Liberal immigration plan positive, but reduces Economic Class

The Liberal government’s recent announcement that it will admit between 280,000 and 305,000 new permanent residents in 2016 is generally positive but shrinking Economic Class numbers are problematic, Toronto immigration lawyer Robin Seligman tells

At a recent news conference in Brampton, Immigration Minister John McCallum said the federal government is seeking a record number of new immigrants this year by increasing spaces available for family reunification and refugee resettlement — a range that's the highest projected level in decades, the Canadian Press reports.

McCallum said the plan is “grounded in Canada's tradition of being a welcoming and generous country” and signals “a significant shift in immigration policy towards reuniting more families, building our economy and upholding Canada's humanitarian traditions to resettle refugees and offer protection to those in need,” the wire service reports.

Seligman, principal of Seligman Professional Corporation, says the high number shows the government is delivering on its campaign promises.

“It is indeed a high number and the government is definitely increasing the number of refugees and Family Class (parents and grandparents) accepted,” she says. “These are commitments they made during the election. This is all very positive but what I think is troubling is the reduction within the Economic Class.”

She says fewer spaces will be available to immigrants seeking to come for work, which includes the Federal Skilled Worker Class, the Provincial Nominee Class, the Canadian Experience Class, as well as the Live-in Caregiver Class.

McCallum said the high target mark of 162,400 people in economic programs is in line with admissions in recent years, even if the target itself is lower.

Seligman, a certified specialist in citizenship and immigration law, says in 2015, the high target mark was 186,700 — a difference of more than 24,000.

“That reduction is problematic,” she says. “I'm hopeful this is due to the government meeting its election promises, and that in 2017, they'll pick up on the Economic Class. That’s important because those included in the Economic Class are international students, who make up a large number of those people who are going to be cut from applying for permanent residence."

She notes the categories being hit hardest this year are Federal Skilled Workers (FSW) and the Canadian Experience Class (CEC). Also seeing a dip in levels are caregivers — which will see a reduction of about 8,000.

“The government has reduced live-in caregivers and they've reduced FSW, which includes people who are already in Canada through the CEC,” she says. “I would hope if they're going to reduce FSW, that they keep the CEC as the larger component, because those are the people who are already in Canada working.

“Many of them are international students and other people who are in Canada on work permits. You certainly don't want to be reducing those people if they want to transition to permanent residence,” Seligman says.

"It is positive the government is committed to a robust immigration program, and I think they're focusing on doing what they promised to do,” she says. “I’m hopeful that in the future they'll do a bit of rebalancing to make sure the Economic Class doesn't suffer.”

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