Immigration department has 'more than enough' staff to meet processing goals: PBO
OTTAWA — The federal government has "more than enough" staff to process applications for economic immigrants on time, the parliamentary budget officer says in a new report.
Yves Giroux says his office analyzed the cost of processing applications for economic immigrants through the express entry system for five fiscal years.
For the 2022-23 fiscal year, the report said Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada has 65 per cent more staff than needed to process applications on time.
"That excess number of employees will go down gradually over time, but should still be more than sufficient to meet the service standards that the department has set for itself," Giroux said in an interview on Tuesday.
By 2026-27, the department will have four per cent more employees than it needs to process these types of applications.
The federal government's goal is to process 80 per cent of those applications within six months.
Last year, Canada was grappling with significant immigration backlogs that formed during the pandemic. The federal government announced a hiring blitz to address the backlogs as it faced mounting political pressure over delays.
"We wanted to have a look in the context of these backlogs as to whether or not the issue was one of resourcing from an HR perspective," Giroux said.
The PBO also asked the department to share information about resources that would have been needed to meet processing goals in previous years.
But Giroux said the department refused, saying the information is protected by cabinet confidences.
The government can redact information that was put in front of the cabinet, allowing ministers a level of confidentiality over policy decisions.
Giroux called the department's refusal "frustrating."
"(Just) because you put something in a memorandum to cabinet doesn't necessarily make it a secret, if it is otherwise available in public," he said.
Canada plans to significantly ramp up immigration in the coming years, a decision the federal government says is necessary to address changing demographics and labour shortages.
In November, Immigration Minister Sean Fraser announced a new plan that will see Canada aim to welcome 500,000 immigrants per year by 2025.
Giroux said if backlogs persist, the onus will be on the federal government to explain why.
If the department is as efficient as it should be, Giroux said, it could divert staff from processing applications in the economic stream to the family reunification or refugee streams.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 7, 2023.
Nojoud Al Mallees, The Canadian Press