Immigration minister John McCallum didn’t say so in so many words because his government is still setting the policy, however he did drop a strong hint that Canada will be accepting more immigrants, and will in part get them from the temporary foreign worker program.
McCallum was in Edmonton hosting ’round table’ discussions on immigration, and told reporters following the closed door session with community leaders that the government is sensing changing attitudes. He said over the past five to seven years there were scandals under the previous government where people thought there was a ‘guest worker system’.
“Things like that, if you like, caused an explosion and so the pendulum swung from one extreme where everybody could come in to the other extreme where virtually nobody was let in. It’s a slight exaggeration, some where let in, but it was very difficult. So what we have to do is find the middle ground between these two extremes.
“Most of the people with whom we have consulted are in favour of higher levels of immigration, often citing demographic factors and aging population. What I hear around the table more often than not is the feeling that we have space for more immigrants, we’re a big country, we’re an aging country. But we as a government have not come to any conclusion yet.”
The work McCallum is doing on a cross Canada tour is in anticipation of the targets the government will set, as they have to by law, in November. That announcement on immigration levels is just for permanent residents. The 2016 cap is 300,000.
“The announced policies on temporary foreign workers will come separately,” the minister said, anticipating we’ll see two separate announcements. He also hinted we may see projections for 2018 and 2019 at the same time.
“We want those who are temporary foreign workers to have the option of a pathway to permanent residence. That pathway is present to a degree now with provincial governments but there’s no pathway to permanent residence under the federal system for low skilled occupations, and one of the things the committee is considering, that the government will consider, is the possible creation of such a pathway.”
McCallum said his government supports the idea that they want to become full fledged Canadians for the benefit of their children. “That’s the vision to which we subscribe. So there is a need on occasion for temporary foreign workers but we want those temporary foreign workers where possible to have the opportunity to join this Canadian vision and become full fledged Canadians and raise their families here.”
Edmonton – Centre MP Randy Boissonnault said he and infrastructure minister Amarjeet Sohi are preparing a submission for the committee. “It’s important to have a flexible temporary foreign worker program that looks at particular sectors. Particularly care givers, food and beverage industries, care givers for seniors so pathways to citizenship is critical and respecting labour market needs, that’s what we hear from industry and that’s the local perspective that we’re taking to parliament.”