Home Page Election 2019 News Opinion Foreign Policy Politics Policy Legislation Lobbying Hill Life & People Hill Climbers Heard On The Hill Calendar Archives Classifieds
Hill Times Events Inside Ottawa Directory Hill Times Store Hill Times Careers The Wire Report The Lobby Monitor Parliament Now
Subscribe Free Trial Reuse & Permissions Advertising
Log In
Opinion

Telling feds to pay more for asylum seekers is fair game for Premier Ford, stopping cooperation is not

By Editorial      
Share a story
The story link will be added automatically.

New Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s move to stop cooperating with Ottawa on asylum seekers arriving in the province is, at best, a negotiating tactic for more federal support, and at worst, a cynical, political manoeuvre at the expense of good public policy. Let’s hope it’s more the former than the latter.

Mr. Ford has cancelled a deal his predecessor signed with the federal government in November that aimed to coordinate provincial and federal policies for dealing with the thousands of asylum claimants who have crossed the Quebec border with New York and travelled to English-speaking Ontario for shelter, and ended his government’s cooperation with the feds on the issue, The Toronto Star reported. He has given no sign so far that he plans to hash out a new agreement.

The federal government has specifically been looking for information from Ontario on the location of shelter and social housing spaces outside of Toronto, so it can direct border-crossers to travel to those places instead of the big city. Toronto Mayor John Tory has pleaded for help from both levels of government, saying Toronto’s social housing can’t accommodate any more migrants as they wait for work permits that would allow them to pay for shelter on their own, or Immigration and Refugee Board decisions on the validity of their claims.

However, Mr. Ford and Ontario Social Services Minister Lisa MacLeod are portraying their decision to cancel the deal and suspend their cooperation as a matter of principle; the federal Liberals are to blame for attracting the asylum-seekers and allowing them to cross the border illegally, so the Ontario government shouldn’t have to help them clean up the mess, or to pay for their accommodation, seems to be the argument.

Ms. MacLeod blamed the sudden flood of migrants on a tweet from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in January 2017, a day after U.S. President Donald Trump announced a ban on refugees, as well as on travellers from seven Muslim-majority countries. “To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada,” read Mr. Trudeau’s tweet.

“He was the one that tweeted out that everyone was welcome here, and, as a result of that, we’ve had thousands of people cross the border illegally and it’s putting a strain on many of our public resources,” Ms. MacLeod told reporters last week. “If he wants to welcome them in, that’s fine, but he should make sure he’s paying for them and compensating the municipalities as well as the provincial government.”

The most recent wave of asylum-seekers who have descended upon Ontario is made up mostly of Nigerians who successfully picked up temporary U.S. visas, flew there, and headed north. The Immigration and Refugee Board has determined that more than half of them are not legitimate refugees—it has accepted 30 per cent of asylum claims from Nigerians this year, versus 44 per cent for each of the past two year— who are “fleeing persecution, terror, and war,” as Mr. Trudeau put it.

Some, including the federal Conservatives, are arguing that the Safe Third Country Agreement with the United States should be extended to cover the whole border, allowing the government to turn the asylum-seekers back into the U.S.. The Liberals and others who oppose that idea say Canada’s border is too big to physically block migrants at every possible entry point, and that the Donald Trump administration has signalled it will reject refugee claimants fleeing domestic or gang violence. There’s room for a healthy debate there; in reality, the vast majority of migrants crossing into Quebec are coming in a spot so narrow and predictable that Mounties are there waiting for them, and could block them, though doing so could simply encourage them to re-route to other crossings.

But Mr. Ford and Ms. MacLeod aren’t arguing for a change to the Safe Third Country Agreement or a better arrangement with the feds. They are either, it seems, playing hardball for more funding from the feds—not unreasonable, given that Ottawa’s promised $11-million for the province won’t buy a lot of housing in urban Ontario—or simply washing their hands of a problem that they did not engineer, but that nonetheless is affecting Ontario residents.

Federal-provincial cooperation on an issue that affects both levels of government is, at face value, what Canadians would expect from their elected officials. Let’s hope there’s more to Premier Ford’s plan than simply walking away from the problem.  

Explore, analyze, understand
Spinning History: A Witness to Harper’s Canada and 21st Century choices
An unvarnished look at the Harper years and what lies ahead for Canadians

Get the book
2018 Guide to Lobbyist Gifting Rules
The 2018 Guide to Lobbyist Gifting Rules is the essential resource for your work on federal issues.

Get the book

Politics This Morning

Get the latest news from The Hill Times

Politics This Morning


Your email has been added. An email has been sent to your address, please click the link inside of it to confirm your subscription.

Nearly 100 new MPs offer new face of Parliament, including 60 in flipped seats

In many ways the incoming Parliament looks quite similar to its predecessor, with 240 returning MPs, the same number of MPs who are Indigenous or a visible minority, and 10 more women.

Rise of advance voting raising questions about impact on, and of, campaigns: experts

Almost 4.8-million Canadians voted at advance polls this year, according to Elections Canada estimates, a roughly 30.6 per cent increase over 2015, accounting for roughly one-quarter of all ballots cast this election.

Watchdog’s proposed minority Parliament rules ‘appalling,’ says legal expert

News|By Mike Lapointe
Democracy Watch says Governor General should speak with all party leaders before deciding who can try forming government, but Emmett Macfarlane says the confidence convention is the linchpin of the parliamentary system.

McKenna may be moved to new cabinet role after four years implementing Grits’ climate policies, say politicos

News|By Neil Moss
Catherine McKenna's 'tenure in environment would have prepared her well for any other kind of responsibility the prime minister may assign,' says former environment minister Jean Charest.

‘They went with what they knew’: Politicos react to Election 43

'If anybody should've won a majority, it should've been Trudeau. He didn't, and it's his to wear,' says CBC columnist Neil Macdonald of the Oct. 21 election results.

‘A clear mandate’: Trudeau wins second term, with voters handing Liberals a minority

News|By Beatrice Paez
Though not improbable, his victory was not inevitable. It brings an end to a nail-biting, gruelling 40-day slog that has exposed deepening rifts across the country.

McKenna wins re-election in Ottawa Centre, trumpets voters’ support for climate fight

News|By Neil Moss
'I’m so relieved,' Catherine McKenna said, about continuing with the Liberal climate change plan.

Election 2019 was a ‘campaign of fear,’ say pollsters

'There may well be a message to this to the main parties, that slagging each other will only take you so far,' says Greg Lyle.

Election 2019 campaign one of the most ‘uninspiring, disheartening, and dirtiest’ in 40 years, says Savoie

News|By Abbas Rana
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May says she has never seen an election where mudslinging overwhelmingly dominated the campaign, leaving little or no time for policy discussion.
Your group subscription includes premium access to Politics This Morning briefing.