The Conservative government has planted a Trojan horse in the middle of the House of Commons with its recent budget and hidden in its belly are key changes to Canada’s immigration and refugee policy.
The amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act have been packaged as part of the recent federal budget. Among the amendments are ones designed to allow the immigration ministry to speed up specific applications. Opposition parties have argued the amendments would give the immigration minister unprecedented powers over who can and cannot enter Canada.
Like them or hate them, the move by the Conservatives to include these proposed changes within the budget is a shrewd tactical move. Opposition members want to debate the changes separately from the budget but cannot. If they want to shoot them down, they have to shoot the budget. They shoot down the budget, it is a non-confidence vote which can trigger an election no one is ready for.
The Conservatives must be Sopranos fans since this Trojan Horse move was stolen from Tony Soprano’s “How to Strongarm 101” playbook.
The government claims the inclusion of the changes within the budget will ensure quicker action and enactment of them. Critics argue that if the changes are so great, they should be able to stand on their own in the House of Commons, under scrutiny of debate and will pass quickly regardless.
Immigration minister Diane Finley has stated in various reports that the changes are necessary in order to tackle the significant number of applicants waiting to get into Canada The backlog of applicants now sits at 900,000.
The amendments also provide the government “greater flexibility in selecting which applications are processed, according to labour market needs”, according to the ministry.
Where any debate on the Commons floor will take the proposed changes will be interesting to see. One thing is for certain, the Conservatives are playing for keeps and daring the opposition, especially the Liberals, to trigger an election in which Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his gang would likely prevail again.