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House of Commons Hansard #136 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was funding.

Topics

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to the member's comments. I have to reflect on my experience as an accountant and auditor prior to becoming a member of Parliament, where a couple of my clients were in fact settlement services. One of them actually went out of business because a union came in and decided to unionize the staff. The member and the minister well know that the funding for human resources from either level of government is fixed and cannot change. They could not afford to stay open because they could not afford to pay the salary demands of the union that was set up.

It is not a matter of the fact that there were cuts but whether the cuts were done in a way which was transparent. It would seem to me that if there is a requirement to save money in that area of settlement services, it really takes an approach which is basically to close down those that are not providing efficient services, as opposed to chipping away at the foundational funding of some of these settlement services. I believe the government has not been transparent in that regard. I wonder if the member would care to comment.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Bloc

Thierry St-Cyr Bloc Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is true that, at the very beginning of my speech, I spoke about the fact that the government was unable to satisfactorily answer my question about the effects of these cuts and the abrupt transfer of reduced funds from Toronto to other parts of Ontario or Canada. It seems to me that there has been no consideration or concern for the human resources, for the people and individuals who work in these organizations and who provide services to the public. This issue has not been adequately addressed.

During their presentations, senior departmental officials told us that they wanted to ensure that the transition went smoothly. Unfortunately, when I asked for specific examples, they were unable to provide me with any. For example, none of the organizations will be given any money to help them to continue to operate during the transition period.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, the 2011-12 estimates just came out and the immigration and citizenship department sees a decrease of $30.6 million to the interim federal health program, global case management. The interim federal health program assists new immigrants in finding good jobs in the health field, for example, by assisting them to get internships in hospitals so they can practise as doctors, which Canada needs.

The minister tells me that maybe that cut will not have a drastic impact on immigrant settlement services. Perhaps the member could comment on that.

It also has a decrease of $7.5 million in funding related to managing the immigration program backlog. There is a good increase to the Canada-Quebec transfer accord of $259 million, which will help Quebec immigrants. I just wish that this were extended across the country, so there would be a 2% increase across the board. Instead, we see that there is a decrease outside Quebec. I just want some comments from the member.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Bloc

Thierry St-Cyr Bloc Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Mr. Speaker, I did not have the opportunity to thoroughly review the estimates to which the hon. member is referring. However, unless I am mistaken, I believe that the interim federal health program has more to do with medicine for refugees. This is a subject that we discussed today in committee. We are concerned about the fact that the federal government is still refusing to sign a formal agreement with the Association québécoise des pharmaciens propriétaires to ensure that services are provided to refugees in Quebec, no matter which pharmacy they go to.

The government's refusal to sign such an agreement is even harder to understand since it has signed similar agreements respecting four of its other jurisdictions: National Defence, the RCMP, Veterans Affairs and Indian Affairs. It is much simpler to sign one agreement with the AQPP because the 1,800 members would be required to comply with the agreement and provide services to refugees, whether in Montreal, Dolbeau or the Gaspé. Unfortunately, the government seems to oppose this pharmacists' association and the idea of a special measure for Quebec.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Calgary Southeast Alberta

Conservative

Jason Kenney ConservativeMinister of Citizenship

Mr. Speaker, first of all I would like to point out that my friends from the New Democratic Party say that they would like to make Parliament work, yet despite the House being scheduled to debate an important bill to improve airline security and to help us all work together against terrorism, we have another concurrence motion brought forward by the New Democratic Party.

For those members of the public who may be watching this debate with interest, a concurrence motion is essentially used as a tactic to delay debate on a government bill. That is certainly the case here.

I would invite my colleagues in the opposition to let Parliament work and to focus on important legislative business, in this case combatting terrorism and keeping our air passengers safe.

Having said that, I am pleased to have an opportunity to speak to the government's massive investments in success for newcomers to Canada. Let me back up a little bit, as it is important to recall the situation that faced newcomers under the previous Liberal government.

When the previous Liberal government took office in October 1993, Canada received 276,000 new permanent residents in that year, the largest number of immigrants since about World War II.

The first thing the Liberals did was to begin cutting the budget of Citizenship and Immigration Canada quite steeply and reducing the number of newcomers arriving in the country, so that by 1995, their second year in office, the number of permanent residents being received in Canada plummeted down to 176,000. They reduced by about one third the number of newcomers allowed to enter the country.

