Fire Jason Kenney and freeze immigration
TheStar.com – opinion/commentary – Canada’s immigration system is more broken now than when Jason Kenney took over in 2008.
Jun 02 2013. By: Haroon Siddiqui, Columnist
Jason Kenney used to say the immigration system was broken and he was going to fix it. Yet it’s more broken now than when he took over in 2008.
Just about everything he has touched — and he touches a lot as minister for immigration and citizenship — is in chaos. The entire system is mired in scandalous delays. Crucially, different elements of it are working at cross-purposes.
About 1.3 million Canadians don’t have jobs. Another million are underemployed or have given up looking for work. The unemployment rate for the young is twice the national average, though they are the most educated in our history.
Yet Kenney has kept bringing 250,000 and more immigrants every year. Many of them can’t find jobs, either. Their unemployment rate is twice the national rate. Of those who do have jobs, three in four are not working in their fields — not using the education and skills for which they were selected as immigrants.
Yet Kenney is also bringing hundreds of thousands of temporary foreign workers, of whom we have at least 500,000. Perversely, the program kept growing while the economy slowed down. Faced with public fury, he recently made a show of reforming it but, tellingly, did not kill it or even cap it.
This is Stephen Harper’s Republican economic theology at work — supply businesses with cheap and pliant labour, even as our corporations remain among the lowest spenders in the industrialized world on recruitment, retention, training and skills development.
Or the Harper policy is partisan — more immigrants might help the Conservative cause among “ethnic voters” who helped him win his majority.
The counter-argument is that we need immigrants. They are good for the economy, especially the food, housing, auto, insurance and other sectors in the short term. They would replace retiring baby boomers. They fill existing skills shortages.
The first rationale is vitiated by persistent high unemployment amid shrinking payrolls due to globalization and outsourcing. The second is shaky, given that many boomers are working well past retirement age. As for skills shortages, they have proven to be a bit of a fraud.
Where shortages do exist, they should be addressed by better immigrant-selection, not temporary foreign workers. Besides taking away jobs from Canadians and depressing wages, guest workers put Canada on the path of Germany or Saudi Arabia, creating a two-tier society with all its long-term ills.
Kenney is clever. He keeps his right-wing constituency at bay by prattling on about “reforming” and “improving” the system, “cracking down” on “abuse,” “fraud marriages” and “phony refugees,” such as the Roma.
He cuts health coverage for refugee claimants. He casts himself as a crusader against the “barbaric practices” of (barbaric) immigrants.
He paints sponsored parents and grandparents as a burden, while staying mum on the fact that having child care and stability at home is a priceless national economic asset. He is a politician who parrots family values but undermines immigrant families.
At the micro-level, his system is a mess as well.
- He froze the skilled worker program that brings educated and skilled immigrants, and tossed out 98,000 applications. He reopened it May 4 — with stricter language requirements that will effectively freeze out immigrants from many parts of the world, especially China.
The average wait time for applicants is two years but five in some locations. Five years is so long a time that labour market needs change.
- He froze both the entrepreneur and investor programs.
- He restricted family reunification, involving spouses and children. Processing time: 10 to 27 months.
- He froze sponsorship of parents and grandparents and won’t reopen it until next year. Processing time: between five and 7 1/2 years, at times 10. “My parents would be dead by then,” is the common complaint.
Kenney extended financial sponsorship responsibility to 20 years from 10 and raised the income level of sponsors. The rich are more entitled than the poor to get their elders. He has taken us back to 1907 when the federal policy was that “no person liable to become a public charge can enter Canada.”
- Citizenship — perfectly legitimate cases from landed immigrants take up to three years and those flagged for whatever reason take more.
Kenney should resign or be fired.
Ottawa should freeze immigration until it figures out a strategy that better fits today’s Canada.
I don’t say that for the same reason that nativists generally do — they don’t like immigrants. Nor is my rationale that of extremist environmentalists — they think the world’s second largest country is too full at 35 million. I say so because the Harper-Kenney immigration policy makes little or no sense.
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