Transcript: Marco Mendicino: Can Canadian Immigration Cope Amid COVID? | Jan 18, 2021

Steve sits in the studio. He's slim, clean-shaven, in his fifties, with short curly brown hair. He's wearing a black suit, white shirt, and gray plaid tie.

A caption on screen reads "Can Canadian immigarion cope amid COVID? @spaikin, @theagenda."

Steve says WITH INTERNATIONAL BORDERS RESTRICTED AND TRAVEL DISCOURAGED, COVID-19 HAS DISRUPTED THE CUSTOMARY WELCOMING OF UPWARDS OF 300,000 NEWCOMERS ANNUALLY LOOKING TO CALL CANADA HOME. WITH US TO EXPLAIN THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THAT, THERE'S MARCO MENDICINO. HE IS CANADA'S MINISTER OF IMMIGRATION, REFUGEES AND CITIZENSHIP, AND THE LIBERAL MP FOR EGLINTON-LAWRENCE, WHICH IS... JUST UP A LITTLE UP THE STREET, WHICH IS WHERE WE FIND HIM THIS EVENING.

Mendicino is in his forties, clean-shaven, with short brown hair. He's wearing a gray suit, white shirt and red tie.

Steve continues HOW ARE YOU MANAGING WITH THESE CONDITIONS?

Mendicino says I HOPE YOU AND YOUR FAMILY ARE DOING WELL AND IT'S NICE TO BE BACK WITH YOU.

Steve says LOVELY TO HAVE YOU HERE AS WELL. WE WANT TO BRING TO OUR VIEWERS' ATTENTION THE FACT THAT YOU HAVE SOME AMBITIOUS IMMIGRATION TARGETS. HERE WE GO. THIS IS QUOTING FROM THE GOVERNMENT OF CANADA.

A slate appears on screen, with the title "Canadian immigration target."

Steve reads data from the slate and says
IN 2021, OUR TARGET IS 401000 immigrants. OF THESE ABOUT 60 percent FALL UNDER THE ECONOMIC CATEGORY, WHICH WILL HELP THE CANADIAN ECONOMY RECOVER FROM COVID-19. LOOKING AHEAD, CANADA PLANS TO WELCOME 411,000 IMMIGRANTS IN 2022, AND 421,000 IMMIGRANTS IN 2023. THIS WORKS OUT TO ALMOST 1 percent OF OUR POPULATION. I WANT TO GIVE YOU A CHANCE TO SPEAK TO THOSE CANADIANS WHO FEEL THAT THE GOVERNMENT'S TOP PRIORITY OUGHT TO BE ITS CURRENT CITIZENS WHO ARE ALREADY HERE AS OPPOSED TO THESE NEW CITIZENS WHO ARE NOT YET HERE? HOW WOULD YOU RESPOND TO THAT?

The caption changes to "Marco Mendicino. Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship."
Then, it changes again to "Economic implications."

Mendicino says WELL, THE FIRST THING I WOULD SAY IS YOU'VE LAID OUT OUR IMMIGRATION PLAN VERY CLEARLY, AND YOU'RE QUITE RIGHT, WE DO PLAN TO CONTINUE TO GROW. I WILL SAY WHEN I FIRST TOOK THE JOB, I WAS VERY EXCITED. I KNEW IT WOULD BE A CHALLENGING PORTFOLIO. I DON'T THINK MY CRYSTAL BALL WAS POLISHED ENOUGH TO ANTICIPATE A ONCE-IN-A-CENTURY PANDEMIC IN COVID-19, AND OVER THE COURSE OF THE PAST 11 MONTHS OR SO, WE HAVE DEMONSTRATED THAT WE CAN KEEP IMMIGRATION GOING BY INNOVATING WITH NEW POLICIES TO KEEP THE CORRIDORS, BRING IN THE WORKERS, THE INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS TO ACCELERATE OUR ECONOMIC RECOVERY. WE'VE ALSO ADDED RESOURCES AT THE BORDER SO THAT WE CAN ENSURE THAT WE ARE SEEING PEOPLE COME INTO CANADA IN A WAY THAT IS SAFE, AND I WOULD POINT OUT THAT OUR QUARANTINING PROTOCOLS ARE VERY EFFECTIVE AT THAT. BUT JUST TO GET TO THE CRUX OF YOUR QUESTION, STEVE, YOU'RE QUITE RIGHT, THAT WHEN I TABLED THE IMMIGRATION PLAN A LITTLE WHILE AGO, WE HAD A CHOICE. WE COULD PUT A PAUSE, WE COULD HAVE REVERSED, WE COULD HAVE CUT IMMIGRATION. OUR GOVERNMENT FIRMLY BELIEVES THAT THROUGH IMMIGRATION WE WILL CONTINUE TO GROW AND THE NUMBERS BEAR THAT OUT. ONE IN THREE BUSINESSES IS LED BY AN IMMIGRANT AND THEY IN TURN EMPLOY HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF CANADIANS, AND WHEN YOU SURVEY OUR ECONOMY, SOME OF THE GAPS IN OUR WORK FORCE ARE IN SOME OF OUR MOST ESSENTIAL SECTORS, AND I THINK PRIMARILY ABOUT OUR HEALTH CARE SYSTEM, WHERE RIGHT NOW WE HAVE ROUGHLY ONE IN THREE IMMIGRANTS WHO ARE HELPING TO PROVIDE THOSE REINFORCEMENTS TO OUR DOCTORS, OUR NURSES, OUR PERSONAL SUPPORT WORKERS WHO ARE CONFRONTING A SECOND WAY, AND I'LL PAUSE TO SAY A GOOD THANK YOU TO THEM. SO WE BELIEVE IMMIGRATION IS A GOOD WAY TO PROPEL OUR ECONOMY AND PROSPERITY GOING FORWARD. THAT'S WHAT THIS PLAN WILL DO.

