Patrick Grady
The Globe and Mail's Strange Editorial Praising Immigration Minister Kenney
March 20, 2012

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has recently received "kudos" from a Globe and Mail editorial for reforming the immigration system. However, reading beyond the headline reveals that the Globe editors are against legislating away the million immigrants waiting in the backlog to be admitted to Canada. Instead, they caution the government to take “less drastic measures.”

This is passing strange as scrapping the backlog and starting over is the main “transformational change” proposed by the Minster. More importantly, it is the only thing that offers the government a chance to begin to reassert control over an immigration system that is spiralling out of control in spite of the baby steps towards reform that have so much bedazzled the Globe.

Incidentally, this was the position I advocated when I appeared before the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration last October 25. It apparently seemed to the Committee to be such a radical, if not heretical, idea that it was not even mentioned in its recent report. Perhaps this was part of a misguided attempt to shield the Minister from exposure to what was deemed by a rare three-party consensus to be a politically unpalatable solution to the backlog problem.

Mr. Kenney deserves the support of immigration reformers if he is indeed daring enough to follow through on his trial balloon and to try to legislate away the backlog as was done in New Zealand in 2003. But it wouldn’t be surprising if he ran into what many in his party consider insurmountable political obstacles and instead fell back on the more timid advice of the Globe to try to whittle down the backlog by pursuing his pilot project of allowing provinces to take applicants from the backlog for their own ballooning Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs) and by putting a “moratorium on the number of immigrant applications it accepts every year” (sic).

Unfortunately, both of these solutions are only partial and raise more problems than they solve. Provincial and territorial governments are inexperienced in immigration matters and have exhibited a wide-eyed faith that more immigration will solve all their fiscal and economic problems. This belief may not be totally off-the-wall for equalization-receiving provinces, which can transform immigration into increased federal transfers at the expense of Canadian taxpayers. But expanding reliance on PNPs can hardly be helpful for a government struggling to regain control over immigration. Almost half of economic immigrants are already selected by the provinces. And there are no signs that the performance of immigrants is improving yet.

And, of course, the Globe in not really talking about a “moratorium on the number of immigrant applications,” but either a “moratorium” on applications or a “limit” on the number of applications. Either of these alleged solutions would have the same implications for the likely performance of the immigrants. Immigrants who are admitted from the backlog of applications, which for one reason or another have been passed over by the government in favour of more recent applications with job offers or in occupational groups favoured in the Ministerial Instructions, are not good candidates for most-likely-to-succeed-economically.