Federal elections in Canada – How can this impact immigration policy


On September 20, Canadian citizens will have the opportunity to vote in a new government. Immigrants are eligible for Canadian citizenship if they have resided in Canada for 1,095 days within the five years before applying for citizenship. Canada has one of the highest citizenship uptake rates in the world with around 85 per cent of immigrants becoming Canadians. And, most importantly these permanent residents receive voting rights in Canada to select a government. Many voters consider immigration to Canada a relevant political issue, for a range of reasons. This affects Canada’s political parties’ views on immigration

The Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called for a federal election, which will take place on September 20, 2021. Though the government does not legally need to have an election until 2023, Recent surveys show that the Liberal Party has a lot of support, therefore now is a good moment to go for a majority government

Canada’s COVID-19 situation has improved significantly in recent months’ after vaccinating almost 61% of population in the country. Trudeau is seeking to harness this impetus to obtain another majority government. Having a majority enables the governing party to pass any laws of their choice without requiring support from opposition parties.

According to polling survey, a narrowing margin between the Liberals and Conservatives. Support for the New Democratic Party is also up since the last election and may make significant gains this time.

All the major political parties in Canada are largely pro-immigration, each leader’s idea of what Canadian immigration should look differing slightly.

There are several major policy issues that will affect Canadian voters more broadly and immigrants in particular that the new government will need to address. For instance, affordable housing is a hot topic during this year’s campaign and is an issue that impacts many, whether they are born in Canada or have immigrated here. Immigrant voters have the opportunity to study the affordable housing policies put forward by the federal parties and then make an informed decision on September 20

Major political parties in Canada: –
  • The governing Liberal Party,
  • The main opposition Conservative Party, and
  • The centre-left New Democratic Party, or NDP.

Probable impact on immigration if the Liberals remain in power: –

  • Trudeau is also in the process of introducing a Municipal Nominee Program (MNP), which will “allow local communities, chambers of commerce and local labour councils to directly sponsor permanent immigrants”.
  • After first being elected by a landslide in 2015, Justin Trudeau’s government increased economic immigration levels to historic highs, then increased these targets once again in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • In October 2020, the Liberal government announced plans to welcome a whopping total of 1,233,000 permanent residents by 2023.
  • Most notably, the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot (RNIP) and Atlantic Immigration Pilot Program (AIPP) made it easier for employers in qualifying regions to hire foreign workers and help them remain permanently in Canada.
  • Building on the Conservative implemented Express Entry system, Liberals have made it easier for many Skilled Workers to come to Canada, allocating additional points for speaking French and having a sibling in the country, and overturning the Conventional forced requirement to have a job offer in Canada.
  • Since 2015, the Liberals have implemented various economic immigration programs aimed at spreading the benefits of immigration throughout less populated areas in the country.

If the Liberals win again, we can expect similar immigration policies and high immigration targets as those they have set since 2015. Here are abstracts taken from the 2021 Supplementary Mandate Letter for immigration purposes.

Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Supplementary Mandate Letter
  • Immigration target 2021-2023: 1.23 million immigrants.
  • Continue to implement measures that create pathways to permanent residency for those who have provided health care in long-term care homes or medical facilities or performed other essential services during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Continue exploring pathways to permanent residency and citizenship for temporary foreign workers.
  • Continue working with provinces and territories to support high-quality settlement services and facilitate the successful settlement and integration of new Canadians.
Probable impact on immigration if Conservative party win: –
  • The current leader of the Conservative party, Erin O’Toole has not mentioned whether he will increase or decrease immigration levels.
  • O’Toole has called for an immigration system that is “fair, compassionate and rules based.”
  • In fact, it was the Conservative Party who launched the Express Entry system when they were in power. This year, Canada plans to invite 108,500 skilled foreign workers through the Express Entry system alone
  • In the 2021 election platform, the Conservatives call for an immigration system that welcomes international talent, offers refuge to human rights defenders and those who are fleeing persecution, and reunites families.
  • O’Toole emphasizes using economic immigration to fill labour gaps. Like Trudeau, he advocates for giving more authority to provinces to address their skills shortages and spread immigration to rural areas through nominee programs.
  • O’Toole has stated that, if unemployed remains high due to COVID-19, they may temporarily reduce the number of Skilled Workers invited and shift to a higher proportion of those applying under Family Reunification.
Probable impact on immigration if new Democratic Party win: –
  • If elected, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh has vowed to end the cap on parent and grandparent sponsorship applications.
  • On top of this, he promises to end the backlogged sponsorship processing times and reunite Caregivers in Canada with their family members without delay.
  • Singh has emphasized ensuring a pathway to permanent settlement for all workers in Canada, regardless of the skill type of the work.
  • Concerning economic immigration, the NDP has guaranteed that if elected, they will implement immigration policies that “meet Canada’s labour force needs and recognize people’s experiences, contributions, and ties to Canada”.
  • Singh’s platform also stresses the importance of improving foreign credentials recognition. By doing so, skilled workers could more easily find work in their field upon arriving in Canada.
The new government will also need to tackle issues that affect immigrants more specifically, such as:

Economic policy: Immigrants come to Canada to pursue a better life including economic opportunity. While Canada is in better economic shape amid the pandemic than most countries, its labour force is yet to recover, and immigrant workers have been among those most negatively affected by the pandemic.

Travel rules: Although Canada’s travel rules have been eased, they continue to significantly impact immigrants in a number of ways. Citizens are awaiting the arrival of family members who have had their trips to Canada delayed due to pandemic-related travel restrictions. While restrictions have been lifted, there remain ongoing delays for exempt travellers.

Application processing: Related to the previous point, the pandemic has caused a significant backlog in applications to be processed by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). The new government’s approach to tackling the backlog will have a major impact on immigrant voters, namely those awaiting the arrival of loved ones, be it through economicfamily, or refugee class pathways.

Canadian citizenship: The current government previously campaigned they would remove citizenship fees altogether but have been unable to fulfil the promise amid the pandemic. The new government will hence need to make a decision on whether to go ahead with this promise, or potentially reduce fees, freeze them, or increase them.

Parents and Grandparents Program: The PGP remains under heavy scrutiny due to the many challenges successive Canadian governments have had over the years. The PGP garners tremendous interest among Canada’s immigrants, but also causes tremendous stress due to the limited number of sponsorship spots that are made available each year. A new government will hence need to decide the most appropriate way to manage the PGP in light of the ongoing significant demand for it.

The above is merely a snapshot of the key issues that will directly impact immigrants in the aftermath of the election. Given the importance of the election to immigrants it will be worth monitoring what the voter turnout among naturalized Canadians will look like on September 20. Statistics Canada data shows the turnout of immigrant voters has improved significantly over the last decade which is a good sign that immigrants will continue to make their voices caught this year.

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