Steve says HAVING SAID THAT, DO YOU THINK YOU WILL HAVE DIFFICULTY HITTING THE TARGETS YOU HAVE ADVANCED GIVEN THE TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS THAT ARE IN PLACE AND OF COURSE THE SIGNIFICANT... NOT COMPLETE CLOSING BUT CERTAINLY MUCH TIGHTER CANADIAN-AMERICAN BORDER?

Mendicino says WELL, FIRST I WOULD SAY WE'VE TAKEN THE DECISIONS THAT ARE NECESSARY TO PROTECT THE HEALTH AND SAFETY OF CANADIANS, AND AS I ALSO POINTED OUT, WE HAVE BEEN VERY EFFECTIVE AT KEEPING THE VIRUS OUT WHILE ENSURING THAT WE HAVE THE WORKERS AND THE STUDENTS THAT WE NEED TO KEEP OUR ECONOMY GOING. I AM CONFIDENT THAT WE CAN HIT THE LEVELS THAT WE HAVE SET OUT IN OUR TARGET. I'M CONFIDENT BECAUSE WE ARE INNOVATING AT QUANTUM SPEED. AS I POINTED OUT, WE HAVE CREATED NEW POLICIES THAT ALLOW THE PEOPLE INTO THE COUNTRY BUT IN A MANNER THAT IS SAFE. I ALSO THINK WE'VE GOT A UNIQUE OPPORTUNITY TO TAKE A LOOK AT THE DOMESTIC IMMIGRATION POPULATION THAT IS ALREADY WITHIN OUR BORDERS, AND THAT IS LOOKING AT TEMPORARY WORKERS WHO WORK IN THE HEALTH CARE SECTOR, WHO WORK IN THE BUILDING AND TRADES, WHERE, YOU KNOW, I HEAR FROM BUSINESS LEADERS ALL THE TIME: HOW CAN WE TRANSITION SOME OF THESE TEMPORARY WORKERS INTO PERMANENT RESIDENCY BECAUSE WE DON'T JUST NEED THEM TODAY FOR THE SHORT TERM, WE NEED THEM TOMORROW TO BUILD UP OUR INFRASTRUCTURE. I THINK ABOUT OUR HOMETOWN HERE IN TORONTO WHERE WE'RE IN A HOUSING CRUNCH. IMMIGRANTS HELP TO ADDRESS THAT BY BUILDING THE NECESSARY NEW ADDITIONAL AFFORDABLE HOUSING, RAPID HOUSING THAT WE NEED. I'VE ALREADY MENTIONED THE HEALTH CARE SECTOR WHERE, YOU KNOW, WE SEE THAT WITHOUT IMMIGRATION, WE WOULD BE FURTHER STRAPPED FOR THE PERSONNEL AND THE RESOURCES TO CONFRONT THE SECOND WAVE. I THINK THAT BY, AGAIN, EXAMINING VERY CAREFULLY THE POPULATIONS THAT ARE ALREADY HERE, AND I INCLUDE IN THAT AS WELL OUR INTERNATIONAL STUDENT POPULATION. THESE ARE AMONG THE BEST AND THE BRIGHTEST WHO ARE AT THE EARLY STAGES OF THEIR LIVES WHO HAVE CHOSEN CANADA TO COME AND TAKE PART IN AN EDUCATION. THEY ARE VERY MUCH LOOKING FORWARD TO STAYING AND CONTRIBUTING. THEY TOO HAVE HELPED IN SOME OF THE MOST ESSENTIAL SECTORS. SO I THINK WE HAVE AN OPPORTUNITY HERE TO HIT THOSE LEVELS.

