Election 2021: What Canada’s parties say about immigration
All of Canada's major parties are rooting for immigrants in the 2021 election campaign.
Even amid the crisis in Afghanistan, where other countries are turning away refugees, Canada is committed to welcoming them. The Liberal party, which currently governs the country, promised to resettle 20,000 Afghan refugees and none of the other major party leaders are against it.
In Canada, the question of immigration is not if we should accept immigrants, but how we can best welcome them. Canadians are generally accepting of immigrants. Even during the pandemic amid economic uncertainty, the Liberal government raised immigration targets to more than 400,000 over the next three years.
However, there remain unresolved issues in the immigration system. Namely, the backlog in application processing, outdated technology, and no one quite knows what to do with the Parents and Grandparents Program (PGP).
These are some of the issues that the parties have touched on so far. While there are more parties than the ones listed here, we have condensed the immigration platforms of the four most popular parties in Canada.
Justin Trudeau is the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada. On the political spectrum, the Liberals are said to be centre-left.
The Liberal's 2021 election platform for immigration has not yet been released. The party is releasing platform details incrementally. Trudeau has promised to resettle up to 20,000 Afghans if re-elected. This is not the first time Trudeau has promised to accept high numbers of refugees while on the campaign trail. In 2015, he called for Canada to accept 25,000 Syrian refugees and went on to win the election that year.
Trudeau is also promising to make housing more affordable for first-time buyers such as newcomers.
During the pandemic, Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino called for the modernization of the immigration system. Progress is already underway, as some paper-based Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs) began going digital earlier this year.
The Liberals have raised immigration targets annually since coming into power in 2015. Even during the pandemic, they promised to increase immigration levels to historic highs. They justified the increase thanks to the contributions of immigrants to Canadian society.
"Across the country, new Canadians work hard – teaching our children, caring for us when we’re sick, starting new businesses, and creating good jobs," wrote Brook Simpson, spokesperson for the Liberal Party. "These contributions are needed now more than ever as we emerge from a pandemic that has had a profound impact on our country and its labour force."
In 2017, the Liberals introduced the multi-year immigration levels plan so that stakeholders can have more time to prepare for large numbers of immigrants. That same year, they also launched the Global Talent Stream, a fast-track work permit program for tech professionals.
Some of the other initiatives the Liberals have launched include the Agri-Food Pilot, an immigration program for agri-food workers; the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot, which helps municipalities nominate immigrants; and the Atlantic Immigration Pilot, a program that helps Atlantic Canada employers hire foreign talent.
The Conservatives are politically centre-right. Currently, they are the official opposition, meaning they hold the second-most seats in the House of Commons. It is the only party other than the Liberals to ever hold office at the federal level. The party leader is Erin O'Toole, who has won elections in immigrant-rich ridings in the past.
In the 2021 election platform, the Conservatives call for an immigration system that welcomes international talent, offers refuge to human rights defenders and those who are fleeing persecution, and reunites families.
They want to allow applicants to pay a fee to have their processing expedited. The revenues from these fees will go toward hiring additional staff to address administrative backlogs. They also want to speed up application processing by reducing red tape, streamlining applications, and using resources to their full potential.
The Conservatives also want a more fair immigration system. Not only do they want to move operations online, they also want to record all interactions between immigration officers and applicants. They say this would be "to help ensure oversight, fairness, and
accountability" in the immigration system.
Also, they want to increase cultural awareness training and match applicants with immigration officers who best understand the cultural context of the applicant. They also want to allow applicants to correct mistakes on their application within a certain amount of time after submitting.
As they had in their previous campaign, the Conservatives want to improve credential recognition. O'Toole's campaign is promising to immediately launch a Credential Recognition Task Force to study possible solutions.
The Conservatives would scrap the lottery system for the Parents and Grandparents Program (PGP), and replace it with a first-come, first-served model. They envision a weighted system where applicants would be prioritized if they are providing child care or family support, as well as their language proficiency. They would also invest in more resources to process applications more quickly.
Conservatives would allow foreign family members of Canadians to live in Canada for up to five years without permanent status. Family members would be able to renew their stay for additional time as long as they purchase health insurance.
The Bloc Québécois is a Quebec nationalist party. They want Quebec to be its own country, separate from Canada. It is often said the Bloc is centre-left on the political spectrum. The party only has candidates in Quebec ridings because Quebec sovereignty is at the heart of their agenda. Since 2019, the party leader has been Yves-François Blanchet, who has a background in the arts and provincial politics.
According to its 2021 election platform (in French), the Bloc wants to speed up immigration processing for applicants from Quebec, which oftentimes takes longer compared to immigration applicants in other provinces.
Quebec already has a more independent immigration system compared to the rest of Canada, but the Bloc also wants Quebec to have control of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. They believe doing so would facilitate the hiring of these workers.
They are also calling on the federal government to use anonymous resumes in public service positions to curb discrimination in the hiring process.
Under refugee policies, the platform wants Canada to repeal the Safe Third Country Agreement with the U.S., in hopes of ending irregular crossings at the Canada-U.S. border. The party says this would allow "a more orderly reception of migrants." They also want all French-speaking refugees to be resettled in Quebec.
They also want to adopt their own model of the "Multiculturalism Act," because they believe its current form prevents newcomers from integrating into Quebec society.
New Democratic Party
The New Democratic Party (NDP) is considered left-wing on the political spectrum. Canada has never had an NDP government at the federal level. Multiple polls have found the party's leader, Jagmeet Singh, to be the most popular candidate in this election campaign.
The NDP's 2021 platform promises to end the caps on the Parents and Grandparents Program (PGP) and address the backlogs. They also say they will work with the provinces to improve settlement services and foreign credential recognition.
They vow to take on unscrupulous immigration consultants and ensure the industry is regulated by the government. They would also provide status to caregivers and their families.
For refugees, the NDPs want to get rid of the backlog of asylum seekers, though their platform does not say how.
They would also prioritize pay equity to end wage discrimination based on gender, which affects immigrant women. To do this, they would require employers to be transparent about pay and immediately implement pro-active pay equity legislation.
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