Thursday, May 01, 2008

CBC's the National Puff Ball Immigration Piece

As Guidy Mamann of the immigration law firm Mamann & Associates notes the immigration minister is not required by law to process applications as they come in.

“In an interview last week with CTV’s Mike Duffy, Finley confirmed that our backlog now stands at about 925,000 applications. The government maintains that the Minister needs these powers to cherry pick applicants who are needed here on a priority basis. She was asked by Duffy, if under the present system, the department was able to fast track, say a welder who was desperately needed in Fort McMurray. Finley answered “The way the law stands now we have to process the oldest application first. If that person is number 600,000 in line we’ve got a lot of applications to get through before that”.

This is simply not true. Our current legislation states that the federal cabinet “may make any regulation ... relating to classes of permanent residents or foreign nationals” including “selection criteria, the weight, if any to be given to all or some of those criteria, the procedures to be followed in evaluating all or some of those criteria… the number of applications to be processed or approved in a year” etc. In fact, in the case of Vaziri v. The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, the Federal Court held in September 2006 that our current legislation “authorize[s] the Minister to set target levels and to prioritize certain classes of PR applicants” without even a
regulation being passed. Accordingly, Finley has more than enough power under
our current legislation to make virtually any changes that she wants subject to
the Charter.”


In other words, Conservative changes to immigration act are largely redundant. Which begs the question why all the hoopla? One theory is that the Conservatives deliberately tired to force the Liberals into an election by stirring up various immigrant groups. The theory I favor though is that the Conservatives look to be trying to solve a problem that they made worse by initially cutting staff at embassies and consulates. Of course, the media, the CBC in particular, have overstated the problem and confused the issue by implying that there is but one long waiting list instead of several long waiting lists and many short ones. After all, how long someone takes to get processed does not depend upon how many people are applying to immigrant to Canada world wide but how many are applying at a particular location. It may take someone in Warsaw 1.8 years to be processed, but someone in Bogotá over 16 years.

In addition to making factual errors, the CBC sets up a false dilemma. The piece gives the impression that there but two competing visions. Either Canada treats would immigrants as mere replacement parts, or Canada is so dumb as to allow and 86 year old to immigrant to Canada. Pace the CBC, allowing an 86 year old to immigrant to Canada is not evidence of our humanitarian tradition, but evidence of a political corruption. As for the Tories, forget skilled workers, what they are most interested in is allowing enough unskilled or semiskilled guest workers in to do such things as undermine a burgeoning labour movement in the oil sands. In so doing they aim to payoff another constituency – big business. Indeed, looking past the oil fields you would certainly never know from watching the CBC peace that following are the types of jobs, according to what is on the government website, Alberta is hopping to fill through immigration: Front desk clerk, short order cook, baker, maid, assembly line worker, server, buser, bellhop, valet, and cafeteria worker, laundry attendant, pet groomer, general labourer, and hair dresser. Of course, neither the Tories nor the Alberta government particularly wants these kinds of workers to stay around forever. Given how successful Europe’s guest worker programs have been in creating an underclass and fostering xenophobia and racism, the Conservatives eager to expand the number of “temporary workers”. Maybe CBC should do a piece about just how successful Turkish guest workers have made out in Germany.

Both the politicians and the CBC seem to have lost site what the primary purpose of immigration is. It is not means of paying off various constituencies and it is not a litmus test for whether one is dough headed bleeding heart. Immigration is the only available means Canada has by which to tackle a demographic crisis and to make up for a birth rate that is well below replacement levels. The problem is that average immigrant to Canada is no younger than the average Canadian. The situation is akin to baling out a boat by moving water from one part of the boat to another. Now Canada is not as bad off as Europe. Professor Charles Kupchan notes, "today there are 35 pensioners for every 100 workers within the European Union. By 2050, current demographic trends would leave Europe with 75 pensioners for every 100 workers and in countries like Italy and Spain the ratio would be 1 to 1." If Europe continues on as it is, the median age in Europe will go from 37.7 today to 52.3 by 2050! Not only will there be a long and sustained pension crisis, but since the European population is on track to shrink quite rapidly, for that reason alone, prospects for economic growth do not look good. Despite a having a high immigration rate by European standards (Germany has highest percentage of foreign born residents in Europe), according to a UN report at its current pace the German population will drop by 10 million. Italy, which has a much lower immigration rate, will loose 15 million. However, the demographic situation Canada is indeed dire. The country must get younger if it is be able to sustain the same level of social services as the baby boom generation ages and moves into old age.

