March 1, 2011

CPC

Jason Kenney

Conservative

Hon. Jason Kenney (Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, CPC)

Madam Speaker, I congratulate the member for maintaining his consistent reputation in his demagogic tone.

He said that the first thing this government did was to undercut newcomers. In point of fact, the first thing this government did, with respect to newcomers, was to cut in half the $1,000 right of landing fee that had been imposed upon all new permanent residents by the previous government, a decision which has subsequently saved newcomers more than $340 million, cumulatively.

The second thing this government did, with respect to newcomers, was to more than triple the federal investment and settlement services so that next year we will be investing $600 million nationally, as opposed to $200 million under the previous Liberal government, and we will be funding $345 million, as opposed to $109 million under the previous Liberal government.

Did the member ever express this feigned indignation about a lack of settlement services five years ago when the funding levels were one-third their current level?

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LIB

Gerard Kennedy

Liberal

Mr. Gerard Kennedy

Madam Speaker, I was very proud to be part of an Ontario cabinet that sat down with a federal Liberal government and arranged the very increases for which the member has the temerity to stand in the House and try to take credit. He had nothing to do with the extra money coming, and he knows it, yet still he stands there with that fake kind of responsibility taking.

I want the minister to take the responsibility for his decisions. Yes, I helped to negotiate that and, yes, we helped to bring that about, but there was a willing government that knew we should not have to pay for all the settlement services as we did in the past before the Mike Harris government cut them in Ontario. The Conservatives take away services for new immigrants. The first chance he had to make a difference is now, when that agreement with the Liberal government of Ontario and the Liberal government in Ottawa expired. What did he do? He cut the money and—

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NDP

Denise Savoie

New Democratic Party

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Denise Savoie)

Questions and comments, The hon. member for Trinity—Spadina.

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NDP

Olivia Chow

New Democratic Party

Ms. Olivia Chow (Trinity—Spadina, NDP)

Madam Speaker, we know immigrants settle well when they go to services that are neighbourhood-based and that provide a comprehensive approach. It is not just about language training and about finding a job; it is also about establishing connections and putting roots into a community.

We know those kinds of services are the best kind and that a lot of them come about through the voluntary services of immigrant settlement workers. Of all the settlement service agencies that I know, I do not know of one that does not use a large number of volunteers.

Could the member describe the kind of impact that has when an agency closes its door and lays off its staff? What happens to all the volunteers who have helped newcomers settle into their neighbourhoods?

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LIB

Gerard Kennedy

Liberal

Mr. Gerard Kennedy

Madam Speaker, the consequences of the decision are a mess because it is not only volunteers, but it is expertise and trust relationships as well. For example, the South Asian women have a co-operative for sewing. They have managed to get all kinds of community volunteers to donate sewing machines. They have actually created an employability level among women, in particular, who are unable to be part of the workforce. That will all disappear.

The volunteers will try to fill the gap and the government will try to take advantage of that. The relatively small amounts of money work out to be $250 to $400. While the government talks about much larger numbers, it is really only for the first three years that people are here. Those things are going to disappear. It is truly a foolhardy decision from an economic standpoint.

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LIB

Alan Tonks

Liberal

Mr. Alan Tonks (York South—Weston, Lib.)

Madam Speaker, the member has referred to the Canada-Ontario transfer agreement, which will expire. The provincial government has stepped in and has said that it will keep those groups going, because of need, while it renegotiates the Canada-Ontario agreement.

Would the member suggest that this is the opportunity to slow this thing down and to renegotiate that agreement and maintain the stability in the system? Would this not be the appropriate approach in the process of governance?

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LIB

Gerard Kennedy

Liberal

Mr. Gerard Kennedy

Madam Speaker, as I mentioned earlier, that is exactly what needs to happen if the government has any credibility at all.

In fact, it is otherwise not just showing its character in the cuts to come, but that it is prepared to wage a full-out attack on Ontario. It is abrogating the agreement unilaterally. It is not negotiating with Ontario in good faith. Most of all, it is hurting the very people for whom it was intended.

Again, this is the first chance the government has had to show what it will do for new immigrants but so far it has been unilateral cuts and unilateral changes to the policies and saying that Ontario no longer matters to it.

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BQ

Thierry St-Cyr

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Thierry St-Cyr (Jeanne-Le Ber, BQ)

Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to the motion moved by the member for Trinity—Spadina. The debate shows that this is primarily an Ontario issue. With the Canada-Quebec accord, the Government of Quebec already has an agreement that allows for the transfer of funds for integrating immigrants, and this money goes straight into its coffers. It makes sense for this to happen because the government is best able to help integrate immigrants. Why? Because the main drivers available to governments to help integrate immigrants fall under provincial and Quebec jurisdiction. Take, for example, education, which is no doubt a fundamental tool. The Government of Quebec is in charge of that. It is also in charge of workforce training and social services. It is natural, effective and smart for an immigrant integration policy to be implemented by the government that is best able to carry out that integration.