The second thing the Liberals did was to look at immigrants as a source of revenue to pay for their other spending priorities. So they imposed a $1,000 fee, what they called a right of permanent residence fee, on all new immigrants to Canada.

That was essentially a tax, and some would call it a head tax, on all new permanent residents arriving in the country. We think that was a bad choice, because those individuals were arriving with scarce or little savings and were struggling to make down payments on their initial apartments and getting their kids enrolled in school. They needed every dollar they could find to get settled in Canada, yet the previous government saw those immigrants as a source of revenue and imposed a $1,000 right of landing fee on them.

The third thing the previous government did was that it decided to cut and then freeze for 13 years federal support for integration and settlement services. As other members have described, those include such things as free language training, job search skills and other integration support for newcomers. Thus for 13 years the Liberals froze and cut the levels of funding, such that when our government arrived in office in February 2006, we found that the total federal budget for settlement services across Canada was $200 million after 13 years of Liberal government.

The first thing our government did was to cut in half the Liberal right of landing fee on newcomers, thereby saving, cumulatively, over $340 million for newcomers to Canada since that time, and over $140 million for newcomers to Ontario in particular. That is money now in the pockets of immigrants to help them make that first down payment on their apartment or perhaps on a new home. That is a $340 million boost to newcomers that was introduced by our government.

The second thing Conservatives did was to triple the federal investment in settlement services. The Liberal members here say “Oh, we almost, or just about, got around to that” like so many other things, that “if they had given us another 13 years, we would have got around to investing in the success of new Canadians.” But they did not. They made choices.

It is fine to make choices. There were some difficult fiscal times. However, when choices are made, one has to stand up and take responsibility for them, which we saw the Liberals refusing to do through their decision to underfund settlement services for newcomers.

Now they have the temerity to stand up in this place and criticize a government that has more than tripled investment in the success of the newcomers they refused to invest in. In particular, when I hear the histrionics and demagoguery of the member for Parkdale—High Park, it really causes me to wonder about what kind of cognitive dissonance it requires to criticize $600 million of investment in settlement services when there was not a word of criticism about a government that had frozen it for 13 years at $200 million a year. How bizarre.

I should also point out that for 13 long years, the previous Liberal government did nothing on one of the top priorities of newcomers, the issue of foreign credential recognition for foreign-trained professionals. This is a tough issue. It is largely provincial responsibility and jurisdiction, and there is a very limited role the federal government can play. However, between 1993 and 2005, the previous Liberal government chose to play no role in accelerating and streamlining the process of credential recognition so that foreign-trained professionals could get licensed and work in their professions of interest.

By contrast, our government has introduced the Foreign Credentials Referral Office, through which we are providing pre-arrival orientation sessions, free two-day seminars and personalized counselling for new economic immigrants to Canada while they are still in their countries of origin, so that they can apply for jobs and begin the process of applying for credential recognition and get a much better appreciation of some of the initial integration challenges they will face. According to our data, this has actually improved the situation with respect to pre-arranged employment for the economic immigrants who have gone through this new integration project introduced by our government as part of our broader efforts on foreign credential recognition.

I should also point out that we have invested $50 million in Canada's economic action plan to put the meat on the bones of the pan-Canadian framework for the recognition of foreign qualifications. Basically, we are getting all 10 provinces and their respective 45 licensed professional associations around the table to hammer out a common, streamlined and expedited process for credential recognition. Basically that is a lot of technical jargon to say that the federal government is finally taking a vital, real leadership role, backed up with real dollars and cents, to speed up the process for credential recognition for foreign-trained professionals. That is good news. After 13 years of neglect, finally there is federal leadership for foreign-trained professionals.

However, on the issue before us of investment in settlement services, some of the Liberal members are squawking about this Canada-Ontario immigration thing through which they supposedly brought in a large increase in funding. In fact, we can look at the books. It is publicly available, black on white, in the estimates and the budget. The last year the Liberal government was in office, in fiscal year 2005-06, the federal investment in total settlement services across Canada was $200 million, with $111.5 million of that in the province of Ontario. That was the same, for all intents and purposes, as it had been 13 years earlier.

