How Might the Upcoming Canadian Federal Election Affect Immigration?

Published on: August 26th, 2021

Following Trudeau’s request for a snap election earlier this month, we are not likely to see major changes in Canadian immigration policy in the near future.

Canadians are set to hit the polls next month after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau requested for a dissolution of parliament for a snap election on August 15th, 2021. The request was made in the hope of gaining a majority government after winning only a minority in the last 2019 vote.

Although the next scheduled election was not until 2023, Trudeau is hoping to capitalize on positive attitudes toward his government’s handling of the pandemic following the country’s high vaccination rates and secure a majority government. Doing so would help the Liberals push through legislation quicker without the need for negotiation with opposing parties.

However, recent polling shows a narrowing margin between the Liberals and Conservatives. Support for the New Democratic Party is also up since the last election and may make significant gains this time.

All the major political parties in Canada are largely pro-immigration, each leader’s conception of what Canadian immigration should look differing slightly.

So…how might the election affect the future of Canadian immigration policy?

What could we expect if the Liberals remain in power?

If the Liberals win, we can expect them to continue to implement similar programs since first coming to power in 2015.

After first being elected by a landslide in 2015, Justin Trudeau’s government increased economic immigration levels to historic highs, then increased these targets once again in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. In October 2020, the Liberal government announced plans to welcome a whopping total of 1,233,000 permanent residents by 2023.

Building on the Conservative implemented Express Entry system, Liberals have made it easier for many Skilled Workers to come to Canada, allocating additional points for speaking French and having a sibling in the country, and overturning the Conservative imposed requirement to have a job offer in Canada.

Since 2015, the Liberals have implemented various economic immigration programs aimed at spreading the benefits of immigration throughout less populated areas in the country. Most notably, the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot (RNIP) and Atlantic Immigration Pilot Program (AIPP) made it easier for employers in qualifying regions to hire foreign workers and help them remain permanently in Canada.

Trudeau is also in the process of introducing a Municipal Nominee Program (MNP), which will “allow local communities, chambers of commerce and local labour councils to directly sponsor permanent immigrants”.

What would a New Democratic Party win mean for Canadian immigration?

If elected, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh has vowed to end the cap on parent and grandparent sponsorship applications. On top of this, he promises to end the backlogged sponsorship processing times and reunite Caregivers in Canada with their family members without delay.

Singh has emphasized ensuring a pathway to permanent settlement for all workers in Canada, regardless of the skill type of the work.

Concerning economic immigration, the NDP has guaranteed that if elected, they will implement immigration policies that “meet Canada’s labour force needs and recognize people’s experiences, contributions, and ties to Canada”.

Singh’s platform also stresses the importance of improving foreign credentials recognition. By doing so, skilled workers could more easily find work in their field upon arriving in Canada.

What Canadian immigration changes could we expect following a Conservative victory?

The current leader of the Conservative party, Erin O’Toole has not mentioned whether he will increase or decrease immigration levels. O’Toole has called for an immigration system that is “fair, compassionate and rules based.”

O’Toole emphasizes using economic immigration to fill labour gaps. Like Trudeau, he advocates for giving more authority to provinces to address their skills shortages and spread immigration to rural areas through nominee programs. However, O’Toole has stated that, if unemployed remains high due to COVID-19, they may temporarily reduce the number of Skilled Workers invited and shift to a higher proportion of those applying under Family Reunification.

Changes within the next few months…

Historically there have been few immigration policy changes implemented surrounding the months leading up to and following election campaigning.  During this time, we can expect the current government will continue working toward the ambitious immigration targets introduced in October 2020.

Following the forming of a new cabinet, the incumbent government will not likely begin implementing new policies, including immigration policy, until this winter.

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