Mr. Chair, I am very pleased to participate in this debate. I completely agree with my colleague that we should also extend our sympathies to the Filipinos here in Canada, not only to those in the Philippines.
My colleague expressed very well the depth of our sorrow and our condolences on the occasion of this tragedy. I would like to address what one might call more practical or more concrete issues.
As has been said by others, we do think that the government has provided a reasonably good reaction in the short term. It is a reasonably good reaction in terms of direct contributions and matching contributions. As a former defence minister, I was also pleased to see the quick deployment of the DART and of the helicopters.
However, I do not think it is enough to look at the short term; we must also look at the long term. The tragedy the Philippines has experienced is so big that it will take five years, even 10 years, to rebuild the affected areas. The danger is that, once the media are no longer there, governments might lose interest in the situation and stop sending assistance to the Philippines after a short while, whereas the needs will last for a very long time.
My point is that while we can in general support the government for its short-term action, we have to be equally concerned about the long run, which will last for at least five years or ten. After the media attention has gone away and the television cameras are no longer on, will the government still be there, providing the necessary assistance for the longer term reconstruction of those devastated islands, which we have seen so graphically on television but which will not remain on television for that much longer?
I combine these long-term concerns for reconstruction with the long-term concern mentioned by my NDP colleague from Ottawa Centre regarding climate change. While I commend overall the government for short-term reaction, I believe as well that we must not lose sight of the longer term, neither in terms of the dollar needs for reconstruction and health care nor on the issue of climate change.
That was my first point. I will wear my immigration critic hat to talk about the second point. Once again, the government has good intentions. However, as the saying goes, the devil is often in the details. If we look at the details, we cannot be at all sure that their intentions will really help the situation.
For instance, in terms of immigration, the government intends to take speedy action in sending assistance to those in significantly affected regions and to prioritize their cases.
However, this is where the devil could be in the details. For individuals in significantly affected areas, their cases will be prioritized. That sounds good, but what does it mean?
Let me put on the table the waiting times today for parents and grandparents from the Philippines is 99 months. For children, it is 15 months. For skilled workers, it is 18 months. For provincial program people, it is 12 months. For family live-in caregivers, many from the Philippines, it is 39 months. These are very long times. For people from the affected areas, does that mean they will be prioritized to the extent that wait times will be reduced from 39 months to 38 months or to 10 months, or to two months?
While the ideas put forward by the immigration department are laudable, I think we need more meat. We need to know before too long how many extra people will be let into Canada from these so-called prioritized areas.
We in the Liberal Party, and I as the immigration critic, will certainly be wanting to get more meat in coming weeks. I know it cannot happen overnight. How many more Filipinos will be allowed to come into this country as a consequence of this new policy, and what does their prioritization mean in terms of actual wait times for people from affected areas?