsensical solution to a problem.
The process of regularization is not a free-for-all in which everybody says, I'm an illegal and I get documentation. If it's done in an orderly fashion, the people who come out from underground, if you will, have to register; there's a criminal check done on them; then they're given a work permit, during which time there is a further investigation done—and the length of the work permit can be anywhere from two to three years—and if they're successful and have proven themselves to be contributing to Canada, then a process can be put in place to regularize them, and they can apply for permanent standing.
But the solution of the bureaucrats is a non-solution. It is sweeping the problem under the rug and creating very real hardship for the hundreds of thousands of people who are involved, who are essentially helping to build this economy, and I think it's time we stop being ostriches and started dealing with the problem.