John Ivison: Immigration focus should be on outcomes, not values

While I agree with Ivison (and Anglin) on focusing on outcomes, not meaningless values declarations, his characterization of the repeal of revocation from dual nationals convicted of terrorism or treason can hardly be called “pandering,” given that polling indicated strong support for the Conservatives on this issue.

In fact, the Conservatives “pandered” by making revocation part of C-24 when available evidence indicates revocation would not be a deterrent and that revocation would most likely be found to violate the Charter, given different treatment for dual (or multiple) nationals compared to Canadian nationals only (and the list of those convicted and charged includes both categories).

While the other changes could be labelled as “pandering,” they could also labelled as “responding” to the concerns of new Canadian voters, irrespective of the merits or not of the original policies and subsequent changes:

The Conservatives reformed the system over their time in power, so that family class immigration was on the decline (down 18 per cent in 2014), while economic immigration was on the rise (up 11 per cent). New programs such as the Express Entry system were introduced to speed the application process for people with the skills Canada needs.

But the 2015 election meant a change of emphasis. The Liberals promised to prioritize family reunification, granting points under the Express Entry system to applicants with siblings in Canada and doubling the number of applications allowed for parents and grandparents.

Immigration targets have been raised to 300,000; visa requirements on Mexico have been lifted; language requirements have been watered down for younger and older applicants; while the residency requirement for citizenship has been reduced to three years from four, one of the lowest among peer countries.

Perhaps the most egregious example of political pandering was the repeal of the law that revoked citizenship for dual citizens convicted of terrorism or treason. If you can have your citizenship revoked for misrepresentation, does it make sense that you are able to keep it after being caught planning to explode truck bombs in downtown Toronto, as was the case with Zaharia Amara, ringleader of the Toronto 18 terror group, who recently saw his citizenship reinstated?

Justin Trudeau’s pledges on immigration had the desired impact — a shift in allegiance of a number of visible minority communities to the Liberals.

But they made no sense from a policy perspective. Their adoption has created an opportunity for the Conservative Party to make a pitch to voters who agree that immigration is a necessity for economic growth, yet do not believe parties should use bad policy in a bidding war for votes.

The idea to increase the number of face-to-face interviews for immigrants is a good one, but the rest of Leitch’s plan is unworkable. As Howard Anglin, a former chief of staff to Jason Kenney when he was immigration minister, wrote recently in iPolitics, the Conservatives considered a values pledge for new citizens. After looking at examples from Australia and the Netherlands, they concluded such pledges were “empty exercises.”

“Even assuming one could agree on a list of values that newcomers would pledge to uphold (would Conservatives trust Trudeau to draft this? Would Liberals have trusted Stephen Harper to?), it would be about as meaningful as clicking ‘accept’ on a computer program’s ‘terms of use’ and, in practice, even less enforceable.”

A more sensible immigration policy would forget about “values” and concentrate on outcomes — where the focus is on attracting smart workers who will help Canada navigate an age of automation and job displacement.

As author Peter C. Newman once noted: “When a nation’s elite is three generations removed from steerage, it cannot afford too many pretensions.”

Source: John Ivison: Immigration focus should be on outcomes, not values | National Post

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About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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