Draw­back for Tories in new rid­ing

Im­mi­grants frus­trated by Con­ser­va­tives’ cap on fam­ily re­uni­fi­ca­tion

Toronto Star - - GTA - SAN GRE­WAL UR­BAN AF­FAIRS RE­PORTER

For Brampton re­al­tor Satin­der Singh Goindi, there is one key is­sue in the up­com­ing fed­eral elec­tion — and one po­lit­i­cal party whose re­cent track record has put it at a dis­tinct disad­van­tage.

“The Con­ser­va­tive pol­icy to cut fam­ily re­uni­fi­ca­tion, they crushed our back­bone,” said Goindi, re­it­er­at­ing what has be­come some­thing of a po­lit­i­cal mantra for many in the city’s in­flu­en­tial Pun­jabi-Cana­dian com­mu­nity in the newly formed rid­ing of Brampton North.

Frus­tra­tion over the two-year mora­to­rium on ap­pli­ca­tions by par­ents and grand­par­ents try­ing to join their fam­ily in Canada, in­tro­duced af­ter the Con­ser­va­tives swept Peel in 2011, may sig­nal yet another dra­matic re­ver­sal of for­tunes for the Harper gov­ern­ment in the re­gion.

And with three new seats in Peel, in­clud­ing Brampton North, there’s even more at stake this time.

Af­ter be­ing shut out in the re­gion by the Lib­er­als for two decades, the Con­ser­va­tives’ stun­ning vic­tory in Peel in 2011 was no ac­ci­dent. It was se­cured fol­low­ing a tar­geted ef­fort to cap­i­tal­ize on grow­ing ap­a­thy to­ward the Grits among im­mi­grants in Brampton, a city that is 70 per cent vis­i­ble mi­nori­ties, who said the party stopped work­ing for them — al­low­ing them to en­ter the coun­try, but do­ing lit­tle to help them flour­ish.

A leaked Con­ser­va­tive strat­egy doc­u­ment ahead of the 2011 cam­paign re­vealed which tar­geted rid­ings were “very eth­nic.” A heavy ro­ta­tion of TV com­mer­cials tar­get­ing “eth­nic vot­ers” was launched.

Harper fo­cused on eth­nic media in­ter­views in the GTA. For one of his vis­its in 2011, staffers for the Con­ser­va­tive can­di­date in Eto­bi­coke Cen­tre ( just south of Brampton) asked for sup­port­ers to come dressed in “folk­lore cos­tumes which rep­re­sent their eth­nic back­grounds. These peo­ple will sit in front row be­hind the PM — great TV photo op.”

How­ever, the mora­to­rium on fam­ily re­uni­fi­ca­tion, in­tro­duced months af­ter the 2011elec­tion, shook many in Brampton.

Ra­dio host Ra­jin­der Saini, owner of the Par­vasi Media group, says “The real anger in Brampton right now is over the immigration is­sue.

“What the ra­dio lis­ten­ers are say­ing, when they call in, is how dis­turb­ing it was to see Ken­ney make prom­ises for immigration re­forms to get their votes in 2011, and then turn around and al­most de­stroy fam­ily re­uni­fi­ca­tion,” he says.

Then, in 2013, the Con­ser­va­tives dras­ti­cally cur­tailed immigration op­por­tu­ni­ties un­der pre­vi­ous fam­ily re­uni­fi­ca­tion poli­cies: the min­i­mum in­come nec­es­sary to spon­sor fam­ily mem­bers was in­creased by 30 per cent; the pe­riod needed to show min­i­mum in­come was ex­tended from one year to three years; chil­dren over 18 can no longer be spon­sored as a de­pen­dent; and par­ent and grand­par­ent spon­sor­ships were capped at 5,000 a year. Brampton North Con­ser­va­tive can­di­date Parm Gill de­fends his party’s immigration re­forms. Asked if he is hear­ing push­back at the door about his party’s re­forms to fam­ily re­uni­fi­ca­tion, Gill replies, “ab­so­lutely not.”

Gill, who em­i­grated from In­dia as a child, says the Con­ser­va­tive changes to fam­ily re­uni­fi­ca­tion poli­cies are bet­ter suited to Canada’s eco­nomic needs. “We want to have a process that is fair to all Cana­di­ans,” Gill said.

Ac­cord­ing to Gill, ap­pli­ca­tions from par­ents and grand­par­ents pre­vi­ously num­bered from 15,000 to 17,000 per year, which cre­ated a back­log of 150,000 ap­pli­ca­tions. He says cut­ting that back­log by im­pos­ing a cap of only 5,000 ap­pli­ca­tions a year for par­ents and grand­par­ents is some­thing Brampton res­i­dents un­der­stand.

“For the most part, peo­ple ap­pre­ci­ate the com­mon-sense changes that we’ve brought for­ward to re­form the immigration sys­tem,” he said.

How­ever, Goindi says the Con­ser­va­tive ap­proach to cur­tail fam­ily immigration is out of touch. He’s cam­paign­ing for Martin Singh, the NDP can­di­date in Brampton North, a phar­ma­cist who con­verted to Sikhism in 1990.

“It’s an eco­nomic is­sue,” Goindi says. “Our par­ents come over and pro­vide so much sta­bil­ity and sup­port, look­ing af­ter our chil­dren, al­low­ing us to work long hours.”

This frus­tra­tion has not been lost on the Lib­er­als, who pledged sweep­ing changes to the immigration sys­tem in Septem­ber.

At a cam­paign stop in Brampton last month, fed­eral Lib­eral Leader Justin Trudeau promised to dou­ble the fam­ily re­uni­fi­ca­tion lim­its that al­low peo­ple to bring their par­ents and grand­par­ents to Canada, which means that the num­ber would jump to 10,000 from the 5,000 that was im­posed by the Harper gov­ern­ment last year. “A Lib­eral gov­ern­ment will make fam­ily re­uni­fi­ca­tion at the core of its immigration pol­icy,” Trudeau said on Sept. 25.

The Lib­eral can­di­date is crim­i­nal lawyer Ruby Sa­hota, who is the daugh­ter of an ex­ec­u­tive mem­ber of one the largest Sikh tem­ples in North Amer­ica. The New Demo­cratic Party pledged last week to get rid of the cap on the num­ber of par­ents and grand­par­ents who can ap­ply to im­mi­grate to Canada to be re­united with their fam­i­lies.

J.P. MOCZULSKI FOR THE TORONTO STAR

Parm Gill, fed­eral Con­ser­va­tive can­di­date for Brampton North, says he is “ab­so­lutely not” hear­ing push­back about immigration re­forms.

J.P. MOCZULSKI PHOTOS FOR THE TORONTO STAR

Ruby Sa­hota, fed­eral Lib­eral can­di­date for Brampton North, is a crim­i­nal lawyer and the daugh­ter of an ex­ec­u­tive mem­ber of one of the largest Sikh tem­ples in North Amer­ica.

Martin Singh, fed­eral NDP can­di­date for Brampton North. Last week, the NDP pledged to get rid of the fam­ily re­uni­fi­ca­tion cap.

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