(The House divided on the motion, which was negatived on the following division:)
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to continue this debate and to add our concerns to the government's refusal to consider the newcomers to Canada and their need to be ensured of having adequate funding for the settlement services that they both need and deserve.
The fact is that this is not just about newcomers to Canada. It is about ensuring that they have a fair start and have the economic advantage they need to have to contribute to society, but it is also about all Canadians who have a vested interest in the economy, the social fabric of country and to ensure that social cohesion continues.
I want to take us back five or six years to the previous Liberal government which understood that we needed to develop new capacity to help newcomers to this country succeed. The reality is that as the previous government looked at the issue, it recognized that we needed to have new federal-provincial agreements, coast to coast to coast, to ensure that agencies could have the capacity to respond to increasing needs of newcomers to Canada.
We recognized that the numbers of newcomers were increasing but also the newcomers coming to Canada did not have all the language capacity or understand some of the social realities of Canada and needed services to be integrated into the country.
A number of agreements were established. I am obviously most familiar with the one that affects Ontario, the Canada-Ontario Immigration Agreement, that established some very noble but also ambitious goals to ensure that settlement funding was increased.
That agreement was over a five-year period and it expanded broadly. We recognize that the government did see the legal responsibility and the contractual understanding that we had to make sure that those funds were adequately disbursed.
In Ontario though, as we have analyzed those funds, we do know that the government fell some $207 million short in that agreement for funding that was promised. It said it fell short because it simply did not have the capacity in the agencies to actually spend the money well. We think part of that money should have been spent ensuring the capacity was there.
When the agreement came to an end, when the minister had the first chance, the first ability to actually strike out in new territory in a new and ambitious way, what we heard first was some $53 million would be cut nationally. The minister has stated that this is a rebalancing, a reflecting of the geographic changes in immigration patterns, but that simply does not wash because the whole envelope has been decreased some $53 million. The lion's share of that has been targeted in Ontario and the lion's share of the Ontario target has happened in the GTA. That is a concern.
It is $53 million of the whole envelope that is being dropped and $44 million of that is happening in Ontario. These funding cuts come on the heels of the government announcing the record number of newcomers coming to Canada. Of course we support the record number of newcomers coming to Canada.
We have a situation in Canada with the changing demographics, with an impending labour shortage, and we know that we need the best and the brightest newcomers coming into this country. They also need a chance to ensure that they are going to succeed. That is what settlement funding is about.
The reality is settlement funding, integration, and language training are all key factors in ensuring that newcomers to Canada are integrated and can succeed. Recent statistics are showing that in fact there is a problem that newcomers are still earning less on the dollar than long-established Canadians. We are trying to ensure that does not happen, that people, no matter where they come from, are able to succeed. That is what those settlement programs are doing.
Over the last several months, and it was not new to me, I spent time visiting some of the agencies that are affected. They are often smaller agencies that have lost between 50% and 100% of their funding, targeted by the Conservative government, which is bothersome to us.
This includes the Ethiopian centre in Toronto. I was speaking with its members on Saturday, this past weekend. This whole community of Ethiopians are very concerned about being able to fulfill very niche market targeting that they are attempting to do to ensure that their newcomers, their sisters and brothers, cousins, friends and neighbours who are coming to Canada have adequate support.
I forgot to mention at the beginning of my speech that I will be splitting my time with the member for . I apologize to the House. I also apologize to the hon. member who has taken great pains to be up on the numbers on this issue. He has presented some of his concerns statistically about how to ensure that Toronto, the GTA and all of Ontario are not left behind on this.
Earlier in the week the hon. member for , the member for and I toured the main facility of COSTI in the west end of Toronto. We were impressed with the classes, the groups, the employment readiness functions that were being offered. It was extremely important that our leader and other caucus members saw the work that is being done on the ground to help newcomers not only survive but flourish.
This story is repeated across the GTA and around the province of Ontario. The reality is that newcomers need every chance they can get to be serviced in a way that will make them succeed.
We are talking about a cut of 10% to newcomer settlement organizations, which will reduce budgets by up to 70% in many cases. The organizations were concentrated in Ontario, but Nova Scotia and British Columbia also took a huge cut. Our concern is not just Ontario-centric, we are also concerned about people outside of the GTA.
I have concern not only about the absolute cuts, the programs that will not be funded and the newcomers who will suffer, but I also have concerns about the government's tendency to bully people in these agencies who might actually raise a concern about the cuts.
It was reported in the Toronto Star that one particular organization had received a recommendation, or perhaps advice, or perhaps stronger words, to not raise this issue while it was in negotiations. Did it fear being critical of the government and having its services cut?
From the agency standpoint this is not criticism of the government. It is a positive expression of concern from the clients these agencies are attempting to serve and that means being critical of a government that is cutting funding, that is failing to respond to newcomers' needs in large and small cities alike.
