Tories likely to copy Australian changes, pollster suggests

Toronto Star
Sep 29, 2008

Lesley Ciarula Taylor
Immigration Reporter

The Conservative government seems to be waiting for a majority government before it revolutionizes Canada’s immigration system the way the Australians have, pollster Michael Adams said.

Wholesale and “highly controversial” changes to the immigration system have the potential to alienate foreign-born Canadians and, as a result, little has been done to address the country’s steadily deteriorating system, Adams said last week after a three-country forum on the competition for skilled migrants. “And they were wise to do so,” said Adams of the Conservative approach so far. “They aren’t a majority government.”

Tracking has shown skilled immigrants to Canada are poorer and underemployed compared with decades past and also compared with Australia – where a massive overhaul in 1999 resulted in more rigorous screening of immigrants, applications handled in three months, and an atmosphere where 81 per cent were working in appropriate jobs six months after they arrived, all under the conservative government of John Howard.

Canada’s backlogs can keep migrants waiting six or seven years and a Statistics Canada study found the unemployment rate of immigrants in 2007 much higher and getting worse, compared with Canadian-born workers.

There is another big difference between Australia and Canada, said Adams and Lesleyanne Hawthorne, associate dean at the University of Melbourne: The Howard government had a national consensus. Hawthorne, one of the speakers at the Institute for Research in Public Policy forum, said Australia’s reform was “genuinely non-partisan.”

The current Labour government of Kevin Rudd is opening the doors even wider, she said.

Australia, a country with 12 million fewer people than Canada, intends shortly to bring in the same number of permanent residents a year, about a quarter of a million.

“Our Conservatives don’t have a public debate on these things,” said Adams. And if the Harper Tories get a majority government? “Here’s a government that admires many of the things of the conservative Australian government,”

said Adams. “It makes sense that they would do what the Australians have done to make sure immigrants succeed.”

Reference: Toronto Star