October 26, 2015
How Will Canada’s New Liberal Government Impact Immigration?
The Canadian federal election was held on 19 October 2015. The Liberal Party, led by Justin Trudeau, won 184 seats, allowing it to form a majority government. Mr. Trudeau will be sworn in as the new Prime Minister of Canada on 4 November 2015. This change in government may bring a change in immigration policies and practices.
The Conservative government, in power for almost a decade, redesigned the Canadian immigration system to prioritize economic-class immigrants, i.e., those coming to Canada for work. During the election campaign, the Liberal Party made several platform promises to modify immigration policies and has stated that family reunification will be one of its core priorities.
Some of the Liberal Party’s platform promises include:
- Nearly doubling the budget for family class immigration processing, in order to decrease lengthy processing times;
- Doubling the number of new applications allowed each year, for parents and grandparents, from 5,000 to 10,000;
- Providing greater access to applicants with Canadian siblings, by granting additional points under the Express Entry system. They have also promised to conduct a review of the program to ensure that processing times are efficient;
- Restoring the maximum age for dependents to 22 instead of 19, a change that was made by the Conservative government on 1 August 2014;
- Granting immediate permanent residency to new spouses entering Canada, rather than imposing a two-year conditional status;
- Restoring the residency time credit for foreign students and other temporary residents applying to become Canadian citizens;
- Making changes to the Canadian Experience Class program to reduce the barriers to immigration that have been imposed on international students;
- Eliminating the $1,000 Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) fee for families seeking caregivers to care for family members with physical or mental disabilities.
It remains to be seen whether, and how quickly, these promises will be implemented. It may be possible for the incoming government to implement some of the simpler regulatory changes within the first few months of its mandate. Amendments to the rules on spouses entering Canada and the maximum age of dependent children may fall in this category. However, it is not clear whether the cap for parents and grandparents can be increased in time for the next processing window, as the government will then have been in office for less than two months.
More nebulous promises, such as program reviews, cannot be implemented immediately and can be expected to proceed over a longer period. Finally, the promised improvements regarding processing times will require greater resources and hence budgetary commitments. Additional resources cannot be granted until the government tables its first budget, and the recruitment and training processes will further delay implementation. With this in mind, it is possible that the effects of an increased budget for family-class processing may not be seen for well over a year.