Mr. Speaker, frequent contacts with my constituents indicate that the two areas of greatest concern to them are the deficit and immigration. The two issues are related.
My constituents wonder about the costs which immigrants impose on Canadian governments during this period of fiscal crisis. Even though on average and over their lifetime immigrants historically have made a net contribution to the coffers of the government, they are concerned about those who enter Canada under the family unification program.
The minister has announced that next year he has ordered the admittance of 110,000 individuals in this category. Under current laws these family unification immigrants are almost exclusively the elderly parents of persons already in Canada as landed immigrants. We know from past years that the bulk of these parents are of an age where they are likely to pay only small if any premiums to the provincial medicare program. Yet
as landed immigrants they are entitled to free medicare for the rest of their lives.
A distinguished newspaper columnist had obtained information on the numbers and age distribution of family unification immigrants admitted during the period 1988 to 1992. Using data on the average cost of medicare services required by older people, the columnist estimated that the family immigrants admitted during this period added about $1 billion to the annual cost of the Canadian medicare system.
I think it is legitimate to ask an equivalent question about the family immigrants to be admitted next year and in future years once their levels have been decided. In fact I believe that the government should be required to publish regularly estimates of the costs immigration policies are expected to impose on public services.
If the costs are as high as some experts think they are, the government might consider changes in existing policy. One such change might involve the rule now existing in Australia according to which parents are admitted only if they do not leave at home more of their children than they join in their new country of residence.
Another perhaps somewhat more radical policy might be to admit only immigrants who agree to live in Canada without having their parents join them. There are large numbers of foreigners willing to come to Canada under these conditions, I am sure.
I should note that no one expects a definitive answer on the dollar costs. Canadians are sophisticated about the uncertainty surrounding all such estimates involving social and economic magnitudes. They want an estimate accompanied by explanations of the underlying data and the assumptions. They will interpret it with the proper caution.
I thank you, Mr. Speaker, for allowing me to bring forth these issues again in the House. I am sure the people of Canada will appreciate having the answer to the question I raise.