Opposition filibuster in committee over suggested changes to House procedure delayed

A group of MPs were just settling in for what they thought would be another marathon meeting over the ins and outs of parliamentary procedures, some wondering whether this would be another long night calling for pizza and caffeine.

Then suddenly, seemingly before some in the room had even begun paying attention, it was over — for now.

Conservative and New Democrats had started a protest at the procedures committee last month, speaking for hours over four days as they tried to prevent the Liberals from passing a motion that would impose a deadline on their study of proposed changes to the way the House of Commons conducts its business.

The opposition filibuster was set to start up again Monday at noon, likely with bluster and bombast from NDP MP David Christopherson, who was raring to go as he spoke to reporters before the meeting began. But then Liberal MP Larry Bagnell, the committee chair, suspended the meeting to allow for more negotiations behind the scenes.

They are scheduled to meet again Wednesday at 4 p.m.

The word was that Opposition House Leader Candice Bergen and NDP House Leader Murray Rankin had headed into a meeting Monday morning with Government House Leader Bardish Chagger, whose discussion paper on suggestions for legislative reform had started this contentious ball rolling in the first place.

“It’s nice to see that we are all coming together to have that conversation and hopefully we can work collaboratively together to really modernize the way this place works,” Chagger told reporters Monday on her way into question period.

That discussion paper proposes changes the Liberals argue are meant to modernize the House of Commons, making it more efficient and relevant.

Proposals for question period, workweek

The ideas include doing away with sparsely attended Friday sittings, or making Fridays like any other day of the week, with the same hours and business to be done.

Other suggestions include allowing electronic voting, scheduling a specific amount of time to debate government bills — as well as deadlines to move it through the legislative process — and creating a special question period one day a week for the prime minister to be the one answering all the questions, as is done in Britain.

Opposition MPs are taking issue with both the suggested changes, which they argue will take away some of what little power remains to opposition MPs, and the way the Liberals have been trying to implement them, especially since they are not guaranteeing a need for unanimity or even consensus before they move ahead.

That includes notice of a motion by Liberal MP Scott Simms to not only have the paper studied by the procedures committee, which would normally be free to set its own agenda, but also have the committee report back on the paper by June 2.

NDP MP vows to continue filibuster2:32

That is what set off the filibuster.

Simms said he welcomed the pause. He also suggested the June 2 deadline is up for discussion — but not an indefinite delay.

“We don’t want it to drag on. By the same token, I would be willing to discuss the option of amending June 2,” Simms said.

‘The government is blinking’

Christopherson saw the suspension as a good sign.

“The government is blinking,” he said Monday. “The government realizes they’re in some trouble and they want now to have some discussions with the House leaders to see if they can get off this dime.”

Bergen, meanwhile, saw the fact that the Liberal chair of the committee had put the filibuster on hold as another power grab.

“They are taking all of our tools away,” said Bergen.

Bergen said that in her meeting with Chagger, both she and Rankin were clear they were not changing their position.

“The government needs to agree there would be a consensus,” she said.

Blind Windsor woman denied help filling out passport docs

An Ontario woman says the federal government is letting down residents with disabilities by forbidding staff at Passport Canada from helping applicants fill out their forms.

Rebecca Blaevoet of Windsor, Ont., says she learned of the policy last month when she went to have her passport renewed.

Blaevoet, who is completely blind, asked Passport Canada staff to fill out her form according to the responses she provided, but they refused, saying that would violate official guidelines.

Staff offered her a braille form, which would only have allowed her to read the application rather than complete it. Passport Canada quickly had to retract the offer upon realizing they did not have any braille forms in stock.

Another staff member asked Blaevoet’s husband if he could fill out the forms for her, but that question offended her even further. 

“That’s a reasonable question, but it’s really wrong on several levels,” she said about the principle of not having the services available for blind citizens who might not be fortunate enough to have someone there with them. “It was my issue, I had to handle it. My husband might not have even been there.”

In the end, Blaevoet says she was asked to handwrite the form as a staff member placed a writing guide — an aid to show her where to write — on each individual line. Blaevoet said this option would not be helpful for people whose disabilities prevented them from holding a pen or writing in print.

