Election 2019: What Canada’s parties are saying on Economic Class immigration
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Elections and promises go hand in hand and Canada’s main federal political parties are making plenty on the topic of Economic Class immigration in the run-up to Canada’s 43rd general election on October 21.
The Economic Class is one of the three classes through which immigration to Canada is managed, along with Family Class and Refugee Class.
Economic Class immigration programs currently welcome the majority of newcomers to Canada each year. These include the three Express Entry-managed Federal High Skilled immigration programs (the Federal Skilled Worker Class, Federal Skilled Trades Class and Canadian Experience Class) and Canada’s Provincial Nominee Program (PNP), among others.
Canada’s 2019 admissions target for its various Economic Class programs is 191,600 new permanent residents. This is nearly 60 per cent of this year’s total target of 330,800 admissions across Canada’s three immigration classes.
Five of the six main federal contenders have now released their platforms on immigration, with the exception of the incumbent Liberal Party of Canada.
Here’s a look at what they’re saying on Economic Class immigration and, in the case of the Liberals, what they’ve done.
The Liberal Party of Canada
Policies enacted by the Liberals since they assumed power in November 2015 provide us with a strong sense of what to expect from them should they win another mandate.
Their 2019-2021 Immigration Levels Plan tells us that the Liberals would continue to welcome 58 per cent of Canada’s newcomers under the Economic Class over the next two years.
With overall immigration levels slated to rise even further under the plan (to a target 350,000 immigrants by 2021 compared to around 260,000 when the Liberals took office), the number of Economic Class immigrants selected by both the federal government and provinces would also rise.
In 2021, the Liberals have an admissions target of 88,800 immigrants through Canada’s Express Entry-managed programs — a nine per cent increase compared with 2019’s target of 81,400.
Admissions through the PNP are also slated to increase to 71,300 new permanent residents, an increase of 17 per cent over 2019.
Assisting the federal government and Canada’s provinces and territories in their efforts to welcome more immigrants in the coming years are new economic class streams introduced by the Liberals since 2015.
These include the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot and the Agri-Food Immigration Pilot as well as the Atlantic Immigration Pilot, which provides Canada’s four Atlantic provinces with significant authority to select immigrants who meet the region’s economic needs.
These programs were introduced to help Canada meet broad immigration objectives such as promoting economic development in smaller jurisdictions and supporting key areas of the economy such as the agri-food sector.
In the absence of an election platform, it remains to be seen what other reforms the Liberals could make to Canada’s economic class program should they receive a new mandate.
However, given the Liberal move away from annual to multi-year immigration planning, stakeholders have a fair idea of what to expect should the Trudeau government return to power.
The Conservative Party of Canada
The Conservatives governed Canada most recently from 2006 to 2015 and were responsible for introducing the Express Entry system in January 2015.
Polls show the Conservatives effectively tied with the Liberals for the lead among decided voters.
In his 2019 Immigration Plan, Conservative leader Andrew Scheer’s promises to “safeguard and emphasize economic immigration” if elected in October.
He also promises to “set immigration levels consistent with what is in Canada’s best interests.”
The other economic plank in Scheer’s immigration platform is the pledge to “improve credential recognition and make it easier for new Canadians who have existing skills that meet our standards to ply their trades here.”
New Democratic Party of Canada (NDP)
Polls show the NDP in third place among decided voters, slightly ahead of the Green Party of Canada.
Should no party win a majority on October 21, runners-up like the NDP or the Greens could have leverage over Canada’s immigration policy should they hold the balance of power.
The NDP’s immigration platform accuses the Liberals of leaving “highly educated” immigrants “struggling to get work in their field of expertise — causing stress for their families as they struggle to make ends meet.”
To this end, the NDP’s platform pledges to “work with provinces to address gaps in settlement services and improve foreign credentials recognition.”
The NDP also promises to “make sure that our immigration policies and levels meet Canada’s labour force needs and recognize people’s experiences, contributions and ties to Canada.”
Gender-based wage discrimination is also raised in the NDP platform, which highlights the wider pay gap for immigrant women, among others. The NDP pledges to prioritize pay equity by “requiring employers to be transparent about pay and implementing and enforcing tough and pro-active pay equity legislation and regulations right away.”
The Green Party of Canada
Improving the recognition of foreign professional credentials is also a central plank of the Green Party’s immigration platform.
The Green Party says “newcomers are a source of incredible skills and potential for our country” and yet recent immigrants “make almost 40 per cent less than workers born in Canada.”
To help correct this, the Greens say they would “ensure professionals being considered for immigration have the licensing requirements for their professions clearly explained before entry.”
The Greens also pledge to “work with professional associations to create a robust system for evaluating the education and training credentials of immigrants against Canadian standards, with the goal of expediting accreditation and expanding professional opportunities for immigrants.”
They would also abolish Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program “and address labour shortages by increasing immigration, working with employers to establish pathways to permanent residency.”
The Greens also say they would “improve the pathway … to Canadian permanent residency and citizenship” for international students and foreign workers.
The Bloc Québécois
Given their mandate to promote Quebec independence, the Bloc’s immigration proposals exclusively pertain to the province.
The Bloc’s Economic Class proposals focus on addressing the serious labour shortage that employers across Quebec are facing, notably those in the province’s smaller regions.
To address this, the Bloc is proposing a tax credit for immigrants and recent international graduates of Quebec schools who accept employment in its outlying jurisdictions.
The Bloc says it also supports a proposal by Quebec’s centre-right Coalition Avenir Québec government to tie permanent residence status to the condition that an immigrant accepts and maintains employment in such jurisdictions.
Lastly, the Bloc proposes streamlining the application process for the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, which a growing number of Quebec employers are turning to as labour shortages grow. The Bloc calls for hiring more staff to eliminate “endless processing delays.”
The People’s Party of Canada
The People’s Party of Canada (PPC) is a new populist federal party led by former Conservative MP Maxime Bernier, who once served as Canada’s foreign minister, among other cabinet portfolios.
While the PPC favours reducing overall immigration to Canada, its election platform says “the primary aim of Canada’s immigration policy should be to economically benefit Canadians and Canada as a whole.”
The PPC proposes to “reform the immigration points system and the related programs to accept a larger proportion of economic immigrants with the right skills.”
The PPC says it would also “limit the number of temporary foreign workers and make sure they fulfil temporary positions and do not compete unfairly with Canadian workers.”
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