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Baloney Meter: Have Libs reunited more immigrants with parents and grandparents?



OTTAWA — “Mr. Speaker, the facts speak for themselves. This is the Conservative position on parents and grandparents. The Conservatives described parents and grandparents as a “burden” on the federal government in terms of financial support. They have described parents and grandparents as a drain on the provinces. That is their position. They can run, but they cannot hide from that position. We are responsible for quadrupling the number of spaces that parents and grandparents have to come to Canada. We will continue to reunite more families. I am amused by the Conservatives’ new-found passion for reuniting families. However, when they had the chance they failed.” — Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen during question period last week in the House of Commons.

The Liberal government was forced to fend off criticism last week over its new first-come-first-served online application for immigrants hoping to sponsor their parents and grandparents for permanent residency in Canada.

Some critics called the process unfair and discriminatory after it closed less than 10 minutes after opening, which prevented tens of thousands of people from submitting an application. About 100,000 people were competing for 27,000 spots, said a spokesman for Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen.

Debate over the program launched the Liberals and Conservatives into a battle over how committed their respective governments have been in recent years to reuniting immigrants with their parents and grandparents.

Hussen’s remark raises a question — have the Liberals succeeded in reuniting more families under the parents and grandparents program than their Tory predecessors?

Spoiler alert: The Canadian Press Baloney Meter is a dispassionate examination of political statements culminating in a ranking of accuracy on a scale of “no baloney” to “full of baloney” (complete methodology below).

Hussen’s remark earns a rating of “a lot of baloney” — the statement is mostly inaccurate but contains elements of truth. Here’s why.


Between 2011 and 2015, the then-Conservative government admitted an average of 20,370 permanent residents per year under the parents and grandparents program, according to the Immigration Department’s annual reports.

The Liberals, who took office in late 2015, approved an average of 18,768 permanent residents per year under the program in 2016 and 2017.

But Mathieu Genest, a spokesman for Hussen, stresses that Hussen was referring to overall family reunification in the part of the his statement where he said: “We will continue to reunite more families.”

He insists the parents-and-grandparents program is only part of the Liberals’ work towards family reunification.

“When talking about family reunification, as the minister does in the second portion of the quote, it is important to not limit yourself to the parents and grandparents program,” Genest wrote in an email.

Overall family reunification is made up of the parents-and-grandparents program as well as the larger category of spousal sponsorship.

Under the Liberals, there has been a notable increase in the number of people getting permanent residency status under the spousal program.

In 2016 and 2017, the annual reports show an average of 61,117 people per year were accepted under this category. During the Conservatives’ time in office, the annual average of new permanent residents in the spousal program was 46,027.

For overall family reunification, Genest said the numbers will be even higher in 2019 and 2020.

When it comes to the parents-and-grandparents program, he said the Liberal government has reduced wait times to between 20 and 24 months while keeping a low backlog.

During their time in power, the Tories paused the acceptance of new applications for parents and grandparents between 2011 and 2013. The move was intended to allow Ottawa to catch up on a backlog of files that had forced many applicants to wait several years before securing permanent residency.

After re-starting the process in 2014, the Conservatives set the maximum number of applications accepted in the parents-and-grandparents program at 5,000. Even with fewer new submissions, Canada still approved tens of thousands of permanent residency applications, including a burst of 32,318 new ones in 2013 alone.

The 2018 annual report said the Immigration Department managed to reduce the backlog by over 80 per cent between 2011 and 2017 — a period that spanned both the Conservative and Liberal regimes.

Since taking office, the Liberal government has raised the maximum number of applications. This year, it will take in 20,000 complete applications from the 27,000 online submissions.

Last week, Conservative MP Michelle Rempel argued in a statement that the Liberals are accepting more applications to the program without raising the number of parents and grandparents that actually get permanent residence. Rempel insisted this approach will only create another backlog, which means applicants will find themselves on a waiting list.