It is just like the Kelowna accord. Do we remember that? The parliamentary secretary for INAC, Indian and Northern Affairs, who is here, will tell the House that the Liberals had a Kelowna accord. It was a press release. They call press releases, “investments”. Yes, they sent out a press release about a Canada-Ontario immigration accord, but there was no money, no real transfers, no increased services, nothing practical, concrete or real, just a fantasy. They said nothing about the other provinces.

Quebec is following its own path. With the Canada-Quebec agreement on immigration, the province applies a formula—which I talked about—for immigrant settlement services.

The Liberals said they would have an agreement with Ontario. What about the other provinces? There was nothing, nada, zilch, no proposed increased investment for settlement services for newcomers in western or Atlantic Canada.

The principle that we took very clearly is reflected in the decision before us today. I know it is a radical idea, perhaps, for my Liberal friends, but our principle was this: that just as all Canadians are equal under the law, so too should all newcomers be treated with equity by the Government of Canada, and that every newcomer, whether they decide to settle in Labrador City or Long Island, British Columbia, should all have roughly the same level of settlement services available to them. It is about equity.

In 2005 we therefore tripled the federal investment in settlement services. The truth is that we increased that funding more quickly than people were enrolling in the programs. Thus while we tripled the funding, we in fact only saw about a 34% increase in enrolment in federally funded programs such as language instruction for newcomers to Canada. For example, between 2005 and 2009, we saw the number of people enrolled in LINC classes across Canada go from about 48,000 to 53,000, a very small increase in actual clients enrolling in the services, and to this day, only about 25% of eligible permanent residents enrol in the settlement services we offer them freely.

That is a challenge. We need to make sure people are aware of these programs that we offer freely, and that is why we have done such innovative things as our pilot project for vouchers for free language training, which we are now mailing on a pilot basis to newcomers in Nova Scotia, Ontario and Alberta. We have seen an increase in the uptake, more people enrolling, because they understand there is a monetary value to the free language courses we are offering. That is very concrete. It is not just a press release, but a real service. We are trying to increase enrollment.

Fundamentally, we have a responsibility to ensure that money is being spent accountably. When we have this huge increase in funding, a tripling of funding, and only a 34% increase in the number of people enrolling in those services, we have to ask whether that money is being spent with maximum efficiency. We also need to ensure that we treat everyone with equity.

Over the course of the past five years, one of the great untrumpeted achievements of this government's immigration reforms has been a much better distribution of newcomers across Canada. It used to be that 90% of newcomers settled in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, even if the best jobs were in other parts of the country. Many of my predecessors, including the member for Eglinton—Lawrence, I am sure all reflected on the need to get a better distribution of newcomers in other parts of the country so that all parts of Canada could enjoy the benefits of immigrants' work ethic.

We succeeded with that, in part through the provincial nominee program and its expansion, and so we have now seen a very significant increase in the number of newcomers settling in the prairie and the Atlantic provinces. For example, over the past five years Manitoba has seen the number of immigrants settling there nearly triple. That is phenomenal. That is one of the reasons the Manitoba economy has been leading the country, as I am sure my colleague from Winnipeg would agree. I do not know where he is. He lives in here. He is normally here all the time, but--

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

A few members have made mentioned of the fact that it is inappropriate to point out the absence or presence of a member.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

Jason Kenney Conservative Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I meant to compliment the member who is always here.

We ended up in a situation where, because of the increases in funding, they were based on 2005 levels of where people were settling. In 2005, nearly 145,000 newcomers were choosing to settle in the province of Ontario. However, as a result of the changes we made, more people were choosing to settle in the Atlantic provinces and western Canada.

When we fast-forward to 2009-10, we found that only 105,000 newcomers were settling in Ontario with the balance going typically to the western and Atlantic provinces. That is a good problem to have because it meant that the 25% reduction in immigration to Ontario was a proportionate increase in immigration to provinces with a lot of labour market shortages. Those provinces are now benefiting from immigration. Now there is a much closer share of newcomers being distributed across the country.

However, the settlement dollars were not following the immigrants because it was all based on a 2005 formula that is now out of date. This has ended up with a peculiar situation whereby Ontario newcomers are receiving about $3,400 in federally funded services per immigrant but those living in the western and Atlantic provinces are only receiving about $2,900 per immigrant.

Do my friends in the opposition think it is fair that a newcomer in Calgary Northeast or a newcomer in North Battleford, Saskatchewan is receiving about $600 less in federal settlement services than a newcomer here in Ottawa? I do not think one Canadian would agree that is fair or reasonable.