Official complaint filed

Passport Canada says the rule barring staff from filling in forms on behalf of others is applied across the country. There is no exemption in place for Canadians with disabilities.

Blaevoet, who has filed an official complaint about her experience with Passport Canada, said the policy represents a complete failure to accommodate those with disabilities.

“”I said, ‘fine. I’m going to stand here and handwrite it, it’s going to take me a long time, and good luck to anybody who can read my handwriting. This is outrageous,”‘  – ​Rebecca Blaevoet

“There is no excuse for such ethical laxity in providing decent services for all Canadians, regardless of disability, race, ethnic origin, whatever,” she said in an interview. “I just think it’s reprehensible that they have such a gap.”

The incident occurred March 22 when Blaevoet and her husband went to renew their passports. Unaware of the existing policy, Blaevoet said she thought having a Passport Canada employee complete the one-page, double-sided form would be the most efficient way of processing her application.

Upon arrival, however, a clerk informed her he could not fulfil her request, saying doing so was “not his job,” Blaevoet recalled.

She then asked to speak to a supervisor, who said Passport Canada staff could not complete the form for fear of “leading the applicant” to provide inaccurate answers. When Blaevoet offered to sign a document authorizing staff to assist her, she said no such accommodation could be granted.

No braille forms at branch

Blaevoet was offered a braille form, which would have allowed her to read the application, but would not provide a means of filling in answers. Staff then discovered they had no braille forms in stock.

Blaevoet was ultimately told she could handwrite the form, an option she said she accepted to illustrate what she called the absurdity of the policy.

“I said, ‘fine. I’m going to stand here and handwrite it, it’s going to take me a long time, and good luck to anybody who can read my handwriting. This is outrageous,”‘ she said, adding the majority of visually impaired people do not have sufficient handwriting skills to make use of that option. The same would hold true for those with physical disabilities limiting their movements.

Tandem Bike

Rebecca Blaevoet, left, rides a tandem bike with her husband Emmanuel in Windsor. (CBC)

Blaevoet said a staff member placed a handwriting guide on each line of the form to ensure the proper fields were being filled out. To Blaevoet’s surprise, however, the staff member volunteered to take over once they reached the “references” section of the form, willingly filling in fields and even offering to look up addresses online.

During this time, Blaevoet said staff approached her husband asking if he would complete the application on her behalf. He declined on principle, saying it was not appropriate for staff to assume a person accompanying a disabled applicant could be trusted to complete the task.

“He could have been a taxi driver who just helped me find the office and I just paid to wait for me. Or he might have been my husband, but completely dyslexic.”

The government said staff are barred from helping applicants fill out forms as a security measure to protect against forgery.

“Generally, any addition, modification or deletion of information on an application form must be completed by the applicant and initialled,” reads a statement from Service Canada, the agency that oversees the administration of passports.

“”Many people with disabilities will find the existing limited set of options demeaning and insulting,” – Michael Prince, University of Victoria

“Although the policy in place speaks to amendments to the application form and does not reference providing assistance to visually impaired applicants, it is understood that any annotations on the application form should be completed by the applicant themselves, when possible.”

The statement said visually impaired Canadians can designate a friend or family member to complete the form for them.

Legislation needed to ensure accessible service

The Passport Canada site also offers an accessible online form that can be completed in advance. Service Canada said, however, that there are no accessible terminals for those with disabilities at passport offices — meaning those without an Internet connection or appropriate technology would have issues. Blaevoet noted that in her case, staff at the Passport Canada office did not point her to an online form.

Michael Prince, professor of social policy and disability studies at the University of Victoria, said the proposed solutions are typical of too many customer service experiences across Canada that limit a person’s ability to take independent action on their own affairs.

He said Blaevoet’s case exemplifies the need for federal legislation to ensure accessible customer service standards across all services provided by government, adding the ideal scenario would result in universal access in everything from banks to stores to voting booths.

“Many people with disabilities will find the existing limited set of options demeaning and insulting,” Prince said. “As a country committed to equality and to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, we can do much better.”

More Canadian businesses plan to invest and hire this year, says survey

A majority of Canadian businesses expect to hire and make investments over the next year as domestic demand gains strength, according to the latest survey from the Bank of Canada.

