What if?

November 24th, 2008

In a few days from now, the waiting will be over.

Not only will we know the fate of the Federal Skilled Worker applications submitted to the Canadian Visa Offices after February 27, 2008, (now in a suspended state) but we will also find out what lies in store for Skilled Worker applications that will be submitted in the coming twelve months. More to the point, we expect to soon learn which of these applications are going to be processed quickly; which ones are to be held at the Visa Office for processing at a later date, and finally, which applications are going to be returned without any consideration at all. This information will come via publicized instructions that the new Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism (now, there’s a mouthful) will issue to the various Canadian Visa Offices.

Conventional wisdom has it that most Federal Skilled Worker candidates are in for some short to medium term disappointment. People, who are supposedly in the know, seem fairly certain that only applicants with work experience in a very limited number of occupations and candidates with jobs waiting for them in Canada can count on receiving permanent resident visas under the Federal Skilled Worker category of immigration in the coming year. As for the rest of the well-qualified individuals who desire to immigrate to Canada at this time… well, they will either have to find a Canadian employer willing to hire them or they will need to gain entry to Canada by qualifying under one of the other categories of Canadian immigration, say for example one of the Provincial Nomination Programs and the Business Immigration category.

Conventional wisdom usually gets it right, but not always. It’s a longshot, but I’m not so sure that Jason Kenny, the Minister of Immigration for the newly elected Conservative government will issue instructions that choke-off the main source of economic immigration to Canada.

A little history is in order here.

During the previous sitting of Parliament, the minority Conservative government tabled a budget bill that included sweeping powers for the Minister of Immigration. Under the guise of needing to revamp the immigration process, the Minister would be permitted to pick and choose applications to be processed (or not processed) based solely on his/her opinion instead of on the fair, first-come first-served system, as provided for under the immigration laws in place. I call it a guise because if the Conservatives wanted only to streamline the immigration processing system they could have done so by utilizing the existing provisions of the immigration legislation. The current law has a regulating mechanism to control the flow of applications and allows for open and closed occupations to further restrict the number of applicants.

In my opinion, the real reason for inserting the immigration amendments into the budget bill was to try and goad the opposition Liberal Party into voting against it, which would then have triggered an election… something the Conservatives wanted to happen. But surely, Liberal Members of Parliament would stand up for their core constituency of new Canadians and vote against the legislation that might subject them to the use of capricious power. Well, guess what? Both the Conservatives and the Canadian ethnic communities underestimated the wobbliness of Liberals’ knees. Enough of them went absent from the House of Commons to ensure passage of the budget bill and Parliament shut down for the summer. Before it would reconvene, the Conservatives decided to by-pass tradition and the law. They called an election on their own for October and won… sort of.

The Conservatives didn’t get the majority they were seeking and once again we are governed by a minority Conservative government. Given the speed with which the Liberals turfed their leader following the election, I’d say that they are looking for another kick at the can and we’ll probably be going to the polls again (perish the thought) in another year or so.

Here’s where it gets interesting.

While Canadians in general did not sufficiently trust the Conservatives to hand them the keys to the kingdom, the Canadian ethnic communities finally began warming to them. Heck, Conservatives even won a number of seats (and came very close in others) where new Canadians make up a significant portion of the electorate. What if Prime Minister Harper and the Conservatives determine that the path to a majority government leads right through Canada’s growing ethnic communities? Then just maybe it’s not a good idea to restrict the entry of economic immigrants and give the opposition parties the opportunity to characterize you as stifling the very communities that can put you over the top.

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