We had to rebalance the funding of settlement services. We worked with the provinces and came up with a new settlement formula based on the number of primary immigrants; an estimate of secondary migration of where people choose to move sometimes, and that is typically to Alberta and Saskatchewan; the number of refugees; and a number of other criteria.

We came up with a new formula, collaboratively with the provinces that will now, hopefully, ensure that in the future newcomers will receive roughly the same level of services across the country. Quebec is a special case here because of the Canada-Quebec immigration accord.

As a consequence of this new formula, in fiscal year 2011-12 we will have a rebalancing of federal settlement services across the country. That will result in an increase in our federal settlement service budget for Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut. Ten of the 13 jurisdictions in Canada will be receiving yet another increase in settlement services under this government. This is good news for newcomers to Canada.

However, that must come from somewhere. The offset will come from those areas that have been over-funded, such as Ontario and, to some extent, Nova Scotia and British Columbia. I note that the Government of Brutish Columbia has not fully spent the money that we transferred to it for settlement services for the very problem that I explained before, which is that the funding increases were so significant under our government that the uptake was not there from the clients to justify all that spending. We do not just spend for the sake of spending. We in the Conservative government believe that we spend for results. Even the Government of British Columbia said that it was not concerned about the slight offset in funding because it was not spending all that money anyway.

Even within Ontario there have been changes in patterns of migration. For example, between 2005 and 2009 fewer people were settling in the city of Toronto proper than was the case before. However, there was a huge increase in settlement in the region of York, which is part of the greater Toronto area just to the north. Consequently, there will be a slight reduction in settlement funding in the city of Toronto but a large increase in the region of York in the range of 43%.

One of the members opposite suggested that this was calculated for some political or partisan reason. I have to say as strongly and clearly as I can that that is outrageous and completely ridiculous. The formula is based on federal and provincial consultation and all of these decisions have been developed by officials in Citizenship and Immigration Canada simply to ensure that the services go where the newcomers are going.

I would point out that settlement services in Toronto will still be funded by more than double what they were when the previous Liberal government was in office. We invited 36 settlement service agencies out of the roughly 200 agencies in Ontario, through a process of requests for proposals, to make submissions for future contribution agreements. We assessed those submissions on an objective basis. We scored their historic performance and looked at the quality of the proposals. The officials made an assessment based on a point system and decided that 36 associations that had been receiving funding would not receive funding over the next two year period but that 30 new associations would receive funding. I do not see what the problem is with that. If an organization receives money from the federal government, it does not mean that it has a permanent entitlement to that money. It means that it needs to prove that it is spending it efficiently.

What we are doing is we are protecting the interests of taxpayers through efficiency and ensuring equity in funding right across the country. We are proud of our decision in the investment in the success of newcomers to Canada.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Ruby Dhalla Liberal Brampton—Springdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, a number of constituents have approached me with a great deal of concern. Some constituents are facing the fact that their sponsorship of family reunification has gone from three to four years under the previous Liberal government to almost six to seven years. With the new changes announced, it is expected to reach almost 13 years of wait times.

The African Community Services of Peel, the Canadian Hate Prevention Network, the Social Planning Council of Peel and the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Peel are all agencies that have been subjected to the funding cuts by the Conservative government. Thousands of Bramptonians and constituents have been left without the necessary services to ensure that new Canadians can integrate, can get the skills they need to ensure their success and can obtain resources not only for themselves but their families to ensure their success and prosperity as families. With the $53 million of cuts that have been faced by these organizations, there has been a great impact because they will no longer be able to provide those services.

Brampton is also home to the largest number of immigrants throughout Canada. As the minister knows. Brampton has the We Welcome the World Centre, which operates within the Peel District School Board, to help parents and small children integrate into the school system. In its first year alone, We Welcome the World Centre helped over 1,800 families in its first year but it has itself lost half of its operating budget, which will leave not only the agencies that I have mentioned but many of the new Canadians accessing these agencies out in the cold.

When the minister says that a newcomer should be treated with equity, how will these Brampton families be treated with equity when they have faced and been subjected to these cuts of over $53 million and the impact it will have on many Canadians who are facing long wait times for family reunification?

