To Escape Political Trap On Immigration Issue, The Conservatives Should Propose The Reduction Of Federal Power & Pledge To Give Provinces Control Over Immigration Levels

Giving provincial governments full control over immigration levels would be consistent with core Conservative principles.

The Conservatives are being trapped by the Liberals on immigration.

While the Liberal government will of course claim that their rapidly-expanding immigration levels – which are causing increasing concern among many in the political/business mainstream due to questions over how our housing supply and social services will cope – are all about the economy, there is clearly a political component.

We will get to that component in a moment, but first an analysis of the numbers.

In the past 12 months, Canada received 822,866 international migrants.

In Quarter 3 of 2022, the population surged by a whopping 362,453 people.

For comparison, that’s higher than the highest yearly immigration targets under the Harper Government – though the overall number was usually higher when temporary foreign workers & international students are included.

Still, one year’s worth of immigration growth in one quarter is stunning.

If Canada was a country with a hyper-effective and efficient healthcare system, rapidly expanding per-capita GDP, and massive construction projects for housing and businesses going up all over the place, perhaps such a massive immigration increase could be easily managed.

However, our healthcare system is in shambles, the housing market is absurdly overvalued, and our per capita GDP growth has been anemic.

Here’s where the political component comes in.

The Conservatives are surely aware that much of their support base – along with a wide swath of the broader general public, has concerns over rapidly increasing immigration levels.

Those concerns are almost certainly shared by the majority of CPC MPs.

However, the immigration debate in Canada has become incredibly distorted, and this is scaring away the CPC from saying anything about lower numbers.

For example, I am a supporter of immigration, while thinking the overall number should be lower than it currently is. Even if we brought in 250,000 – 350,000 people per year, we would have one of the most generous systems – as a percentage of total population – in the world.

Yet, in Canada, taking that position can lead to someone being branded as ‘anti-immigrant.’

And since much of the establishment media never misses the chance to spread Liberal rhetoric against the Conservatives – and since many swing ridings are in areas with a large population of relatively recent arrivals to the country, the CPC is afraid to discuss it.

But, the more they don’t discuss it, the more discontent could arise from within their base.

So, how can they get around this?

Embrace provincial jurisdiction and decentralization

Simply put, the Conservatives should let each province decide their own immigration targets.

The federal government can serve simply as the provider of the processing systems, while letting the overall level in each province be decided by provincial governments.

If one province wants to have very few immigrants, they can keep their numbers low.

If another wants higher numbers, they can do so as well.

The composition of immigration – family, business class, temporary workers – can also be decided by each province.

There is no reason for the federal government to be setting any kind of overall target.

This would increase accountability, as leaving the decision to provincial governments would give voters more opportunity to be heard on the issue, either in favour of higher immigration or lower immigration based on specific provincial circumstances.

Now, the criticism of this idea is that people are of course free to move wherever they want in the country once they arrive here.

But that is part of Canada being a relatively free place, and shouldn’t be changed.

Furthermore, many provinces love the provincial sponsorship programs that give them some control over immigration, so they obviously see a benefit to more influence over immigration, even though people can leave if they choose.

And Quebec certainly continues to demand more and more control over their immigration levels, which they wouldn’t do if they thought it was all meaningless.

This approach – giving control over immigration levels to the provinces – would be consistent with the Conservative principle of decentralization and limiting the power of the central government.

It would also be an effective ‘high ground’ maneuver, meaning the CPC could make the argument about provincial power vs federal jurisdiction, rather than falling into the trap of either supporting or opposing a specific number set by the Liberals.

If you agree, I encourage you to share this post and help spread the word about this idea.

Spencer Fernando


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