The results of the central bank’s quarterly Business Outlook Survey, released Monday morning, reflect increasing business confidence after two years of weakness triggered by the 2014 plunge in oil prices. That sentiment continues a trend noted in the previous Business Outlook Survey.

Fifty-one per cent of surveyed businesses said they expected to have more employees over the next twelve months, compared to 15 per cent who expected lower employment. The number of firms planning to hire more is now at its highest level since late 2014, when oil prices began their precipitous decline.

An improving sales outlook from surveyed businesses has been fuelled by “an expected rebound in energy-related activity,” said the report, as well as “favourable effects of the weaker Canadian dollar for exports and the tourism sector.”

“Meanwhile, some firms believe that activity in sectors experiencing robust growth (such as housing and automobiles) could soon level off,” said the report.

Canadian businesses expect higher commodity prices to increase costs, reported the bank.

“A few also cited regulatory factors, such as cap-and-trade policies in Ontario and the carbon tax in Alberta, as contributing to their input price growth.”

The survey offers “plenty of signs that the worst of the oil price shock is behind the Canadian economy,” wrote Robert Kavcic of BMO Economics in a note.

The Trump question

More and more Canadian firms are optimistic about U.S. economic growth during the Trump administration, which could possibly open new export opportunities. Benefits could also come from the Keystone XL pipeline and possible U.S. infrastructure spending, the surveyed companies said.

That optimism remains tempered, however, by the possible risks from Trump’s unpredictable agenda.

“These risks include increased protectionism, reduced competitiveness of Canadian firms in the event of corporate tax cuts in the United States, and possible delays in the implementation of pro-growth U.S. policies,” said the report.

Interest rates likely to remain low for now

The Bank of Canada is “undoubtedly pleased with today’s report,” wrote TD Economics senior economist Brian DePratto, adding that “it may be reasonable to expect solid economic momentum as we head into the remainder of 2017. “

Still, the bank is “not likely to change the dovish tone of recent communications,” wrote DePratto, referring to the bank’s position on interest rates.

In monetary policy circles, “dovish” implies being in favour of lower rates. It’s the opposite of “hawkish” which is the term for those who favour higher rates.

“Until intentions begin translating into actual investment, Bank of Canada officials appear likely to downplay today’s [Business Outlook Survey] and the recent improvement in the Canadian economic data more broadly,” wrote DePratto.

The Bank of Canada will release its next interest rate decision on Wednesday, April 12. All twelve economists surveyed by Bloomberg expect the bank to keep interest rates steady.

BOC business hiring intentions

According to the central bank survey, far more business plan to hire this year than plan to cut back staffing. (Pete Evans/CBC)

More Canadian businesses plan to invest and hire, says survey

More Canadian businesses expect to hire and make investments over the next year as domestic demand gains strength, according to the latest survey from the Bank of Canada.

The results of the central bank’s quarterly Business Outlook Survey, released Monday morning, reflect increasing business confidence after two years of weakness triggered by the 2014 plunge in oil prices. That sentiment continues a trend noted in the previous Business Outlook Survey.

An improving sales outlook from surveyed businesses has been fuelled by “an expected rebound in energy-related activity,” said the report, as well as “favourable effects of the weaker Canadian dollar for exports and the tourism sector.”

“Meanwhile, some firms believe that activity in sectors experiencing robust growth (such as housing and automobiles) could soon level off,” said the report.

Table view

Scroll horizontally to see additional columns

Canadian businesses expect higher commodity prices to increase costs, reported the bank.

“A few also cited regulatory factors, such as cap-and-trade policies in Ontario and the carbon tax in Alberta, as contributing to their input price growth.”

The Trump question

More and more Canadian firms are optimistic about U.S. economic growth during the Trump administration, which could possibly open new export opportunities. Benefits could also come from the Keystone XL pipeline and possible U.S. infrastructure spending, the surveyed companies said.

That optimism remains tempered, however, by the possible risks from Trump’s unpredictable agenda.

“These risks include increased protectionism, reduced competitiveness of Canadian firms in the event of corporate tax cuts in the United States, and possible delays in the implementation of pro-growth U.S. policies,” said the report.

