Who cares about ‘winning’ the immigration debate?
March 14, 2019
By Vancouver Sun |
Politicians and corporations that want more immigrants in Canada are mounting marketing campaigns to “win the immigration conversation.”
At least the CEOs, think tanks and civil servants are upfront about aiming to promote higher immigration levels, which aligns them with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Liberals.
Where, however, does this leave all the Canadians in the mushy middle? That’s where most Canadians are at, according to immigration department officials and other migration experts who spoke at a Conference Board of Canada event held last week in Vancouver. The gathering was titled, “Winning the Immigration Conversation.”
Not many Canadians are extremists, either for or against current immigration policy or rates, polls suggest. The bulk of the population seems hazy about Trudeau’s plan to continue to increase immigration levels to 350,000 people a year by 2021, up from 260,000 when he was elected in 2015.
My sense is most Canadians are not eager to either “win” or “lose” the immigration discussion. Most of us don’t think immigration boils down to an either/or option. Some of us mostly want to know what’s going on, so we can be informed at the ballot box.
But as some speakers at the Conference Board event noted, Canada’s politicians and mandarins are almost unique in the obscure way they dictate the country’s powerful immigration policies from behind closed doors.
Kareem El-Assal, the senior immigration director for the Conference Board, asked me to speak at the “Winning the Immigration Conservation” conference so participants would not end up in the usual echo chamber, in which everyone basically agrees with each other.
El-Assal had seen my 2017 story on the clubby atmosphere that reigned among the more than 1,000 Canadians who work with immigrants, refugees and international students and attended Montreal’s Metropolis Conference. My article on that gathering was headlined, “The narrow view from the migration sector bubble.”
So I give credit to the corporate-sponsored Conference Board, a booster of high immigration levels, for welcoming diversity of opinion. It turned out some scholars, and even some civil servants, had their own skepticism about Canada’s immigration levels, which are arguably the highest per capita in the world.