This is not just about Toronto and Ontario. This is also about places like Guelph. At committee we heard of an agency in Guelph that is losing all its funding. These are smaller centres that do not necessarily have natural organic organizations that flow to help newcomers in Canada, to help people get acclimatized to Canada. That funding is intrinsic in making sure that people are linked up with others and with services.
The Flemingdon Neighbourhood Services and the Thorncliffe Neighbourhood Office are two significant agencies in my riding. FNS put in an application on this last round and received zero funding. It would have been a new agency responding to changing immigration patterns in that community. Flemingdon is a priority neighbourhood in Toronto.
Some 12 or 13 neighbourhoods in Toronto have been identified as having high poverty rates and relatively high crime rates. These neighbourhoods try to ensure that newcomers have a chance. Flemingdon Neighbourhood Services is a small but efficient organization that multiplies its dollars to help. Thorncliffe Neighbourhood Office, still in negotiations on this, is an equally large organization which responds to newcomers mainly from South Asia. It needs to expand its programs, not have them threatened.
The government needs to stop boasting about huge immigration numbers while cutting away at the edges. The Conservatives claim that newcomers are not coming to Ontario in the same numbers but that is not the case. Ontario is in fact still receiving a significant number of newcomers and Toronto is still particularly underfunded in doing this work.
Madam Speaker, this is perhaps one of the most callous, calculating acts the government has yet shown us, revealing its character, taking advantage of people who are, by definition, the most vulnerable, new Canadians who are not yet official Canadians, people who do not belong to the economic class to which the government wishes to talk.
Just before the holiday season, the government snuck in these cuts. It handed some agencies their walking papers after 25 years in business. It is effectively shutting down 33 agencies with no fair evaluation. None of the information has been released to justify the cuts. On one hand, the government brags that immigration is up. On the other hand, it quietly cuts the money to help new immigrants to become successful.
It is incredible that the minister opposite does not have the temerity, the class or the character to stand behind what he has done. He will not release the information to show how much money he has cut, what agencies will lose and what kind of replacement plan is in place to help people.
The 78,000 people, in the course of following the path that every family represented in the House has followed, require some level of support to go forward. These are not benefits or money in their pockets. This is language training, assistance to connect and be successful.
Suddenly the party in power, faced with the choice of wanting to look like phony good managers at the time of the budget, has decided to go after these people, to take away their language training and their chance to become successful in our country. There is no champion over there. No one over there will stand up for people's right to be part of our country. The same advantages that they, their families and earlier generations had are being denied these people. There are 78,000 people in the GTA alone who will lose services and no one in the government will stand up for them.
The government has come forward with cuts that are compounding an earlier bias it has had. The character of the government resonates through what it has put forward. It took away the money that was put forward by the previous government. The Canada-Ontario immigration agreement, a five-year agreement, forced the government to increase funding and the first chance it had, it cut that funding.
Even worse, when the Conservatives had the money, they decided to funnel it to their own ridings. They decided not to be fair with people, not to help people but to help themselves. In the analysis available, their own figures, we see that the dollars going to the city of Toronto are 40% less than the rest of Ontario because the electoral fortunes of the government always outweigh the interests of average Canadians, every time.
There is 23% less money going to the city of Toronto than the rest of Canada. That is before these cuts. Then the Conservatives have the gall, the callousness to cut these agencies off, in summary fashion, just before Christmas. About 1,000 settlement workers were laid off, many of them representing communities, having earned the trust of people to help them pull themselves together and become self-supporting.
The unemployment rate in Toronto, because of new immigrants, is 19%. It has almost doubled in the last year. We can all understand that people who have recently arrived often get the new jobs, last hired and first fired. The government, the minister and that group of people, who will not take up any accountability or responsibility for their actions, are pulling the rug out from under these people. It is the most callous thing possible and it is utterly unfair. There is no way to justify taking money away, shuttering the doors of these agencies, firing 1,000 people and cutting off the routes for success for people. This hand up for people has been taken away.
Advanced language training so engineers can get out of cabs and start helping to build this country, doctors, nurses and other professionals receiving this help are going to be kicked out of classes on March 31, and every member opposite is going to sit there and do nothing about it. No government member will speak up for this ahead of the budget and will not speak up today for the very idea of Canada having an official welcome that stands up to scrutiny.
It is not generosity. It is not money from the dresser or the pockets of the people opposite. This is what we provide in our country. It is respect. It is to let people know they do not struggle by themselves. They can come to this country, even if they have a different language or need educational equivalency, and we will help them because it makes sense to do that.
There is a big divide opening up between the party that runs the government today and other people in the House, and certainly our party. We believe people, with a little help, can make it tremendously well on their own. The people opposite believe there are some people blessed and some people who are not. It is a fundamental issue.
There is an absence of sincerity. When the Conservatives come forward to say that they want to do something for new immigrants, they mean the new immigrants they will get to vote for them. However, the Ethiopians, Eritreans, South Asian women and other agencies are carefully selected by the government as the agencies to be defunded.
