New parent and grandparent immigration rules could cost taxpayers $21 billion: Fraser Institute

In January, Citizenship and Immigration Canada will be re-opening
the controversial Parent and Grandparent (PGP) immigration program to new applications.

The program was put on a temporary moratorium in 2011 because of a huge backlog. To clear that queue, Canada welcomed 25,000 parents and grandparents in each of 2012 and 2013. In 2014 we'll welcome an additional 20,000.

The new rules are stricter than before: only 5,000 applicants will be approved every year and sponsors will have to take on a greater burden: Specifically, Canadians sponsoring their parents will have prove a higher income threshold and ensure that their immigrating relative doesn't seek social assistance from the government for a full 20 years.

Despite the new rules, the Fraser Institute says that getting through that backlog could still cost taxpayers between $21 billion and $40 billion.

"While the government’s package is designed both to assuage sponsors of parents and grand parents, particularly those in the backlog, as well as shift more responsibility for support for those sponsored in the future from taxpayers onto the shoulders of the sponsors, the program will still remain relatively costly since the public will bear most health care expenses, even in the case of new applications," notes the report by the policy think-tank.

"The new measures come with a significant price tag since the 70,000 being admitted in 2012 and 2013 and planned for 2014 could cost tax payers as much as $21 billion during their life times in Canada and, if all those in the backlog are eventually allowed to come here, the total bill could come to more than $40 billion."

[ Related: Harper government slammed for cutting welfare to failed refugee claimants still in Canada ]

The report's author — Martin Collacott — suggests that Canada should emulate Australia.

In that country, those who want to sponsor a parent must pay an upfront fee of approximately C$45,000 and are expected to post a financial bond as an assurance of support.

Collacott also suggests that Canada require sponsors to purchase a comprehensive health insurance package for their parents or grandparents so that Canadians don't have to pay for those costs.

[ Related: Family deported to Libya will not have to pay removal fees after father tortured ]

While the Fraser Institute isn't advocating for a total ban on parental immigration, their report seems to fit public sentiment.

According to a March 2013 Forum Research poll, 63 per cent of Canadians don't think that imigrants should be allowed to bring their extended family to Canada with them, including parents, grandparents and grown children.

Others disagree.

Before the new federal rules came into place, the issue of family re-unification became a hot political potato.

During the 2011 election campaign, NDP MP Olivia Chow told Yahoo Canada News that bringing parents to Canada has a lot of benefits to our economy.

"We would increase the number of visas that are awarded to parents and grandparents which would be a great benefit to Canada as they would look after their grand kids and allow the parents to go out and work, pay taxes and contribute to the Canadian economy," she said.

"Canada still does not have a universal child care program and anyone who has kids knows how expensive day care is."

Toronto-based immigration lawyer Michael Niren says that there's also a humanitarian element to all this.

"I'm glad to see that the government is keeping its promise to re-open this category. It is just humanitarian to permit Canadians to bring their elderly relatives usually in order to take care of them," he told Yahoo.

"In terms of the costs associated with opening the doors to elderly immigrants, it is frankly insignificant in the grand scheme of things and allowing families to unite overseas and across borders is what living in a democracy is about. Mobility rights is a corner stone and you can't put a price on that."

(Photo courtesy of Citizenship and Immigration Canada)

Are you a politics junkie?
Follow @politicalpoints on Twitter!