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Jason Kenney Conservative Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, in terms of the processing time for family reunification, family class immigration applications are being processed on average two months earlier than was the case in 2005 under the previous government. Last year, we welcomed 281,000 immigrants, the largest number in 57 years, including 181,000 family members if we include the dependents of primary economic immigrants. Next year, we will be increasing our targets for family class immigration to a maximum, in the planning range, of 65,500.

Finally, we have accepted more family class immigrants in the past five years than was the case under the previous Liberal government. Therefore, I will not take any lessons from that member on family class immigration.

With respect to settlement services in Peel, our ministry, for some reason, counts the Peel and Halton regions together for management purposes. When the member's party was in government in 2005-06, her government was transferring $15 million in settlement services to Peel-Halton. Next year, even after the rebalancing, we will be funding $65 million in settlement services for Peel and Halton. From $15 million, under her watch, to $65 million for Peel families, including those in Brampton, under our government, is an increase of 329%. Yes, there will be a slight offset from this year of $7 million, which is a $7 million transfer into other parts of the country that are now being underfunded, but that amount is half the total federal Liberal contribution to settlement services in the Peel and Halton regions in 2005.

We need to have some perspective here. Where is that $7 million going? I will tell members where it is going. It is going to the increased number of newcomers settling in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick and the north because they deserve settlement services too.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:45 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for sticking around for the debate. It is something that he does regularly when these issues are debated in the House and I do appreciate that he takes the time to participate.

I do want to say that flies a bit in his assertion that somehow debating a concurrence motion is just a time-wasting dilatory thing in this House. It is not. This is the chance for the House to look at the work of committees and to express our support for initiatives taken in committee. It is absolutely not a time-wasting exercise. The minister's presence here, I hope, speaks to that as well.

The minister talked about the right of landing fee. I have to say that I agree with his analysis. The right of landing fee was hurting immigrants to Canada. It was taxing immigrants to Canada at a time when they can least afford to pay. A tax on landing of $1,000 was very harmful to people coming to Canada to settle here. Although the minister's analysis of that is correct, a $500 landing fee is equally offensive to the goal of integrating new immigrants into Canadian society.

I wonder why the government is taking hundreds of millions of dollars, as the minister pointed out, out of the pockets of new immigrants when, at the same time, it is now cutting services that many new immigrants need in key places like Toronto, Ontario, British Columbia and Nova Scotia. Why is the right of landing fee there at all? Why are we putting that burden on new immigrants to Canada?

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

Jason Kenney Conservative Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to underscore again that the right of landing fee was introduced by the previous Liberal government in 1995. We did meet a platform commitment to cut it in half in 2006 immediately upon taking office.

We, as a government, would like to reduce all sorts of taxes as the fiscal situation permits. I register his point. As the member knows, we all need to exercise fiscal discipline. I would hope that in due course a future government can look at future reductions in that area. However, we need to manage all of these things in a way that is affordable in terms of the federal fiscal framework.

I would also point out that the funds we collected in the past from that fee were just spent on general revenues. Now we are investing $600 million in services to newcomers, far more than is collected in the fee. Finally, newcomers are getting something back for the fee that they are paying, which was not the case under the previous government.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Alan Tonks Liberal York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct a question to the minister. He has given the appearance that the various provincial-federal contracts that are multi-year in nature, in fact have been evidence-based, and those changes have been negotiated through those agreements, and the impact is the cuts that have been effected on, for example, Ontario and the greater Toronto area. It gives the appearance that it is, in fact, an empirical process that is based on the evidence he has suggested.

If that is the case, how come the province of Ontario, within the transfer agreement that has existed for the past five years and is in the process of renegotiation, has had a truncation of that process with a cut of over $200 million that has impacted further on the transfer arrangement that was negotiated as part of that five-year agreement?

If the minister is accurate in the manner in which he has characterized this negotiation, then why is the province of Ontario saying that there has been a breach of that contract and it is very difficult to get on with a new negotiation, when it was entered into in bad faith in the first place? That is the question we would like to have answered.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Jason Kenney Conservative Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, that is a fair question from a very thoughtful and respected colleague. I would point out that in 2005, when the funding levels were established in the Canada-Ontario immigration accord, the number was picked arbitrarily. It was not based on any kind of evidence-based assessment of what the actual needs for settlement services were in Ontario. Rather, it was based simply on the peg mark of what Quebec received, itself based on a mathematical formula established in 1991. It was really an arbitrary figure.