Since immigration is very important to Quebec's future, which hinges in part on whether the majority of these immigrants choose to live in French, we obviously want to remain in charge of immigration. Members will understand that Quebec wants to offer French courses to immigrants, to help them integrate into the Quebec community.

And so, even though this issue is primarily about Ontario, I would like to take a few minutes to share our opinion on the topic. And I would also like to speak about the issue of integration and about the negative effects that Canada's multiculturalism, among other things, has on the integration of immigrants.

Today's proposal is asking the government to reverse the cuts to integration services. And this is causing a lot of waves in Toronto because two simultaneous movements are causing a significant funding loss for organizations in Toronto.

First, the overall envelope is being cut compared to last year. I believe that this cut is unacceptable, inappropriate and ill-advised. Given the costs of not integrating immigrants, it is better to invest an extra few million dollars up front to facilitate their integration and save later on the cost of not having integrated them. The nature of federalism being what it is, the federal government gets the savings, but the extra costs—for social assistance or social services, for example—are borne by the provinces. The federal government seems to be washing its hands of this, as is often the case.

Cuts are being made. But if we look at the program in its entirety, it is clear that the cuts are not all that major, proportionately speaking. So why is this having such a dramatic impact? It is because the envelope will now be distributed in a completely different manner than it used to be. Now resources used to follow up with immigrants will be relocated.

We are told that more and more immigrants are settling on the outskirts of Toronto, in Saskatchewan, in Alberta and other places. Accordingly, funding must follow. I pretty much agree with the principle: resources must be allocated based on needs. I do have two major reservations, however. I am not certain that “major reservation” is the right expression, but while I reflect on that, I would like to continue. I have two hesitations, two major concerns.

The first has to do with the fact that, in committee, no one could clearly and adequately explain to me how the needs would be identified, how they would be quantified. We heard about “landed immigrants”. Do immigrants always live where they first land in Canada? It is not clear. Can immigrants arrive in one place and then move to another? Do we track them? Do we take into account their movements, which can be very sporadic and inconsistent?

I could not get a satisfactory explanation in that regard.

My second concern has to do with the fact that no one could quantify the need for resources. Is it strictly proportional to the number of immigrants? If a given city or town has twice as many immigrants, does it automatically need twice as many resources? I do not think that is the case, since not all immigrants will ask for the same amount of help with integration, depending on their country of origin and their cultural and professional background.

Officials from the department did, however, make a distinction between refugees, who come here to escape persecution, and immigrants who are selected to come to Canada. According to the officials, when it comes to support services needed in the integration process, basically, the needs of one refugee are about the same as the needs of two immigrants.

That is somewhat better than nothing, but it seems to be a rather unrefined measure of needs. It seems to me that it would have been better to stick to the reality in a given community. If there are a large number of organizations in a region, even if there are fewer immigrants, it may be because the immigrants experiencing greater difficulties are concentrated in this region. In my opinion, and I will talk more about this later, it is quite likely that where there is a concentration of immigrants, the phenomenon of ghettoization makes integration even more difficult. These are the deleterious effects of Canadian multiculturalism.

The second difficulty with transferring resources in light of needs or the number of immigrants who move from Toronto to York or a neighbouring city, for example, is the abruptness of this transition.

I asked departmental representatives if the same thing could be done with officials. If, tomorrow morning, we realized that immigration services were no longer needed in Montreal, but rather in Brossard or Sherbrooke, could we suddenly move 70 officials from one place to the other? Would it just be too bad for those who could not move; would new officials be hired and others fired in the other place? That is clearly not the case.

I believe that the government has a bad attitude towards community groups and organizations that support immigrants. Most of the time, they are non-profit organizations and, unfortunately, they are used as cheap labour even though they do a fantastic job. They are given no consideration, and changes are made that would never be implemented if the services were provided by the public sector.

It would have been more respectful and wiser for the government to say that since the needs had shifted to such and such a place, it would establish a plan to transfer resources over three, four or five years. The government is saying that it has to be done immediately, abruptly, and right away, and there are two problems with that.

First of all, there is no indication that the resources are in place or that there are qualified workers and the necessary structures to provide these services where the government wants to move them. If this is done abruptly and quickly, it is likely that there will be difficulties or additional costs. That is often the case when things are done a little too quickly.