There are some 1,300 or 1,500 Afghan translators who supported our troops in pursuit of their mission. They will be coming to Canada because it is not safe for them in Afghanistan. They are supposed to be acclimatized to Canada largely by the Afghan Association of Ontario. On the one hand, this is what the government says it is going to be doing. On the other hand, it is cutting almost all of the funding to the Afghan Association of Ontario.
There is only one way out for the government and that is to cancel these cuts and follow the intent of this motion. If the Conservatives have strength of conviction, if they believe they can justify this, then postpone the cuts for three months. Let us see if the government can justify ripping the heart out of immigrant services in the city of Toronto.
The message the government is sending is not just to the people who live in the 416 or 905 areas, where Conservatives put out press releases from candidates before the last election saying that they would put welcome programs into the Peel School Board. Now the government is ripping them out and has decided it is better to look like a big fiscal manager.
The government is taking away the language programs for parents and their kids. One of the smartest things is to expose children and their parents to the English language before they go to school. That was being done and the government is taking them away from people.
I challenge the minister and any member opposite to stand and show where those 80,000 people will go for their services. Do they just end up in confusion and get pushed onto other levels of government, social assistance and endure personal suffering simply because the government has its priorities wrong?
The Conservatives thought they could get away with it. They think new immigrants will be quiet and complacent. However, I have news for them. Those new immigrants are people who want to build Canada. They have a sense of themselves. They are the ones who set up a website at www.rewindthecuts.ca where everyone can see the damage that has been done to our communities. All people are asking for is a fair start for new immigrants to succeed. This has been widely supported. It has gone from the small immigrant groups to the larger immigrant groups and I think pretty soon it will go to the mainstream.
The government is showing its character. It is not something that is done in front of the cameras when people are watching. It is what it does when no one is watching. Just before Christmas the government showed its character by cutting funding to the groups that help some of the most vulnerable, and it cannot justify that. It took money from parts of the country where it was needed to fund its electoral fortunes in other parts of the country. The government will be exposed for that because there is no other answer.
I would be happy to table, for the benefit of all members of the House, the figures, the cuts, that are happening in the city of Toronto. Again, I challenge anyone opposite to table anything that contradicts this. Every figure comes from the government. Every fact is what the government put forward, and it is devastating to see.
The government had an opportunity to show if it stood for a fair start and a hand up for new immigrants, or just propaganda. Instead it made the choice against the success of the wide swath of people coming forward.
People chose Canada and we selected them to come. That is a contract. That is a trust. What is happening today is a breach of trust. It is taking away from that.
There are perhaps two or three weeks left to the budget and we intend to make the government come to terms with the character it has shown in its reckless attack on people who it thinks cannot speak for themselves. It is the quiet noises that matter—
Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to the motion moved by the member for . The debate shows that this is primarily an Ontario issue. With the Canada-Quebec accord, the Government of Quebec already has an agreement that allows for the transfer of funds for integrating immigrants, and this money goes straight into its coffers. It makes sense for this to happen because the government is best able to help integrate immigrants. Why? Because the main drivers available to governments to help integrate immigrants fall under provincial and Quebec jurisdiction. Take, for example, education, which is no doubt a fundamental tool. The Government of Quebec is in charge of that. It is also in charge of workforce training and social services. It is natural, effective and smart for an immigrant integration policy to be implemented by the government that is best able to carry out that integration.
Since immigration is very important to Quebec's future, which hinges in part on whether the majority of these immigrants choose to live in French, we obviously want to remain in charge of immigration. Members will understand that Quebec wants to offer French courses to immigrants, to help them integrate into the Quebec community.
And so, even though this issue is primarily about Ontario, I would like to take a few minutes to share our opinion on the topic. And I would also like to speak about the issue of integration and about the negative effects that Canada's multiculturalism, among other things, has on the integration of immigrants.
Today's proposal is asking the government to reverse the cuts to integration services. And this is causing a lot of waves in Toronto because two simultaneous movements are causing a significant funding loss for organizations in Toronto.
First, the overall envelope is being cut compared to last year. I believe that this cut is unacceptable, inappropriate and ill-advised. Given the costs of not integrating immigrants, it is better to invest an extra few million dollars up front to facilitate their integration and save later on the cost of not having integrated them. The nature of federalism being what it is, the federal government gets the savings, but the extra costs—for social assistance or social services, for example—are borne by the provinces. The federal government seems to be washing its hands of this, as is often the case.
Cuts are being made. But if we look at the program in its entirety, it is clear that the cuts are not all that major, proportionately speaking. So why is this having such a dramatic impact? It is because the envelope will now be distributed in a completely different manner than it used to be. Now resources used to follow up with immigrants will be relocated.
We are told that more and more immigrants are settling on the outskirts of Toronto, in Saskatchewan, in Alberta and other places. Accordingly, funding must follow. I pretty much agree with the principle: resources must be allocated based on needs. I do have two major reservations, however. I am not certain that “major reservation” is the right expression, but while I reflect on that, I would like to continue. I have two hesitations, two major concerns.
