Immigration. There is blood in the water.

TORONTO – There is no respite for the beleaguered. Despite all the commotion surrounding the doctrine of human rights for all and privileges to none, the animal instinct to harass, weaken and ultimately bring down prey singled out as vulnerable inexorably wins out. This is a truism applicable in politics as it is in life. Hence the caution to ‘cover your tracks’, in rather pedestrian language, do not bend over in a communal shower. 

There is no more toxic ‘communal shower’ in [any level of] government than the Ministry for Immigration. At the Federal level, it is a policy-oriented department whose decisions impact economic, social, cultural, foreign [affairs] directions other departments and authorities (level of governments) respond to or must undertake.

There is not a single colleague, institution, lobby group (including labour unions), ‘activist’ or law firm with pecuniary consideration who does not believe they could do a ‘better job’. They would probably be right, if one eschews the defining question “for whom?”.

It is not a ministry for the faint of heart. As in how to best avoid injury in a street fight, a politically ambitious MP should ‘avoid [a fight] at all costs’ – for her/his own good and for that of the Leader and government. It is advice I personally tried to follow when first invited to Cabinet. When, a year later, after some moderate success, in the middle of the perceived scandal surrounding the incumbent Minister, he repeated the invitation. One does not say “no” to the Prime Minister. I responded, “I thought we were friends”, and took on the new task – with determination, and the lumps that came with it.

The current Minister will find the prize is a “wasteland of unmarked graves littered with the ‘skeletal remains of policies and reputations’ of predecessors”. He probably has already been shocked into disbelief. Shortly after his appointment he pronounced that the department [is] a mess – I paraphrase out of courtesy.

Unfortunately for the government, the previous four tenants of the office, since 2015, were members of his caucus. Policy contradictions have become the order of the day, intended or not. And, as always, it remains the most significant and consequential department for nation-building purposes; it shapes the identity and character of our country; other departments and Ministers simply manage.

Since the 1890s, growth in Canada has been associated with immigration and access to our country. Sometimes the policy came hand-in-glove with active recruitment of families or entire villages. There were sound demographic, social and economic considerations that until recent times remained foundational to Ministerial strategic vision: family class, economic/entrepreneurial/investment class etc.

Taken as a whole, despite any shortcomings, the general idea remained that for domestic peace and growth, Canada needed a healthy demographic policy in which balanced population programmes – people replacement strategies -could justify levels of immigration. At a fertility rate resulting in 2.1 children, immigration targets of 1% of population could be ‘ideal’.

Here is one of those minefields onto which the current Minister, will be stepping: the current Canadian population total of forty million, with a fertility rate of 2.1 children per female of child-bearing age, would suggest an immigration target of 400,000 persons annually. The number of deaths in Canada last year surpassed the number of live births. The fertility rate stands at 1.3 – and dropping. There were over 650,000 international student visas last year. Housing “shortages” – if one believes the rhetoric – are driving up costs. A manpower/womanpower “shortage” is reaching crisis mode.

Poor Minister! His department is now using him as a sounding board for a “send them back” policy.