Michael Ignatieff and Maurizio Bevilacqua outline a plan to ‘harness the skills and talents of every citizen’

National Post
September 17, 2008

Michael Ignatieff and Maurizio Bevilacqua,

Afair and efficient immigration system is at the heart of Canada’s economic success and national identity.All Canadians deserve a government that takes seriously the challenges that new Canadians face.

We already know that immigration will account for all of Canada’s net labour and population growth during the next five years. Fortunately, we already have what we need to succeed: a multicultural population with two official languages, a well-educated workforce and world-class universities.

What is missing is a government that recognizes the barriers that stand in the way of immigrant success, and commits to eliminating them. What we need is a strategy to harness the skills and talents of every citizen.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said that his economic plan is to “stay the course.” In the face of labour shortages choking growth in the West, and immigrants across Canada facing obstacles to success, the Harper government has only offered a bill to give the immigration minister more power.

Last spring, the Conservative government gave the immigration minister sweeping discretionary powers to reject whole categories of immigration applications. They tried to sneak these changes through by hiding them in a lengthy budget bill.

Stephen Harper’s approach to immigration does nothing to address the real challenges facing new Canadians. And despite their rhetoric, the Conservatives are actually letting fewer immigrants into our country every year.

We reject this short-sighted approach. A Liberal government will immediately reverse these changes to the Immigration and Refugee Act.

In addition, a Stephane Dion government will tackle the immigration backlog, modernize the immigration system and implement measures to ensure immigrants succeed once they’re here.

First, we know that in the 21st century, Canada needs a more efficient and fairer immigration system. That’s why a new Liberal government will invest $400-million to modernize the system, process applications more efficiently and support the admission of significantly more permanent residents to Canada.

Second, we know that language training is critical to helping immigrants succeed. That’s why we will invest $200-million in New Beginnings Canada — an enhanced language training initiative designed to help newcomers master the language necessary to get jobs that match their qualifications.

Third, we know we need to do more to help new Canadians get the jobs they are trained to do. That’s why we will create a $200-million “Bridge to Work” program that will better prepare newcomers for the workplace through the use of internships, mentorship and work-placement opportunities.

A Dion Liberal government will also help get foreign credentials recognized by providing direct financial support to assist foreign-trained doctors and other professionals in obtaining their Canadian qualifications.

A Liberal government will make a serious commitment to ensuring fairness, accountability and opportunity in our immigration system. By doing so, we will close the immigrant success gap and together build a more prosperous Canada. – Michael Ignatieff and Maurizio Bevilacqua are Liberal MPs.

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Reference: National Post