The first has to do with the fact that, in committee, no one could clearly and adequately explain to me how the needs would be identified, how they would be quantified. We heard about “landed immigrants”. Do immigrants always live where they first land in Canada? It is not clear. Can immigrants arrive in one place and then move to another? Do we track them? Do we take into account their movements, which can be very sporadic and inconsistent?
I could not get a satisfactory explanation in that regard.
My second concern has to do with the fact that no one could quantify the need for resources. Is it strictly proportional to the number of immigrants? If a given city or town has twice as many immigrants, does it automatically need twice as many resources? I do not think that is the case, since not all immigrants will ask for the same amount of help with integration, depending on their country of origin and their cultural and professional background.
Officials from the department did, however, make a distinction between refugees, who come here to escape persecution, and immigrants who are selected to come to Canada. According to the officials, when it comes to support services needed in the integration process, basically, the needs of one refugee are about the same as the needs of two immigrants.
That is somewhat better than nothing, but it seems to be a rather unrefined measure of needs. It seems to me that it would have been better to stick to the reality in a given community. If there are a large number of organizations in a region, even if there are fewer immigrants, it may be because the immigrants experiencing greater difficulties are concentrated in this region. In my opinion, and I will talk more about this later, it is quite likely that where there is a concentration of immigrants, the phenomenon of ghettoization makes integration even more difficult. These are the deleterious effects of Canadian multiculturalism.
The second difficulty with transferring resources in light of needs or the number of immigrants who move from Toronto to York or a neighbouring city, for example, is the abruptness of this transition.
I asked departmental representatives if the same thing could be done with officials. If, tomorrow morning, we realized that immigration services were no longer needed in Montreal, but rather in Brossard or Sherbrooke, could we suddenly move 70 officials from one place to the other? Would it just be too bad for those who could not move; would new officials be hired and others fired in the other place? That is clearly not the case.
I believe that the government has a bad attitude towards community groups and organizations that support immigrants. Most of the time, they are non-profit organizations and, unfortunately, they are used as cheap labour even though they do a fantastic job. They are given no consideration, and changes are made that would never be implemented if the services were provided by the public sector.
It would have been more respectful and wiser for the government to say that since the needs had shifted to such and such a place, it would establish a plan to transfer resources over three, four or five years. The government is saying that it has to be done immediately, abruptly, and right away, and there are two problems with that.
First of all, there is no indication that the resources are in place or that there are qualified workers and the necessary structures to provide these services where the government wants to move them. If this is done abruptly and quickly, it is likely that there will be difficulties or additional costs. That is often the case when things are done a little too quickly.
The other problem is that people who have devoted their lives and energy to setting up agencies suddenly end up out of work. We lose those resources. It is a general problem that happens over and over again when it comes to relations between government and community agencies and groups.
This goes well beyond what we do here in the House of Commons, and it is not exclusive to immigration. It is a constant issue for the agencies in my riding. It used to be possible to get funding for two or three years, but now funding is granted for one year and sometimes even for six months. Some agencies devote up to one-third of their resources to seeking funding. They always end up with short-term programs that they constantly have to adapt to the government's political will of the day. It is very exhausting for our agencies and very ineffective for society.
I want to take this opportunity to encourage governments to adopt a longer-term, more stable, better thought-out and better planned vision of the way these agencies that provide a service to the community interface with each other. The government's policy objective should be to give money to these agencies in exchange for a service that it considers useful and necessary.
This is a brutal cut at a time when integration problems persist around the world. This is not specific to Canada or Quebec. It is always a difficult challenge to leave one's country to settle in another. Unfortunately, there is increasing tension between immigrants and local populations. Sometimes immigrants who had status at home because they were engineers, lawyers, doctors or notaries have difficulties integrating when they arrive here and end up being taxi drivers. There is nothing wrong with being a taxi driver, but that job is not what they trained for or what they want to do when they come to Quebec or Canada.
These people can become bitter and disappointed. In local populations, there are signs of rejection, intolerance and exasperation. Locals are under the impression that immigrants who do not integrate cost society dearly in social services and so on. This type of comment keeps coming up on the Internet and in conversations in coffee shops and restaurants.
It is therefore of the utmost importance for society to put significant effort into integration. Societies have many integration models. For a long time now, Quebec has been choosing to use the interculturalism model, a proactive view of integration in which immigrants are asked to fully participate in and contribute to the development of their host society, but also adhere to a common culture. Unfortunately, elsewhere in Canada, another model was chosen: multiculturalism. Multiculturalism divides society into a multitude of solitudes that share the same territory but have nothing in common but the law. The only thing immigrants are asked to do in the documents prepared by Citizenship and Immigration Canada is to respect our laws. They can otherwise continue to practice their customs and traditions. This is not just accepted; it is encouraged and differences are celebrated. The Canadian model of multiculturalism is similar to the one in England and has the same failings with respect to integration.
When this model was established by Pierre Elliott Trudeau, the government was seeking to marginalize the Quebec nation by saying that it was simply one of many cultural groups. Thus, French Canadians, Quebeckers, Ukrainian Canadians and Italian Canadians are all cultural groups. Quebec has always rejected this model.