The other problem is that people who have devoted their lives and energy to setting up agencies suddenly end up out of work. We lose those resources. It is a general problem that happens over and over again when it comes to relations between government and community agencies and groups.

This goes well beyond what we do here in the House of Commons, and it is not exclusive to immigration. It is a constant issue for the agencies in my riding. It used to be possible to get funding for two or three years, but now funding is granted for one year and sometimes even for six months. Some agencies devote up to one-third of their resources to seeking funding. They always end up with short-term programs that they constantly have to adapt to the government's political will of the day. It is very exhausting for our agencies and very ineffective for society.

I want to take this opportunity to encourage governments to adopt a longer-term, more stable, better thought-out and better planned vision of the way these agencies that provide a service to the community interface with each other. The government's policy objective should be to give money to these agencies in exchange for a service that it considers useful and necessary.

This is a brutal cut at a time when integration problems persist around the world. This is not specific to Canada or Quebec. It is always a difficult challenge to leave one's country to settle in another. Unfortunately, there is increasing tension between immigrants and local populations. Sometimes immigrants who had status at home because they were engineers, lawyers, doctors or notaries have difficulties integrating when they arrive here and end up being taxi drivers. There is nothing wrong with being a taxi driver, but that job is not what they trained for or what they want to do when they come to Quebec or Canada.

These people can become bitter and disappointed. In local populations, there are signs of rejection, intolerance and exasperation. Locals are under the impression that immigrants who do not integrate cost society dearly in social services and so on. This type of comment keeps coming up on the Internet and in conversations in coffee shops and restaurants.

It is therefore of the utmost importance for society to put significant effort into integration. Societies have many integration models. For a long time now, Quebec has been choosing to use the interculturalism model, a proactive view of integration in which immigrants are asked to fully participate in and contribute to the development of their host society, but also adhere to a common culture. Unfortunately, elsewhere in Canada, another model was chosen: multiculturalism. Multiculturalism divides society into a multitude of solitudes that share the same territory but have nothing in common but the law. The only thing immigrants are asked to do in the documents prepared by Citizenship and Immigration Canada is to respect our laws. They can otherwise continue to practice their customs and traditions. This is not just accepted; it is encouraged and differences are celebrated. The Canadian model of multiculturalism is similar to the one in England and has the same failings with respect to integration.

When this model was established by Pierre Elliott Trudeau, the government was seeking to marginalize the Quebec nation by saying that it was simply one of many cultural groups. Thus, French Canadians, Quebeckers, Ukrainian Canadians and Italian Canadians are all cultural groups. Quebec has always rejected this model.

This is not just some crazy sovereignist idea. When this all began, Robert Bourassa wrote to Pierre Elliott Trudeau to explain the way multiculturalism could be applied in Quebec. All governments of Quebec, sovereignist as well as federalist, have rejected the multicultural approach.

More recently, the Bouchard-Taylor commission, which cannot be accused of being anti-immigration—it is actually a model of moderation—also recognized that multiculturalism is not the way forward for Quebec's integration model. There are some voices on the far left, like that of Julius Grey, who is associated with the NDP; he has also recognized that multiculturalism is not a solution.

In fact, even though Quebec is not able to fully promote its integration model, the results are different and are beneficial to Quebec in terms of non-ghettoization. In fact, the immigrants who arrive here are given contradictory messages. They arrive in Quebec and are invited to become part of the shared culture of the Quebec nation. But when they arrive in Ottawa, they are told that multiculturalism prevails and that differences are celebrated. There also are differences in the acceptance of immigration.

For example, in a Gallup poll not very long ago, people were asked if they had a positive perception of immigration, if it is a good thing for society. Along with British Columbia, Quebec had the best perception of immigration. Elsewhere in Canada, the perception of immigration was not as positive. I think that people in the rest of Canada are more closed to the idea of immigration and have more concerns than their Quebec counterparts because Canada's multicultural model—segregating individuals and promoting their differences as opposed to emphasizing their inclusion in a shared culture—produces more tension and friction.

In an area like Toronto, where there is a great deal of immigration, there is less social acceptance than in Montreal, where, even though there are lots of immigrants, the numbers are still much lower than Toronto. I know the minister will agree with me on that, because he is very concerned about anti-Semitic acts around the country and violence against Jews. According to statistics, fewer anti-Semitic acts are committed in Montreal than in Toronto, even taking into account the fact that Toronto is larger than Montreal. So, fewer anti-Semitic acts are committed in Quebec and people say they are more open to immigration than in the rest of Canada. I think that says something.