Steve says LET ME FOLLOW UP ON THAT. FROM WHAT I'VE HEARD MANY STUDENTS WHO ARE FROM COUNTRIES OUTSIDE OF CANADA AND WHO WOULD WANT TO STUDY AS INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS HERE HAVEN'T COME BECAUSE THEY'RE NO POINT IN COMING TO A CAMPUS YOU CAN'T TAKE CLASSES ON SO THEY'VE STAYED HOME AND ARE DOING THEIR EDUCATION VIRTUALLY. IF THAT'S THE CASE, AND I'M SURE IT IS IN MANY CASES, HOW IS THAT HELPFUL TO US?

Mendicino says WELL, INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS CONTRIBUTE OVER 21.6 BILLION DOLLARS TO OUR ECONOMY...

Steve says WHEN THEY'RE HERE. WHEN THEY'RE HERE, MINISTER.

The caption changes to "Marco Mendicino. Liberal MP, Eglington-Lawrence."

Mendicino says WHEN THEY ARE HERE. AND WE HAVE REVIVED A PATHWAY TO ENABLE THEM TO COME BACK TO CANADA. AGAIN, WORKING VERY CLOSELY WITH THE PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENTS WHO ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE DAY-TO-DAY ADMINISTRATION OF OUR SCHOOLS. AND IN ADDITION TO THAT, WE'VE ALSO INNOVATED, STEVE. WE HAVE CREATED A TWO-STAGE PROCESS THAT ALLOWS INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS TO BEGIN THEIR COURSES ABROAD ONLINE, AND FOR THOSE WHO ARE HERE, WHO ARE ALREADY GIVING BACK, WHO ARE STEPPING UP ON THE FRONT LINES OF HOSPITALS AND LONG-TERM CARE HOMES, AGAIN, WHERE WE DESPERATELY NEED THOSE REINFORCEMENTS, WE HAVE CREATED PERMANENT WORK. THIS IS ONE OF THE WAYS IN WHICH WE'RE DEMONSTRATING OUR RAPID ABILITY TO RESPOND TO THE PANDEMIC. AND AS A RESULT OF THOSE INNOVATIONS, WE ARE SEEING INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS STEP UP, GIVE BACK TO THEIR COMMUNITIES AND ALSO CONSIDER STAYING LONGER. I MEAN, THEIR STATUS MAY BE TEMPORARY, BUT THEIR CONTRIBUTIONS ARE LONG-LASTING AND IT BEHOOVES US TO ASK OURSELVES WHETHER OR NOT WE HAVE AN OPPORTUNITY TO INVITE THEM TO STAY BECAUSE THERE ARE STEPPING ECONOMIC REASONS TO JUSTIFY IT AS WELL AS LONG-TERM DEMOGRAPHIC CHALLENGES.

Steve says LET'S GO BACK TO THE BOARD WE HAD UP AT THE BEGINNING AND I WANT TO TALK ABOUT 60 percent OF THIS YEAR'S INTAKE FALLING INTO THE ECONOMIC CATEGORY. TO THAT END, I JUST WANT TO CLARIFY. DO YOU IMAGINE THAT WILL COME UNDER THE EXPRESS ENTRY PROGRAM OR WOULD THAT INCLUDE OTHER GROUPS, SUCH AS MIGRANT WORKERS WHO ARE, FOR EXAMPLE, DOING VERY DIFFICULT AGRICULTURAL WORK IN SOUTHWESTERN ONTARIO, FOR EXAMPLE?

The caption changes to "Marco Mendicino, @marcomendicino."
Then, it changes again to "Protecting the vulnerable."

