OTTAWA-The five NDP MPs from Metro Vancouver today condemned the changes to Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) contained in Bill C50, the Budget Implementation Act. An NDP motion in opposition to the changes was defeated in the House yesterday when the Liberals yet again voted with the Conservatives.

“These changes are just plain wrong,” said Libby Davies (MP Vancouver East). “They give the Minister of Immigration far too much discretionary power. Decisions about the processing of applications to immigrate to Canada should be based on clear, transparent policy, not the whims of one Minister. And anyone who applies should be guaranteed that their application is assessed fairly and in a reasonable length of time.”

According to the MPs, not only is the bill’s content wrong, the process is all wrong. “These proposals are a serious change to IRPA”, noted Peter Julian (MP Burnaby-New Westminster). “They should not be buried deep in a budget bill. They should be debated fully and independently on their own, and sent to the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration for study. That Committee, not the Finance Committee, has the expertise to fairly review these proposals.”

MP Dawn Black (New Westminster-Coquitlam) expressed the fear that this measure is only the most recent move in the wrong direction by Conservatives on immigration. “We’ve seen the Conservatives change immigration in other fundamental ways. They are moving Canada to a European-style guest worker policy. Temporary foreign workers, who are often exploited in Canada, are being fast-tracked. This contradicts Canada’s longstanding emphasis on bringing needed workers in as permanent residents and putting them on the road to becoming full citizens.”

In addition, the policy changes do nothing for family reunification. Penny Priddy, (MP Surrey North) stated that “the Conservatives have not significantly increased the ability of the department to process applications. They have directed resources away from family reunification to temporary workers. They are ignoring the needs of Canadian families to be reunited with loved ones. And they show no real commitment to family reunification as the most successful part of Canada’s immigration programme.”

“Instead of the almost irreversible damage the Conservatives are doing to our immigration system, the NDP would do things differently,” noted Bill Siksay (MP Burnaby-Douglas). “We will start by voting against these changes even if it means going to an election. And we would increase the number of immigrants Canada accepts each year to 1% of our population. We would ensure that workers needed in Canada are not exploited as cheap labour, have the rights of permanent residents and are encouraged to become full citizens. And we would ensure that family reunification remains central to Canada’s immigration programme.”

The NDP MPs also roundly criticized the Liberal Party.

“Liberals have taken immigrants for granted for far too long”, said Davies. “Now when a key programme for them is threatened, they refuse to stand up and be counted.”

Julian concurred, noting that “when the Conservatives make radical changes to the immigration system, it seems reasonable to ask that the Liberals show some backbone and defend fair policies. But again and again they put their own electoral prospects first before the needs of Canadians.”

“Liberals try and have it both ways,” according to Black. “They pretend to mount an opposition, asking questions about the changes, but when push comes to shove, they either miss the vote or vote with the Conservatives. They abandon their responsibilities over and over. They are effectively in coalition with the Conservatives.”

Priddy pointed out that “the Liberals also continue to refuse to take responsibility for the serious backlog. This backlog is their creation because they cut funding to the Immigration department and because they never came through on their often repeated promise to increase the number of immigrants accepted each year.”

“New Democrats will continue to stand and vote against these immigration changes because we believe that this is an issue of principle. Unlike the Liberals we appreciate the importance of immigration policy to Canada and to Canadian families. We will not abandon our principles”, concluded Siksay.