NDP, Liberal candidates disagree over response to Conservative immigration bill

Burnaby Now
September 17, 2008

Brooke Larsen

NDP MP Bill Siksay is accusing Liberal leader Stéphane Dion of flip-flopping on the Conservatives’ immigration bill.

On Saturday, Dion vowed to remove the immigration minister’s powers “to pick and choose among classes of people” trying to gain entry to Canada.

Those powers are contained in a Conservative budget bill the Liberals approved in the spring because they did not want to defeat the Harper government at the time.

But Siksay, who is running in Burnaby-Douglas, says it’s hypocritical for Dion to oppose a bill he supported a short time ago.

“Where was Stéphane Dion when he had a chance to stop Harper’s backward immigration reforms?” Siksay said in a news release.

Siksay said the bill shifts the focus of Canada’s immigration policy from reuniting immigrant families to bringing in foreign workers. The change could impact hundreds of immigrant families in Burnaby, he said.

“The Liberals really blew it,” Siksay said in an interview. “They had the opportunity to say no to the Conservatives with these terrible changes.”

But Bill Cunningham, Liberal candidate for Burnaby-Douglas, said Dion made it clear when the bill passed that the Liberals planned to rescind it if they formed the next government.

“Bill Siksay is being a little bit disingenuous,” Cunningham said in an interview.

He said it would have been irresponsible to shoot down the bill before there was a viable alternative.

“It’s one thing to do what the NDP do, which is to stand up and says we don’t like things. … The Liberals’ have to be more responsible,” he said.

Cunningham accused Prime Minister Stephen Harper of using the bill to try to trigger an election.

“Dion, to his credit, wasn’t playing those games,” Cunningham said.

Meanwhile, Conservative candidate Ronald Leung blamed previous Liberal governments for the backlog of immigration requests.

He questioned the party’s ability to handle the problem, saying the waitlist grew from 50,000 to 800,000 people during the 13 years the Liberals were in power.

“If they can do it, why didn’t they do it in the last 13 years?” Leung said.

Leung also defended the bill, saying it would deal with the waitlist and help bring in workers whose skills are needed in Canada.

And he denied that the policy would impact immigrants applying on humanitarian and family reunion grounds, saying it will only affect immigrants applying for economic reasons.

Doug Perry, Green Party candidate for Burnaby-Douglas, said he’s not sure whether the immigration bill should be rescinded.

But he believes it should be changed to ensure decisions aren’t made arbitrarily behind closed doors.

“We advocate for the regulations to be transparent for all Canadians and prospective Canadians,” Perry said.

– with files from CanWest News Service

© Burnaby Now 2008

Reference: Burnaby Now