Tories consider cut in immigrant numbers: Minister

Posted by admin on Feb 10th, 2009

By Norma Greenaway, Canwest News Service February 10, 2009

OTTAWA — Canada is prepared to consider a cut in the number of newcomers allowed into the country if necessary over the short term to respond to a souring domestic job and economic scene, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney says. “We don’t want people to be coming to Canada and facing unemployment,” Kenney said Tuesday. “So, we need to be sensitive to a changing labour market, and if we need to make changes, we will.”

Kenney made the comments to reporters after telling an all-party Commons committee that federal, provincial and territorial officials plan to meet at the end of next month to review the economic data to see if modifications to immigration levels are needed.

For now, though, the minority Conservative government plans to maintain its current immigration target of accepting up to 265,000 new permanent residents in 2009, Kenney told the committee on citizenship and immigration.

He said the government must be careful about turning off the flow of immigrants into the country because they will be needed post-recession to fill jobs and help fuel Canada’s economic growth.

“We need to be flexible, prudent and ensure that our response to short-term conditions does not counter our long-term goals, in which immigration will play a significant role,” Kenney said.

Kenney added, however, that bad economic news could spur some potential immigrants to abandon plans to move to Canada.

“There is no doubt that newcomers, like all Canadians, will have a tougher time this year,” he said. “And I suspect some people will take that into consideration in their decisions about whether or not to actually use the visas that were offered to them to come here as foreign workers.”

Speaking later to reporters, Kenney said that although demand for temporary foreign workers will shrink this year, it will not disappear because there are still some labour gaps Canadian workers are unable to fill.

He promised to introduce a set of regulations this spring to protect foreign workers who, according to recent media reports, have been left in a lurch after being laid off from their jobs in Canada.

“Obviously there are issues of abuse (and) we want to address those,” Kenney said.

Kenney also announced the government is increasing to 3,900 the number of refugees it will accept this year from war-ravaged Iraq. The new total is up from about 2,000 last year.

Liberal MP Jim Karygiannis said the economic downturn is no excuse to lower immigration levels because newcomers are still needed to “fill the void of what Canadians don’t want to do.”

Karygiannis told reporters he interprets Kenney’s remarks as a sign the government is going to “cut back massively” on the number of foreigners it will allow into the country as prospective immigrants.

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