BY JONATHAN FOWLIE, VANCOUVER SUN NOVEMBER 14, 2011
VICTORIA — Provincial governments should have more control over Canadian immigration policy, and over who gets approved to live and work in the country, Premier Christy Clark said Monday.
“Immigration is one of the most important economic levers government has. The fact that responsibility and control for it resides almost solely in the hands of the central government doesn’t work very well,” Clark told The Vancouver Sun in an interview from Bangalore, India.
“We [the provinces] are closer to the ground. We know the needs of the economy better and I think Canada will do a better job of shaping immigration policy if the provinces have a greater ability to impact that,” she added.
Clark’s comments came just one week after the federal government announced an expansion of the Provincial Nominee Program, under which immigrants with skill sets that provinces deem to be desirable — or those most likely to invest and create jobs — are able to have their permanent-resident applications fast-tracked.
British Columbia has yet to receive details of its new allotment under the program, but the federal government has said the number of spaces available nationally will increase to between 42,000 and 45,000 next year from a projected 40,000 this year.
On Monday, Clark said she and other premiers asked the federal government in July to have the caps removed from the program.
“It is ridiculous that our investor-immigrant allowance fills up in a couple of hours — literally overnight,” she said.
“So we have all these investors that want to come and create jobs in British Columbia and we say, ‘No, sorry. You can’t come in.’ To me, that’s just not smart.”
Clark added that her government is also contemplating more significant proposals on immigration as well, but that it is too early to disclose exactly what she has in mind.
She raised the issue of the provincial role in immigration on her Asian trade mission Monday, while speaking on a panel at the World Economic Forum in Mumbai.
The panel included three provincial leaders from India, and Clark said the discussion centred on what role states and provinces should play in a national government.
“What we were looking at was the role of the state vis-a-vis the national government, and the appropriate areas of jurisdiction for each in order to drive the economy,” she said Monday, after travelling to Bangalore from Mumbai.
Clark said that during the panel session she highlighted the success, in Canada, of processes such as environmental review, but also raised the issue of immigration, where she believes Canada can do better.
Clark’s comments on immigration come close to two months after a speech by federal Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Jason Kenney, in which he rejected the idea of more provincial control.
“We do maintain that there is an important ongoing role for the national government in immigration and we’re not just going to contract out all of the immigration selection to the provinces,” he said Sept. 16, speaking to the Calgary Chamber of Commerce. “That would not be responsible.”
Kenney was not available for comment Monday, but his spokeswoman touted the success of the Provincial Nominee Program.
“This program allows provinces to play an active role in immigrant selection by authorizing them to nominate individuals who meet local labour-market demands,” Candice Malcolm said in an emailed statement.
“Since the Conservative government took office, the number of individuals British Columbia has been permitted to sponsor into Canada has grown by 500 per cent, from less than 1,000 per year in 2005 up to 5,000 today.”
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