NEW YORK – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s first five ministers have set clear priorities for their own mandates, including an “ambitious” plan to set up a $2 billion immigration program to welcome 10,000 refugees a year and all sorts of gender-based issues, from gender equality in education to pay equity in the workplace.
In an exclusive interview with us, Pierre Poilievre, the Conservatives’ immigration critic, said that the commitment “beyond statistics is to put in something concrete to actually meet the objective.”
Poilievre, a former Tory cabinet minister, told Fox News the target “is not unachievable.”
“They were getting in front of an American audience and people here. We had six weeks to plan for a cabinet meeting and all of us had been involved with immigration and refugees. We also had the luxury of knowing what the prime minister wants,” Poilievre added.
“The use of the word ambitious is a bit of a misnomer,” said Poilievre. “It is one that is not reality.”
He took to task his own former boss, former Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who he says was aware of the issue of resettling refugees but failed to act on it.
“He went around the world to talk about Syrians fleeing Assad, to ask for their refugees, and he never acknowledged that his own government had failed to absorb refugees,” Poilievre explained.
Trudeau and his cabinet, with its eight women, also want “workplace equality for women,” creating “gender-based analysis in public policy and public sector” to tackle discrimination and workplace issues, adding “national action on domestic violence.”
The focus on immigration has proven an extremely contentious topic in Canada in the past. The Liberals called for a temporary halt on immigration earlier this year, claiming that was “holding us back.”
However, according to news reports, the number of young, ethnically diverse immigrants is up more than 40 percent, while the Canadian Press and Montreal Gazette reports suggest that the influx of asylum seekers from the U.S. is affecting public services and strains the Canadian economy, increasing pressure on resources and housing.
With the Canadian border down to one lane as more illegal border crossers are being processed in less than a week, the government has been forced to take action. Trudeau was at the side of a border crossing on Tuesday.
The latest crisis erupted with media reports of 40 migrants making their way from a U.S. border to the Canada’s for the final, final stage of their journey to the promised land. To get to the Canadian border, the migrants were almost entirely on foot, and were literally pushed into the country by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers.
On Monday, Trudeau tweeted that Canada “stands ready to accept refugees and they are welcome to come.”
On Thursday, Harper, who holds a seat in the Senate, tweeted that “the Trudeau government admits thousands of Syrian refugees without proper vetting.”
Poilievre suggested that Conservatives were not successful in getting a proper vetting on government-sponsored refugees under the government of former Prime Minister Stephen Harper, which permitted 20,000 people from Somalia to enter Canada. Poilievre said that many of them used the country as a transit point into the U.S. and were never able to support themselves in Canada.
“They had no business being here. It should have never happened. We had the capacity to do it,” he said.
The increased pressure on Syrian refugees is linked to the Islamic State’s (ISIS) recent gains in the region and the rise of their “caliphate.” Many of the refugees are fleeing for their lives because ISIS is aware that the Syrians and Iraqis that were supported under President Barack Obama’s “resettlement plan” would eventually be kicked out.
Poilievre proposed that Canada funnel refugees into countries that have been backed by the United States or Saudi Arabia, such as Yemen and Libya.
Earlier in the week, Trudeau took to Twitter to offer support to the hundreds of people who continue to gather at the White House, including scores of refugees and asylum seekers.