Thank you, Mr. Menegakis.
I heard Mr. Lamoureux say that I've never taken credit for increases in the backlogs since we came to office. I'd like to say I think he raises a very legitimate point. I do take responsibility for that, both for my tenure as minister and for that period of six years in which our government has been in office when we have seen the overall backlog increase from 850,000 to just over one million—1,010,000 at the end of last year. So it has gone up by about 150,000 over that time.
I think that underscores the fact that we should have acted faster. Mr. Lamoureux is absolutely correct in his criticism. We should have taken these measures earlier in our government.
Frankly, it took us a while to fully understand the dynamic of these backlogs, the relentless mathematical logic of them, and to understand the policy remedies to start turning the corner on the backlogs.
Frankly, in the first five years of our government we were in a minority situation, where we had all three opposition parties opposed to any measure that we put on the table to control, let alone reduce, the backlogs.
So I will remind Mr. Lamoureux that he wasn't here at the time but I'm sure he's well aware of the issues: that in 2008 my predecessor, Madam Finley, proposed amendments to IRPA through the budget, creating the power of ministerial instructions, which you well know, after your backlog study, were essential in allowing the government to begin controlling the intake of new applications and therefore to start getting a handle on the backlogs.
That provision was not only opposed by all three opposition parties, but some of them characterized it as racist, as anti-immigrant, and they used some of the vilest and most irresponsible language possible in the immigration debate to characterize that sensible and moderate effort to control the growth of backlogs.
Here is the bottom line. Had we not brought in the power of ministerial instructions and the action plan for faster immigration through those 2008 amendments, the total skilled worker backlog would have gone from 640,000 up to one million by now, instead of having gone down to 320,000. So it would have doubled rather than been cut in half. We estimate that the overall immigration backlog today would be about 1.5 million, as opposed to one million.