This is not just some crazy sovereignist idea. When this all began, Robert Bourassa wrote to Pierre Elliott Trudeau to explain the way multiculturalism could be applied in Quebec. All governments of Quebec, sovereignist as well as federalist, have rejected the multicultural approach.
More recently, the Bouchard-Taylor commission, which cannot be accused of being anti-immigration—it is actually a model of moderation—also recognized that multiculturalism is not the way forward for Quebec's integration model. There are some voices on the far left, like that of Julius Grey, who is associated with the NDP; he has also recognized that multiculturalism is not a solution.
In fact, even though Quebec is not able to fully promote its integration model, the results are different and are beneficial to Quebec in terms of non-ghettoization. In fact, the immigrants who arrive here are given contradictory messages. They arrive in Quebec and are invited to become part of the shared culture of the Quebec nation. But when they arrive in Ottawa, they are told that multiculturalism prevails and that differences are celebrated. There also are differences in the acceptance of immigration.
For example, in a Gallup poll not very long ago, people were asked if they had a positive perception of immigration, if it is a good thing for society. Along with British Columbia, Quebec had the best perception of immigration. Elsewhere in Canada, the perception of immigration was not as positive. I think that people in the rest of Canada are more closed to the idea of immigration and have more concerns than their Quebec counterparts because Canada's multicultural model—segregating individuals and promoting their differences as opposed to emphasizing their inclusion in a shared culture—produces more tension and friction.
In an area like Toronto, where there is a great deal of immigration, there is less social acceptance than in Montreal, where, even though there are lots of immigrants, the numbers are still much lower than Toronto. I know the minister will agree with me on that, because he is very concerned about anti-Semitic acts around the country and violence against Jews. According to statistics, fewer anti-Semitic acts are committed in Montreal than in Toronto, even taking into account the fact that Toronto is larger than Montreal. So, fewer anti-Semitic acts are committed in Quebec and people say they are more open to immigration than in the rest of Canada. I think that says something.
Although Canada does not want to abandon its multiculturalism model, it should at least allow Quebec to continue promoting and developing its own model without getting in the way. Furthermore, the Bloc Québécois has already proposed a bill in the House to amend the Canadian act. Canada can choose multiculturalism if it wants, but Quebec has made a different, unanimous choice that transcends political lines. We want Quebec to be allowed to opt out of Canadian multiculturalism. Unfortunately, the three federalist parties in the House have rejected that, which is too bad. This penalizes Quebec and, even more so, immigrants. A model like Quebec's illustrates that there is a better way to live together, thanks to an active integration policy whereby people integrate into the common culture and enrich it, without giving up who they are.
Mr. Speaker, first of all I would like to point out that my friends from the New Democratic Party say that they would like to make Parliament work, yet despite the House being scheduled to debate an important bill to improve airline security and to help us all work together against terrorism, we have another concurrence motion brought forward by the New Democratic Party.
For those members of the public who may be watching this debate with interest, a concurrence motion is essentially used as a tactic to delay debate on a government bill. That is certainly the case here.
I would invite my colleagues in the opposition to let Parliament work and to focus on important legislative business, in this case combatting terrorism and keeping our air passengers safe.
Having said that, I am pleased to have an opportunity to speak to the government's massive investments in success for newcomers to Canada. Let me back up a little bit, as it is important to recall the situation that faced newcomers under the previous Liberal government.
When the previous Liberal government took office in October 1993, Canada received 276,000 new permanent residents in that year, the largest number of immigrants since about World War II.
The first thing the Liberals did was to begin cutting the budget of Citizenship and Immigration Canada quite steeply and reducing the number of newcomers arriving in the country, so that by 1995, their second year in office, the number of permanent residents being received in Canada plummeted down to 176,000. They reduced by about one third the number of newcomers allowed to enter the country.
The second thing the Liberals did was to look at immigrants as a source of revenue to pay for their other spending priorities. So they imposed a $1,000 fee, what they called a right of permanent residence fee, on all new immigrants to Canada.
That was essentially a tax, and some would call it a head tax, on all new permanent residents arriving in the country. We think that was a bad choice, because those individuals were arriving with scarce or little savings and were struggling to make down payments on their initial apartments and getting their kids enrolled in school. They needed every dollar they could find to get settled in Canada, yet the previous government saw those immigrants as a source of revenue and imposed a $1,000 right of landing fee on them.
The third thing the previous government did was that it decided to cut and then freeze for 13 years federal support for integration and settlement services. As other members have described, those include such things as free language training, job search skills and other integration support for newcomers. Thus for 13 years the Liberals froze and cut the levels of funding, such that when our government arrived in office in February 2006, we found that the total federal budget for settlement services across Canada was $200 million after 13 years of Liberal government.
The first thing our government did was to cut in half the Liberal right of landing fee on newcomers, thereby saving, cumulatively, over $340 million for newcomers to Canada since that time, and over $140 million for newcomers to Ontario in particular. That is money now in the pockets of immigrants to help them make that first down payment on their apartment or perhaps on a new home. That is a $340 million boost to newcomers that was introduced by our government.
