Collacott’s report bases its recommendations on economic factors from selectively chosen studies
BY WILLIAM MACINTOSH
ON May 24 I wrote about then-Immigration Minister Jason Kenney’s announcement to reinstate the processing of applications to sponsor parents and grandparents which was suspended in November 2011. While increasing the number of applications processed each year to reduce the large backlog of existing applications, the government intends to introduce new rules for new applications starting in January 2014 which will make it harder to sponsor parents and grandparents. The government’s proposals have received a mixed response from the Fraser Institute in its latest report on immigration policy.
While the proposed rule changes have not yet been formally approved and published, the government has given no indication that it will change any of its proposals. When the government resumes receiving new sponsorship applications for parents and grandparents in January 2014, it will limit new application to 5,000 per year. The changes include increased income requirements for sponsors, imposing of a 20-year undertaking for sponsors to be responsible for the relatives, and ending sponsorship of dependent children at age 18.
On Tuesday, the Fraser Institute released its latest immigration report, entitled “Canadian Family Class Immigration: The parent and grandparent component under review,” written by Martin Collacott, a long-time critic of immigration policies. In 1997, soon after he ended a 30-year foreign service career and before he began authoring reports with the Fraser Institute, Collacott expressed the opinion that Canada was eroding its achievements in integrating immigrants by allowing in large numbers of people who were ill-equipped to participate in Canadian society.
In 1998 he used the assassination of Punjabi journalist Tara Singh Hayer as an opportunity to push for changes to immigration policy and blamed a lack of change on vested interests and well-intentioned advocacy groups. In 2000 he took his crusade against existing Canadian immigration laws before the U.S. Congress, testifying that lax laws made it easy for terrorists and their sympathizers to raise funds within Canada. Since then he has authored several dozen articles and reports with the Fraser Institute.
IN his latest report, Collacott says Canada needs to ensure that taxpayers are adequately protected from assuming the costs of support and medical care for sponsored parents and grandparents. He implies the government should have cancelled some, if not all, of the outstanding sponsorship applications because of those costs. He suggests the failure of the government to do this was to curry favour with eligible voters in the next election, ignoring a basic legal concept against retroactive legislation.
Collacott argues that the proposed changes requiring sponsors to take more financial responsibility for supporting their parents and grandparents don’t go far enough as taxpayers will still bear much of the expenses of older sponsored immigrants who may be eligible for Canada’s various income support programs. He suggests tougher provisions, proposing that Canada consider copying policies used by Australia.
Under a balance-of-family test a sponsor must have at least half of their siblings already living permanently in Australia, or at least more of them living permanently in Australia than in any other country, in order to sponsor parents. This has resulted in fewer parents immigrating to Australia. He incorrectly states that Australia also requires a sponsor to pay significant visa fees for a contributory parent visa, though it does require an assurance of support and financial bonds for the required support period. Collacott also recommends the government look at requiring sponsors to purchase comprehensive health insurance for parents or grandparents they want to bring to Canada to reduce the strain on the public health care system.
As with most reports from the Fraser Institute, it bases its recommendations on economic factors, from selectively chosen studies. In Collacott’s case, he draws some conclusions without objective data. For example, his opinion that the economic benefits of having sponsored parents and grandparents available for child care in reducing the burden on government-funded facilities and enabling greater labour force participation by sponsors would unlikely come close to offsetting the health care and other costs to taxpayers of those sponsored.
Don’t expect this report to influence the government in making any more changes to the rules for sponsoring parents and grandparents in the near future. A more critical analysis of the report will likely reveal more errors. Immigration issues are open to legitimate debate. That includes arguments that public policy should not be based solely on economic factors. There are intangible factors, which are not quantifiable on a ledger sheet, which ought to be considered and weighed in making political decisions affecting conflicting interests.
William Macintosh is an immigration and citizenship lawyer who began practising in 1984. You can reach him for advice at 778-714-8787.