Although Canada does not want to abandon its multiculturalism model, it should at least allow Quebec to continue promoting and developing its own model without getting in the way. Furthermore, the Bloc Québécois has already proposed a bill in the House to amend the Canadian act. Canada can choose multiculturalism if it wants, but Quebec has made a different, unanimous choice that transcends political lines. We want Quebec to be allowed to opt out of Canadian multiculturalism. Unfortunately, the three federalist parties in the House have rejected that, which is too bad. This penalizes Quebec and, even more so, immigrants. A model like Quebec's illustrates that there is a better way to live together, thanks to an active integration policy whereby people integrate into the common culture and enrich it, without giving up who they are.

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CPC

Jason Kenney

Conservative

Hon. Jason Kenney (Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, my Bloc Québécois colleague made a speech that touched on all kinds of topics. That said, the motion for concurrence has to do with federal funding for integration. I have to say that since this government took power, federal investments in settlement services for newcomers have tripled, including in Quebec.

As the hon. member said, the situation in Quebec is special because of the Canada-Quebec accord relating to immigration and temporary admission of aliens, which was signed in 1991. In this accord there is a formula for increases in the financial compensation paid to Quebec by the federal government for these services. This year, we will pay approximately $240 million to Quebec for settlement services, which include language training. However, certain cultural communities and immigrants in Quebec have raised some concerns, as have I, regarding the fact that the Government of Quebec is not held accountable for the way it distributes the funding from the federal government for immigration services and is not transparent.

I would like to hear what my colleague thinks. Does he have the same concerns that this federal funding to the Government of Quebec is spent on other priorities? How can we ensure that all of this funding earmarked for services for immigrants is, in fact, spent on these services and not elsewhere?

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BQ

Thierry St-Cyr

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Thierry St-Cyr

Mr. Speaker, there is certainly a debate to be had on this subject in Quebec and criticism to be made of Quebec's Liberal government about the way it spends the funding for immigrant integration services.

I am glad that the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism mentioned this concern, which was raised by Pauline Marois and the Parti Québécois when the Liberal Party of Quebec came to power.

The first thing the Liberal government did with regard to immigration was to cut the budgets for the francization of immigrants. Like the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, the Bloc Québécois and the Parti Québécois are extremely concerned about these decisions.

These decisions were made by the Government of Quebec. We have to respect the fact that once an agreement has been reached, it is that government that makes the decisions. These agencies have to take up their fight with the Government of Quebec. I get the feeling that as soon as that government's current term ends, or perhaps even sooner, we hope, there will be an election in Quebec, and we will have a government that truly has a proactive vision for integrating immigrants into Quebec society. That being said, it is not up to Ottawa to patronizingly tell Quebec how to spend money on immigration matters.

I indicated at the beginning of my speech that this is a Toronto-centric issue and that I would have a hard time talking about it for 20 minutes. What I wanted to illustrate is the importance, whether in Ontario or Quebec, of investing in integration services for immigrants because integration can produce major results with regard to the acceptance of immigration. I have illustrated how Quebec's policies make us more open to immigration than the rest of Canada.

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LIB

Paul Szabo

Liberal

Mr. Paul Szabo (Mississauga South, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to the member's comments. I have to reflect on my experience as an accountant and auditor prior to becoming a member of Parliament, where a couple of my clients were in fact settlement services. One of them actually went out of business because a union came in and decided to unionize the staff. The member and the minister well know that the funding for human resources from either level of government is fixed and cannot change. They could not afford to stay open because they could not afford to pay the salary demands of the union that was set up.

It is not a matter of the fact that there were cuts but whether the cuts were done in a way which was transparent. It would seem to me that if there is a requirement to save money in that area of settlement services, it really takes an approach which is basically to close down those that are not providing efficient services, as opposed to chipping away at the foundational funding of some of these settlement services. I believe the government has not been transparent in that regard. I wonder if the member would care to comment.

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BQ

Thierry St-Cyr

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Thierry St-Cyr

Mr. Speaker, it is true that, at the very beginning of my speech, I spoke about the fact that the government was unable to satisfactorily answer my question about the effects of these cuts and the abrupt transfer of reduced funds from Toronto to other parts of Ontario or Canada. It seems to me that there has been no consideration or concern for the human resources, for the people and individuals who work in these organizations and who provide services to the public. This issue has not been adequately addressed.

During their presentations, senior departmental officials told us that they wanted to ensure that the transition went smoothly. Unfortunately, when I asked for specific examples, they were unable to provide me with any. For example, none of the organizations will be given any money to help them to continue to operate during the transition period.