Drunk pilot who appeared to pass out in cockpit sentenced to 8 months

An airline pilot who pleaded guilty in March to be being impaired while in control of an aircraft was sentenced in a Calgary court Monday to eight months in jail, minus time served. 

More to come

For an earlier version of the story, see below:


An airline pilot who was so drunk he appeared to pass out in the cockpit before takeoff will be sentenced in Calgary today.

Miroslav Gronych pleaded guilty last month to having care and control of an aircraft while he had a blood alcohol level that was three times the legal limit.

Gronych was escorted off a Sunwing Airlines plane in Calgary on Dec. 31 that was supposed to fly to Regina and Winnipeg before continuing to Cancun, Mexico.

The court heard that when Gronych got on the plane, he struggled to hang up his coat, was slurring his words and was staggering.

The court was also told the co-pilot suggested Gronych should leave the plane, but he eventually returned to the cockpit, sat down and appeared to pass out with his face resting on the window.

The defence has asked for a three- to six-month sentence while the Crown is asking the judge for one year in jail.

The court heard that Gronych, a Slovakia national who keeps a Saskatoon address, is married and has two young children. He has since lost his job.

Members of a flight crew are prohibited under Canadian aviation regulations from working within eight hours of consuming alcohol or while under the influence of alcohol.

Sunwing has said it has a zero tolerance policy on crew members consuming alcohol within 12 hours of going on duty.

Drunk pilot who appeared to pass out in cockpit to be sentenced in Calgary court

An airline pilot who was so drunk he appeared to pass out in the cockpit before takeoff will be sentenced in Calgary today.

Miroslav Gronych pleaded guilty last month to having care and control of an aircraft while he had a blood alcohol level that was three times the legal limit.

Gronych was escorted off a Sunwing Airlines plane in Calgary on Dec. 31 that was supposed to fly to Regina and Winnipeg before continuing to Cancun, Mexico.

The court heard that when Gronych got on the plane, he struggled to hang up his coat, was slurring his words and was staggering.

The court was also told the co-pilot suggested Gronych should leave the plane, but he eventually returned to the cockpit, sat down and appeared to pass out with his face resting on the window.

The defence has asked for a three- to six-month sentence while the Crown is asking the judge for one year in jail.

The court heard that Gronych, a Slovakia national who is married and has two young children, has lost his job.

Members of a flight crew are prohibited under Canadian aviation regulations from working within eight hours of consuming alcohol or while under the influence of alcohol.

Sunwing has said it has a zero tolerance policy on crew members consuming alcohol within 12 hours of going on duty.

Brad Wall’s popularity drops in wake of unpopular budget

Premier Brad Wall’s popularity took a significant hit after the provincial budget was released last month, according to a Mainstreet poll commissioned by Postmedia. 

Forty-six per cent of residents who were polled approve of the job Wall is doing, 45 per cent disapprove and the remaining nine per cent were undecided. Wall had 52 per cent approval in October.

“Driving these numbers are the impact of the budget,” Mainstreet vice-president David Valentin said in a release. 

Wall took his biggest hits in Saskatoon and Regina, while rural residents showed higher approval ratings.

The budget itself had an approval rating of 26 per cent. Forty-five per cent of people polled said they disapproved of the budget. More than half of those — 51 per cent — disapproved of the government scrapping STC, while 18 per cent were in favour. 

The biggest disapproval came from the grants in lieu of tax program being cut, which saw a 63 per cent disapproval and just 11 per cent approved, while 26 per cent weren’t sure. 

The poll was conducted March 30 and 31 and 1,704 people were surveyed, using landlines and cellphones. A random sample of this size would yield a margin of error of +/- 2.37 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

Where you live in Ontario could impact your risk of heart attack or stroke, study indicates

Where you live in Ontario could have a lot to do with your risk of having a heart attack or stroke, a massive new study has found.

The peer-reviewed research, published on Monday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, hammered home the stark divide in health outcomes throughout the province. It found people in northern Ontario faced nearly double the levels of cardiovascular health issues compared to residents in and around Toronto, and one clinician is calling the results a “wake-up call.”

