LILLEY: Trudeau shortchanging Ontario on immigration payments

LILLEY: Trudeau shortchanging Ontario on immigration payments


Ontario is getting screwed by the feds big time when it comes to the massive costs associated with immigration and refugee cases.

From extra social housing costs to legal aid fees, Ontario is being short-changed by a federal government more interested in picking fights than paying for the services they are responsible for.

The most recent example is a letter from federal attorney general David Lametti to his Ontario counterpart Doug Downey. Downey had written to the feds asking them to pay their fair share of the cost of legal aid cases involving immigration and refugee files.

Lametti’s response could be summed up as “get lost” with a finger wagging lecture added on for good measure.

Ontario’s beef with the federal government is pretty simple — the province takes in the bulk of immigration and refugee cases and many of the people behind those cases ended up seeking legal aid. Despite immigration and refugee issues being a federal responsibility, the feds are not funding that part of the equation the way they should be.

As Ontario’s auditor general Bonnie Lysyk pointed out in her report last December, the number of immigration and refugee cases serviced by Legal Aid Ontario has increased by 158% between 2013-14 and 2017-18.

Despite that, Ontario gets far less funding from the federal government than other provinces.

“We noted that, in 2017/18, British Columbia’s federal funding portion was 72% of total funding, and Manitoba’s was 90%. For Quebec, the federal funding portion was 69% of total funding in 2016/17. In contrast, Ontario’s federal funding portion was only 37% in 2016/17 and 39% in 2017/18,” her last audit stated.

To put this in real dollar terms, last year the immigration and refugee cases in Ontario cost Legal Aid $45 million and the federal government contributed $16.9 million.

That’s a $28.1 million difference.

If that money is going to immigration and refugee cases, a federal responsibility, then it can’t go to bail and other trial related issues that are primarily a provincial responsibility.

Yet in his response to Downey, Lametti simply lectures.

Oh, and he promised that there was an increase of funding in the last budget of $16.2 million to be spread across the whole country. That won’t even close the gap for Ontario.

At least he didn’t call Downey “unCanadian” as Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen did last year when Lisa MacLeod, then Ontario’s minister dealing with immigration issues, asked the federal government to reimburse Ontario and its municipalities for the increased cost of housing the thousands of illegal border crossers.

On that note, did you hear that the number of people crossing illegally was up last month? Not only compared to the previous month but also compared to June of last year.

This is a federal problem and one that the provinces and municipalities have been left holding the bag on.

It simply isn’t fair.

A family from Haiti approach a tent in Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, Quebec, stationed by Royal Canadian Mounted Police, as they haul their luggage down Roxham Road in Champlain, N.Y., on August 7, 2017.

Charles Krupa /


Ontario has been asking the federal government for about $200 million just to compensate for the extra housing, social services and educational costs of the people who have been coming across the border at Roxham Road.

Thousands of those people have ended up in Ontario, mostly Toronto and Ottawa, but so far, the feds have not paid up. Recently they gave $71 million to Toronto and $17 million to Ottawa but that still leaves about $112 million outstanding and as the months go by, and more people come, that figure will continue to rise.

We all know there is no love lost between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier Doug Ford. Issues like these shouldn’t come down to personalities though.

The constitution is clear that immigration is a federal responsibility, which means they should be footing the bill.

Unfortunately, this is simply another case of Ontario getting short-changed by the Feds.

With the province still dealing with a deficit of over $11 billion and a staggering debt that grows by the day, Ontario taxpayers shouldn’t have to foot this bill alone.

This bill needs to be paid by the Feds, it’s time for Trudeau to treat Ontario fairly.

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The number of people crossing the border illegally into Canada jumped again in June after slowing earlier in the year.

Numbers compiled by the RCMP show that 1,567 people were intercepted coming into Canada in the month of June. That is not only higher than the 1,196 who crossed illegally in May, it also surpasses the totals for the month of June in both 2018 and 2017.

As has been the case for most of the past three years, the majority of those intercepted — 1,536 — came in via Quebec at the infamous Roxham Road crossing. The Mounties intercepted 26 people in Manitoba and five in British Columbia.

In the first six months of 2019 the Mounties have apprehended 6,707 people entering Canada at unofficial border crossings. That compares to 10,744 in the first six months of 2018 and 4,060 in the first six months of 2017.

The number of people crossing into Canada illegally from the United States spiked in 2017 after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reacted to American President Donald Trump’s promise to deport non-citizens who were not allowed to be in the US.

Trudeau tweeted out that Canada welcomes all, a move that officials in the immigration department acknowledged in internal emails resulted in the increase in people crossing the border to seek asylum.

— Brian Lilley


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