Rempel says Trudeau has 'no credibility' on immigration
One day after the Liberal government unveiled plans to ramp up immigration levels to 350,000 people by 2021, the Conservative immigration critic won’t say what she believes the figure should be.
The number is not the point, according to Michelle Rempel.
“Justin Trudeau has no credibility to set Canada’s immigration levels,” she said Thursday at a news conference.
Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Ahmed Hussen announced on Wednesday that Canada will increase its immigration target to 350,000 by 2021, up from the current level of 310,000.
Hussen told CTV’s Power Play on Thursday that the plan is “responsible and ambitious” and focuses on bringing in “highly-skilled talent that creates middle class jobs for our country.”
“Canadians are asking us to provide them with more workers, more skilled immigrants who can grow our economy and create good-quality, full-time middle class jobs,” Hussen said.
Hussen added that the Federal Skilled Workers program, which offers residency to people like international students who find work, makes up the single biggest component of immigration.
“The vast majority of those folks are people applying from within Canada,” he said. “They already have a job.”
At her press conference, Rempel cited an Angus Reid poll from August which found that 49 per cent of Canadians wanted to see the country reduce its immigration intake – up from 36 per cent four years earlier and the highest number in the 43-year period since the question was first asked.
She said that Canadians’ appetite for increased immigration has hit its lowest level on record because of how the Liberals have handled an influx of people crossing the border and claiming asylum.
Federal numbers show that 15,726 people crossed into Canada irregularly at all points in the first nine months of 2018, up from 15,102 in the same time period one year earlier.
The Safe Third Country Agreement between Canada and the United States requires most people seeking refugee protection to file their claim in the first of the two countries they arrive in. It means people cannot pass through the U.S. to seek asylum at the Canadian border checkpoint, but does not apply to people who cross at places other than standard border checkpoints.
Rempel argued that people who are not legitimate refugees are taking advantage of the Safe Third Country Agreement “loophole,” knowing that they can live in Canada for years before their claims are even processed.
“Having reached upstate New York, these people are not fleeing persecution and should not be treated as such by Justin Trudeau,” she said.
Rempel said the Conservatives would crack down on irregular border crossings by closing the loophole. The Liberals say they have repeatedly asked the U.S. government to reopen the agreement.
Rempel also accused the government of spending “hundreds of millions” to normalize the crossings, including $50 million on temporary accommodations for people. Many of them are now living in Toronto hotels.
Hussen told Power Play that the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) is in charge of deciding whether irregular border crossers are legitimate refugees and that those who are not legitimate refugees will be told to leave.
“We’ve reinvested in the Canadian Border Services Agency as well as the IRB to make sure that these claims are heard expeditiously,” Hussen said.
“A big percentage of those found not to be genuine refugees voluntarily leave Canada,” he added.
Rempel also singled out the temporary foreign worker (TFW) program for criticism. Under the government’s new plan, the number of migrant workers allowed into the country will rise to nearly 250,000.
Rempel said that the TFW program was “rife with abuse,” and that it lowered wages and working conditions while keeping certain jobs out of the reach of out-of-work Canadians.
“That this government has made no move to radically change Canada’s economic dependence on this abusive and ill-thought-out system also undermines the credibility of the numbers in this levels report,” she said.
She said the Conservative preference would be to have migrant workers instead “settling in those communities and staying employed” – or to have those positions be filled by people already in the country.
“Is there a way that we can reform that program such that Canadians are matched with those jobs?” she added.
A Conservative government would also look to increase the focus on having refugees be sponsored privately by Canadian citizens, with the government-assisted refugee program being reduced to people fleeing the “atrocity crimes” of war crimes, ethnic cleansing, crimes against humanity and genocide, according to Rempel.
With files from The Canadian Press
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