The Conservative government plans to increase immigration levels significantly as it heads into an election year in 2015.
Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander said on Friday that Canada aims to welcome as many as 285,000 new permanent residents next year, which is the highest planned total "in recent history," according to the Minister.
The last time Canada admitted as many as 280,000 permanent residents was in 2010. A greater proportion, nearly 65 per cent of all admissions, will be economic immigrants and their dependents. That's up from a target of 62 per cent in the planning for 2013 levels. Mr. Alexander said the goal reflects the government's view that immigration is crucial to Canada's economic prosperity.
"We are recruiting a higher calibre of economic immigrant than we have ever seen before," Mr. Alexander said. "This [increase in the proportion of economic immigrants] is a goal we've had for some time. Many provinces already have 70 per cent economic immigration; that's the aspiration Canada has as well."
The hike in immigration levels comes at the same time that the government will be introducing a system known as express entry to select skilled workers, who make up the largest chunk of Canada's immigration streams. The target range for 2015 is between 260,000 and 285,000 new permanent residents, as tabled in the government's annual immigration plan.
Mr. Alexander also announced changes to the live-in caregiver program, which brings about 5,000 people to the country every year. The government will drop the requirement that nannies live with their employers during their first years in Canada. Mr. Alexander said he had met with people who said the live-in situation opened them up to abuse. They described their living conditions as "modern day slavery," he said.
"We are putting an end to that. These reforms show the valuable role caregivers play in all our lives."
The government says it will also speed the processing of permanent residency applications from the live-in caregiver stream. The backlog was so large it could take as long as 10 years for someone to bring over relatives, a situation that put a strain on many families, particularly mothers who had left children at home.
Pura Velasco, a spokeswoman for the Caregivers Action Network, said she had mixed feelings about the announcement. She was one of many activists pushing for permanent residency rights for caregivers upon arrival in Canada and was left disappointed on that front.
"Having [permanent residency] allows the caregiver to assert her rights. Otherwise, there's a power imbalance between the caregiver and the employer," Ms. Velasco said.