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A New Year, a New Minister

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Early in January a cabinet shuffle in the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper saw the post of Minister of Citizenship and Immigration change hands as a pair of ministers traded portfolios.

Coming from Human Resources and Social Development Canada (HRSDC) to take charge at Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) is the Honourable Diane Finley. Heading in the other direction is the Honourable Monte Solberg who had been serving in the immigration role for 10 months. The moves were part of a larger cabinet reorganization which saw eight ministers take on new roles and the addition of five new junior positions in cabinet.

While the direct swap of portfolios between two ministers is rare in Canadian politics, the decision by Prime Minister Harper shows the shift to an increasing interaction between the two ministries. In keeping with the federal government’s mandate to facilitate the entry of foreign workers to Canada, Mr. Solberg and Ms. Finley’s knowledge of each other’s departments should allow for improved co-ordination between them. Over this past year, CIC and HRSDC have been cooperating extensively to create programs that improve the situation for both domestic employers and immigrant workers seeking permanent residency in Canada.

First elected to parliament in 2004, Ms. Finley is the Member of Parliament for the rural Ontario riding of Haldimand-Norfolk. She has held the HRSDC portfolio since February 2006. While sitting in opposition, Ms. Finley acted as the Official Opposition Critic for Agriculture and Agri-Food.

The job of Minister of Citizenship and Immigration has been something of a revolving door of late. Ms. Finley will be the fifth minister to take the post in the past four years. The last immigration minister to spend a good deal of time in the portfolio was Denis Coderre, who held the job from January 2002 to December 2003. With an election likely looming within the year, the post very well may change hands again.

What changes might we expect under new leadership at CIC? Nothing seismic is likely to be in the cards, however the new minister’s background gives some indication of her probable priorities. Bringing her experience from HRSDC to the table, Ms. Finley is expected to focus on programs to facilitate the immigration of skilled workers. Speaking to reporters shortly after the move to her new position, Finley addressed the recognition of credentials and experience for foreign-trained individuals. Along with her time at HRSDC, Ms. Finley also holds an MBA from the University of Western Ontario and has worked in both the public and private sectors.