Mendicino says WELL, I THINK THAT'S A PERFECTLY RELEVANT QUESTION GIVEN WHERE WE ARE AT IN THE PANDEMIC. AS I MENTIONED EARLIER, WE OBVIOUSLY LOOK FORWARD TO THE DAY WHEN WE CAN REOPEN OUR BORDERS. WE'RE NOT THERE YET. AND THAT DOES ALLOW US FOR AN OPPORTUNITY TO TAKE A LOOK AT TEMPORARY WORKERS RIGHT ACROSS THE CONTINUUM OF OUR ECONOMY, AND I WOULD SAY THAT THERE ARE WORKERS WHO POSSESS A RANGE OF SKILLS THAT WE NEED. YOU MENTIONED MIGRANT WORKERS. AGAIN, NEARLY ONE IN TWO WORKERS IN THE AGRICULTURAL SECTOR IS A MIGRANT. THEY ARE WORKING UNDER CHALLENGING CONDITIONS. I'M AWARE OF THAT. WE HAVE PROVIDED OVER 100 MILLION DOLLARS OF SUPPORT TO HELP IMPROVE THE WORKING CONDITIONS, INCLUDING THEIR LODGING, TO RESPOND TO THE INTRINSIC RISKS THAT GO ALONG WITH WORKING ON FARMS, IN FOOD PROCESSING PLANTS. DO WE HAVE AN OPPORTUNITY NOW TO POTENTIALLY BROADEN THE PATHWAY FOR THEM TO BECOME PERMANENT RESIDENTS? DO WE HAVE AN OPPORTUNITY TO TAKE A LOOK AT OUR HEALTH CARE SECTOR WHERE APPROXIMATELY ONE IN THREE WORKERS HAS COME FROM ABROAD? DO WE HAVE AN OPPORTUNITY TO TAKE A LOOK LIKEWISE IN THE TECH SECTOR? YOU KNOW, HERE IT ALLOWS US TO LOOK AT SOME OF THE TEMPORARY PATHWAYS LIKE THE GLOBAL SKILLS STRATEGY WHERE WE WORK WITH BLUE CHIP COMPANIES IN THE TECH SECTOR. DO WE LOOK AT TRANSITIONING THEM TO PERMANENT RESIDENCY? WHEN YOU COMBINE ALL THESE POPULATIONS TOGETHER, I THINK WE WILL ABSOLUTELY BE IN A POSITION TO HIT OUR EXPRESS ENTRY, OUR ECONOMIC CLASS TARGETS WHICH ARE LAID OUT IN OUR LEVELS PLAN.

The caption changes to "Connect with us: Twitter: @theagenda; Facebook, agendaconnect@tvo.org, Instagram."

Steve says MAYBE YOU COULD HELP US UNDERSTAND BETTER WHAT THE PANDEMIC HAS DONE TO REFUGEES WHO ARE TRYING TO CLAIM STATUS HERE IN CANADA DURING THIS VERY, AS YOU POINT OUT, ONCE-IN-A-CENTURY MOMENT IN HISTORY?

Mendicino says WELL, THIS IS A TALE OF TWO PANDEMICS, AND WHAT, STEVE... WHAT THE VIRUS HAS TAUGHT US IS THAT IF YOU'RE A VULNERABLE POPULATION, IF YOU ARE A REFUGEE OR AN ASYLUM SEEKER, IF YOU ARE HOMELESS AND WITHOUT SHELTER, YOU ARE FAR MORE SUSCEPTIBLE TO CONTRACTING THE DISEASE. AND SO IT IS INCUMBENT ON US I THINK AS A GOVERNMENT TO RESPOND TO THAT. AND I WILL SAY THAT THE UNITED NATIONS HAS RECOGNIZED CANADA AS THE NUMBER ONE RESETTLING COUNTRY IN THE WORLD FOR THE LAST TWO YEARS. THAT'S SOMETHING I AM VERY PROUD OF, PARTICULARLY NOW AS COVID-19 HAS REALLY PUT A PRESSURE ON OUR BORDERS. YOU KNOW, LOOK, IT'S NOT AS THOUGH THE CRISIS AROUND MIGRATION HAS BEEN IN ANY WAY ABATED BY COVID-19. IF ANYTHING, THAT PRESSURE WILL CONTINUE TO MOUNT. SO DEVELOPING AGAIN A WAY IN WHICH WE CAN PARTNER WITH OUR INTERNATIONAL STAKEHOLDERS, FOR EXAMPLE THE U.N. AS WELL THE IOM HAS ALLOWED US TO CONTINUE TO RESETTLE THE MOST URGENT CASES. IN FACT, WE HAVE RESETTLED APPROXIMATELY 8,000 REFUGEES IN 2020 DESPITE THE PANDEMIC, AND THAT'S NOT JUST BECAUSE OF THE POLICIES THAT OUR GOVERNMENT HAS INTRODUCED, IT'S THANKS IN LARGE PART TO THE COMPASSION AND THE UNYIELDING ENTHUSIASM THAT WE SEE FROM CANADIANS THEMSELVES WHO BELIEVE THAT CANADA SHOULD BE A SAFE REFUGE FOR THE WORLD'S MOST VULNERABLE, AND CERTAINLY I THINK THAT WE WILL BE IN A POSITION TO CARRY ON WITH THAT WORK GOING FORWARD.

