Finley defends contentious immigration overhaul
CTV.ca News Staff
Published Sunday, March 23, 2008 8:57PM EDT
Immigration Minister Diane Finley says the Conservative government is willing to go to the polls over controversial proposed changes to the way the government selects new Canadians.
The amendment -- packaged as part of the federal budget implementation bill tabled on March 14 -- overhauls the current system, allowing the government to speed up specific applications and decide which type of people can jump the queue. It would give the minister the ability to cap the list of people waiting to be accepted into Canada and make changes to immigration policy that must currently go through Parliament.
The opposition parties say this will give the Conservative government unprecedented power over who comes to Canada and who is blocked out.
"Nothing could be further from the truth," she said Sunday on CTV's Question Period. "We have to make it easier to get more people here faster. We have a backlog right now that the previous government ballooned from 50,000 to 800,000. It has since grown to 900,000."
Finley says the changes are necessary in order to tackle the significant number of applicants waiting to get into Canada and to fill jobs that go empty while qualified people wait in the massive line.
She said her government has processed applications from immigrants trying to join family members in Canada 20 to 40 per cent faster than the previous government, and the new provisions would speed this up even more. The amendment will also allow the government to target immigrants depending on what part of the world they are from, providing the option of faster processing for those in troubled areas.
Considering the amendment's location within the budget implementation bill, the opposition will have to bring down the government in a confidence vote to kill the new provisions.
The Liberal opposition party promised to support the budget, virtually guaranteeing the budget implementation bill will pass. The NDP says it will not support the bill, which would replace immigration policy designed by the Liberals to ensure each application was treated with equal fairness, preventing those with connections from jumping the queue.
The House of Commons is currently on a break, resuming on Monday, March 31. The vote is expected to come around mid-April.
Trinity-Spadina MP Olivia Chow has introduced an amendment requesting the changes to immigration policy be removed from the bill. Her party, the NDP, believes the Conservatives chose to include it in the expansive budget implementation bill to divert attention from how radically it will change national policy.
The budget implementation bill also includes a provision to block a Liberal private member's bill, the Registered Education Savings Fund, which passed under the radar and made its way to the Senate. The government says the bill, which would allow parents to contribute up to $5,000 annually for each child to an RESP and deduct the amount from their income taxes, would be too costly.
This is not the first time Finley has introduced legislation to make big changes to immigration. Last year, she tabled a bill that would ban exotic dancers from getting visas to enter Canada. That bill is currently in its second reading.