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Canada’s 2019 Federal Election — Its Effects On Immigration Policies

Canada’s 2019 Federal Election is due to hold on October 21, 2019. Canusim looks at how potential outcomes of the election may affect the Canadian immigration system.

The Liberal Party’s hold on power in the Capital is under threat by a Conservative Party that has a good chance of taking over the reins of power in an election due to be conducted this October. What would a Conservative victory mean for Canadian immigration policies? If the Liberals win, would it be more of a continuation of the same, or something new? And if neither major political party wins in the election, would other political parties be able to impact on Canada’s immigration system?

One way of answering this question is by studying recent history to have an idea of what Canada’s immigration policy could look like in the coming years.

Public opinion polling indicates that the Conservatives and Liberals are effectively tied for the lead. Putting into perspective their immigration policies dating to the late 1980s, it is safe to infer that major aspect of their immigration system will stay the same way after October 21 should either political party win the election.

Immigration Levels

Canada intake of immigrants is poised to remain above 300,000 per year irrespective of the outcome of the election result. Since the end of the 1980s, when the Conservatives decided to boost immigration levels to above 200,000 newcomers yearly, both political parties have used their time in power to carry on with the policy of increasing immigration levels. This is due to the bipartisan consensus that high levels of immigration are required to ameliorate the economic and financial strain caused by Canada’s low birth rate and ageing population.

When they last ruled between 2006 and 2015, the Conservatives gradually increased immigration levels to about 260,000 new immigrants per year—compared with approximately 225,000 new immigrants welcomed by the Liberals each year between 1996 and 2005.

The main difference today, however, is that Canada’s retirement rate is increasing due to the over nine (9) million baby boomers set to attain the age of retirement (65 years old) within the next Ten (10) years. This means the need to keep high levels of immigration is even more crucial to Canada’s economy than it was in the past.

Newcomer Composition

A notable area of difference between the two political parties pertains to the composition of Canada’s newcomers. Under the last Conservative government, about Sixty-three (63) per cent of Canada’s immigrants arrived under the economic class, twenty-seven (27) per cent under the family class, and ten (10) per cent as refugees.

Since 2015, the Liberals have placed much emphasis on the refugee class by expanding its share to about Fifteen (15) per cent while reducing the share of the economic class to about Fifty-Eight (58) per cent (while keeping the family class share unchanged).

As per Canada’s 2019-2021 Immigration Levels strategy, the Liberals are aiming to continue this composition for at least the next two (2) years.

Based on their record when they last rule, the Conservatives would probably boost the economic class share to above Sixty (60) per cent while lowering the refugee class share. The official Conservative campaign promises, for example, states they will “defend and emphasize economic immigration” if they win the election.

Settlement Funding

Both political parties have managed a massive increase to Canada’s settlement funding over the past two decades. The funding goes towards services that help newcomers integrate into Canada’s economy and society such as French and English language training and employment supports.

The federal settlement envelope now stands at roughly $1.5 billion yearly, which is a fivefold increase compared with the 2000-01 financial year. The Liberals began the policy of expanding settlement funding at the turn of the new century, which the Conservatives sustained during their nine years in power.

Both parties are ready to maintain high levels of immigration in the future, which suggests that settlement funding will be largely sustained. The Conservatives are pushing to balance the federal budget within the next five years of reaching power, which may result in concerns that settlement supports will drop. But, it is worth mentioning that the Conservatives expanded settlement funding even as they balanced the budget leading up to the 2015 general election.

Canada’s 2019 Federal Election- It’s Aftermaths

There is no question that the Conservatives and Liberals differ on substantive immigration aspect such as citizenship policy and how to manage asylum claims. But for the large part, they have far more in common on immigration policy.

We can therefore surmise that Canada’s immigration system will continue the pattern of recent decades that has seen the country increase immigration levels and its investment in global talent.