Threat of separation led to a superior immigration system

No federal government likes to give up control but in the case of immigration, it’s worked out for the best.

image: Study International

Our immigration system is admired globally. Canada has largely avoided the divisive immigration debates that have plagued our close allies: the United Kingdom, the United States, and Australia.

A Gallup poll shows that Canada is more welcoming to immigrants than any other country in the world.

Decentralization of immigration began in 1991 with Quebec’s demands to have more control over French-speaking immigrants in order to better integrate them into Quebec’s distinct society.

The federal government, worried about Quebec separation, acquiesced to Quebec’s demands. Ottawa still controlled family sponsorships, refugee migration, and ensured that newcomers passed health and security screenings. But other than that, Quebec could create its own system and decide how many new immigrants to accept each year.

Then the me-too effect kicked in. Once Quebec had some control of immigration, other provinces wanted it. Ottawa was happy to give up some control to provinces because, at the same time in the nineties, Ottawa was going through a debt crisis and was happy to transfer those costs to the provinces.

So, in 1996, the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) was created. The federal government would retain the rights it had in Quebec’s case but the provinces would design the programs themselves and much of the work -and cost- would be borne by the provinces.

Under the PNP, employers and postsecondary institutions with the cooperation of the provinces, would select applicants.

The provincial programs offered an easier route to permanent residency than federal programs did.

Critics argued that the PNP would be a disaster. Employers, provinces, and postsecondary institutions, they argued, didn’t have national interests at heart. And they don’t have the expertise to support language skills and integration of newcomers. Those who ran the immigration programs were often unskilled and open to fraud.

Another criticism of the PNP was that Immigrants could shop around for provinces that offered the best entry programs and then move to wherever it suited them.

At first, it was so. Big cities attracted immigrants because of their existing multiethnic communities where newcomers share the same languages and observe the same customs.  Toronto, Montreal, or Vancouver were often the final destinations because they already had networks of friends and family to help them launch a Canadian life.

As a result, only 28 percent of nominated immigrants to Prince Edward Island since 2008 were still living there. Manitoba did better, retaining 84 per cent. The difference, says Kelly Toughill in her feature-length article, was each program’s ability to support newcomers (the Walrus, May, 2021).

But despite initial problems, decentralization of immigration has successfully continued with groups like the non-profit Kamloops Immigrant Services. The Canadian Labour Congress is now controlling some phases of immigration to fill the looming construction labour shortage.

The number of localized immigration programs has swelled to more than 100 scattered from coast to coast to coast.

Canada now has one of the most complex immigration systems in the world.

Flexibility means that provinces and agencies design programs attract who they want, where they want.

Our complex immigration system has also resulted in the highest public support for immigration of any country in the world. And it’s why Canada is winning the global competition for labour.

Some think COVID19 is a hoax

The inconvenient truth of COVID-19 is that it’s going to infect millions and hundreds of thousands will die. That reality is slowing dawning on a majority of Canadian as the virus moves closer to home. However a small minority see it as a hoax, a government plot to invade our daily lives. I’ll call this group the “Illuminati faction.”

A larger minority have politicized what is a health crisis. This group votes for the Conservative Party but I’m reluctant to label them as such. Let’s call them the “political partisans.”

Four million Canadians say the whole crisis is overblown, extrapolating from a poll conducted by Angus Reid on March 30. Twelve per cent of respondents agreed that “the threat of a coronavirus outbreak in Canada is overblown.”

Two-thirds of them voted Conservative in the 2019 federal election.

Other than politics, I can think of no other reason why Conservative voters would regard a health crisis differently than anyone else. The coronavirus does not select victims based on how they vote. Regardless of what they tell pollsters, I suspect that this group is as worried as anyone else.

The official stance Conservation Party is sensible. Conservative leader Andrew Scheer said: “There really isn’t much philosophical difference when it comes to fighting a virus or keeping Canadians healthy and safe (CP, March 22, 2020).”

The motive of the political partisans seems obvious. They are reluctant to give the prime minister any kind of advantage. During a health crisis the prime minister appears statesman-like.

That bump in popularity has certainly worked for Prime Minister Trudeau and to slightly lesser extent for U.S. President Trump. Two-thirds of Canadians think Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is doing a good job handling the COVID-19 crisis. Some provincial leaders have seen even more of a bump. The highest score came for Premier François Legault of Quebec with an approval rating of 93 per cent.