Immigration experts say there’s been little difference between the Liberal and Conservative approaches when it comes to the parents-and-grandparents program.

“It just sort of shows how, in fact, Liberals and Conservatives are kind of working on lockstep in this particular issue, despite the fact that the Liberals might want to identify their immigration policies as more humane,” said Sharry Aiken, an immigration law expert at Queen’s University.

“In this particular domain, we see that it’s not all that different. In fact, they’ve managed to facilitate reunification for fewer parents and grandparents than were … admitted in the Harper years.”

She noted that both the Liberals and Tories have steadily eroded the importance of family reunification within Canada’s overall immigration program.

Aiken said about 40 per cent of the overall immigration intake came from the family class in the early 1990s. Since 2000, they’ve been making up just over 20 per cent because the government has put more emphasis on economic-class immigrants, she said.

“What we’ve seen under both governments is a steady decline in opportunities for family reunification,” Aiken said. “Both governments, really, actually wear that. It’s part of a trend in Canada’s immigration program to privilege economic-class immigration above all else.”

David Cohen, a Montreal immigration lawyer, agreed that on average the Conservatives and Liberals have admitted roughly the same of parents and grandparents each year as permanent residents.

Cohen said even when the Conservatives took in just 5,000 new applications, the number of admissions was similar to what has been accomplished under the Liberals.

“There really isn’t a right and wrong here,” he said. “It’s just a fact that there are a lot more people who want to sponsor their parents than there are visas.”


The Immigration Department’s latest publicly available numbers show that fewer permanent residents have been accepted under the parents and grandparents program under the Liberal government, compared to its Conservative predecessors.

For that reason, Hussen’s assertion the Liberals have reunited more immigrants with their families under this program is “a lot of baloney.”


The Baloney Meter is a project of The Canadian Press that examines the level of accuracy in statements made by politicians. Each claim is researched and assigned a rating based on the following scale:

No baloney — the statement is completely accurate

A little baloney — the statement is mostly accurate but more information is required

Some baloney — the statement is partly accurate but important details are missing

A lot of baloney — the statement is mostly inaccurate but contains elements of truth

Full of baloney — the statement is completely inaccurate

Andy Blatchford, The Canadian Press

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Five Things to watch for as PM meets Trump, congressional leaders in Washington




WASHINGTON — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is spending the day in Washington for a meeting with President Donald Trump at the White House and face time with congressional leaders from the Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill. Here are five things to watch for:

1. Working towards certainty on continental trade uncertainty

Trump foisted an acrimonious renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement on Canada and Mexico, and after more than year of hard-fought bargaining, everyone survived. The leaders of the three countries signed the deal late last year, but final legal ratification remains a significant hurdle — especially in the U.S. Trump has insulted House Leader Nancy Pelosi, who essentially holds the cards on ratification. But Trump’s trade czar Robert Lighthizer has been repeatedly complimentary of her efforts to find solutions. Trudeau will likely seek to persuade Pelosi that if the deal is good enough for Liberals in Canada, perhaps the Democrats in the U.S. can swallow it too. We likely won’t know for weeks how successful Trudeau will be. But one test will be whether the matter moves through Congress before the end of July, when it adjourns for the summer.

2. Helping two Canadians in big trouble in China

Two Canadian men, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, have been languishing behind bars in China for more than six months. Their arrest is widely viewed as retaliation for Canada’s arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver on an American extradition warrant. Chinese leaders have snubbed Trudeau and his cabinet ministers, but Trump has been playing hardball with the People’s Republic in an escalating trade war that is rocking the global economy. During a visit to Ottawa last month, U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence said Trump will push Chinese President Xi Jinping for their release at the G20 leaders’ summit in Japan next week. Will Trump tip his hand about doing Trudeau a favour?

