Welcome to Canada? - Oct 10th
With 11 days remaining until voting day, there has been little to no discussion on the issue of immigration by the political parties. At Roxham Road in Quebec, the site of irregular border crossings and a flashpoint in Canada's immigration debate, Conservative leader Andrew Scheer vowed to stop illegal border crossings and prioritize economic immigration.
Many experts were surprised that there was a lack of attention to the immigration issue during Monday’s English debate; so it will be interesting to see if the Conservative announcement triggers more discussion in tonight’s French debate.
Until then, let’s take a closer look at each party’s immigration policy …
From Bluesky consultant Hussain Shorish, who was part of the team that managed Canada’s response to irregular migration.
Yesterday, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer announced that he will not only close the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA) loophole, that allows irregular crossers to claim refugee status through unofficial border points but hire 250 additional CBSA enforcement officers to stop the influx and prioritize settlement services. The Conservative leader blamed Mr. Trudeau over his “incompetence and negligence” in dealing with border crossers while providing concrete steps as to how he intends to achieve a renegotiated STCA, and the additional resources.
In his response, Mr. Trudeau stayed firm on his government’s handling of the influx of irregular crossers assuring Canadians that there are no shortcuts; both regular and irregular crossers are fully processed and screened through the government’s rigorous immigration system. The Liberal leader went on to suggest that Mr. Scheer take the opportunity to examine the infrastructure his government has installed while he was at the Roxham Road “border crossing” and come to terms with the enormity of the work his government has achieved.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, on the other hand, responded by committing to “suspend” the STCA, a position that pre-dates his leadership and is based on two positions: refugees need a safe and humane way to make their claims and that at this time, the United States is not a reliable safe third party. The NDP leader said that by suspending the agreement, the Canadian government will have the opportunity and time to negotiate with the U.S over a mutually beneficial agreement. The Green Party Leader Elizabeth May goes one step further in her platform by committing to terminate the STCA.
The STCA has grown to become a contentious issue and considering the current federal election, the debate on the STCA calls for some analysis on the party leaders’ positions. Firstly, Ms. May and Mr. Singh’s positions are both practically and politically unfeasible. The STCA was designed for greater information sharing, enhanced border patrols and more collaboration at the shared border between the U.S-Canada in the wake of 9/11. The agreement’s importance for both countries would label both propositions impossible no matter who becomes prime minister.
On the other hand, Mr. Scheer’s proposition to close the loophole is contingent upon the U.S.’s willingness to cooperate, and frankly, the STCA has never been a priority for the U.S and will continue to remain far from important as the U.S continues to manage a far worse border issue with Mexico and growing political complexities within the White House.
The Conservatives have also suggested designating the entire Canada-U.S border as an official point of entry to stop irregular crossings and force those arriving to come through “proper channels.” Firstly, the U.S-Canada border is nearly 9,000 kilometres long. This makes the border almost impossible to guard and will force irregular crossers to find more dangerous routes. Secondly, irregular migrants cannot claim refugee status from official entry points therefore, they are likely to use dangerous channels to enter Canada. The Conservatives’ proposal would put irregular crossers at further risk.
Also, Andrew Scheer’s use of fear-mongering about MS-13 gang members attempting to enter Canada is a cause for concern, to say the least. By virtue of the STCA and the federal government’s recent investments in security resources, Canada is well equipped to monitor its border. Mr. Scheer’s claim only distills fear into voters.
While both Conservative and NDP leaders blame the Liberal leader’s ineffective handling of the irregular migration issue, his record as prime minister says otherwise. Since 2017, the federal government has been in constant contact with their U.S counterparts to broaden the scope of the STCA, to explore the possibility of making asylum claims at official entry points and modernize the agreement, most precisely, through the use of bio-metric data. In fact, Budget 2019 announced $1.18 billion over five years to beef up border security, speed up the processing of asylum claims and creating new judicial positions to help ensure efficient and timely processing of asylum claimants seeking judicial review.
While Mr. Trudeau has yet to propose any changes in immigration policy, the Liberal leader will need to assure Canadians that he’s not only prepared to increase efforts to deal with irregular migration but look towards collaborating with the provinces to relieve some of their pressures from expenses incurred over the issue. Whether immigration will be a hot topic during the French debate tonight remains to be seen, the STCA will surely remain a contentious issue in parliament after October 21st.
Trudeau and Morneau showing the love in Toronto Centre
Where you will find the leaders today.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh will announce the NDP's priorities for Canadians at 9 a.m ET in Ottawa before heading to Gatineau for the national French language leaders debate.
Liberal leader Justin Trudeau will visit a pumpkin patch in the village of Manotick, south of Ottawa at 9:30 a.m. ET with families and Liberal candidate for Carleton, Chris Rodgers before preparing for the evenings debate.
Conservative leader Andrew Scheer while prepping for tonight's debate, he will make a statement about Justin Trudeau’s past behaviour. This will be done on Facebook at 3:30 a.m.ET.
Green Party leader Elizabeth May will be in Ottawa preparing for the debate.
Where the Bluesky team can be seen and heard:
Senior Consultant Geoff Turner on CPAC’s PrimeTime Politics