If immigration is of a 'small benefit' to the United Kingdom could the same be true of Canada?
A recent influential committee of the House of Lords indicates that immigration has had little or no economic benefit of Britons and that competition from immigrants has had a negative impact on lower salaried employees and has contributed to high house prices. The peers want limits on immigration levels.
A 2005 Fraser Institute publication - "Immigration and the Welfare State in Canada" made a similar claim and concluded that Canada's "welfare system" which relies on progressive taxation and provision of universal government benefits results in "substantial net transfers of taxpayers' money" from "Canadians to the recent immigrants."
Even if the Fraser Institute report is derided as partisan and biased, the question of the appropriateness of current immigration levels is still relevant given the foreshadow of the issues of multiculturalism and immigration from across the pond.
Expressing a sentiment that could, in any way, be construed as anti-immigrant would be political anathema in this country. The Conservatives are already shut out of the immigrant rich cities of Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal.
In 1969, the iconic Lord Denning, in the British Schmidt case insisted that 'no alien has the right to enter this country [UK] except by leave of the Crown: and the Crown can refuse leave without giving any reason'.
Well, both the UK and Canada have come some way from Denning's almost laconic characterization of immigration law. Current immigration law requires the immigration department to consider every application submitted. Principles of fairness, with roots in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, require procedural fairness to be meted to every applicant.
The Conservatives' recent attempts to address the massive backlog (developed almost exclusively under the Liberals) by way of changes to the strained system giving greater flexibility to the department is of sufficient import to contribute to a possible summer election. Dion has already been warned by immigrant activists who are opposed to the recently announced immigration reforms - a failure to vote against the proposed changes could result in a loss of political support from new Canadians.
Some immigrants still remember the (failed) attempt by the Diefenbaker government to cap immigration applications during the 1950s. The present Conservative government will have to step very gingerly to avoid being labeled anti-immigrant - a designation that they've more or less inherited from their Reform ancestry.
Should economic concerns alone drive immigration policy? Is it time to lower targets or otherwise cap immigration? Can we have an an honest discussion of immigration policy in this country without labels like racism or discrimination thrown around?
My personal views are that immigration has contributed immensely to the fabric of this society, and that Canada as a whole has benefited. It is however, important to review and reappraise our policy from time to time and ask the difficult questions to ensure that immigration continues to benefit Canadian businesses and communities.