On September 20, 2021 Canada will have its 44th Parliamentary election. There are six main political parties running. The first is the Liberal Party of Canada, led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The Liberals are generally regarded as a centrist party and have governed since October 2015. The second is the Conservative Party of Canada, led by Erin O’Toole. The Conservatives are a centre-right party that previously governed Canada from 2006-2015 under Stephen Harper. The third is the New Democratic Party, a left-wing led by Jagmeet Singh. The fourth is the Green Party of Canada, led by Annamie Paul, a party that is typically known for its environmental platform. The fifth is the Bloc Québécois, led by Yves Francois Blanchet. The Bloc is a Quebec nationalist party that only runs candidates in Quebec. Finally, there is the People’s Party of Canada, a right-wing party led by Maxime Bernier.
As of writing, polls suggest that Canada is likely heading to a minority government. This means that none of the political parties above will win enough seats to govern without the support of another party. Assuming that all of the above parties win seats, which is not guaranteed, it is accordingly important to understand their policy preferences as any of them may have policy influence on the next government.
The Liberal Party of Canada
The Liberals say that if re-elected they will abolish citizenship application processing fees, which are currently $630.00 per adult and $100.00 per child. They will also reduce processing times that have been impacted by COVID-19 and create a visitor visa program for the spouses of Canadians who wish to visit their partners while their spousal sponsorship applications are in process. The Liberals will establish a trusted employer system to streamline foreign worker applications, expand the Global Talent Stream, and create pathways to permanent residence for foreign workers and international students through Express Entry. Finally, the Liberals are committing to resettling 40,000 Afghan refugees, a number which is double what they announced just two days before the election was called.
The Liberals face the same question that any incumbent government faces, which is why they have not already enacted these policies during their six years in power. Their obvious answer would be that COVID-19 temporarily derailed their agenda. Some of their responses to the pandemic, such as creating a special immigration pathway program for up to 90,000 essential workers and recent graduates, as well as the creation of electronic application processes for most immigration streams, appear more ambitious than their actual campaign platform.
The Conservative Party of Canada
The Conservative Party of Canada’s immigration platform is incredibly detailed. Some of their ideas are unlikely to generate media coverage with the broader public, but get the attention of immigration stakeholders.
The Conservatives are, amongst other things, promising to end Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada’s current practice of returning applications for being incomplete, and instead require that the Department provide applicants with an opportunity to provide missing documentation. They will allow applicants to pay a fee to have their files expedited, require that all interactions between officers and applicants be recorded and use remote interview technology to match applicants with visa officers who understand an applicant’s cultural context and background. The Conservatives would create a weighted lottery in the Parent and Grandparent Program that will give preference to those who either be providing childcare or have English/French language ability, expand the super-visa from two years to five, provide a pathway to permanent residence for all foreign workers, and create a trusted employer regime for foreign workers. Erin O’Toole has long been a proponent of establishing a broad free trade agreement between Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand, and he has promised to enter into negotiations with those countries to provide open study and work permits to their citizens.
Regarding refugees, the Conservatives would increase capacity at the Immigration and Refugee Board to reduce hearing wait times and essentially replace the Government Assisted Refugee program with private and joint refugee sponsorship programs. Finally, the Conservatives have promised to “close the loophole” in the Safe Third Country Agreement so that those who cross irregularly from the United States into Canada can be returned there. This would of course assume that the United States would take these individuals back, which is unlikely.
The NDP immigration commitments are almost word for word identical to 2019. If elected the NDP would “make sure immigration policies and levels meet Canada’s labour force needs and recognizes people’s experiences, contributions, and ties to Canada,” abolish the cap on parent and grandparent applications, ensure a pathway to permanent residency for all foreign workers and take on unscrupulous immigration consultants.
The NDP is also promising to provide caregivers the ability to reunite with their family members and have the government regulate immigration consultants. Both of these are actually policies that the Liberals have already enacted or will soon come into force, although the new Liberal caregiver programs have seen very little applications or work permits actually finalized since they were enacted.
The Green Party
After hinting that they might not release a platform, the Green Party has stated that it would be released during the week of September 6th. As of writing they have not made any announcements regarding what their immigration commitments may be. I will update this post and if and whey release a platform.
The Bloc Québécois platform on immigration is rather concise. They will call on whichever party is in government (which won’t be them, since they only run in Quebec) to reduce the processing time of Quebec-destined applicants, give Quebec control over foreign worker programs, welcome French-speaking refugees and require that permanent residents in Quebec pass a French language test in order to become citizens (rather than English or French).
People’s Party of Canada
The People’s Party of Canada continues to adopt a markedly different tone from Canada’s other main political parties when it comes to immigration policy. They appear to be rising in the polls as of writing, so it is important to understand what they stand for.
The PPC if elected would reduce immigration levels from around 350,000 to between 100,000 – 150,000, accept fewer resettled refugees, abolish the parent and grand-parent reunification program, limit the number of foreign workers and ensure that every candidate for immigration passes an interview to test for Canadian values. They would also erect fences along the Canada-US border.
The next few years
In the event of a minority government it is clear that there are areas where most of Canada’s political parties could work together to develop immigration policy. Most of the parties have some truly interesting ideas. I encourage readers to checkout the various party platforms as it was not possible in this piece to include all of their platform commitments.