Steve says I DO WANT TO ASK YOU ABOUT WHAT SO MANY BUSINESSES, INSTITUTIONS, ENTITIES IN OUR COUNTRY AT THIS TIME HAVE HAD TO DO DURING COVID-19 AND THAT IS OF COURSE GO VIRTUAL, AS YOU AND I ARE SPEAKING RIGHT NOW. I WANT TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT WHAT YOUR DEPARTMENT HAS DONE IN THAT AREA. YOU RECENTLY LAUNCHED A NEW PLATFORM FOR ONLINE CITIZENSHIP APPLICATIONS STARTING WITH A PILOT PROGRAM OF I THINK ABOUT 5,000 APPLICANTS. HOW IS THAT GOING SO FAR?

The caption changes to "Going virtual."

Mendicino says IT'S GOING REALLY WELL. IN A WORLD THAT IS INCREASINGLY VIRTUAL, WE'RE LEADING THE WAY IN CANADA, ESPECIALLY WHEN IT COMES TO OUR IMMIGRATION SYSTEM. WE HAVE THE ONLY ONE WHERE WE HAVE MOVED OUR CITIZENSHIP CEREMONIES ONLINE, TO MY KNOWLEDGE, AND NOW WE'RE ALSO MOVING INTO THE DIGITAL SPACE WHEN IT COMES TO TESTING APPLICANTS AND, LOOK, I WILL SAY THIS IS, AGAIN, ONE OF THE MOST SPECIAL FUNCTIONS THAT I GET TO EXERCISE AS A MINISTER, TO HAVE THE PRIVILEGE TO WELCOME PEOPLE WHO HAVE COME TO CANADA TO BUILD THAT NEXT CHAPTER IN THEIR LIVES, TO WELCOME THEIR FAMILIES HERE, AND TO SEE THE LOOK IN THEIR EYE. YOU KNOW, IT CERTAINLY WAS QUITE A UNIQUE MOMENT WHEN LAST CANADA DAY, ON JULY 1ST, WE HELD THE COUNTRY'S FIRST-EVER SIMULTANEOUS VIRTUAL CITIZENSHIP CEREMONY FROM COAST TO COAST TO COAST, MADE UP OF HEALTH CARE WORKERS, AGAIN, YOU KNOW, WELCOMING THEM INTO THE FAMILY OF OUR CITIZENSHIP, BUT ALSO, YOU KNOW, ALLOWING THEM TO GREATER GIVE BACK TO OUR COMMUNITY AT A TIME WHEN WE NEED THE REINFORCEMENT IN OUR HOSPITALS, IN OUR LONG-TERM CARE HOMES. AND WE'RE ABLE TO DO THAT, THANKS TO OUR EFFORTS TO INNOVATE AND TO LEVERAGE TECHNOLOGY, AND I THINK WE WILL SEE THAT SCALED UP GOING FORWARD.

Steve says WELL, LET ME FIND OUT ABOUT THAT. BECAUSE IF YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT MORE THAN 400,000 IMMIGRANTS COMING IN THE ENSUING YEARS AND YOU'RE UP TO 5,000 ON THE VIRTUAL PLATFORM RIGHT NOW, I MEAN, THAT'S PRETTY SMALL POTATOES AT THIS STAGE OF THE GAME, RIGHT?

