Canada Votes: What do the Federal Leaders Plan for Immigration?

Published on: September 20th, 2021

Today is the final day for Canadians to vote in the federal election. Though the two main parties are effectively tied, projections suggest a high chance of the Liberals winning another minority government. If re-elected, Liberal leader, Justin Trudeau plans to raise immigration levels even further, after increasing targets to historic highs last fall.

Which Canadian political party is in the lead?

Canada’s two main parties, the Liberals and Conservatives, are neck to neck in the polls for today’s federal election. Currently, the Liberals have a slight lead at 31.5% of votes, with the Conservatives close behind at 31%. The Liberals and Conservatives are the only two parties to have held office at a federal level. Trailing behind is the New Democratic Party with 19% of votes. Other noteworthy parties include the Green Party, Bloc Quebecois, and People’s Party, which each hold less than 10% of Canada’s votes.

The New Democratic Party (NDP) is lead by Jagmeet Singh. Singh is a practicing Sikh and the first visible minority to lead a major political party in Canada. The NDP is further to the left on Canada’s political spectrum than the Liberal party. The centre-left Liberal Party has governed largely with the support of the NDP.

The current polls show the Liberal party ahead of the Conservatives by just a half percentage point. However, as a result of how the vote breaks down regionally, Liberals have an advantage in the seat count. This advantage is what won Liberals the 2019 election. Although the Liberal party lost the popular vote, they won more seats than the Conservatives.  A similar outcome is expected in this election, positioning the Liberals to again win a minority government.

How will the election affect Canadian immigration?

While the provincial governments have some part in the process of choosing immigrants, the federal government ultimately makes the final determination on many important aspects of immigration.  Although Canadian provinces can nominate immigrants for permanent residence through Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs) the permanent residence application is processed and determined at the federal level. The federal government also determines the immigration levels for each year and allocates the number of immigrants each province can nominate for permanent residency.

Justin Trudeau has significantly expanded immigration since first elected in 2015. In October 2020, he announced that immigration targets would be increased to 401,000 for the year of 2021. At a recent campaign stop, Trudeau mentioned increasing the immigration targets even further if re-elected to make up for lost time during COVID-19.

The leader of the Conservatives, Erin O’Toole has been quiet regarding his party’s immigration targets and has not commented on whether he would maintain the Liberal’s current ambitious immigration levels. He does, however, recognize the importance of immigration for the Canadian economy and has commented to reporters that Canada required “rising immigration” to recover from the economic impact of COVID-19.

Both the Liberals and Conservatives have vowed to speed up processing times for family reunification and skilled worker applications. The party leaders also promise to help newcomers get their foreign credentials recognized in Canada. This is a significant barrier for many new immigrants in securing employment once they have arrived in Canada. By easing this process, it will help qualified skilled workers to fill vacancies in their fields.

Party leaders on Parents and Grandparent Sponsorship Program

Family reunification is an important concern for newcomer communities in Canada and has become a key election issue discussed between the main political parties.

Canada’s current system for Parent and Grandparent Program (PGP) Sponsorship applications has been subject to criticism for trivializing a sensitive matter of family reunification. Canada had previously used a first come, first served system for PGP applications. Despite the lottery system’s criticism, it was thought to be fairer than the previous process. The first-come first-serve process gave an advantage to those who were geographically closer able to pay for the couriers or legal help with their application.

This year, the Liberals increased the cap for Parent and Grandparent Sponsorship applications to 30,000. This higher-than-usual number was largely to make up for the reduced number of applications accepted in 2020 due to the pandemic. However, immigration minister Marco Mendicino is quick to remind Canadians that the Conservative government capped the program at just 5,000 applications in 2015.

On the other hand, Jagmeet Singh vows to remove the cap on PGP applications altogether if elected. Singh promised that an NDP government would remove the controversial “lottery system” implemented by the Liberals, and “take on the backlogs that are keeping families apart”.

The Conservatives have not discussed the number of PGP applications they would accept but have said they would return the program to a first-come, first-served system. O’Toole has also mentioned potentially shifting immigration from Skilled Workers to a higher proportion of Family Reunification applicants if unemployment remains high in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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