Having said that, we respected the levels that were foreseen in the COIA accord in 2005 and increased the settlement funding in Ontario from $111.5 million to roughly $365 million. However, we found that there was not an adequate number of services to fund. We did these requests for proposals from the non-governmental organizations that provide the services and we simply did not get enough eligible proposals.

Unlike, perhaps, other governments, we were not going to just blow the money. We were not going to write cheques to organizations ineligible to receive them. Since then, in 2007, in consultation with Ontario and the other provinces, we did come up with a new settlement funding allocation formula based on the number of immigrants, the number of refugees--

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order, I will have to stop the minister as his time has expired.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Papineau.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Justin Trudeau Liberal Papineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to be in the House today to discuss immigration. This is a very important issue for Canada and for Parliament, but also for the future of the families and people who have come to Canada to build their lives and to contribute to this country.

Our country was built on immigration. People came from all over the world to build lives for themselves and to create a rich country, not just from an economic standpoint, but also in terms of social justice and freedom. What we are seeing today is that the immigration sector is facing new challenges, and the fact is that adjustments must be made.

The reality is, the waves of immigration that we have gone through in past decades allowed people to come over with modest levels of language and marketable job skills, and build their success. They were able to do this whether it be in the post-war years, when the construction industry in my riding of Papineau was booming, or in earlier waves of migration when the Prairies were settled. Families came and built their lives, and were able to succeed economically without a tremendous level of integration support.

The reality is, now things have changed. Those migrating to Canada cannot simply arrive and hope to find a good-paying job, enough to care for their children, pay the rent, and build a future for their family unless they also develop skills. We are living in a service and knowledge economy where language skills, job skills, and social skills are essential to succeed when 20 to 50 years ago they were not.

It is not so much to encourage people to come to Canada, which is extremely important, as we see from the aging population and low birth rates. We need to draw the best and the brightest from around the world to continue to create a prosperous country and economy. Just as important as it is to welcome people, it is how we welcome them and the tools we give them to succeed.

Last year 281,000 people were welcomed into this country; a record high. It seems illogical and unconscionable that at a time when we are allowing more people in than we have in decades, we are also cutting integration services.

The minister makes a good point in that there is a reallocation because people are arriving and settling in different places. However, the fact is that there is a $53 million cut for settlement services for new arrivals.

It is easy to say we are cutting their budgets.

However, simply cutting integration services is not in the interests of Canada or of newcomers. We are asking a great deal of our social security system and our economic system, which support these people when they are unemployed. In fact, providing social assistance ends up costing much more than providing education, support and training for these people so they can contribute to society.

It does not make sense. Unfortunately, we see this lack of logic fairly regularly in this government's decisions. It prefers to make cuts here and there and leave us more impoverished in the long term. It is evident in their crime agenda: the government wants to build prisons that will not make us safer. It is evident in this matter: it is making cuts that will hurt the most vulnerable.

People arriving in this country only want to contribute, to feel relevant, to build their lives and care for their families, and to help shape this great country. The fact that at a time when more are arriving than ever before and we are cutting settlement services is a mistake.

The minister enjoys talking about the fact that we are funding more now than we were in 2005. The agreements signed in November 2005 were five-year agreements that led to these increases in funding. It was a Liberal government that looked at the amount we were spending on settlement services and said that we really needed to invest more in language services, integration and job training, and signed five-year agreements that would double and triple the funding for settlement agencies.

Five years forward from 2005, those agreements are starting to run out. Here is the first opportunity for this Conservative government to start cutting in those programs. It is the first chance it has had after funding was increased over the years with the understanding of how important it was. The first chance the Conservatives get to cut those Liberal increases in funding, they do it on the backs of vulnerable people who want nothing more than to contribute to our society.

Here we have the paradox of the government. On the one hand it is welcoming people and on the other hand it is not allowing them opportunities to contribute and learn.

We also see that when we want people to succeed and draw in the best possible quality of immigrants, we need to encourage them to be successful. We need to train them and offer language training, but as an incentive to come over, we need to offer them family reunification, understanding that bringing over parents and grandparents is not just a social issue but an economic issue as well for their capacity to contribute in child care. The government has left child care woefully underfunded with fewer spaces.

We need to offer family reunification as a motivation to draw in the best and the brightest from around the world who wish to come build their families in Canada because they know they are going to be able to bring over their own parents and grandparents, their support system.