Researchers tracked 5.5 million middle-aged adults from 2008 to 2012, looking for heart attacks, strokes and deaths from cardiovascular issues. None of the adults — all between 40 and 79 — had a history of cardiovascular disease.

“What we found were rather striking two-fold differences in the incidence of cardiovascular disease between Ontarians living in different parts of the province,” said lead author Dr. Jack Tu, a senior scientist at the Toronto-based Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences.

Tu, who’s also a cardiologist at Sunnybrook’s Schulich Heart Centre and was an expert adviser for CBC’s Rate My Hospital project, has long studied regional variations in cardiovascular deaths.

His latest “big data” study with the Cardiovascular Health in Ambulatory Care Research Team included data from various health-care databases maintained by Ontario government, and broke information down by Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs).

3 healthiest areas all in GTA

The research found the healthiest three LHINs were all in the Greater Toronto Area, with the Mississauga Halton LHIN, Toronto Central LHIN and Central LHIN coming out on top.

Those three had the fewest cardiovascular health issues during the study period, with 3.2 to 3.5 events out of every 1,000 person-years — a statistical measurement used to express incidence rates.

The four least-healthy LHINs were the North East LHIN and North West LHIN — both in northern Ontario — along with the North Simcoe Muskoka LHIN and Erie St. Clair LHIN.

Health groups

The incidence of major cardiovascular events across health service regions, also known as Local Health Integration Networks, across Ontario throughout the five years of the study period. (CMAJ)

Those areas were found to have the most cardiovascular health issues, with 4.8 to 5.7 events out of every 1,000 person-years — or roughly double those of the most healthy LHINs.

“Those living in the areas with the lowest burden of disease were the most likely to have received cardiovascular preventative services — such as having an annual physical, seeing their doctor to have their cholesterol and diabetes checked, and having their blood pressure controlled,” noted Tu.

In contrast, people in the least-healthy areas were less likely to receive preventive screening tests or have an annual physician, and also visited a family doctor less often. They were also more likely to be obese or smoke, and have the lowest intake of fruits and vegetables.

Improving access to boost health

The researchers determined improving access to preventive health-care services could boost cardiovascular health.

Tu said his team account for the many other factors that contributed to each person’s health, such as their ethnic background or whether they were immigrants.

By using a statistical analysis method to make predictions, the researchers determined that factors within Ontario’s health system, such as access to preventive health care, account for roughly 15 per cent of the difference in health levels between different regions.

“The data suggests that there’s a significant number of Ontarians who are not being fully assessed for cardiovascular risk in the middle-age range,” Tu said.

‘It’s a wake up call for all of us’

Toronto emergency room physician Dr. Brett Belchetz agreed, and praised the research for its “incredible size” and the length of the followup time.

“The disparity here is obviously far greater than I ever would’ve expected. The outcomes are far worse for rural areas than I ever would’ve expected. I think it’s a wake-up call for all of us in the province that we have a bigger problem on our hands than we realized,” said Belchetz, who was not involved in the research.

Dr. Jack Tu

‘What we found were rather striking two-fold differences in the incidence of cardiovascular disease between Ontarians living in different parts of the province,’ says Dr. Jack Tu, lead study author and a senior scientist at the Toronto-based Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Belchetz said it has long been known that access to care is trickier in rural communities, thanks to reduced access to lab testing and a lower physician-to-patient ratio. Increased access to doctors, screening, and better education are all key to reducing the health divide, he said.

“The fact that we’re seeing rates of these types of illnesses that are almost double in rural areas than they are in cities — that’s something that’s unacceptable,” he added.

Tu acknowledged there were limitations to the research, which was funded primarily by an operating grant from the Institute of Circulatory and Respiratory Health-Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

There was a lack of complete data for every health indicator used for the millions of people in the study, for instance, and the team also couldn’t be 100 per cent sure of a causal relationship between various risk factors and someone having a cardiovascular issue.

But he still stressed the importance of patients taking their health care into their own hands by getting fully assessed and screened — wherever they live — and said policymakers need to consider geography when they’re determining health-care policies.

Where you live in Ontario could impact your risk of heart attack or stroke, study finds

Where you live in Ontario could have a lot to do with your risk of having a heart attack or stroke, a massive new study has found.

