Mr. Speaker, I would like to take a few minutes to express my views on the amendments to Bill C-50 we are discussing.
First of all Bill C-50, in parliamentary terms, is intended to “implement” the budget, that is enact it, put into effect the announcements made, heard and clearly understood when the throne speech was delivered.
If that is the objective of this bill, then why has the Conservative government deliberately chosen to devote an entire part to immigration reform? And yet, a meagre $22 million over two years is allocated to this reform. Naturally, more monies are promised in future but they are not attached to anything at all.
There is something rather odd in the government's official documents. For example, on page 9 of the Budget in Brief, which discusses the reorganization—or modernization, to quote precisely—of the immigration system, one of the key phrases states that the goal is to make the immigration system more competitive.
When I read that, once again it made me think that it all part of the ideology espoused by the Conservative Party. Most of the time it considers the government to be a private corporation.
Why is this section on immigration included? I wonder.
Could it be an attempt to mislead parliamentarians? If not, could it be an attempt to humiliate the Liberals by introducing, in a confidence bill, a measure they would quite likely find unacceptable? The Liberals would find it unacceptable, but if they act as they have been acting for a number of weeks now, they will do anything but vote to bring down this government.
On the one hand, there are principles and convictions; on the other, there is the way these Liberals will choose to act in this House, because they are all legitimately elected members.
I see that my friend from Hull—Aylmer does not agree with what I am saying. He can ask me questions about it.
As members and representatives of their constituents, the 305 members currently in this House have an obligation to vote with integrity, on behalf of the people they represent. I would add that, as a general rule, we should avoid abstaining. This is just my opinion, but as I am entitled to it, I am sharing it.
The Liberals have said again that Canadians do not want an election. My friend said so earlier this morning in this House. Every time I hear that, I wonder when people ever do want an election. We are not talking about a national sport.
Often, when a crisis or scandal occurs, people's confidence in the government is so badly shaken that they call for an election. But it is not a question of waiting until the public calls for an election; it is a question of whether we in this House should pass bills that make sense and respect the people we represent.
Let us get to the heart of the matter: immigration. People who submit immigration or permanent residence applications often belong to the groups we call the most vulnerable—it saddens me to use that word, but this is true. Much of what we do, we do for these groups.
For the Conservatives to play “petty politics”—and I use the term “politics” loosely—at the expense of these people is truly disgraceful, especially when it seems to me that they are doing so specifically to humiliate the official opposition.
Looking at the provisions of the bill we are now discussing, I noticed the somewhat questionable direction the Conservative government wants to take in processing immigration applications.
The purpose of the change is to give as much latitude as possible to the minister—and therefore the government—in handling applications. This seems obvious to me and this has been said during the debate in this House. A number of my colleagues and I feel that that is the problem.
The goal is to bring in the workers needed most by industry, as quickly as possible, to the detriment of other types of workers. That is most likely why the government used that infamous expression I mentioned at the beginning of my speech, “a more competitive immigration system”, an expression typical of the private sector. Competition is fine, but should it drive our concerns as legislators? We have to wonder about that and debate the issue.
We know that the minister can give instructions on the following: the categories of applications to which the instructions apply; the order in which the applications are processed; the number of applications to be processed each year, by category; and what is done with the applications, including those that are re-submitted.
The instructions she gives will at least be published in the Canada Gazette. But how many MPs in this House, including myself, and how many of those watching us can say that they read the Canada Gazette at least once a year? It is not really a good tool for those affected or those targeted by this.
Obviously, during this time of labour shortage, applications need to be processed more quickly for those who want to come and work here. Nonetheless, the process can be sped up in different ways. More resources could be allocated to accelerate the process.
We all remember what happened at Passport Canada not so long ago, less than a year and a half ago. The number of applications made it impossible to issue passports efficiently, that is, in less than two months. The wait was more like two, three, even five months. The necessary resources were allocated and staff recruited, after which the government and officials were finally able to clear up the horrible backlog and process the applications.
Why has the government not looked into this possibility more closely?
The bill proposes making the rules arbitrary. When we hear the word “arbitrary”, alarm bells should go off, since making something arbitrary is always dangerous, regardless of who is in charge. The bill should have provided for changes to the rules, as I was saying earlier, to find the skilled workers we need, and to allocate money and the necessary resources.
I get the impression that this method could create a number of injustices—and when in doubt, we should be asking ourselves a lot of questions. Immigrants who submit an application for a resident permit on humanitarian grounds will find their claims have been added to the backlog. Furthermore, the bill explicitly gives the immigration officer the discretion to issue visas and other documents required to enter the country. In my opinion, this is a big setback for immigrants. Immigrants whose applications are not processed within the year or within the time set by the minister will probably have their applications returned.
I heard some Conservatives say that this was transparency, because this way people would know that their application had not been processed. But I think that if one of the members opposite were an immigrant, submitted an application and received similar treatment, he would be asking questions.
The Conservative government is choosing the solution that costs nothing, but, I believe, is an injustice, instead of choosing the logical solution, which would be to allocate the necessary funds to speed up the processing of applications, to make the process more predictable and to not restrict access for immigrants submitting an application for resident permits on humanitarian grounds.
These are the points I wanted to make. I am sure my colleagues in this House understand that I will vote in favour of the amendments proposed by the member for Jeanne-Le Ber.