Canada: Immigration policy should focus on national workforce, reuniting families: Poll

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Wed Jun 4 15:51:59 UTC 2008

Immigration policy should focus on national workforce, reuniting families: Poll

Tobin Dalrymple ,  Canwest News Service
Published: Tuesday, June 03

OTTAWA - A majority of Canadians think the government's immigration
policy should focus on pumping up the national workforce and reuniting
families, suggests a new poll. The findings come as a controversial
government bill, which gives the immigration minister special powers
to hand pick new citizens, is likely to pass in the House this week. A
poll conducted by Nanos Research for Policy Options magazine suggests
72.6 per cent of Canadians feel immigration is "important" or
"somewhat important" for the future of the country. When asked what
focus government should give to immigrant applicants, 84.9 per cent of
Canadians thought it was important to select immigrants whose skills
meet the needs of Canada's starved workforce, and about 81.1 per cent
thought family reunification was just as important.

"Canada sees immigration policy as a nation-building exercise from the
point of view of our economy and of the family," said Nik Nanos,
president of the research firm. "Canadians were on board in terms of
making sure when someone does come to Canada, that they've got the
skills Canada needs to be stronger." Nanos said the poll was conducted
in anticipation of a proposed Conservative bill, which would reform
the country's immigration regulations. Bill C-50 is likely to pass on
Thursday. The reforms remove the Immigration Department's obligation
to process all permanent-residence applications, and allows the
minister to instruct officers to fast track certain kinds of

Nanos says "Canadians will respond positively to the bill's intent,"
which the Tories say will reduce backlog the of 925,000 applicants and
increase the presence of needed workers. "But, (Canadians) will
probably wait to see what kind of outcomes it produces... On the
positive side of the ledger, it gives Conservatives flexibility to set
priorities and shape immigration policies. On the down side, they're
also taking more ownership of the outcomes," Nanos said. New Democrat
MP Olivia Chow says the minister should not be given control over who
gets in to the country. She would rather see an objective system set
up to meet the demands of the economy, she said.

"There are better ways of bringing in skilled labour than relying on
just the opinion of the minister. I'd much rather rely on
professionals that can measure what skills are required in Canada,"
she said. Nanos Research polled 1,002 Canadians by telephone for the
study which appears in the June edition of Policy Options. The poll
has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 per cent, 19 times out of
Chow said in other countries such as Australia, a professional "skill
testing centre" is set up to determine what kind of workers, with what
type of skill sets, are brought into the country. The result is a
relatively high employment rate for immigrants.

Ed Komarnicki, parliamentary secretary to Immigration Minister Diane
Finley, told Canwest News Service earlier the proposed bill will
prevent the backlog of applicants on waiting lists from growing. The
government would then work to reduce the backlog through additional
funding of $109 million over five years, he said. But Chow says the
bill will do nothing to unclog the system. Earlier this month, the
House's immigration committee, which opposed the bill, argued the bill
would fail to address the backlog because applications filed before
Feb. 27, 2008, would be exempt.

The current Canadian "points system" is flawed because it relies
heavily on what post-secondary degree the applicant holds, and what
language the applicant speaks, rather than what they can do for the
economy, Chow said. "If we are to fix the immigration system, which we
need to, we will have to change the points system - which would bring
in people that have the skills we need in Canada," Chow said.

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