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NDP

Olivia Chow

New Democratic Party

Ms. Olivia Chow (Trinity—Spadina, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, the 2011-12 estimates just came out and the immigration and citizenship department sees a decrease of $30.6 million to the interim federal health program, global case management. The interim federal health program assists new immigrants in finding good jobs in the health field, for example, by assisting them to get internships in hospitals so they can practise as doctors, which Canada needs.

The minister tells me that maybe that cut will not have a drastic impact on immigrant settlement services. Perhaps the member could comment on that.

It also has a decrease of $7.5 million in funding related to managing the immigration program backlog. There is a good increase to the Canada-Quebec transfer accord of $259 million, which will help Quebec immigrants. I just wish that this were extended across the country, so there would be a 2% increase across the board. Instead, we see that there is a decrease outside Quebec. I just want some comments from the member.

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BQ

Thierry St-Cyr

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Thierry St-Cyr

Mr. Speaker, I did not have the opportunity to thoroughly review the estimates to which the hon. member is referring. However, unless I am mistaken, I believe that the interim federal health program has more to do with medicine for refugees. This is a subject that we discussed today in committee. We are concerned about the fact that the federal government is still refusing to sign a formal agreement with the Association québécoise des pharmaciens propriétaires to ensure that services are provided to refugees in Quebec, no matter which pharmacy they go to.

The government's refusal to sign such an agreement is even harder to understand since it has signed similar agreements respecting four of its other jurisdictions: National Defence, the RCMP, Veterans Affairs and Indian Affairs. It is much simpler to sign one agreement with the AQPP because the 1,800 members would be required to comply with the agreement and provide services to refugees, whether in Montreal, Dolbeau or the Gaspé. Unfortunately, the government seems to oppose this pharmacists' association and the idea of a special measure for Quebec.

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CPC

Jason Kenney

Conservative

Hon. Jason Kenney (Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, first of all I would like to point out that my friends from the New Democratic Party say that they would like to make Parliament work, yet despite the House being scheduled to debate an important bill to improve airline security and to help us all work together against terrorism, we have another concurrence motion brought forward by the New Democratic Party.

For those members of the public who may be watching this debate with interest, a concurrence motion is essentially used as a tactic to delay debate on a government bill. That is certainly the case here.

I would invite my colleagues in the opposition to let Parliament work and to focus on important legislative business, in this case combatting terrorism and keeping our air passengers safe.

Having said that, I am pleased to have an opportunity to speak to the government's massive investments in success for newcomers to Canada. Let me back up a little bit, as it is important to recall the situation that faced newcomers under the previous Liberal government.

When the previous Liberal government took office in October 1993, Canada received 276,000 new permanent residents in that year, the largest number of immigrants since about World War II.

The first thing the Liberals did was to begin cutting the budget of Citizenship and Immigration Canada quite steeply and reducing the number of newcomers arriving in the country, so that by 1995, their second year in office, the number of permanent residents being received in Canada plummeted down to 176,000. They reduced by about one third the number of newcomers allowed to enter the country.

The second thing the Liberals did was to look at immigrants as a source of revenue to pay for their other spending priorities. So they imposed a $1,000 fee, what they called a right of permanent residence fee, on all new immigrants to Canada.

That was essentially a tax, and some would call it a head tax, on all new permanent residents arriving in the country. We think that was a bad choice, because those individuals were arriving with scarce or little savings and were struggling to make down payments on their initial apartments and getting their kids enrolled in school. They needed every dollar they could find to get settled in Canada, yet the previous government saw those immigrants as a source of revenue and imposed a $1,000 right of landing fee on them.

The third thing the previous government did was that it decided to cut and then freeze for 13 years federal support for integration and settlement services. As other members have described, those include such things as free language training, job search skills and other integration support for newcomers. Thus for 13 years the Liberals froze and cut the levels of funding, such that when our government arrived in office in February 2006, we found that the total federal budget for settlement services across Canada was $200 million after 13 years of Liberal government.

The first thing our government did was to cut in half the Liberal right of landing fee on newcomers, thereby saving, cumulatively, over $340 million for newcomers to Canada since that time, and over $140 million for newcomers to Ontario in particular. That is money now in the pockets of immigrants to help them make that first down payment on their apartment or perhaps on a new home. That is a $340 million boost to newcomers that was introduced by our government.

The second thing Conservatives did was to triple the federal investment in settlement services. The Liberal members here say “Oh, we almost, or just about, got around to that” like so many other things, that “if they had given us another 13 years, we would have got around to investing in the success of new Canadians.” But they did not. They made choices.

It is fine to make choices. There were some difficult fiscal times. However, when choices are made, one has to stand up and take responsibility for them, which we saw the Liberals refusing to do through their decision to underfund settlement services for newcomers.

