Mr. Chair, I am delighted to be here tonight to talk about what we do with immigration in this country.
Four months ago I gave the House an indication of a six point priority plan that I personally had for this department. I was building on the experience of my predecessors and the experience of my good colleagues who had worked diligently in committee to draw out those issues that are definable politically, desirable socially and absolutely necessary from an administrative point of view. I was drawing as well on the expertise of men and women who dedicate themselves to the public service and especially in this sector of the public service where we are determined to fashion the country that people will call their own tomorrow.
The members opposite probably will not like to hear these facts, but approximately 40% of our population comes from elsewhere. Those men, women and their children are the biggest economic driver of the country. They are those who fashion the next generation. We are in fact those who are going to hand off the legacy of today to those who would improve on it tomorrow, and our department is key to that.
Let me tell members something about the department before I go to the six point plan. Those who would malign what we do should pay attention. Every single year the department makes over 1,100,000 positive decisions. That means that we collectively make a positive decision to welcome into this country 1.1 million people, and 235,736 received permanent residency. They were landed and became part of us. About 170,000 of those every year will also apply for citizenship. In fact, 18% of all citizens were born abroad.
One only has to look at this House. Fifty-six members were born elsewhere. We are beginning to shape the country of tomorrow by very positive decisions that this department puts into effect every year, not just because of good policy but also because we take great pains to ensure that those people will find a welcoming environment here. Roughly 236,000 people landed. We include about 105,000 students on visas to study and about 66,000 of them are at the post-secondary level. That is a fabulous number.
We include as well about another 100,000 temporary workers, people who come here for a specific period of time to fill the vacuum created, for one reason or another, in our economy. We then deal with a whole host of others who come here to visit this great country and who make a decision, unhappily in my view, to go back from whence they came.
All of that is to say that the department is engaged in a series of decisions, all of them positive, 1.1 million per year in addition to the 177-some-odd thousand every year who apply for citizenship. They become shareholders in this country.
We have said that this is all good but we still have some difficulties. Some of those difficulties are associated with the fact that we have so many who ask us to embrace them and we have not had in the past the capacity to deal with that entire demand.
The member opposite will probably say that the processing times are much too slow and that people are not being given what they need, but I beg to differ.
In the last budget, for example, we put in $298 million for processing and integration and an additional $100 million for addressing the processing abroad. We have started to put money into the system so we can increase that capacity, become much more efficient and address the needs of everyone who comes into the country. We began almost immediately by addressing one of the inequities that all members, at least on this side of the House, recognize, and that is that we had a series of out of status spouses who had entered into the humanitarian and compassionate stream in order to stay here in their own loving and productive relationships.
That stream takes enormous energy, emotional and financial. It is costly on both counts but it is also time-consuming. In the end, what would happen? We would, of course, have had these people together to begin the nurturing and building of society. What did we do? Collectively we wanted to what was appropriate, which seems easy today, and ensure their applications could be processed here inland.
We will not remove those who are in a bona fide relationship, nor will we remove those who are not a security risk. However, for the protection of all Canadians, and I know this is especially significant to some members, we will not tolerate those who cannot pass a criminality or security check. However, with that put over to one side, we will bring families together and we will begin with the spouses who are in a bona fide relationship.
We did that and immediately 3,000 such applications were addressed here inland. We put in the resources to ensure that happened. Overseas we immediately gave those applicants similar priority to ensure that those spouses who had made the application abroad did not languish as a result of long inventories.
I point this out because I need to illustrate that in addition to being forward looking, we are also in the business of ensuring that the relationships that we so desire in the country are nurtured and dealt with.
We moved in very short order on another issue that related to inventories. We took a look at the 110,000 parents and grandparents who are in what we call the inventory, in the backlog. We said that these were sponsored applicants who would eventually come to this country and that we needed to give them an opportunity to join their families here in Canada today so they have the opportunity to build a society that shows there is intergenerational communication and intergenerational support and where we would be able to sustain the kinds of loving support environments that are required by people who transplant themselves to this places far away from this place, which is familiar to us but in many respects unfamiliar to others.
There were 110,000 to be handled in two ways. I want to give the House an indication of the flexibility and the desire of the department, and dare I say the government and members of the Liberal caucus, to move. First, it was by increasing the number of parents and grandparents who we would land. Over the course of the next two years that number would go from 12,000 to 36,000.
Second, we said that we would give those parents and grandparents multiple entry visas provided, of course, they came with the appropriate health insurance, as befits anyone who comes here as a tourist.
That gives people an opportunity to move back and forth. We hope they would want to stay here but maybe they would not. We do not encourage that decision but we would give them an opportunity to have continuity in the family.
Just by those two measures the House would acknowledge that not only would we be forward looking, we would actually do what we had already committed to do. Is that just idle language? No, because the people opposite immediately started a telephone campaign saying that these are unproductive people. That is not so.
What we did is we put money, resources to ensure that it took place, $70 million in additional resources to process those new applicants and to put in place the personnel required to ensure those multiple entry visas would come forward.
These are all budgetary items. These are issues that we said we needed to fund so that our language, our policy, our ideas and our philosophy would be supported by the Parliament of Canada, the House of Commons, which would say that we should take money out of our pocket and put our money where our mouth is.
I know members do not like me doing that but that is essentially what the House of Commons does. It raises moneys in order to accomplish a particular objective. Is there a more noble objective than one which says that we reunite legitimate spouses and that we reunite families, that we bring parents and grandparents together with their children and grandchildren so that we have that continuity, that stability that is engaged in what we call society building and cultural stimulus?
Those are examples of some of the things that we already do and yet they would say that we are not doing those things.
I indicated a moment ago that the other thing we do is address the issue of citizenship and we did: $68 million to accelerate the process of application and processing by bringing in the appropriate equipment, machinery and personnel required to ensure that the appropriate testing, preparation and delivery of a most valuable document, citizenship, would come to all of those who apply.
The hear member opposite saying, “Promises, promises”. No. Here is the money. It is right here now.
Canadians everywhere are asking if is it just an idea and if the money is there. The money is there, $68 million, $70 million. The decision is made. We put it in the budget. That means the minister and his deputies have to go into the bureaucracy, into cabinet and they have to ensure the arguments carry the day and they achieve the resources necessary to implement the policy that these men and women get elected to put into place.
Those are not promises. That is action. Those are not idle examples of rhetoric. They are material examples of a government that works, a department that implements sound policy and it is an indication that some of that idle discussion, almost allegation and accusation, that says that the department has not been working is in fact a misrepresentation. There are 1.1 million positive decisions every single year; 236,000 landed last year; 110,000 parents and grandparents removed from the inventory via increased opportunity to land and by multiple entry visas to give them an opportunity to have a flavour and a taste of this country, the one that we take for granted because we live it every day, but it is really a dream and an ambition for every man and woman around the world.
I have said that I have a six point plan that members wanted so much to hear about. I have only touched on those two points. I am sure that all of those people who have taken time out of their evening to see how the House of Commons works want to know what the other four are and how they are implemented.
I am sure, Mr. Chair, that you will accord them and all of these colleagues an opportunity to hear them.