Editor’s Note: The Daily Courier is asking candidates within their readership areas a series of 12 questions. Each candidate was given the question in writing with a word maximum of 120.
QUESTION: Annual immigration is about equal to 1% of Canada’s current population. Is that percentage too high, too low, or just right, in your opinion?
DAN ALBAS (Conservative): In the last election, we witnessed the various parties making arbitrary promises setting specific numbers of immigrants within a set time frame. This resulted in creating an extremely expensive and inefficient log-jam that in many cases had new Canadians arriving without adequate supports, such as English as a second language training, as well as housing. The Conservative party has long supported immigration and wants to return our system to a fair, orderly and compassionate system. A Conservative government will not set arbitrary immigration levels, but would set levels annually based on Canada’s best interests. This approach provides Canada with the flexibility needed to maintain a fair immigration process that continues our proud Canadian tradition of welcoming new citizens to our Canadian family.
ALLAN DUNCAN (People’s Party of Canada): Currently, our immigration number is too high. Canadians are historically hospitable and generous to immigrants. The unusual anxiety we are experiencing as a society around immigration displays that our system is placing to much pressure on Canadians. To welcome, every four years, a large city worth of new Canadians is unsustainable. Canada already has an affordability crisis, so a million-plus people won’t help. Additionally, the administration cost is very high, carrying forward yearly. Integration into Canadian society is also difficult at such high levels. We need to step back and improve the management of our immigration system with screening, integration and economic recruitment. Once we improve our system, anxieties around immigration should moderate and possible increases can be considered.
ROBERT MELLALIEU (Green): There are many reasons for people to come to Canada — immigration, refugee and asylum, to name a few. Our immigration policies must be revamped to ensure we stay true to our identity as a just, fair and open country, and to be prepared for new challenges that are predicted to arise with increased numbers of environmental refugees seeking a safe new home in an increasingly perilous world. Canada’s multicultural diversity is an essential part of our national identity. Immigrants and refugees come to Canada in search of a safer, more fulfilling life for themselves and their families, and to be full participants in Canadian society. We must make sure they are supported in achieving their hopes and ambitions as new Canadians. Canada must embrace the energy and creativity of all our cultural communities and ensure genuine equality of opportunity and equal treatment of all Canadian citizens, regardless of their country of origin.
MARY ANN MURPHY (Liberal): This percentage is too low. Given Canada’s aging population and low birth rates, immigration is both a moral and economic imperative to sustain Canada’s growth. The United Nations High Commission on Refugees has given Canada top marks for our ability to humanely manage our refugee targets. The Liberal party supports modest and responsible increases to immigration, with a focus on welcoming highly skilled people who can help build our country. The Liberal party plans to move forward with a “Municipal Nominee Program” to directly allow local communities, chambers of commerce and local labour councils to directly sponsor permanent immigrants. A minimum of 5,000 of the new spaces will be dedicated to this “Municipal Nominee Program.”
JOAN PHILLIP (NDP): With our aging population and the number of employers who need workers, we need to ensure our small, medium and large businesses can be competitive, and we need a strong, skilled labour force for that. Immigration should be increased to meet this growing need, and Canada could be doing more in terms of welcoming people fleeing violence and persecution in the world. We have a responsibility to our fellow man. Additionally, we should be ensuring that our temporary foreign workers are treated with dignity and can become citizens. Here in the Okanagan, we rely on this workforce. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship, but we want to ensure they enjoy their experience here and want to come back.
TRAVIS ASHLEY (Green): I have experienced the lack of work ethic and inability to find workers in both of my fields as a landscaper and a chef in the Okanagan. It is not easy to enter Canada, regardless of what people might think. This great nation was built on immigration. We have an aging population that is facing health-care worker shortages and precarious living conditions due to high inflation and lack of co-op housing. Canada’s strength comes from diversity. We are supposed to be the hub of inclusion and multiculturalism. So, yes, I believe we should bring in more immigrants to strengthen our economy, our shared culture and international ties.
JOHN BARR (People’s Party of Canada): Levels of immigration should be dependent on the economic and health-care needs of Canada. Immigrants who possess marketable skills and are willing to commit to serving a community should be prioritized. For example, if a northern community needs a doctor and if a doctor from abroad is willing to serve that community for a length of time, then he or she would be selected. Our immigration policy should not be based on an arbitrary percentage; it should expand to welcome new Canadians as our economy allows and as our needs develop.
STEPHEN FUHR (Liberal): Immigrants make Canada more successful and are an essential part of our cultural and economic success. We will allow a modest and responsible increase to immigration with the focus on welcoming highly skilled people. As our population ages and families grow smaller, we will need new immigrants to support a vibrant and growing economy. We will allow communities, chambers of commerce and labour councils to directly sponsor permanent immigrants through the Municipal Nominee Program. This will help alleviate community labour shortages. At the same time, we will work with the U.S. to modernize the Safe Third Country Agreement.
TRACY GRAY (Conservative): Immigration is an important issue to our community. With the demographic shift of baby boomers retiring, economic immigration is imperative. We also know in the Okanagan, temporary farm workers are essential for our farming community. Conservatives conducted a “Pathway to Canada Tour” where we consulted with Canadians and stakeholders from all across the country. It was clear that Canadians want their immigration system to be managed competently, to know that measures are taken to ensure safety of Canadians and new immigrants, and that we continue to be a safe and welcoming place for the world’s most vulnerable. Immigration numbers have been fairly consistent for many years. There are real concerns, however, around illegal migration of people walking across our borders.
JUSTIN KULIK (NDP): Canada is a nation of immigrants. We are stronger with a compassionate, fair immigration system. This question is difficult because, to put it simply, some regions require more immigration than others. And as time progresses, those regions shift in population. So, unfortunately, there is no blanket, simple answer to this question. Canada is a vast country of differing regions, and thus it is difficult to provide answers to issues like this. Immigration levels should be determined based on the current climate of each specific region, according to its needs. Immigrants help build a strong workforce all across Canada. When we stop putting rich corporations over people, we can have an economy that works for everyone.