Now they have the temerity to stand up in this place and criticize a government that has more than tripled investment in the success of the newcomers they refused to invest in. In particular, when I hear the histrionics and demagoguery of the member for Parkdale—High Park, it really causes me to wonder about what kind of cognitive dissonance it requires to criticize $600 million of investment in settlement services when there was not a word of criticism about a government that had frozen it for 13 years at $200 million a year. How bizarre.

I should also point out that for 13 long years, the previous Liberal government did nothing on one of the top priorities of newcomers, the issue of foreign credential recognition for foreign-trained professionals. This is a tough issue. It is largely provincial responsibility and jurisdiction, and there is a very limited role the federal government can play. However, between 1993 and 2005, the previous Liberal government chose to play no role in accelerating and streamlining the process of credential recognition so that foreign-trained professionals could get licensed and work in their professions of interest.

By contrast, our government has introduced the Foreign Credentials Referral Office, through which we are providing pre-arrival orientation sessions, free two-day seminars and personalized counselling for new economic immigrants to Canada while they are still in their countries of origin, so that they can apply for jobs and begin the process of applying for credential recognition and get a much better appreciation of some of the initial integration challenges they will face. According to our data, this has actually improved the situation with respect to pre-arranged employment for the economic immigrants who have gone through this new integration project introduced by our government as part of our broader efforts on foreign credential recognition.

I should also point out that we have invested $50 million in Canada's economic action plan to put the meat on the bones of the pan-Canadian framework for the recognition of foreign qualifications. Basically, we are getting all 10 provinces and their respective 45 licensed professional associations around the table to hammer out a common, streamlined and expedited process for credential recognition. Basically that is a lot of technical jargon to say that the federal government is finally taking a vital, real leadership role, backed up with real dollars and cents, to speed up the process for credential recognition for foreign-trained professionals. That is good news. After 13 years of neglect, finally there is federal leadership for foreign-trained professionals.

However, on the issue before us of investment in settlement services, some of the Liberal members are squawking about this Canada-Ontario immigration thing through which they supposedly brought in a large increase in funding. In fact, we can look at the books. It is publicly available, black on white, in the estimates and the budget. The last year the Liberal government was in office, in fiscal year 2005-06, the federal investment in total settlement services across Canada was $200 million, with $111.5 million of that in the province of Ontario. That was the same, for all intents and purposes, as it had been 13 years earlier.

It is just like the Kelowna accord. Do we remember that? The parliamentary secretary for INAC, Indian and Northern Affairs, who is here, will tell the House that the Liberals had a Kelowna accord. It was a press release. They call press releases, “investments”. Yes, they sent out a press release about a Canada-Ontario immigration accord, but there was no money, no real transfers, no increased services, nothing practical, concrete or real, just a fantasy. They said nothing about the other provinces.

Quebec is following its own path. With the Canada-Quebec agreement on immigration, the province applies a formula—which I talked about—for immigrant settlement services.

The Liberals said they would have an agreement with Ontario. What about the other provinces? There was nothing, nada, zilch, no proposed increased investment for settlement services for newcomers in western or Atlantic Canada.

The principle that we took very clearly is reflected in the decision before us today. I know it is a radical idea, perhaps, for my Liberal friends, but our principle was this: that just as all Canadians are equal under the law, so too should all newcomers be treated with equity by the Government of Canada, and that every newcomer, whether they decide to settle in Labrador City or Long Island, British Columbia, should all have roughly the same level of settlement services available to them. It is about equity.

In 2005 we therefore tripled the federal investment in settlement services. The truth is that we increased that funding more quickly than people were enrolling in the programs. Thus while we tripled the funding, we in fact only saw about a 34% increase in enrolment in federally funded programs such as language instruction for newcomers to Canada. For example, between 2005 and 2009, we saw the number of people enrolled in LINC classes across Canada go from about 48,000 to 53,000, a very small increase in actual clients enrolling in the services, and to this day, only about 25% of eligible permanent residents enrol in the settlement services we offer them freely.

That is a challenge. We need to make sure people are aware of these programs that we offer freely, and that is why we have done such innovative things as our pilot project for vouchers for free language training, which we are now mailing on a pilot basis to newcomers in Nova Scotia, Ontario and Alberta. We have seen an increase in the uptake, more people enrolling, because they understand there is a monetary value to the free language courses we are offering. That is very concrete. It is not just a press release, but a real service. We are trying to increase enrollment.

Fundamentally, we have a responsibility to ensure that money is being spent accountably. When we have this huge increase in funding, a tripling of funding, and only a 34% increase in the number of people enrolling in those services, we have to ask whether that money is being spent with maximum efficiency. We also need to ensure that we treat everyone with equity.