The peer-reviewed research, published on Monday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, hammered home the stark divide in health outcomes throughout the province — and found people in Northern Ontario face nearly double the levels of cardiovascular health issues of those living in and around Toronto, something one clinician has dubbed a “wake up call.”

Researchers followed 5.5 million middle-aged adults over a five-year period from 2008 to 2012, looking for heart attacks, strokes, and people dying from cardiovascular issues. None of the adults — all between the ages of 40 to 79 — had any previous cardiovascular disease.

“What we found were rather striking two-fold differences in the incidence of cardiovascular disease between Ontarians living in different parts of the province,” said lead author Dr. Jack Tu, a senior scientist at the Toronto-based Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences.

Tu, who’s also a cardiologist at Sunnybrook’s Schulich Heart Centre and was an expert advisor for CBC’s Rate My Hospital project, has long studied regional variations in cardiovascular deaths.

His latest “big data” study with the Cardiovascular Health in Ambulatory Care Research Team, which included data from various health care databases maintained by Ontario government, broke things down by Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs).

3 healthiest areas all in GTA

The research found the healthiest three LHINs were all in the GTA, with the Mississauga Halton LHIN, Toronto Central LHIN, and Central LHIN coming out on top.

Those three had the fewest cardiovascular health issues during the study period, with 3.2 to 3.5 events out of every 1000 person-years — a statistical measurement used to express incidence rates.

The four least-healthy LHINs were the North East LHIN and North West LHIN — both in Northern Ontario — along with the North Simcoe Muskoka LHIN and Erie St. Clair LHIN.

Health groups

The incidence of major cardiovascular events across health service regions, also known as Local Health Integration Networks, across Ontario throughout the five years of the study period. (CMAJ)

Those areas were found to have the most cardiovascular health issues, with 4.8 to 5.7 events out of every 1000 person-years — or roughly double those of the most healthy LHINs.

“Those living in the areas with the lowest burden of disease were the most likely to have received cardiovascular preventative services — such as having an annual physical, seeing their doctor to have their cholesterol and diabetes checked, and having their blood pressure controlled,” noted Tu.

In contrast, people in the least-healthy areas were less likely to receive preventative screening tests or have an annual physician, and also visited a family doctor less often. They were also more likely to be obese or smoke, and have the lowest intake of fruits and vegetables.

Improving access to preventative services may boost health

A big takeaway from the study? Improving access to preventative health care services could boost cardiovascular health, the researchers determined.

And while there were many other factors contributing to each person’s health, like their ethnic background or whether they were an immigrant, Tu said his team accounted for that.

By using a statistical analysis method to make predictions, the researchers determined that factors within Ontario’s health system, such as access to preventative health care, account for roughly 15 per cent of the difference in health levels between different regions.

“The data suggests that there’s a significant number of Ontarians who are not being fully assessed for cardiovascular risk in the middle-age range,” Tu said.

‘It’s a wake up call for all of us’

Toronto emergency room physician Dr. Brett Belchetz agreed, and praised the research for its “incredible size” and the length of the follow-up time.

“The disparity here is obviously far greater than I ever would’ve expected. The outcomes are far worse for rural areas than I ever would’ve expected. I think it’s a wake up call for all of us in the province that we have a bigger problem on our hands than we realized,” said Belchetz, who was not involved in the research.

Dr. Jack Tu

Lead study author Dr. Jack Tu is a senior scientist at the Toronto-based Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Belchetz said it’s long been known that access to care is trickier in rural communities, thanks to reduced access to lab testing and a lower physician-to-patient ratio. Increased access to doctors, screening, and better education are all key to reducing the health divide, he said.

“The fact that we’re seeing rates of these types of illnesses that are almost double in rural areas than they are in cities — that’s something that’s unacceptable,” he added.

Tu acknowledged there were limitations to the research, which was funded primarily by an operating grant from the Institute of Circulatory and Respiratory Health-Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

There was a lack of complete data for every health indicator used for the millions of people in the study, for instance, and the team also can’t be 100 per cent sure of a causal relationship between various risk factors and someone having a cardiovascular issue.

But he still stressed the importance of patients taking their healthcare into their own hands by getting fully assessed and screened — wherever they live — and said policymakers need to consider geography when they’re determining health care policies.