The second thing Conservatives did was to triple the federal investment in settlement services. The Liberal members here say “Oh, we almost, or just about, got around to that” like so many other things, that “if they had given us another 13 years, we would have got around to investing in the success of new Canadians.” But they did not. They made choices.
It is fine to make choices. There were some difficult fiscal times. However, when choices are made, one has to stand up and take responsibility for them, which we saw the Liberals refusing to do through their decision to underfund settlement services for newcomers.
Now they have the temerity to stand up in this place and criticize a government that has more than tripled investment in the success of the newcomers they refused to invest in. In particular, when I hear the histrionics and demagoguery of the member for , it really causes me to wonder about what kind of cognitive dissonance it requires to criticize $600 million of investment in settlement services when there was not a word of criticism about a government that had frozen it for 13 years at $200 million a year. How bizarre.
I should also point out that for 13 long years, the previous Liberal government did nothing on one of the top priorities of newcomers, the issue of foreign credential recognition for foreign-trained professionals. This is a tough issue. It is largely provincial responsibility and jurisdiction, and there is a very limited role the federal government can play. However, between 1993 and 2005, the previous Liberal government chose to play no role in accelerating and streamlining the process of credential recognition so that foreign-trained professionals could get licensed and work in their professions of interest.
By contrast, our government has introduced the Foreign Credentials Referral Office, through which we are providing pre-arrival orientation sessions, free two-day seminars and personalized counselling for new economic immigrants to Canada while they are still in their countries of origin, so that they can apply for jobs and begin the process of applying for credential recognition and get a much better appreciation of some of the initial integration challenges they will face. According to our data, this has actually improved the situation with respect to pre-arranged employment for the economic immigrants who have gone through this new integration project introduced by our government as part of our broader efforts on foreign credential recognition.
I should also point out that we have invested $50 million in Canada's economic action plan to put the meat on the bones of the pan-Canadian framework for the recognition of foreign qualifications. Basically, we are getting all 10 provinces and their respective 45 licensed professional associations around the table to hammer out a common, streamlined and expedited process for credential recognition. Basically that is a lot of technical jargon to say that the federal government is finally taking a vital, real leadership role, backed up with real dollars and cents, to speed up the process for credential recognition for foreign-trained professionals. That is good news. After 13 years of neglect, finally there is federal leadership for foreign-trained professionals.
However, on the issue before us of investment in settlement services, some of the Liberal members are squawking about this Canada-Ontario immigration thing through which they supposedly brought in a large increase in funding. In fact, we can look at the books. It is publicly available, black on white, in the estimates and the budget. The last year the Liberal government was in office, in fiscal year 2005-06, the federal investment in total settlement services across Canada was $200 million, with $111.5 million of that in the province of Ontario. That was the same, for all intents and purposes, as it had been 13 years earlier.
It is just like the Kelowna accord. Do we remember that? The parliamentary secretary for INAC, Indian and Northern Affairs, who is here, will tell the House that the Liberals had a Kelowna accord. It was a press release. They call press releases, “investments”. Yes, they sent out a press release about a Canada-Ontario immigration accord, but there was no money, no real transfers, no increased services, nothing practical, concrete or real, just a fantasy. They said nothing about the other provinces.
Quebec is following its own path. With the Canada-Quebec agreement on immigration, the province applies a formula—which I talked about—for immigrant settlement services.
The Liberals said they would have an agreement with Ontario. What about the other provinces? There was nothing, nada, zilch, no proposed increased investment for settlement services for newcomers in western or Atlantic Canada.
The principle that we took very clearly is reflected in the decision before us today. I know it is a radical idea, perhaps, for my Liberal friends, but our principle was this: that just as all Canadians are equal under the law, so too should all newcomers be treated with equity by the Government of Canada, and that every newcomer, whether they decide to settle in Labrador City or Long Island, British Columbia, should all have roughly the same level of settlement services available to them. It is about equity.
In 2005 we therefore tripled the federal investment in settlement services. The truth is that we increased that funding more quickly than people were enrolling in the programs. Thus while we tripled the funding, we in fact only saw about a 34% increase in enrolment in federally funded programs such as language instruction for newcomers to Canada. For example, between 2005 and 2009, we saw the number of people enrolled in LINC classes across Canada go from about 48,000 to 53,000, a very small increase in actual clients enrolling in the services, and to this day, only about 25% of eligible permanent residents enrol in the settlement services we offer them freely.
That is a challenge. We need to make sure people are aware of these programs that we offer freely, and that is why we have done such innovative things as our pilot project for vouchers for free language training, which we are now mailing on a pilot basis to newcomers in Nova Scotia, Ontario and Alberta. We have seen an increase in the uptake, more people enrolling, because they understand there is a monetary value to the free language courses we are offering. That is very concrete. It is not just a press release, but a real service. We are trying to increase enrollment.
