Immigration changes okayed as Canada government survives trust votes

June 3rd, 2008 - 12:47 pm ICT by IANS  

Toronto, June 3 (IANS) The Conservative party-led Canadian government survived a series of trust votes Monday, ending speculation about a snap poll. At issue were controversial immigration changes that were embedded in a larger budget implementation bill.

Since these changes, if introduced as an independent bill, would have been defeated by the combined opposition, the ruling Conservative party cleverly made them part of the budget-implementation bill whose defeat could have triggered an election.

Since the main opposition Liberal party is not ready for an election, most of its MPs remained absent during the vote on the budget-implementation bill.

The bill was passed 114-83.

Actually, the House of Commons had to vote three times Monday - once on the budget-implementation bill and twice on amendments to the bill moved by the smaller opposition New Democratic Party (NDP).

With the passage of the budget implementation bill, the controversial immigration changes have also been okayed by the House of Commons.

If these are okayed by the House once again and then the Senate, they will become law.

The immigration changes, which will amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, give the immigration minister the powers to set limits on the category of immigrants that are allowed into Canada each year.

The new act will fast-track immigration in skilled categories, and slow it down in other categories.

The minister would also be empowered to reject a would-be immigrant even if he or she has been cleared by immigration officers.

The opposition Liberal party and the New Democratic Party (NDP) have opposed the bill, saying it is targeted at immigration from certain parts of the world.

They say it will also slow immigration in the family reunification categories.

However, immigration minister Diane Finley has said that the bill aims to “ensure that families are reunited faster and skilled workers arrive sooner”.

Currently, there is a backlog of over 80,000 applications for immigration to Canada.

The minister said: “One of the challenges facing our immigration system today is the large number of people waiting in the queue. This is especially a problem in the skilled worker category which makes up most of the backlog.”

Under the proposed measures, she said, Citizenship and Immigration Canada would have greater flexibility in processing new applications, especially from skilled workers.

“The legislation is intended to provide greater flexibility in addressing a range of labour market needs. It will not apply to refugees and does not affect our objectives related to family reunification.

“Once passed, the new measures will apply to applications received on or after Feb 27, 2008. Those who applied prior to Feb 27, 2008, will not be subject to the new measures and will be dealt with fairly under the existing rules.”

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