Monday January 23, 2006 – The votes are in and Canadians have chosen a new Prime-Minister in Stephen Harper, and a new direction for Canada.
The Conservative Party of Canada picked up more than 36% of the popular vote and has won a plurality of seats in parliament, establishing it as Canada’s first Conservative government in over twelve years.
“Tonight friends, our great country has voted for change […] and have asked our party to take the lead in delivering that change,” proclaimed Prime-Minister-designate Stephen Harper after winning his incumbency.
Under the new Government, Citizenship and Immigration will undergo various changes to its policies and procedures. Although the Tories have not directly committed to any fundamental amendments to the Federal Immigration and Refugee Act introduced in 2002, they have outlined key areas of improvement.
Harper’s Conservatives recognize that an effectively managed immigration industry is based, in part, on establishing a clear federal support system for newly-landed Canadians. Moreover, the conservative government has outlined the need for more emphasis put on foreign credentials recognition.
“Too often, new Canadians find that their credentials are not recognized in Canada,” explained Mr. Harper. “One of the toughest challenges […] is finding a job appropriate to one’s education, skills and training.”
Prime-Minister-Designate, Stephen Harper
Harper has specifically promised to help Canadian Newcomers establish their professional and work credentials before landing in Canada. The Conservative plan involves creating a federal agency that will oversee assessment and recognition of foreign credentials.
“We will work with the provinces and professional associations to ensure foreign-trained professionals meet Canadian standards” reads the official Conservative Party position. The incumbent Conservative leader has also announced that his government will immediately and significantly reduce the current $975 Right of Landing fee.
The newly-elected Harper government has focused on five key national issues that will bring its conservative agenda to the fore.
• A “federal Accountability Act” to clean up government.
• A Reduction to the GST, lowering taxes, and subsidizing Canada’ agricultural industry.
• Strengthening national security and toughening criminal justice.
• New child care incentives, reducing medical waiting lists, and protecting seniors’ hard-won gains.
• Investing in national infrastructure, and strengthening the Federal immigration system.
If the Conservatives wish to effectively lead Canada it will have to find the middle-ground upon which to govern. The socially conservative Tories will need to prove that their party can appeal to Canada’s liberal sensibilities, cross the federal divide, and get the job done without majority support in the House of Commons.
Moreover, Canadian voters, although expressing their desire for change in electing Harper’s Conservatives, have not given the Conservatives a clear mandate. By electing Canada’s second consecutive minority regime, Canadians in a sense are saying, “Hey, we think it’s time for change, but we’re watching you. We want to see how you do.”
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