Fundamentally, we have a responsibility to ensure that money is being spent accountably. When we have this huge increase in funding, a tripling of funding, and only a 34% increase in the number of people enrolling in those services, we have to ask whether that money is being spent with maximum efficiency. We also need to ensure that we treat everyone with equity.
Over the course of the past five years, one of the great untrumpeted achievements of this government's immigration reforms has been a much better distribution of newcomers across Canada. It used to be that 90% of newcomers settled in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, even if the best jobs were in other parts of the country. Many of my predecessors, including the member for , I am sure all reflected on the need to get a better distribution of newcomers in other parts of the country so that all parts of Canada could enjoy the benefits of immigrants' work ethic.
We succeeded with that, in part through the provincial nominee program and its expansion, and so we have now seen a very significant increase in the number of newcomers settling in the prairie and the Atlantic provinces. For example, over the past five years Manitoba has seen the number of immigrants settling there nearly triple. That is phenomenal. That is one of the reasons the Manitoba economy has been leading the country, as I am sure my colleague from Winnipeg would agree. I do not know where he is. He lives in here. He is normally here all the time, but--
Mr. Speaker, I meant to compliment the member who is always here.
We ended up in a situation where, because of the increases in funding, they were based on 2005 levels of where people were settling. In 2005, nearly 145,000 newcomers were choosing to settle in the province of Ontario. However, as a result of the changes we made, more people were choosing to settle in the Atlantic provinces and western Canada.
When we fast-forward to 2009-10, we found that only 105,000 newcomers were settling in Ontario with the balance going typically to the western and Atlantic provinces. That is a good problem to have because it meant that the 25% reduction in immigration to Ontario was a proportionate increase in immigration to provinces with a lot of labour market shortages. Those provinces are now benefiting from immigration. Now there is a much closer share of newcomers being distributed across the country.
However, the settlement dollars were not following the immigrants because it was all based on a 2005 formula that is now out of date. This has ended up with a peculiar situation whereby Ontario newcomers are receiving about $3,400 in federally funded services per immigrant but those living in the western and Atlantic provinces are only receiving about $2,900 per immigrant.
Do my friends in the opposition think it is fair that a newcomer in Calgary Northeast or a newcomer in North Battleford, Saskatchewan is receiving about $600 less in federal settlement services than a newcomer here in Ottawa? I do not think one Canadian would agree that is fair or reasonable.
We had to rebalance the funding of settlement services. We worked with the provinces and came up with a new settlement formula based on the number of primary immigrants; an estimate of secondary migration of where people choose to move sometimes, and that is typically to Alberta and Saskatchewan; the number of refugees; and a number of other criteria.
We came up with a new formula, collaboratively with the provinces that will now, hopefully, ensure that in the future newcomers will receive roughly the same level of services across the country. Quebec is a special case here because of the Canada-Quebec immigration accord.
As a consequence of this new formula, in fiscal year 2011-12 we will have a rebalancing of federal settlement services across the country. That will result in an increase in our federal settlement service budget for Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut. Ten of the 13 jurisdictions in Canada will be receiving yet another increase in settlement services under this government. This is good news for newcomers to Canada.
However, that must come from somewhere. The offset will come from those areas that have been over-funded, such as Ontario and, to some extent, Nova Scotia and British Columbia. I note that the Government of Brutish Columbia has not fully spent the money that we transferred to it for settlement services for the very problem that I explained before, which is that the funding increases were so significant under our government that the uptake was not there from the clients to justify all that spending. We do not just spend for the sake of spending. We in the Conservative government believe that we spend for results. Even the Government of British Columbia said that it was not concerned about the slight offset in funding because it was not spending all that money anyway.
Even within Ontario there have been changes in patterns of migration. For example, between 2005 and 2009 fewer people were settling in the city of Toronto proper than was the case before. However, there was a huge increase in settlement in the region of York, which is part of the greater Toronto area just to the north. Consequently, there will be a slight reduction in settlement funding in the city of Toronto but a large increase in the region of York in the range of 43%.
One of the members opposite suggested that this was calculated for some political or partisan reason. I have to say as strongly and clearly as I can that that is outrageous and completely ridiculous. The formula is based on federal and provincial consultation and all of these decisions have been developed by officials in Citizenship and Immigration Canada simply to ensure that the services go where the newcomers are going.
I would point out that settlement services in Toronto will still be funded by more than double what they were when the previous Liberal government was in office. We invited 36 settlement service agencies out of the roughly 200 agencies in Ontario, through a process of requests for proposals, to make submissions for future contribution agreements. We assessed those submissions on an objective basis. We scored their historic performance and looked at the quality of the proposals. The officials made an assessment based on a point system and decided that 36 associations that had been receiving funding would not receive funding over the next two year period but that 30 new associations would receive funding. I do not see what the problem is with that. If an organization receives money from the federal government, it does not mean that it has a permanent entitlement to that money. It means that it needs to prove that it is spending it efficiently.