The undercutting of our immigration system, the undercutting of our capacity to bring over the best and the brightest from around the world and have them build this nation, is what is truly at stake right now.

The minister is very good at pointing out that we funded less in 2005 during the last Liberal government, but we set in motion the funding increases that the government has benefited from. If we want to go back to the past, previous Liberal governments funded immigration to greater levels than previous Conservative governments, and before that the Conservative government funded immigration to greater levels than the Liberal government before it.

We have been increasing our funding throughout time. It is time that the government stopped defining itself by what it is, in its words, doing differently or better than previous governments and started looking at genuine need. The government needs to understand that people are in need of aid and support, not to receive charity but to contribute economically to this country.

Our small country will not be successful in the global economy unless we give everyone the opportunity to develop their full potential. The fact that engineers are driving taxis and that people with a PhD cannot find a job because they do not receive enough encouragement and assistance to take the necessary training means that we are not building the country that we need.

Basically, the minister and the government are saying that this is a reallocation. Naturally, funds are being reallocated. I am very pleased that British Columbia, Newfoundland and all the other provinces will have more funding, but making a $53 million cut is not investing in the this country's prosperity, which we need.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

1 p.m.

Calgary Southeast Alberta

Conservative

Jason Kenney ConservativeMinister of Citizenship

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his comments. I would first like to make a minor correction.

The member said that the previous Liberal government had signed agreements that led to these increases in funding that we have seen in the past five years. It is true that the previous government in 2005 signed the Canada-Ontario Immigration Agreement, which foresaw a certain increase in funding for settlement services in Ontario.

I want to point out that there was no similar agreement with the western or Atlantic provinces and this was one of the problems we had when we came to office in 2006. We saw the quite generous funding levels implied by the Canada-Quebec Immigration Agreement, this year one-quarter of a billion dollars, and the unfulfilled commitment at that point under the Canada-Ontario Immigration Agreement. Had we implemented that without increases in funding for the four Atlantic and four western provinces, we would have had a massive lack of equity across the country.

That is why we decided of our discretion without separate agreements to massively increase the funding levels for British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and P.E.I. It is in that same spirit that this year we are increasing the funding to seven of the provinces and the three territories. I wanted to correct that point.

I agree with the member's general point that we need to invest in the success of newcomers. In particular, and quite commendably, he raised the importance of foreign credential recognition for foreign-trained professionals.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

1 p.m.

Liberal

Justin Trudeau Liberal Papineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, when the agreements were signed in the fall of 2005 with Ontario, they were based on a range of studies and analyses looking into where the needs were. In 2005, the immigration focus was much more on Ontario than it is right now. It is wonderful to see that immigration is now increasing across the country, but if it is increasing in Alberta and the west, where it often does as newcomers arrive and move out west, all too often it is because, and rightly so, there are jobs and economic opportunities out west that do not necessarily exist in Ontario at the same time.

When we look at numbers of migration, there is a legitimate allocation of funding but when we look at needs, in many cases people who have newly arrived and are moving out west for jobs do not have the same level of need as the ones who remain in Ontario and having difficulty finding jobs. I am wary about simply applying a numbers game when we are talking about human beings' lives and needs.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

It is my duty to interrupt the proceedings at this time and put forthwith the question on the motion now before the House.

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

1:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

1:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

All those opposed will please say nay.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

1:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

In my opinion the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Call in the members.

And the bells having rung:

Accordingly, the vote stands deferred until tomorrow at the end of the time provided for government orders.

AfghanistanPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

March 1st, 2011 / 1:05 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I have a petition signed by dozens of Canadians calling for an end to Canada's military involvement in Afghanistan.

In May 2008, Parliament passed a resolution to withdraw Canadian Forces by July 2011. The Prime Minister, with agreement from the Liberal Party, broke his oft-repeated promise to honour the parliamentary motion and furthermore, refuses to put it to a parliamentary vote in the House.

Committing 1,000 soldiers to a training mission still presents a danger to our troops and an unnecessary expense when our country is faced with a $56 billion deficit. The military mission has cost Canadians more than $18 billion, money that could have been used to improve health care and seniors' pensions here in Canada.

Polls show that a clear majority of Canadians do not want Canada's military presence to continue after the scheduled removal date of July 2011. Therefore, the petitioners call upon the Prime Minister to honour the will of Parliament and bring the troops home now.