However, the Illuminati faction has more of a populist inclination. They distrust anything that the Mainstream Media (MSM) has to offer which they regard as fake news. The truth is revealed through the blogosphere.

I found two examples of the Illuminati faction on the Facebook page of a Kamloops user.

Henry Makow is the author of Illuminati: The Cult that Hijacked the World. On his website he proposes that governments are part of a sinister plot. His April 3 post warns:

“Flu Psyop — Pretext to Impose Orwellian Dictatorship?” ‘The Depression [resulting from the pandemic] will deepen and an oppressive political regime will be instituted.” “Their goal is take away our freedoms. Then if we want them back, we’ll be forced to receive vaccines to gain a digital certificate of movement which allows us to be tracked on 5G control grids.”

And a YouTube video with 508,068 views as of March 31, 2020, is titled “CoronaHoax Pandemic Proven Fake… Yet The Lockdowns Continue… Here’s Why.”

Like climate change deniers, COVID-19 deniers would prefer to believe some guy blogging from his basement. Unlike climate change, the effects of the virus are not glacial –they are immediate and deadly. And when not deadly, it’s extremely painful with possible permanent damage to the lungs.

Who says irony is dead?

Kenney should be careful what he wishes for

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney wants Canada’s equalization formula adjusted to be fairer to Albertans.

image: Macleans

When it comes to equalization payments to provinces, Albertans think that there must be a mistake. They see themselves as contributors to Quebec at a time when Quebec’s economy is on a roll and Alberta is in the dumps.

Kenney is being disingenuous when he claims that the current formula is unfair. His government was the author of the current formula in 2009 when he was a cabinet minister under the Harper Conservatives.

Kenney surely knows that one of the reasons Alberta pays more into equalization is that the province has more high-income earners. While only eleven per cent of Canadians live in Alberta, 21 per cent of Canada’s $100,000-plus earners live there.

Of course, high-income earners mean little if you are unemployed.  In October, 2019, Alberta’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 6.7 per cent compared to Quebec at 4.7 per cent.

Income is just one factor in determining equalization says business reporter Konrad Yakabuski:

“The basis for determining whether any province qualifies for equalization payments is whether its fiscal capacity – the amount of revenue it could raise if it applied average tax rates, combined with its natural resource royalties – is below the national average. Despite a recession in Alberta following the 2014 crash in oil prices, and a slow recovery since, that province’s fiscal capacity remains far above the national average (Globe and Mail, Nov. 27, 2019).”

Kenny would like to see Alberta’s natural resources removed from this calculation, presumably so that Quebec would receive less. That plan would backfire because Quebec, too, has vast hydroelectric resources. Quebec would actually receive more according to calculations prepared by University of Calgary economics professor Trevor Tombe.  Kenney’s plan would have seen Quebec receive $10.1 billion more in equalization payments over the past decade.

Kenney argues that unlike Quebec, Alberta’s resources are non-renewable and should be an exempt. Yet it was Kenney’s government that decided it would be unfair to distinguish between renewable and non-renewable resources.

Quebec is a convenient straw man for Kenney, deflecting attention from the fact that Alberta’s riches were used in averting a provincial sales tax and not saved for a rainy day. Oil production was unwisely increased without the infrastructure to deliver it to market –a remedy my pipeline, the “people’s pipeline,” is about to resolve with construction under way.

Quebec’s budget surplus has to do with taxes –Quebec’s tax rates are 30 per cent higher than the Canadian average, whereas Alberta’s are 30 per cent lower. Kenny doesn’t have the courage to address Alberta’s real tax problem: no provincial sales tax.

Alberta’s wealth is, in part, the result of my tax dollars being pumped into the oil and gas industry. The feds recently announced a federal aid package for Canada’s oil and gas industry amounting to $1.6-billion.

As an author of the current formula, Kenney knows that the equalization is fair and yet he prefers to whip Albertans into a frenzy of retaliation and separation.

Pipeline approval won’t help the Liberals

If the federal Liberals were as popular as the Trans Mountain pipeline, they would win the upcoming election in a landslide.

image: City News, Edmonton

The problem for the Liberals is that the pipeline is most popular where voters are least likely to vote Liberal and least popular where voters traditionally vote Liberal.