Mendicino says YEAH, BUT LET'S NOT FORGET THAT WE ARE ALSO GOING [indiscernible] WHEN IT COMES TO OUR LANDING PROCESSES WHEN IT COMES TO PERMANENT RESIDENTS. FOR INSTANCE, WHEREAS BEFORE YOU NEEDED TO MEET IN PERSON WITH AN IMMIGRATION OFFICER, WE'RE NOW CONDUCTING THOSE INTERVIEWS ONLINE AND IN VIRTUAL SPACE. WE'RE ALLOWING MORE APPLICATIONS TO BE SUBMITTED DIGITALLY. WHEN YOU TAKE A STEP BACK FROM EACH OF THESE INDIVIDUAL PROCESSES, MY VISION FOR OUR IMMIGRATION SYSTEM GOING FORWARD IS THAT IT IS COMPLETELY VIRTUAL AND TOUCHLESS AND THAT EACH AND EVERY ONE OF THESE STEPS IS INTEGRATED SO THAT WE BECOME THE ENVY OF THE WORLD. AND WE HAVE AN ADVANTAGE. WE HAVE A COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE WHEN IT COMES TO OUR IMMIGRATION. THE OECD HAS RECOGNIZED THAT WE ARE THE BEST-IN-CLASS WHEN IT COMES TO INTEGRATING NEWCOMERS. IN FACT, ONE OF THE LAST INTERNATIONAL TRIPS THAT I TOOK, THE LAST INTERNATIONAL TRIP THAT I TOOK, WAS TO GERMANY WHERE I WAS INVITED BY CHANCELLOR ANGELA MERKEL TO TALK ABOUT OUR EXPRESS ENTRY PROGRAM AND HOW WE ARE LEVERAGING OUR ONLINE SERVICES TO BEGIN TO ORIENT NEWCOMERS INTO THEIR COMMUNITIES, AND THAT INCLUDES GETTING THEM THE SKILLS AND THE SERVICES AND THE SUPPORTS THEY NEED PRIOR TO ARRIVAL. AND SO I THINK WHEN YOU COMBINE THE REAL PRECEDENT THAT WE HAVE, PLUS OUR INTREPID EXPERIENCE GOING FORWARD.

Steve says HOW MUCH TOUGHER DO YOU THINK IT IS FOR A NEW IMMIGRANT TO COME TO THIS COUNTRY IN THE MIDST OF COVID-19 LITERALLY HAVING TO ARRIVE HERE AND THEN, YOU KNOW, INSTEAD OF BEING EMBRACED BY THE COMMUNITY THEY COME INTO, THEY'RE INTO QUARANTINE, LIKE EVERYBODY ELSE. AND NOW OF COURSE WITH THE NEW STATE OF EMERGENCY IN ONTARIO, THEY'RE BEING TOLD TO SHELTER AT HOME AND BASICALLY HAVE NO CONTACT WITH ANYBODY ELSE? HOW TOUGH IS THAT?

Mendicino says I THINK THAT IN RELATIVE TERMS, IT IS A SMALL PRICE TO PAY TO COME AND QUARANTINE FOR THE BENEFIT OF YOUR PERSONAL SAFETY, THE SAFETY OF YOUR LOVED ONES, AND YOUR BROADER COMMUNITY AND NEIGHBOURHOOD, IN EXCHANGE FOR THE OPPORTUNITY TO STAY IN CANADA, TO TAKE UP AN EDUCATION, TO, YOU KNOW, PLY A TRADE IN THE ECONOMY, AND TO BECOME HOPEFULLY ONE DAY CANADIAN. AND THE REASON I SAY THAT IS BECAUSE, YOU KNOW, WE HAVE A SHARED SENSE OF VALUES IN THIS COUNTRY, THAT WE RESPECT ONE ANOTHER FOR OUR DIFFERENCES, FOR OUR DIVERSITY. THAT HAS BEEN ONE OF THE BEDROCKS ON WHICH THIS COUNTRY HAS BEEN BUILT, AND IT'S YIELDED NOT ONLY IN PHYSICAL ACTUAL BRICKS AND MORTAR, BUT IT HAS HELPED US BUILD A COUNTRY WE CAN ALL BE PROUD OF. AND IT'S THAT SHARED SENSE OF I THINK COMMON DECENCY BUT ALSO THE OPPORTUNITY TO REACH ONE'S POTENTIAL. WE'RE LIVING IN A COMPLEX WORLD. CANADA IS A COUNTRY WHERE PEOPLE CAST THEIR EYES ABROAD, LOOK AT YOU WITH A SENSE OF ENTHUSIASM, NOTWITHSTANDING THE PANDEMIC, AND THAT IS... AS WE THE GOVERNMENT BELIEVE IN IMMIGRATION AND WE'VE ALSO RESPONDED TO THE CHALLENGES OF COVID-19.

Steve says LET ME FOLLOW UP WITH THIS. THERE'S CURRENTLY A 530 dollar PROCESSING FEE FOR NEW IMMIGRANTS AND A 100 dollar RIGHT OF CITIZENSHIP FEE. AND I THOUGHT IN 2019 YOUR GOVERNMENT HAD PLEDGED TO GET RID OF ALL OF THAT. WHAT'S THE STATUS OF THAT PLEDGE TODAY?