What we are doing is we are protecting the interests of taxpayers through efficiency and ensuring equity in funding right across the country. We are proud of our decision in the investment in the success of newcomers to Canada.
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to be in the House today to discuss immigration. This is a very important issue for Canada and for Parliament, but also for the future of the families and people who have come to Canada to build their lives and to contribute to this country.
Our country was built on immigration. People came from all over the world to build lives for themselves and to create a rich country, not just from an economic standpoint, but also in terms of social justice and freedom. What we are seeing today is that the immigration sector is facing new challenges, and the fact is that adjustments must be made.
The reality is, the waves of immigration that we have gone through in past decades allowed people to come over with modest levels of language and marketable job skills, and build their success. They were able to do this whether it be in the post-war years, when the construction industry in my riding of Papineau was booming, or in earlier waves of migration when the Prairies were settled. Families came and built their lives, and were able to succeed economically without a tremendous level of integration support.
The reality is, now things have changed. Those migrating to Canada cannot simply arrive and hope to find a good-paying job, enough to care for their children, pay the rent, and build a future for their family unless they also develop skills. We are living in a service and knowledge economy where language skills, job skills, and social skills are essential to succeed when 20 to 50 years ago they were not.
It is not so much to encourage people to come to Canada, which is extremely important, as we see from the aging population and low birth rates. We need to draw the best and the brightest from around the world to continue to create a prosperous country and economy. Just as important as it is to welcome people, it is how we welcome them and the tools we give them to succeed.
Last year 281,000 people were welcomed into this country; a record high. It seems illogical and unconscionable that at a time when we are allowing more people in than we have in decades, we are also cutting integration services.
The minister makes a good point in that there is a reallocation because people are arriving and settling in different places. However, the fact is that there is a $53 million cut for settlement services for new arrivals.
It is easy to say we are cutting their budgets.
However, simply cutting integration services is not in the interests of Canada or of newcomers. We are asking a great deal of our social security system and our economic system, which support these people when they are unemployed. In fact, providing social assistance ends up costing much more than providing education, support and training for these people so they can contribute to society.
It does not make sense. Unfortunately, we see this lack of logic fairly regularly in this government's decisions. It prefers to make cuts here and there and leave us more impoverished in the long term. It is evident in their crime agenda: the government wants to build prisons that will not make us safer. It is evident in this matter: it is making cuts that will hurt the most vulnerable.
People arriving in this country only want to contribute, to feel relevant, to build their lives and care for their families, and to help shape this great country. The fact that at a time when more are arriving than ever before and we are cutting settlement services is a mistake.
The minister enjoys talking about the fact that we are funding more now than we were in 2005. The agreements signed in November 2005 were five-year agreements that led to these increases in funding. It was a Liberal government that looked at the amount we were spending on settlement services and said that we really needed to invest more in language services, integration and job training, and signed five-year agreements that would double and triple the funding for settlement agencies.
Five years forward from 2005, those agreements are starting to run out. Here is the first opportunity for this Conservative government to start cutting in those programs. It is the first chance it has had after funding was increased over the years with the understanding of how important it was. The first chance the Conservatives get to cut those Liberal increases in funding, they do it on the backs of vulnerable people who want nothing more than to contribute to our society.
Here we have the paradox of the government. On the one hand it is welcoming people and on the other hand it is not allowing them opportunities to contribute and learn.
We also see that when we want people to succeed and draw in the best possible quality of immigrants, we need to encourage them to be successful. We need to train them and offer language training, but as an incentive to come over, we need to offer them family reunification, understanding that bringing over parents and grandparents is not just a social issue but an economic issue as well for their capacity to contribute in child care. The government has left child care woefully underfunded with fewer spaces.
We need to offer family reunification as a motivation to draw in the best and the brightest from around the world who wish to come build their families in Canada because they know they are going to be able to bring over their own parents and grandparents, their support system.
The undercutting of our immigration system, the undercutting of our capacity to bring over the best and the brightest from around the world and have them build this nation, is what is truly at stake right now.
The minister is very good at pointing out that we funded less in 2005 during the last Liberal government, but we set in motion the funding increases that the government has benefited from. If we want to go back to the past, previous Liberal governments funded immigration to greater levels than previous Conservative governments, and before that the Conservative government funded immigration to greater levels than the Liberal government before it.
We have been increasing our funding throughout time. It is time that the government stopped defining itself by what it is, in its words, doing differently or better than previous governments and started looking at genuine need. The government needs to understand that people are in need of aid and support, not to receive charity but to contribute economically to this country.
Our small country will not be successful in the global economy unless we give everyone the opportunity to develop their full potential. The fact that engineers are driving taxis and that people with a PhD cannot find a job because they do not receive enough encouragement and assistance to take the necessary training means that we are not building the country that we need.
Basically, the minister and the government are saying that this is a reallocation. Naturally, funds are being reallocated. I am very pleased that British Columbia, Newfoundland and all the other provinces will have more funding, but making a $53 million cut is not investing in the this country's prosperity, which we need.