Rathika Sitsabaiesan Parliament debate on Citizenship and Immigration Issues on November 29, 2011

Ms. Rathika Sitsabaiesan (Scarborough—Rouge River, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, on Friday we learned that the government plans to slash $31.5 million from immigration settlement services in Ontario. Community organizations are already struggling because of similar cuts last year and the year before. Ontario remains the number one destination for immigration in Canada. Why is the government making it harder for newcomers to access the services that they need?

Hon. Jason Kenney (Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, CPC):

To the contrary, Mr. Speaker. We are now providing three times more in funding for immigrant settlement services in Ontario than was the case under the previous Liberal government. Next year, Ontario newcomers will receive more than was the case in 2005. It is true, however, that the number of immigrants settling in Ontario has declined quite significantly, from 64% to 52% of newcomers. They are going to other provinces; it is only fair that the settlement dollars follow the newcomers and that we have fair funding across the country.

Ms. Rathika Sitsabaiesan (Scarborough—Rouge River, NDP):

Mr. Speaker, the minister says he is doing better than bad. I guess that is the level that the government has set for itself.

With this shuffling of funds, we are still looking at an overall cut of $6 million and $45 million in cuts from two years ago, but the number of newcomers is at an all-time high. Pitting province against province is not going to solve the deficit.

This decision to cut services in Ontario was done without planning and with no warning. New Canadians are huge contributors to prosperity in this country. Will the minister maintain the key supports and services they need to thrive in this country?

Hon. Jason Kenney (Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, the premise of the question is completely inaccurate. There has been a great deal of planning by my officials over the course of two years to ensure that the adjustment in funding from Ontario to provinces with growing immigration numbers happens in an orderly fashion.

In terms of giving people notice, we just gave notice this week to the small number of organizations in Ontario that will be affected at the beginning of the next fiscal year. We have given them several months' notice.

The question is, why does the member think that newcomers to Ontario should be receiving $4,000 per capita in settlement services but that those in the rest of the country should receive only $3,000? We believe that newcomers all across Canada deserve the same support.

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