According to an Angus Reid poll, the strongest support for the pipeline is in Alberta and Saskatchewan, 85 and 71 percent respectively (ArmchairMayor.ca, June 21, 2019). That’s where Liberal support is weak. Only a total of five seats were won by the Liberals in the combined provinces. Meanwhile in Quebec, 40 percent disapprove. That’s where the Liberals won 40 seats.

While support for the pipeline in B.C. is 54 per cent, that average doesn’t reflect the difference of opinion between the Lower Mainland and the Interior. People in the Interior generally support the pipeline because of jobs and financial incentives offered by Trans Mountain. An informal poll by Kamloops This Week showed 80 per cent approval. The Lower Mainland opposes the pipeline because of potential spills.

Conservatives are placed in the awkward position of approving of the pipeline while disapproving the Liberals. Cathy McLeod, Conservative MP for Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo, doubted the government’s ability to finish the job:

“I’m not all that optimistic that this government can get it done,” McLeod told Kamloops This Week. Her statement aligns with the Angus Reid poll where 40 percent of respondents didn’t think the pipeline would be built.

Another perceived hurdle is Bill C-69, passed by the Senate last week, which critics say will ensure that the pipeline will never be built.

Bill C-69 imposes more requirements for consulting affected Indigenous communities, widens public participation in the review process and requires climate change to be considered in the building of any development.

The Alberta-based Pembina Institute is cautiously positive of Bill C-69:

“This bill was never about individual projects, but rather a reform of the entire decision-making and assessment process. It is about creating tools and processes to ensure natural resource development decisions, whether about a mine or a dam or a pipeline, are made in a fair way (press release, June 14, 2019) “

If pipelines don’t determine how people vote, what does? Pollster Michael Adams has noticed something new in the way people view immigrants. Twenty years ago, anti-immigrant sentiment was evenly distributed among all three major parties. That’s changed, say Michael Adams, Ron Inglehart, and David Jamison in their article:

“Conservative supporters are more likely to agree with statements strongly hostile to immigration. For example, 50 per cent of Conservatives strongly or somewhat agree that “Overall, there is too much immigration. It threatens the purity of the country.” Fewer than a third of New Democrats (31 per cent) and Liberal supporters (24 per cent) share this belief. This relative concentration of xenophobic sentiment in one party is a new phenomenon in Canada (Globe and Mail, June 14, 2019).”

The researchers are careful to point out that the Conservative Party is not anti-immigrant: they just attract people who are.

Researchers call this the “authoritarian reflex,” a reaction caused by uncertainty and characterized by increased hostility toward “the other,” regardless of whether they are “deviants” in society or foreigners.

The contagion of populism that has been animated by the authoritarian reflex in the U.S. has spilled over into Canada. It will determine the way people vote in way not seen in recent history.

 

Canada’s first constitution of 1763

 

More than a century before the confederation of Canada in 1867, the Royal Proclamation of 1763 established a basis of government in North America. Peter Russell, in his book Canada’s Odyssey: A Country Based on Incomplete Conquests, calls the proclamation “the formal beginning of Canada’s constitution,” and adds:

King George III. Image: Wikipedia

“Accordingly, the Proclamation called for that essential institution of Anglo-American liberal government: a representative assembly. This plan of government reflected the fact that, in terms of constitutional and representative government, Britain was the most advanced European state of the day. …France was still an absolute, not a constitutional monarchy (p.29)”

It’s odd now to think of England as a model for government now, but at the time a progressive King George III empowered the colonies of North America to form government comprised of citizens empowered to: “make laws for the Public, Peace, Welfare, and good Government.” Colonial courts were set up as well for hearing “all cases, criminal as well as civil, according to Law and Equity, and as near as may be agreeable to the Laws of England.”

The force of the proclamation reverberated through the centuries.

The first shock wave was the revolution of the thirteen colonies of what is now the United States. They were not happy with the lines drawn on the map of North America by the King. Land west of the colonies as far as the Mississippi was assigned to Indigenous peoples. The thirteen colonies saw the proclamation as hemming them in from expansion to the west. Two years after the proclamation, the American Revolution started which led to their independence in 1776.

