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Trudeau courting immigrants

Trudeau immigration announcement to court new Canadians

ADAM RADWANSKI

The Globe and Mail

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Justin Trudeau is making his biggest play to date for immigrant voters who have been key to Stephen Harper’s electoral success.

According to Liberal sources, Mr. Trudeau will unveil on Friday a package of policies – highlighted by a vow to make it easier for immigrants to sponsor relatives abroad to join them in Canada – aimed at presenting his party as more “open” to newcomers than the governing Conservatives have been.

The announcement stands to give a higher profile to an ongoing debate that has been playing out largely beneath the radar of the mainstream media – but that could go a long way toward federal election results in pivotal suburban battlegrounds – about what sort of immigration the federal government should prioritize.

To address a huge backlog in applications, the Conservatives introduced in 2011 a two-year moratorium on “family reunification” applications, which mostly involve immigrants already in Canada trying to have parents or grandparents join them. While fast-tracking some of the pre-existing applications, they have since limited new ones to 5,000 a year, offering more “super visas” that allow relatives to visit frequently. Although the Tories have argued that policy is aimed at reducing waiting times, it is widely perceived to be part of a shift toward greater emphasis on economic migration.

During the current campaign, the Liberals as well as Thomas Mulcair’s New Democrats have promised a renewed focus on reunification – especially in communications with South Asian communities, where they believe there is growing unrest about most would-be sponsors not even being given the chance to apply. But to this point, they have offered few specifics.

Appearing Friday in the Toronto suburb of Brampton, Ont., Mr. Trudeau is likely to commit to lifting the cap on family reunification applications, to making the criteria for applications less restrictive and to new funding specifically for processing those applications. Based on conversations this week with Liberals, he will likely suggest there is an economic benefit to this sort of immigration as well, because older relatives are able to help working parents with child care.

Mr. Trudeau will make other new promises as well, possibly including a reduction in citizenship fees, and highlight ones he has already made, such as reversing a Conservative policy that gives the government the ability to revoke citizenship from dual nationals deemed to be threats to Canada. He can be expected to take aim at the Tories’ handling of the Syrian refugee crisis and the government’s attempts to ban niqabs at citizenship ceremonies, and continue making hay of Mr. Harper’s use of the term “old stock” during last week’s Globe and Mail debate.

But family reunification is an issue being driven really hard on the ground, and it points to a contrast in political calculations.

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