Over the course of the past five years, one of the great untrumpeted achievements of this government's immigration reforms has been a much better distribution of newcomers across Canada. It used to be that 90% of newcomers settled in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, even if the best jobs were in other parts of the country. Many of my predecessors, including the member for Eglinton—Lawrence, I am sure all reflected on the need to get a better distribution of newcomers in other parts of the country so that all parts of Canada could enjoy the benefits of immigrants' work ethic.

We succeeded with that, in part through the provincial nominee program and its expansion, and so we have now seen a very significant increase in the number of newcomers settling in the prairie and the Atlantic provinces. For example, over the past five years Manitoba has seen the number of immigrants settling there nearly triple. That is phenomenal. That is one of the reasons the Manitoba economy has been leading the country, as I am sure my colleague from Winnipeg would agree. I do not know where he is. He lives in here. He is normally here all the time, but--

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CPC

Andrew Scheer

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker

A few members have made mentioned of the fact that it is inappropriate to point out the absence or presence of a member.

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CPC

Jason Kenney

Conservative

Hon. Jason Kenney

Mr. Speaker, I meant to compliment the member who is always here.

We ended up in a situation where, because of the increases in funding, they were based on 2005 levels of where people were settling. In 2005, nearly 145,000 newcomers were choosing to settle in the province of Ontario. However, as a result of the changes we made, more people were choosing to settle in the Atlantic provinces and western Canada.

When we fast-forward to 2009-10, we found that only 105,000 newcomers were settling in Ontario with the balance going typically to the western and Atlantic provinces. That is a good problem to have because it meant that the 25% reduction in immigration to Ontario was a proportionate increase in immigration to provinces with a lot of labour market shortages. Those provinces are now benefiting from immigration. Now there is a much closer share of newcomers being distributed across the country.

However, the settlement dollars were not following the immigrants because it was all based on a 2005 formula that is now out of date. This has ended up with a peculiar situation whereby Ontario newcomers are receiving about $3,400 in federally funded services per immigrant but those living in the western and Atlantic provinces are only receiving about $2,900 per immigrant.

Do my friends in the opposition think it is fair that a newcomer in Calgary Northeast or a newcomer in North Battleford, Saskatchewan is receiving about $600 less in federal settlement services than a newcomer here in Ottawa? I do not think one Canadian would agree that is fair or reasonable.

We had to rebalance the funding of settlement services. We worked with the provinces and came up with a new settlement formula based on the number of primary immigrants; an estimate of secondary migration of where people choose to move sometimes, and that is typically to Alberta and Saskatchewan; the number of refugees; and a number of other criteria.

We came up with a new formula, collaboratively with the provinces that will now, hopefully, ensure that in the future newcomers will receive roughly the same level of services across the country. Quebec is a special case here because of the Canada-Quebec immigration accord.

As a consequence of this new formula, in fiscal year 2011-12 we will have a rebalancing of federal settlement services across the country. That will result in an increase in our federal settlement service budget for Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut. Ten of the 13 jurisdictions in Canada will be receiving yet another increase in settlement services under this government. This is good news for newcomers to Canada.

However, that must come from somewhere. The offset will come from those areas that have been over-funded, such as Ontario and, to some extent, Nova Scotia and British Columbia. I note that the Government of Brutish Columbia has not fully spent the money that we transferred to it for settlement services for the very problem that I explained before, which is that the funding increases were so significant under our government that the uptake was not there from the clients to justify all that spending. We do not just spend for the sake of spending. We in the Conservative government believe that we spend for results. Even the Government of British Columbia said that it was not concerned about the slight offset in funding because it was not spending all that money anyway.

Even within Ontario there have been changes in patterns of migration. For example, between 2005 and 2009 fewer people were settling in the city of Toronto proper than was the case before. However, there was a huge increase in settlement in the region of York, which is part of the greater Toronto area just to the north. Consequently, there will be a slight reduction in settlement funding in the city of Toronto but a large increase in the region of York in the range of 43%.

One of the members opposite suggested that this was calculated for some political or partisan reason. I have to say as strongly and clearly as I can that that is outrageous and completely ridiculous. The formula is based on federal and provincial consultation and all of these decisions have been developed by officials in Citizenship and Immigration Canada simply to ensure that the services go where the newcomers are going.

