Thank you, Mr. Chair and members. It's always good to be back before the committee to share with you our perspective.
It is a pleasure to appear once again before this committee.
The government appreciates the committee's decision to undertake this study.
As you know, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada has undertaken a fundamental review of the excessive demand provision, and we've consulted with provincial and territorial governments. As I have openly stated to my provincial and territorial counterparts, this review is necessary and long overdue.
To put it into perspective, this provision has been in place for more than 40 years. From a principled perspective, the current excessive demand provision policy simply does not align with our country's values on the inclusion of persons with disabilities in Canadian society. The current objective of the provision is to strike a balance between protecting publicly funded health and social services and facilitating immigration to Canada, while also supporting humanitarian and compassionate objectives in Canada's immigration policy. But there is now a recognized need to realign the policy, to also make it more fair and inclusive of persons with disabilities.
As you know, Mr. Chair, to begin our review of this policy, our government launched consultations with provinces and territories in October 2016. Departmental officials also engaged stakeholders, including disability advocates.
The results of these discussions, together with consideration of public perspectives, judicial decisions, and media reports, as well as this committee's recommendations, will inform the development of options to be presented for decision by the government.
As my officials indicated previously to this committee, the health inadmissibility provisions are designed in part to reduce impacts on Canada's publicly funded health and social service systems. While a number of policy principles underpin our review of the excessive demand provision, these include the need to continue to protect health and social services.
That being said, the numbers we are talking about are incredibly small.
As my officials indicated, a cost-benefit analysis found that the total number of decisions on excessive demand made in a single year will result in an estimated savings of about $135 million over a period of five years of projected health care coverage. That amount represents just 0.1% of all provincial and territorial health spending in 2015.
Since our initial discussions, we have shared potential areas of change with provinces and territories. These have included possible adjustments to the cost threshold, changes in the groups exempted from the provision, redefining the services under consideration, or enhancements in how wait-lists are considered.
This information will give provinces and territories the opportunity to assess these options and the potential impacts on their jurisdictions.
As we agreed in September at our federal, provincial, and territorial meeting of ministers responsible for immigration, we are committed to ensuring that the policy continues to recognize the need to protect health, social services, and education while treating applicants fairly. In particular, our government wants to ensure that the implementation of this policy aligns with our values regarding the inclusion of persons with disabilities into Canadian society.
Once again, I appreciate that the committee has chosen to undertake a study of this really important and sensitive policy.
The government is eager to receive your recommendations.
I look forward to answering your questions.