Canada election 2021: An overview of key issues for immigrant voters

Kareem El-Assal
Published: September 3, 2021

On September 20, Canadian citizens will have the opportunity to vote in a new government.

Immigrants are eligible for Canadian citizenship if they have resided in Canada for 1,095 days within the five years before applying for citizenship. Canada has one of the highest citizenship uptake rates in the world with around 85 per cent of immigrants becoming Canadians.

According to Statistics Canada, the level of immigrant voter turnout is comparable to that of Canadian-born voters. In 2019, 78 per cent of Canadian-born citizens told Statistics Canada that they voted. In comparison, 75 per cent of citizens who immigrated to Canada over 10 years ago voted. This figure stood at 72 per cent of citizens who immigrated to Canada within 10 years of the 2019 election.

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This year's election is arguably one of the most important in Canadian history. Canada continues to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic. Although Canada is in a stronger position than many of its global peers due to its high rate of vaccinations and the tremendous monetary and fiscal measures it has taken to keep the economy functioning, it is still dealing with a significant number of pandemic-related challenges that will affect the country for decades to come.

There are several major policy issues that will affect Canadian voters more broadly and immigrants in particular that the new government will need to address. For instance, affordable housing is a hot topic during this year's campaign and is an issue that impacts many, whether they are born in Canada or have immigrated here. Immigrant voters have the opportunity to study the affordable housing policies put forward by the federal parties and then make an informed decision on September 20.

The new government will also need to tackle issues that affect immigrants more specifically, such as:

Economic policy: Immigrants come to Canada to pursue a better life including economic opportunity. While Canada is in better economic shape amid the pandemic than most countries, its labour force is yet to recover, and immigrant workers have been among those most negatively affected by the pandemic.

Travel rules: Although Canada's travel rules have been eased, they continue to significantly impact immigrants in a number of ways. Citizens are awaiting the arrival of family members who have had their trips to Canada delayed due to pandemic-related travel restrictions. While restrictions have been lifted, there remain ongoing delays for exempt travellers.

Application processing: Related to the previous point, the pandemic has caused a significant backlog in applications to be processed by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). The new government's approach to tackling the backlog will have a major impact on immigrant voters, namely those awaiting the arrival of loved ones, be it through economic, family, or refugee class pathways.

Canadian citizenship: The current government previously campaigned they would remove citizenship fees altogether but have been unable to fulfil the promise amid the pandemic. The new government will hence need to make a decision on whether to go ahead with this promise, or potentially reduce fees, freeze them, or increase them.

Parents and Grandparents Program: The PGP remains under heavy scrutiny due to the many challenges successive Canadian governments have had over the years. The PGP garners tremendous interest among Canada's immigrants, but also causes tremendous stress due to the limited number of sponsorship spots that are made available each year. A new government will hence need to decide the most appropriate way to manage the PGP in light of the ongoing significant demand for it.

The above is merely a snapshot of the key issues that will directly impact immigrants in the aftermath of the election. Given the importance of the election to immigrants it will be worth monitoring what the voter turnout among naturalized Canadians will look like on September 20. Statistics Canada data shows the turnout of immigrant voters has improved significantly over the last decade which is a good sign that immigrants will continue to make their voices heard this year.

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