Which immigration promises will a Liberal minority government likely keep?

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Next steps for Canada’s immigration system
ABOVE: Next steps for Canada's immigration system – Oct 24, 2019

When it comes to immigration, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau made several key promises during the election. A few were specific, such as a pledge to create a new program that will allow municipalities to “sponsor” economic immigrants, while others were more general.

So which of the pledges on immigration will the Liberals be most likely to keep? And which promises — especially considering that either the NDP or Bloc Quebecois will hold the balance of power in any new government — are likely to go unfulfilled?

Most likely to fail

The Liberals campaigned on a promise to “modernize” the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA) between Canada and the United States.

The agreement, which has been controversial ever since the number of asylum claims in Canada began to spike in the spring of 2017, allows would-be refugees to make claims at the border, even when they enter Canada at unofficial points of entry.

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Trudeau and the Liberals have said changing the STCA would enhance border security and improve fairness in Canada’s asylum system.

But according to Sharry Aiken, a law professor at Queen’s University, any promise to “close the loophole” or amend the STCA agreement is likely to fail because that would require Donald Trump to agree to keep more immigrants and asylum seekers in the U.S. — something Aiken and other experts say Trump is unlikely to do.

Click to play video: 'The rising rhetoric around refugees is fuelling many falsehoods about whether these new arrivals pose a threat'
The rising rhetoric around refugees is fuelling many falsehoods about whether these new arrivals pose a threat

Another reason why this promise may not succeed is that both the NDP and Bloc Quebecois have called for the STCA to be suspended until the Americans can prove that their asylum system is fair for would-be refugees.

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NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh — who could hold the balance of power in a Liberal minority government — has been especially vocal about the abuse and mistreatment that migrants entering the U.S. have faced from the Trump administration, saying it’s clear the U.S. is no longer safe for refugees.

Most likely to succeed

The Liberals — both before and during the campaign — have talked openly about the important role immigration plays in ensuring Canada’s future economic growth.

The Liberals pledged to steadily increase the number of newcomers to between 350,000 and 400,000 a year by 2021. This includes increases in all areas of immigration: economic class, family class, and humanitarian class — which includes refugees.

In their most recent budget, the Liberals also allocated $1.2 billion in additional funding to enhanced border security and refugee processing.

The funds, the Liberals said, would be used to help address the growing backlog of refugee claims at Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB), which stood at more than 79,000 cases at the end of September.

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Fighting Disinformation: Misleading claims in campaign ads

Expanding economic immigration to smaller, more rural communities throughout Canada is another promise the Liberals are likely to keep.

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The Liberals have said they would create a Municipal Nominee Program that provides up to 5,000 new spots for permanent residents a year. The program will give towns and smaller communities who don’t typically benefit from immigration the opportunity to “sponsor” newcomers to fill gaps in local labour markets.

The Liberals have also pledged to make the Atlantic Immigration Pilot project permanent, with another 5,000 spots a year for new economic immigrants.

According to experts such as Pedro Antunes, the chief economist at the Conference Board of Canada, both of these pledges will help smaller and more rural communities meet their employment needs and attract badly-needed newcomers.

Click to play video: 'Leaders’ Debate: Question on Quebec ‘values test’ kicks off spirited debate on immigration'
Leaders’ Debate: Question on Quebec ‘values test’ kicks off spirited debate on immigration

Meanwhile, Trudeau has said he is open to working with Quebec to increase the province’s control over immigration.

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Quebec Premier François Legault and Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet have called for the province to have “veto” power over decisions about when failed refugee claimants and other immigrants are deported. The leaders also want more control over temporary foreign workers that go to Quebec.

Trudeau also said he supports Quebec’s right to implement a “test” for new immigrants who want to remain in the province permanently.

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