Immigration and elections:
Fiction, fabrication, distortion & spin
The Manitoba election or October 4, 2011 has come and gone and the NDP have been returned to office. The sounds of supporters chanting “Tito Ted” and “Tita Flor” are still ringing in my ears. This an end that many of us hoped for because the returning government and it’s highly successful Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program has been good for the local Filipino community. The immigration numbers to Manitoba are not an accident. They can be directly related to the policy and practices of the NDP. This is, however, not the time to fight the election anew but a time to reflect on some of the promises and recommendations made by candidates and their supporters on the subject of immigration.
I find it fascinating when persons with obvious vested interests and political ambition present historical facts because, somehow, the historical record or realities of immigration law and governance takes a back seat to what appears to be political opportunism. The statements of several candidates appear to an objective observer to be misunderstandings or distortions. My purpose in writing this column has always been to educate the reader about immigration issues so they are informed decisions based on the realities of immigration history, immigration law and immigration practice. I have a journalistic responsibility to correct the historical and set the political record.
Setting the record straight
My first comment concerns the history of our beloved Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program (MPNP). Who started MPNP? I respectfully ask my faithful readers to remember my article of December 2010 entitled “Immigration numbers & Government of Manitoba policy & practice” (Pilipino Express, Volume 6, No. 23). I wrote that the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program began with the June 1998 addendum to the 1996 Canada Manitoba Immigration Agreement. The program began as a provincial initiative. The Manitoba Progressive Conservative government of Premier Gary Filmon negotiated the accord for the province with the then-Liberal federal government. The Minister of Culture, Heritage and Citizenship announced to the legislature, “under the terms of this agreement Manitoba can nominate 200 principle applicants and their accompanying families annually” (Handsard XKLVIII, No. 53, May 1998).” MPNP was not started by the official opposition NDP nor the Liberal party who had only a few elected members in the Manitoba legislature.
The success of our MPNP became a cornerstone of the NDP re-election platform who greatly expanded the program. The NDP have been in power since the fall of 1999 and rightly deserve both the credit for things they have done well and criticism for things that could have been done differently or better. In terms of MPNP the unqualified success of the program and the benefits for the local Filipino community are obvious to all. I already stated in my earlier article, “Immigration and the October Election,” that if immigration to the province is important to you or if you are a landed provincial nominee you have the provincial NDP to thank. The number of nominations, which have risen from 200 per annum at the start of the program under the PCs, has increased steadily over the years under an NDP government to the current levels of 5,000 per annum. Now that the NDP have been returned to office, let us all hope for the continuation of MPNP and even an increase in the number of nominations per year. What about the promise of Minister Jennifer Howard to set up a satellite office in the Tyndall riding? This is something the reader should not forget especially since Ted Marcelino is now the MLA elect for the riding.
There were a number of campaign promises put forward by unsuccessful candidates that can be reviewed with the proverbial grain of salt.
Refugees should be able to access the Nominee Programs
This is an interesting suggestion but one that appears at first glance to be misdirected. Federal immigration does have a program for the sponsorship of refugee clients and Canada admits large numbers of refugees yearly as part of our country’s humanitarian and compassionate traditions and laws (see the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act). But this is not economic immigration and the MPNP, by the accord signed with the federal government, is for the admission of persons who would add something to the economic value of our province. Refugees can apply under MPNP but they are screened according to their age, education, work experience, knowledge of English or French, value of settlement funds and connections to the province. They would be assessed as “economic” immigrants, not specifically stateless persons. The recommendation is first wrongly placed because there is already a federal program to assist refugee clients and secondly not mindful of the fact that the MPNP is limited to economic immigration.
Remove English testing from MPNP
There is also a suggestion to remove overseas English tests required by MPNP and somehow replace this with language training in Canada. The requirement for English or French language proficiency is a federal requirement. The International English Language Testing System or IELTS is a federal immigration requirement for skilled/economic immigration and an important part in determining an applicant’s potential for successful adaptation to life in the country and integration into the labour force. The current reality is that the federal immigration puts a greater emphasis on employment readiness. What is the likelihood of the current federal Minister Jason Kenny removing the need for IELTS? I think no chance at all but apparently some political aspirants only “talk the talk.”
The issue of settlement funds, wrongly characterized as “show money”, is something that is dear to our community. The requirement for sufficient funds is federal. There is then a federal department that Manitoba must negotiate with: the federal officials require such safeguards to be in place. Economic stream applicants and provincial nominees must demonstrate that they have sufficient and bona fide funds to support themselves and their families upon arrival in Manitoba. Therefore MPNP officers have a responsibility to do their “due diligence” in ensuring that the applicants have “real” not “show” money. (Ibig sabihin, hindi puwedeng umutang ng pera.) Is the current practice of requiring funds to be in the name of the applicant in their home country for three months or six months the only way? One thing that 30 years of public service in immigration taught me is that not all the best ideas come from government officials. What about the communities they serve? There can be more consultations with newcomer communities such as those from the Philippines in order to get their input.
The points discussed above are important but the reader should be aware first that Manitoba is not an island but must negotiate with the federal government in order to make changes in immigration. Whatever Manitoba or the MPNP receives comes from negotiations with federal officials or federal politicians. It is too easy to make all kinds of unsubstantiated claims and promises to get a vote. However, the more realistic way is to have representatives who work with the government to help improve MPNP rather than defer the changes to some imagined future when fringe parties become the government.
Michael Scott BA (Hon), MA, is a 30-year veteran of Canada Immigration and the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program who works as an immigration associate with R.B. Global Immigration Consultants Ltd. He can be reached at 838 Ellice Avenue in Winnipeg, (204) 783-7326 or (204) 227-0292. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org