Immigration: Welcoming New Canadians for a successful CanadaDa jia hao!
I would like to thank you for welcoming me here in Richmond, a city with so many first and second generation Canadians, especially Chinese Canadians. I want to talk about Canada's immigration system - how we will improve it. But first let's ask, why we need to improve it. Why it is so crucial for the success of our country.
Canada is a country of only 33 million people, facing economic giants such as China, India, the United States, the European Union and Japan. The competition we are facing from these giants is intensifying. In this global economy, we must continue to innovate to stay ahead of the curve. We must become more energy efficient, more sustainable – we must build a knowledge economy. An economy able to develop the solutions that the world is looking for, solutions for global challenges, such as the climate change crisis.
Canada has what it needs to succeed: a multicultural population with two international languages as official languages, a well-educated workforce, top-class universities. But we must tap into all of our talents; we cannot accept barriers that prevent any of us from reaching our true potential.
To succeed we need to lower barriers, in order to tap into the talents and skills of our entire population. Lower barriers for women, for aboriginals, for newcomers, to fight poverty – to ensure all children have a chance in life, to clean our environment, to strengthen our economy.
In less than three years, our economy has hit a brick wall. This year, we have seen our worst economic performance, our worst labour productivity, and our worst single month of job losses since the early 1990s. Stephen Harper has said that his economic plan is to "stay the course". With an economy in trouble, and an increasingly competitive world economy – we cannot afford to stay the Harper course.
Stephen Harper has said that this election is a choice between risk and certainty, well there is only one thing that is certain in this election: Stephen Harper is a risk that Canada cannot afford.
We need the Liberal plan for the economy. And today, I will announce another part of that plan, our plan to improve our immigration system.
Yes, our plan will lower barriers, for newcomers to provide their skills and talents to our country. This is needed because it is a matter of social justice for the people that are coming form around the world to find a home in Canada. But it's also necessary for all of us, because we need the contribution of New Canadians right away, today. We need their contribution, all the more, because we have an aging population. In the coming years, 100 per cent of the growth of our workforce will come from immigration. We need to get this right.
Sadly, we have a growing gap, a growing success gap for new Canadians. Far too many New Canadians are finding it difficult to get language training, to have their credentials recognized, to get a good job.
Stephen Harper's approach to immigration only responds to the short-term demands of the labour market. And foolishly, the Conservatives are actually letting fewer immigrants into our country every year. What a mistake.
The Liberal Plan will close the immigrant success gap, because we must – the success of the Canadian economy largely depends on the success of our immigration strategy. This strategy must be built on fairness, not arbitrary powers for the Minister of Immigration.
A new Liberal government will immediately repeal the Conservative amendments that gave the Minister of Immigration unprecedented, sweeping, discretionary power – including the power to choose who gets to become a Canadian, and who does not. We need to do a better job at helping New Canadians succeed – we don't need to give the Minister of Immigration arbitrary power. It is the wrong approach – I reject it. What I want is due process, a system that gives everyone a fair chance.
But criticism is not enough; in order to improve our immigration system we need to reduce the current backlog, modernize our immigration system, and help new Canadians succeed once they are here. The result will be a stronger economy and a fairer country.
Let's start with the current backlog. I do not believe that money can solve every problem – I am not Jack Layton. However, there are some problems that cannot be solved without investing wisely. The massive, growing immigration backlog is one of those problems. The low-tech, out of date immigration system that we have is one of those problems.
We Liberals understand this. So, a new Liberal government will invest $400 million over four years, to modernize and streamline our refugee and immigration system. We will reduce the backlog, we will speed up processing and most of all we will bring more New Canadians into our country.
Revamp the immigration points system to give greater weight to skilled trades, better aligning our immigration policy to the Canadian labour market.
And create an In-Canada Fast Track program that will accelerate the process for temporary workers, international students and live-in caregivers to apply for permanent residence within Canada.
Welcoming more new Canadians isn't enough; we need to ensure that they succeed once they are here. That they help us build a stronger country.
Language training is critical, because it is a necessity for entering the workforce. It's critical to be able to adapt to your new country. We need to do better at helping newcomers master one of our two official languages in order to get the job that matches their qualifications.
That is why a Liberal government will invest $200 million over four years in an initiative called New Beginnings Canada. We will give new Canadians, by which I mean every member of a new Canadian family, the language tools that they need to succeed.
Language skills are a large part of the solution, but it's not the only one to make sure New Canadians succeed in our workforce. We must also help newcomers participate in internships, mentorships and work placement opportunities. That is what we will do through an exciting initiative that we will call Bridge to Work.
Through a new, $200 million investment in Bridge to Work we will also help new Canadians receive recognition for their foreign credentials by providing direct financial support for coursework that allows professionals to top-up their credentials.
Some provinces have programs to attract new Canadians so that it is not only Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver that benefit from immigration. These nominee programs are valuable to the country, and we will strengthen them.
Now let's talk about visas. At present, the processing of visas is extremely cumbersome, I know how nerve-wracking and frustrating this is for a lot of new Canadian families. Besides, it consumes an enormous amount of resources within Canada and in our consulates throughout the world. I know this as a Member of Parliament from Montreal; it is a large part of our office work. Canada needs to do better.
This is why we will introduce a Welcome Canada Pass – a five year renewable, multi-entry visitor's visa for individuals sponsored by Canadian citizens and landed immigrants. Imagine how much easier it will be for your family to visit you on an ongoing basis.
In addition, we will create a Canada Express Pass for frequent business visitors to reduce process times and promote trade and commerce. I want businesspeople from China, from India, from around the world, to find Canada a welcoming place to visit and do business.
In total a new Liberal government will invest $800 million over four years to modernize and streamline the immigration system, while providing more flexibility and helping to better integrate new Canadians into the work force. This is a good strategy for British Columbia; this is a good strategy for Canada.
The Liberal Party is serious about immigration, not only because so many of its MPs, candidates and party members are New Canadians themselves, but because we must succeed in the competitive global economy. We Liberals are making immigration a critical component of our election platform.
A desire to welcome New Canadians, a firm commitment to multiculturalism, ensuring economic success for all – these are values of the Liberal Party of Canada. These are values that guide us, and they also guide Canadians – and that is why I, Stephane Dion, want to become Prime Minister of this wonderful, diverse country. Merci beaucoup. Tou Zi you dang yi piao!
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