Jason Kenney has been saying some sensible things about our immigration system. Most notably, he has said that Canada needs to place more emphasis on language skills. As studies have shown, the best predictor of how well an immigrant will do financially is how well they speak French or English. It is neither in our national interest to have immigrants lag behind economically or in the interests of the immigrants themselves. As Kenney said "Someone who has been here for 15 years and can't speak English or French is basically locking themselves out of the vast majority of jobs and is isolating themselves socially, and that is a tragedy."
The problem is that Conservatives do not practice what they preach. Indeed, while there is ample evidence (e.g., Turkish guest workers in Germany) that armies of disenfranchised workers, whether they be illegal or guest, are a recipe of disaster, the number of guest workers allowed in has exploded since the Conservatives came to power. Moreover whereas the typical guest worker was once American transferred to branch office in Canada, the fastest growing category of guest worker is now the unskilled type. The problem is that Conservatives have, in true Conservative fashion, turned over a greater percentage of the immigration file to the provinces and Western provinces in particular have used the program to undercut labour. The Canadian tax payer has paid to have cheap labour sent in from other countries for the sole purpose of cutting wages of the Canadian tax payer. Forget Conservative talk about bringing in much needed skilled workers, this was the kind of positions Alberta was hoping to fill through its guest worker programs this summer: 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. And every time to Kenney gives lip service to importance of language, someone should remind him that all that is required of such would be immigrants is that they score 4 or 24 on the language assessment. In other words, they can still be functionally illiterate and still get it in.
Needless to say, despite the downturn there is no talk of reducing the number of guest workers from likes crony capitalists like Gordan Campbell. Indeed, the situation is such that even though the stated purpose of the stimulus plan is to get money following gain locally and to provide Canadians with jobs there is talk using guest workers (primarily Mexican) on the extension of the federally funded sky train extension; Canadian federal stimulus money could be flooding into Mexico.
Now Kenney’s talk of limiting the number of refugee mess is equally welcome, but just as with language skills Conservatives making things worse and not better. Yes Canada needs to dramatically reduce the number of refugees it accepts. I would personally like Canada to cap the number of refugees it accepts at 5,000 a year including dependents. However, fixing the problem goes far beyond drawing up tougher standards. The biggest hurdle to reforming the refugee system is insuring that refugees are processed quickly, that they cannot delay deportation with endless appeals and that there is mechanisms in place to insure they leave the country when they are ordered out. Regardless of the merits of their case, the longer refugees remain in country the greater the likelihood that they will stay. Under the Conservatives things have gotten much worse. It now takes a refugee claimant a year and half to get a hearing. Under the Liberals that number was one year. If Kenney was truly serious about reforming the system he would see to it that such hearings happen in a manner of months, limit or eliminate appeals and ensure that there is a system set up to sure that failed claimants have left the country. I am not going to hold my breath though.