Treatment of Quebec had a better outcome. With the winds of independence drifting through the colonies, Britain decided to accommodate their new colony of Quebec. Wisely so, since Catholic French-speakers outnumbered the English. In the Quebec Act of 1774, French property and civil law was introduced and French-speaking Catholics held public offices.

Recognition of Indigenous land title took a little longer. Two and one-half centuries later, Canada is finally recognizing Indigenous entitlement laid out in the proclamation. Reactionary Canadian governments ignored the proclamation and proceeded with the subjugation and assimilation of Canada’s first peoples.

As one of the three pillars of the founding of Canada, Indigenous peoples were left out of the British North American Act in 1867. The French and English pillars were there says Russell:

“One of the first challenges for the infant Canadian federation was its relations with the absent pillar, the Indigenous peoples (p.163).”

Two centuries after the proclamation, patient Indigenous leaders reminded us of their exclusion. George Manual was one of those who rallied against the failed colonization of his people. As former chief of the Neskonlith band of the Shuswap nation and participant of the residential school in Kamloops, he collaborated with Michael Posluns in writing The Fourth World: An Indian Reality in 1974.

In a landmark court decision, against the wishes of the Province of B.C., the court ruled that Nisga’a territory had never been extinguished. We live on unceded Indigenous land in most of B.C.

The Royal Proclamation of 1763 is referred to in section 25 of our Constitution Act of 1982. And on the 250th anniversary of the proclamation in 2013 was celebrated in Ottawa with a meeting of Indian leaders and Governor-General David Johnston.

Now we’re getting somewhere.

 

Fear Dr. Day

Supporters of health care held their collective breath last month as the votes were counted in the election for the president of Doctors of BC. This was a runoff vote; the first one ended in a tie.

dr-alan-ruddiman

Dr. Alan Ruddiman, OPD Newsfeed

The candidates for president couldn’t have been more different in their vision for healthcare. Dr. Ruddiman wants to preserve our universal system in which patients are treated regardless of their ability to pay. His opponent, Dr. Day wants to set up a two-tier system in which wealthy patients buy treatment.

To the relief of everyone, Dr. Ruddiman won by a substantial margin although the turnout was only 50 per cent. Shortly after winning the physician from Oliver urged his colleagues to take a stand in defence of public health care. “It is fundamental that the medical profession take a firm stand for our publicly funded health care system (Globe and Mail, June 23, 2015)”

However, it’s too early to break out the champagne just yet. Dr. Day is determined undermine publicly funded health care and he doesn’t have to be president of Doctors of BC to do it. The B.C. Ministry of Health found that Dr. Day had been illegally charging patients. In one month alone, his Cambie Surgery Centre had billed patients $500,000.

Billing patients is illegal. The Medicare Protection Act of B.C., which parallels the Canada Health Act, states that the goals are to “preserve a publicly managed and fiscally sustainable health care system for British Columbia in which access to necessary medical care is based on need and not an individual’s ability to pay.

In retaliation to the audit from the B.C. Ministry of Health, Dr. Day launched a court case against the provincial government alleging that the Medical Protection Act violated his rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

In a warped sense of justice, Dr. Day sees himself a victim of a single-payer system. Wait times could be reduced, he argues, if patients were allowed to pay for treatment.

On first consideration, Dr. Day’s argument seems to make sense say Drs. Duncan Etches and Michael Klein. “At first glance, it might seem logical that allowing patients to pay privately at for-profit clinics would take paying patients off public wait lists, allowing others to move up the list faster (Monitor, a magazine from the Centre for Canadian Policy Alternatives, March, 2015).”

If it weren’t illegal, if there were an unlimited number of doctors, the argument might make sense. But there is a limited number of doctors. Because some surgeons work in both the private and public systems, for-profit clinics make surgeons unavailable in the public clinics; a phenomenon known as “crowding out” that can be seen in Quebec and Australia that have two-tier systems.

Also, private clinics skim off easier cases leaving difficult ones to the now underserved public system.

Even without the threat from Dr. Day, insidious corporate growth eats away at our healthcare says Dr. Ruddiman. “The threats of the corporatization of medicine and the barriers of layered administration that now exist in delivering efficient health care are a threat to the very ethos of medicine and indeed the profession.”