Trudeau should probably stop telling desperate refugees that everyone is welcome in Canada

Are you one of the millions of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. afraid of being deported? Come to Canada! An asylum-seeker worried your refugee claim will be denied in America? Welcome to Canada! Paid a paltry wage in Mexico? Head on up to Canada!

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau began broadcasting this heart-warming message in late January as a not-so-subtle subtweet about President Donald Trump’s travel ban.

To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada” he tweeted on Jan. 28, followed by a picture of him greeting a refugee family.

The two tweets garnered over a million likes and half-a-million retweets, creating millions of misleading impressions about Canada as a sanctuary for all the world’s displaced. Anyone with the smallest bit of knowledge about the immigration process understands that Canada’s doors are anything but wide open, but Trudeau isn’t just blatantly spreading falsehoods by sending that message — he’s actually enticing people to uproot their lives, throwing another wrench into an already chaotic immigration system, all based on disingenuous messaging.

Armed with the fallacious belief that Canada will absolutely offer them residency, many asylum-seekers will gamble all their money and risk their lives trying to make the dangerous journey to Canada. Indeed, we’ve seen how quickly would-be immigrants will flood the borders if they believe their chances of staying have improved.

The Liberals’ elimination of the visa requirement for Mexican travellers at the end of last year, for example, has led to a 1,000 per cent increase in Mexican refugee claims this year. We know based on data from before the visa restriction, however, that only a fraction of those applicants will be allowed to stay, meaning that many Mexicans will spend thousands coming to Canada with only a slim chance of actually gaining residency.

Nevertheless, Trudeau’s rhetoric will surely resonate among asylum-seekers currently in the U.S. who are considering entering Canada illegally in order to bypass the Safe Third Country Agreement.  Already, in the first two months of 2017, Canadian police intercepted 1,134 asylum-seekers crossing the border illegally, which is half of all of last year’s total.

Refugees Border 20170226

Surely we will see even greater numbers of asylum-seekers illegally crossing into Canada as the weather gets warmer. (John Woods/The Canadian Press)

If we’re seeing these sorts of numbers in the dead of winter — and Trump has only begun his crackdown on illegal immigrants currently residing in America — surely we will see even greater numbers as the weather gets warmer, especially as Trudeau continues to peddle the notion that refugees can find a home in Canada.

But of course, many refugees will not find a home in Canada, even if they are granted temporary asylum. According to data supplied by the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, out of the 15,196 in-country refugee applicants processed in 2016, a total of 4,970 were rejected for various reasons, such as applicants not being considered in enough danger in their home country — and that was only after hundreds of other applications had already been terminated because the applicants had criminal records, abandoned claims, etc.

This year, the government says it plans to take in 40,000 refugees within the total target number of 300,000 new immigrants in 2017. These numbers sound generous, but the reality is that Canada’s immigration policy is very selective in terms of who gets citizenship. Our nation’s immigration process involves a point system that scoops the cream of the crop from a long queue of applicants, which is hardly the wide-open door implied by Trudeau.

On top of irresponsibly encouraging vast swaths of people to try their luck at residency, Trudeau’s words risk inciting Canadians who are already feeling anxious about letting in too many newcomers. A recent Reuters poll found that only 36 per cent of Canadians believe that those illegally crossing the border should be able to remain in Canada. The perception that Canada is too generous toward newcomers could give way to resentment, and Canada could very well see a nativist backlash akin to that of Brexit or Trump. Our prime minister should be tempering those anxieties, not stoking them.

Of course, welcoming and supporting newcomers is a worthy tradition in Canada — more so recently than in decades past — but the hard reality is we have quotas on how many asylum-seekers and immigrants we choose to let in each year (and for good reason, integrating newcomers into society is an expensive and difficult process).

Simply reaching Canada is in no way a guarantee of residency, which is not the message that Trudeau has been dangling over the world’s millions of war-torn and destitute people. Trudeau should really stop virtue signalling about how welcoming a country Canada is to newcomers, lest desperate asylum-seekers decide to take his airy words seriously.

This column is part of CBC’s Opinion section. For more information about this section, please read this editor’s blog and our FAQ.