Kevin O'Leary proposes 'fast-track' to citizenship for skilled immigrants
Conservative leadership candidate Kevin O’Leary has often drawn comparisons to U.S. President Donald Trump for his roots in reality television and business, as well as their shared lack of political experience. But the two are on opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to immigration and refugee policy.
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In an interview with CTV Atlantic ahead of his first leadership debate, O’Leary outlined his stance on immigration amid escalating tensions around the issue south of the border.
If elected prime minister, the former tech entrepreneur says he would partner with Canada’s colleges and universities to funnel newcomers into academic programs that address labour shortages. Graduates that find work with Canadian companies would be rewarded with citizenship along with their immediate family.
“I will offer any person on Earth, regardless of religion or background, to go through Canada’s immigration policies now, but get on my fast-track program with the dean and the business that wants to hire them, bring their immediate family, their wife and children, and they all get passports the day they graduate,” said O’Leary.
He offered no further details, but noted Trump’s stringent stance on immigration could see Canada attract foreign talent in greater numbers.
Trump signed an executive order more than a week ago to ban citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States and to halt all refugee admissions. The new administration is currently seeking to appeal a ruling by a federal judge issued Friday that temporarily blocks the ban.
“What Trump is doing in creating instability in immigration is making Canada’s brand go way up,” said O’Leary.
Canada’s immigration policies will likely be a key component of Saturday’s debate in Halifax. Trump’s travel and refugee ban has seen protests erupt on both sides of the border, confusion at Canadian airports and condemnation from Canadians ranging from politicians to health care professionals.
The NDP called for an emergency debate on the issue, held last week at the House of Commons. Thomas Mulcair called the ban “racist” and asked Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to officially denounce the policy.
O’Leary’s business-focused approach to immigration stands in contrast with Ontario MP Kellie Leitch’s emphasis on face-to-face vetting of immigrants and refugees for so-called “Canadian values.”
“I will sign those passports myself,” O’Leary said. “If you’re Lebanese or Irish, or you come from Morocco or any other country, and you want to build a family and a business, you’re with me.”
With a report from CTV Atlantic