I would point out that settlement services in Toronto will still be funded by more than double what they were when the previous Liberal government was in office. We invited 36 settlement service agencies out of the roughly 200 agencies in Ontario, through a process of requests for proposals, to make submissions for future contribution agreements. We assessed those submissions on an objective basis. We scored their historic performance and looked at the quality of the proposals. The officials made an assessment based on a point system and decided that 36 associations that had been receiving funding would not receive funding over the next two year period but that 30 new associations would receive funding. I do not see what the problem is with that. If an organization receives money from the federal government, it does not mean that it has a permanent entitlement to that money. It means that it needs to prove that it is spending it efficiently.

What we are doing is we are protecting the interests of taxpayers through efficiency and ensuring equity in funding right across the country. We are proud of our decision in the investment in the success of newcomers to Canada.

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LIB

Ruby Dhalla

Liberal

Ms. Ruby Dhalla (Brampton—Springdale, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, a number of constituents have approached me with a great deal of concern. Some constituents are facing the fact that their sponsorship of family reunification has gone from three to four years under the previous Liberal government to almost six to seven years. With the new changes announced, it is expected to reach almost 13 years of wait times.

The African Community Services of Peel, the Canadian Hate Prevention Network, the Social Planning Council of Peel and the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Peel are all agencies that have been subjected to the funding cuts by the Conservative government. Thousands of Bramptonians and constituents have been left without the necessary services to ensure that new Canadians can integrate, can get the skills they need to ensure their success and can obtain resources not only for themselves but their families to ensure their success and prosperity as families. With the $53 million of cuts that have been faced by these organizations, there has been a great impact because they will no longer be able to provide those services.

Brampton is also home to the largest number of immigrants throughout Canada. As the minister knows. Brampton has the We Welcome the World Centre, which operates within the Peel District School Board, to help parents and small children integrate into the school system. In its first year alone, We Welcome the World Centre helped over 1,800 families in its first year but it has itself lost half of its operating budget, which will leave not only the agencies that I have mentioned but many of the new Canadians accessing these agencies out in the cold.

When the minister says that a newcomer should be treated with equity, how will these Brampton families be treated with equity when they have faced and been subjected to these cuts of over $53 million and the impact it will have on many Canadians who are facing long wait times for family reunification?

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CPC

Jason Kenney

Conservative

Hon. Jason Kenney

Mr. Speaker, in terms of the processing time for family reunification, family class immigration applications are being processed on average two months earlier than was the case in 2005 under the previous government. Last year, we welcomed 281,000 immigrants, the largest number in 57 years, including 181,000 family members if we include the dependents of primary economic immigrants. Next year, we will be increasing our targets for family class immigration to a maximum, in the planning range, of 65,500.

Finally, we have accepted more family class immigrants in the past five years than was the case under the previous Liberal government. Therefore, I will not take any lessons from that member on family class immigration.

With respect to settlement services in Peel, our ministry, for some reason, counts the Peel and Halton regions together for management purposes. When the member's party was in government in 2005-06, her government was transferring $15 million in settlement services to Peel-Halton. Next year, even after the rebalancing, we will be funding $65 million in settlement services for Peel and Halton. From $15 million, under her watch, to $65 million for Peel families, including those in Brampton, under our government, is an increase of 329%. Yes, there will be a slight offset from this year of $7 million, which is a $7 million transfer into other parts of the country that are now being underfunded, but that amount is half the total federal Liberal contribution to settlement services in the Peel and Halton regions in 2005.

We need to have some perspective here. Where is that $7 million going? I will tell members where it is going. It is going to the increased number of newcomers settling in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick and the north because they deserve settlement services too.

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NDP

Bill Siksay

New Democratic Party

Mr. Bill Siksay (Burnaby—Douglas, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for sticking around for the debate. It is something that he does regularly when these issues are debated in the House and I do appreciate that he takes the time to participate.

I do want to say that flies a bit in his assertion that somehow debating a concurrence motion is just a time-wasting dilatory thing in this House. It is not. This is the chance for the House to look at the work of committees and to express our support for initiatives taken in committee. It is absolutely not a time-wasting exercise. The minister's presence here, I hope, speaks to that as well.

The minister talked about the right of landing fee. I have to say that I agree with his analysis. The right of landing fee was hurting immigrants to Canada. It was taxing immigrants to Canada at a time when they can least afford to pay. A tax on landing of $1,000 was very harmful to people coming to Canada to settle here. Although the minister's analysis of that is correct, a $500 landing fee is equally offensive to the goal of integrating new immigrants into Canadian society.

I wonder why the government is taking hundreds of millions of dollars, as the minister pointed out, out of the pockets of new immigrants when, at the same time, it is now cutting services that many new immigrants need in key places like Toronto, Ontario, British Columbia and Nova Scotia. Why is the right of landing fee there at all? Why are we putting that burden on new immigrants to Canada?

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March 1, 2011