Mendicino says WE DID. AND I CERTAINLY HOPE TO BE ABLE TO ADVANCE THAT WORK. IT IS PART OF MY MANDATE LETTER TO HELP TO REDUCE BARRIERS WHEN IT COMES TO BECOMING A MEMBER OF OUR FAMILY OF CITIZENSHIP. I'VE, YOU KNOW, ALREADY MENTIONED THE FACT THAT WE ARE REDUCING SOME OF THE CHALLENGES AND THE DISRUPTION THAT HAS BEEN CAUSED BY COVID-19 BY MOVING INTO VIRTUAL AND DIGITAL SPACE AND, YOU KNOW, LOOK. IN ADDITION TO THAT, WHEN IT COMES TO OUR IMMIGRATION SYSTEM AS A WHOLE, WE HAVE ONE OF THE MOST INVITING, OPEN, AND INCLUSIVE SYSTEMS AROUND THE WORLD, WHICH HAS BEEN RECOGNIZED, AND THAT'S WHY, FOR INSTANCE, YOU KNOW, WE GET TO GO ABROAD AND SHARE OUR BEST PRACTICES AND IT'S WHY, FRANKLY, THERE IS SUCH A HIGH DEMAND WHEN IT COMES TO SETTING OUR LEVELS. AND WE ARE RESPONDING TO THAT DEMAND BY BEING AMBITIOUS, BY BELIEVING THAT THE WAY TO ACCELERATE OUR ECONOMIC RECOVERY COMING OUT OF THE PANDEMIC IS TO CHART OUT A COURSE IN CONJUNCTION WITH IMMIGRATION. THAT IS WHAT OUR PLAN WILL DO.

Steve says I'M NOT HEARING A COMMITMENT FROM YOU BEFORE THE NEXT ELECTION TO GET RID OF THAT FEE; IS THAT RIGHT?

Mendicino says WELL, LOOK, I REALLY AM ENTHUSIASTIC ABOUT TRYING TO REDUCE BARRIERS, SO STAY TUNED FOR MORE. WHEN I HAVE MORE TO SAY, WE'LL COME BACK ON THE SHOW AND TELL YOU ABOUT IT.

Steve says GOOD ENOUGH. WE'LL HOLD YOU TO THAT. LET ME ASK LOOKING AHEAD ABOUT THE CREATION OF THIS MUNICIPAL NOMINEE PROGRAM WHICH IS... I GUESS IT ADDRESSES A LONGSTANDING PROBLEM THAT WE HAVE, WHICH IS THAT THE VAST MAJORITY OF NEW IMMIGRANTS TO CANADA ARE SETTLING IN THE BIG CITIES WHEN, OF COURSE, WE NEED MORE PEOPLE IN LESS POPULATED AREAS. HOW'S THAT GOING SO FAR?

The caption changes to "Looking ahead."

