Statistics confirm that Canada's current net labour market growth is predominantly dependent on immigration. It appears almost certain that by 2030 Canada will be entirely reliant on immigration for population growth.
However, the latest policy pronouncements of Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, suggests new obstacles blocking Canada's future economic successes are in the works. Despite some notable improvements in the system under Kenney, the most recent initiatives are guaranteed to permanently harm our country's international reputation. Here is why.
First, he claims to be repairing the current dysfunctional immigration system, including clearing up the most controversial problem, namely the existing backlog of 300,000 applicants under the Federal Skilled Worker Program. The Minister's stated goal is to implement a new system that, by 2018, would feature a "made in Canada" international database of pre-screened, employment credentialled candidates suitable to apply for admission to Canada.
Since 2008, the department's policy objective has been to shift from admitting applicants to Canada without a sponsoring employer, and toward an employer-driven immigration program. The direction was right. But now the government is backpedalling on its promises. The plan, announced in the recent federal budget, is to vaporize the existing backlog of skilled worker applicants by refusing the majority of applications filed prior to February 2008.
Forcing applicants to wait close to 10 years and then implementing retroactive legislation refusing the pending backlog of applicants is the greatest sham in the history of Canadian immigration policy. Close to 300,000 applicants who were all promised that their credentials would be evaluated under previous criteria will now be refused. It will occur even though the Federal Court blocked a similar attempt in 2003, when department officials were found to be misleading the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration in its attempt to pass legislation that would retroactively wipe out a much smaller inventory.
This initiative severely contrasts with the image of an immigration department that vigorously pursues efforts to warn the public against dealing with crooked immigration consultants. Canadians should be demanding answers to the following questions: Who is regulating the Harper government? How could the immigration department claim with credibility that it can build a new skilled worker program with promises to attract the best and brightest to fuel our labour market growth? The government's history is to blatantly repudiate similar promises.
Another issue is the government's plan for a new system modelled on the programs of Australia and New Zealand, two countries which are not comparable to Canada. New Zealand has a population equal to British Columbia and Australia has a constitutional framework and demographics that are inapplicable to Canada.
* This article previously appeared in the National Post