So how about this for a vision of what our immigration system should designed to do. By allowing upwards 400,000 – 500,000 young, skilled, multi lingual, educated immigrants a year Canada hopes to 1) advert a looming demographic crunch and 2) come to posses the most educated, diverse, connected and skilled workforce in the world. This will certainly mean greatly increasing the number of immigration officers in second world countries, such as Brazil, with large pools of young educated workers who speak English (It is unacceptable that in a country of 185 million interviews are only conducted in Brasilia and Sao Paulo and not in other cities, most notably Rio). It may also mean limiting family unification to spouses and dependents under 18, regiging of the points system so that more emphasis is placed on youth, and may mean focusing the attention of immigration staff strictly to the task at hand by only allowing people to apply for refugee status while in Canada, but if that is what it takes that is ok. Canada’s future well being is more important that any narrow political agenda.

6 comments:

MarkCh said...

I disagree with a lot of your proposals, and I am not even sure that they would be that popular. However, they are meaningful and not fake. The Liberal party's problem these last 20+ years has been that they are all about fake policies as a means to power. Thanks to a divided right, the Liberals were very successful with this approach during the Chretien years, and now I think they feel that nothing else will work. One day, the Liberals will decide to believe in something. But not yet.

Koby said...

Dion is a true believer when it comes to fighting global warming and is cap and trade proposal is, indeed, well thought. The problem is once you get past the issue of global warming, the Liberal platform is a baron waste land.

BTW, what proposals did not like?

MarkCh said...

I don't support more universal programs, euthanasia, or legalized marijuana (the latter only because the hassle of American reaction outweighs the actual benefits, in my view - if the Americans were on board, I would support it). I'd rather see government spending truly targeted on the poor, and I like the way dentists are now, under a competitive system. Now, arguing out all these points would be pretty time consuming: the main thing is that if the Libs adopted real policies, then we could have a substantive debate, which would be fun.

Also, I have reluctantly concluded that a carbon tax is more practical than cap-and-trade. It affects consumers more, which is the main point, and is less subject to gaming by established interests, as happened in Europe. Also, a carbon tax is better at setting the cost and seeing what happens. Since the deniers say cutting carbon will be very expensive, and the greens say it will be cheap, fixing the cost and seeing what reductions can be bought at that cost seems like a good way to bring consensus.

Koby said...

>>>> legalized marijuana (the latter only because the hassle of American reaction outweighs the actual benefits, in my view - if the Americans were on board, I would support it).

What would happen if Canada was to legalize marijuana is that the prohibitionist model south of the border and beyond would, slowly in some places and quickly in others, collapse. Holland would quickly move to legalize it. Ditto Spain and Portugal and perhaps Australia. Mexico would reintroduce a bill to decriminalize all drugs the US quashed.

As for the US, as it is John Walters fully admits that they are loosing the battle of hearts and minds when it comes to marijuana in the States. The supporters of decriminalization in States such as New York, New Mexico and Utah would immediately push for decriminalization. A spike in public opinion would at last allow the medical marijuana movement to claim victory in California. Indeed, almost overnight marijuana would become as a big as flashpoint between federal government and the state of California as stem cell research and global warming are now.

The ideological threat Canada’s legalization movement poses to the US drug warriors is the reason why the US pays so much attention to what is a bit producers in the greater scheme of things. Only 2% of marijuana seized at US borders is from Canada and the rest from Mexico and US domestic marijuana production dwarfs that of Canada. California produces more marijuana than does all of Canada. Yet Canadian “potent pot” receives ridiculous amount for press coverage south of the border and Waters speaks as us as if we are the great Satan.

>>>> I'd rather see government spending truly targeted on the poor,

What can be given by one government can be quickly taken away by another. If a particular policy is stand any chance of helping the poor it needs to be protected by universality; strength in numbers. Politically it is also means of tying Conservative hands. It is even harder to get rid of universal program than it is raising taxes. Then there is the whole issue of salability. Universality sells like nothing else. Traditional liberalism is premised on an commitment to universality and it is a very compelling vision indeed.

>>>>> and I like the way dentists are now, under a competitive system.

Poor Americans are not the only ones pulling their teeth because they can not afford to fix them.

>>>>>> Now, arguing out all these points would be pretty time consuming:

Indeed it would be. I was only talking about Immigration by the way.

>>>>>>> Also, I have reluctantly concluded that a carbon tax is more practical than cap-and-trade. It affects consumers more, which is the main point, and is less subject to gaming by established interests, as happened in Europe. Also, a carbon tax is better at setting the cost and seeing what happens. Since the deniers say cutting carbon will be very expensive, and the greens say it will be cheap, fixing the cost and seeing what reductions can be bought at that cost seems like a good way to bring consensus.


Dion’s attachment to this issue drives me around the bend for a whole host of reasons. Canada is one of the only nations that could potentially benefit from global warming. People have completely lost site of this. They look at what the pine beetle is doing, about which nothing can be done and want to put policies in place that would increase the price of groceries. They do not seem to realize that with global warming the tree line moving north. I am far more concerned about smog and this respect a carbon tax might help. I would feel easier about a carbon tax if the GST was taken off fresh fruit and veggies, eggs, and meat.

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