Mendicino says WELL, IT'S GOING VERY WELL. WE HAVE BEEN ENGAGING WITH OUR PROVINCIAL PARTNERS AS WELL AS LOCAL, MUNICIPAL ELECTED OFFICIALS AND BUSINESS LEADERS WHEN IT COMES TO THE MUNICIPAL NOMINEE PROGRAM. THIS IS THE LATEST ITERATION OF A SERIES OF PILOTS WHICH WE HAVE INTRODUCED, INCLUDING, FOR EXAMPLE, THE RURAL AND NORTHERN IMMIGRATION PILOT. EVEN MORE SO THE ATLANTIC IMMIGRATION PILOT, WHICH IS BASICALLY A WAY TO ATTRACT MORE NEWCOMERS TO SETTLE IN ATLANTIC CANADA WHERE WE ARE AGING MORE RAPIDLY THAN ANYWHERE ELSE. IT HAS BEEN AN UNQUALIFIED SUCCESS IN THAT PART OF THE COUNTRY BECAUSE, AGAIN, NOT ONLY THAT WE HAVE DEVELOPED THIS POLICY BUT BECAUSE LOCAL BUSINESSES AND CHAMBERS OF COMMERCE HAVE HELPED TO SPONSOR NEWCOMERS WHO HAVE THE EXACT SKILL-SET THAT IS REQUIRED TO MEET THE DEMANDS OF THE COMMUNITIES IN WHICH THEY ARE ARRIVING, AND I THINK THAT THE MUNICIPAL NOMINEE PROGRAM WILL BE THE NEXT EVOLUTION OF A SERIES OF PILOTS THAT ARE DESIGNED TO, AS YOU POINT OUT, HELP DISTRIBUTE POPULATION. BECAUSE IF WE NEVER SAID ANOTHER WORD TO ADVERTISE OR PROMOTE THE BIG CITIES LIKE TORONTO, MONTREAL, EDMONTON, CALGARY, VANCOUVER, ET CETERA, PEOPLE WOULD STILL POUR IN BECAUSE THEY HAVE A WORLD RENOWNED REPUTATION. BUT, YOU KNOW, FOR EXAMPLE, YOU WOULDN'T KNOW, YOU KNOW, THERE ARE MANY OPPORTUNITIES TO SETTLE IN ANTIGONISH WHERE, FOR EXAMPLE, WE'VE HAD FOLKS LIKE TARIQ WHO WAS A SYRIAN REFUGEE WHO STARTED A BUSINESS PEACE BY CHOCOLATE WHO IS NOW EMPLOYING MANY PEOPLE IN THAT AREA. THAT ISN'T ONLY BECAUSE OF THE WORK OF RESETTLING WHEN IT COMES TO SPONSORING REFUGEES, IT'S ALSO BECAUSE WE HAVE THE CAPACITY TO WELCOME NEWCOMERS THROUGH THESE REGIONAL PILOTS WHICH DO ENCOURAGE PEOPLE TO LOOK AT OTHER OPPORTUNITIES AROUND THE COUNTRY. AND, LOOK, STEVE, YOU KNOW THIS AS WELL AS I DO, WE LIVE IN ONE OF THE MOST GEOGRAPHICALLY DIVERSE, VAST, BOUNTIFUL COUNTRIES IN THE WORLD. YOU COULD PICK JUST ABOUT ANY PLACE ON IT AND FIND A GREAT LIFE, AND THAT'S WHY IMMIGRATION AND OUR REGIONAL PILOTS ARE SUCH AN IMPORTANT PART OF OUR BLUEPRINT.

Steve says JUST IN OUR LAST 30 SECONDS HERE, I WONDER IF ONE OF THE PERVERSE GOOD BYPRODUCTS OF COVID-19 IS THAT ACTUALLY MOST NEW GRANTS DON'T WANT TO LIVE IN THE DENSELY POPULATED CITIES AND WANT TO GET AWAY FROM COVID-19 AND MOVING TO MORE SPARSELY POPULATED AREAS. ARE YOU SEEING THAT?

Mendicino says CERTAINLY WE WOULD BE VERY INVITING OF THAT PHENOMENON, SHOULD IT OCCUR, BECAUSE WE LIVE IN A VERY DENSE HOMETOWN. BUT I WILL SAY, LOOK, AS A SON OF AN IMMIGRANT, IT IS AN IMMENSE PRIVILEGE TO BE THE MINISTER FOR IMMIGRATION, REFUGEES, AND CITIZENSHIP. AND AS I THINK ABOUT HOW WE CONTINUE TO BUILD THIS COUNTRY GOING FORWARD, IMMIGRATION PLAYS AN ESSENTIAL ROLE FOR OUR ECONOMY BUT ALSO TO CONTINUE TO BUILD THE COUNTRY THAT WE WANT. AND, YOU KNOW, WHENEVER I TALK ABOUT THIS SUBJECT MATTER, I TALK ABOUT HOW WE SHOULDN'T BE CONSTRAINED BY OUR DEMOGRAPHICS, THAT OUR DESTINY SHOULD REALLY BE A FUNCTION OF OUR BELIEF IN IMMIGRATION WHICH IS, AGAIN, VERY MUCH IN OUR DNA AND I LOOK FORWARD TO CONTINUING THIS IMPORTANT WORK THROUGHOUT THE PANDEMIC AND BEYOND.

The caption changes to "Producer: Preeti Bhuyan, @PreetiBhuyan."

Steve says THAT'S MARCO MENDICINO, THE MINISTER OF IMMIGRATION, REFUGEES, AND CITIZENSHIP. WE THANK YOU FOR YOUR TIME ON TVO TONIGHT, MINISTER. STAY WELL.

The caption changes to "Subscribe to The Agenda Podcast: tvo.org/theagenda."

Mendicino says AND YOU AS WELL, STEVE. GREAT TO BE WITH YOU.

Watch: Marco Mendicino: Can Canadian Immigration Cope Amid COVID?