3. Winning in the eyes of Canadians

Managing relations with the United States, Canada’s largest trading partner, neighbour, close friend and ally is arguably one of the most important jobs of a prime minister. Trudeau has had a rough time with Trump, to put it mildly. Trump insulted him over Twitter after leaving the G7 in Quebec last year, and he imposed punishing steel and aluminum tariffs on Canadian imports as a bargaining chip in the NAFTA talks. All of that would seem to be history. The subtexts, the body language the words, each interaction between the two men will be under scrutiny when they shake hands and trade remarks in the Oval Office. What matters for Trudeau — and Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer — is how Canadians interpret that when they go to the polls in October.

4. Huawei, or not Huawei

The Trump administration is clear: the Chinese telecom giant is a national security threat and won’t be supplying any of the equipment for America’s next generation 5G network. The Trump administration doesn’t want Canada or its allies using Huawei either. The Trudeau government is taking its time deciding. Trudeau and Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale have repeatedly said they will make an evidence-based decision on the advice of their national security experts. That likely won’t come before the October election, however. Trump will push the issue with Trudeau when they talk in private. In public, expect nothing to change.

5. That’s the way the basketball bounces

In addition to trying to work to salvage the North American economy, protect jobs and bring certainty back to big business planning, Trudeau will have the opportunity to gloat with Pelosi for winning his bet on the NBA Finals that saw the Toronto Raptors defeat her home-state Golden State Warriors. Will Trudeau pop the cork on the nice bottle of California wine he is likely to receive? More importantly, perhaps, will Trump give any hint that he plans to invite the champions to the White House, in keeping with what is now an often-controversial tradition?

Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press

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Trade, China sure to surface as Trudeau meets Trump, congressional leaders




WASHINGTON — Justin Trudeau is headed back to the White House today in what could prove to be a pivotal visit to the U.S. capital not only for North American trade and Canada’s strained relationship with China, but for the campaign-bound prime minister himself.

An earnest end to the tensions between Trudeau and President Donald Trump, which erupted into full view following last year’s G7 summit in Quebec, could prove useful to his governing Liberals when Canadians head to the polls this fall.

The Oval Office meeting, Trudeau’s third since Trump was elected in 2016, is aimed primarily at pushing the new North American trade deal over the finish line in both countries.

But Trudeau will also be looking to the U.S. president to speak out against the detention of Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, who have been languishing behind bars in China since shortly after Canada arrested high-tech executive Meng Wanzhou late last year at the behest of U.S. authorities. 

Canada has been caught in the crossfire after detaining Meng last December in Vancouver, where she awaits extradition south of the border to face allegations of fraud in violating Iran sanctions.

Trudeau is hoping Trump will go to bat for Kovrig and Spavor when he meets China’s President Xi Jinping at next week’s G20 leaders’ summit in Japan.

Vice-President Mike Pence has promised Trump would do just that, but Trudeau will find out today whether the mercurial president plans to follow through.

And then there’s the new NAFTA.

Trump needs to persuade his Democratic opponents in the House of Representatives — in particular Speaker Nancy Pelosi, with whom Trudeau is scheduled to meet later in the day — to allow the actual start of the ratification of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). Lawmakers in Mexico voted Wednesday in a landslide to ratify the deal.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer called that “a crucial step forward” towards finalizing the deal.

“The USMCA is the strongest and most advanced trade agreement ever negotiated. It is good for the United States, Mexico, and Canada in a way that truly benefits our workers, farmers, and businesses,” he said in a statement.

Pelosi and her fellow Democrats want stronger enforcement mechanisms for the deal’s new labour and environmental provisions — and Trudeau’s visit might be just the thing needed to pry loose her support.

Canada, meanwhile, has been building strong support for the new NAFTA and open borders within the U.S. and it has many American business allies who remain active.

Lighthizer told the powerful House ways and means committee Wednesday that he’s willing to co-operate with Democrats to move forward on the new trade bill.

“Getting this done sooner rather than later is in everybody’s interest,” he said. “It saves jobs, it helps the economy, it gets certainty in place.”

Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press

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