While Immigration Minister Jason Kenney and the Conservative Party like to talk about the economy, once again his handling of the immigration system leaves much to be desired.
Canada has a long-standing shortage of skilled workers: some businesses cannot get enough skilled trades workers to keep up with growing demand and keep the economy moving. To fight this, past Liberal governments introduced flexible tools like the provincial nominee program to allow each province to target the occupations it needs most.
By contrast, Mr. Kenney has made reckless policy decisions. Last April he shut down the Skilled Worker Program and returned the applications of close to 280,000 people who were eager to come to Canada and work. His replacement program will not start up until almost a year later. Meanwhile labour shortages have increased.
Under the new skilled trades program announced on December 10th, the Minister has still not finalized the list of occupations that will be eligible under the new program. Imagine how many more jobs could have been filled if the Conservatives had not shut the door for a year and cold-heartedly hit the “delete button” on people who applied to come to Canada in good faith.
Instead of supporting increased permanent immigration to meet these needs and building our communities, Mr. Kenney has instead allowed the number of temporary foreign workers to balloon, almost doubling. This creates a second-class of workers and hurts businesses, who have had to recruit and re-train workers every few years. While temporary foreign workers are important to the economy and productivity, Canada suffers when we cannot retain and integrate new immigrants.
The Harper government has also failed to offer any plan to increase the number of skilled trades graduates within Canada – less than half of those who enrol in an apprenticeship program graduate.
Under Minister Kenney, we have seen the closure of offices and a resulting steep decline in services, family reunification frozen, and anti-immigrant and anti-refugee policies blossom. It all adds up to a piecemeal approach to immigration policy and no way to build a nation. By contrast, Liberals believe Canada’s immigration system should be a tool for nation building with a “growth model” that sees immigration as a tool of “demographic” and “economic” policy.
Kevin Lamoureux, MP
Liberal Party of Canada Critic for Citizenship and Immigration