Rare for a politician, Blair Wilson doesnt claim to have all the answers. He speaks well enough on a variety of topics, but when he doesnt know he admits then takes your name and e-mail and promises to get back to you.
That was Wilsons response to several questions on Tuesday, Aug. 8, as his Summer Town Hall series came to Whistler. During the House of Commons summer recess, the West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country Member of Parliament is holding a series of public meetings throughout his riding to meet constituents and discuss a variety of regional and national issues.
Fewer than 20 people turned out for the Whistler meeting, which took place in one of the basement meeting rooms at Millennium Place. One of Wilsons aides said it was unfortunate that the town hall took place the same night as the council meeting, but Wilson would be back again this summer. In the meantime he said the MP could be reached through his constituency office and website.
The questions and concerns posed by the Whistler audience were wide-ranging.
The issue that came up several times was immigration. One person wanted to know why some hard-working immigrants were being deported while immigrants who have connections to crime are allowed to stay. Another asked what the government was doing to extend worker visa programs, and make immigration easier for skilled workers that are in demand across the country.
Wilson is on the Standing Committee for Citizenship and Immigration, which includes representatives from all of the federal parties, and says that issue is coming up more frequently with a shortage of skilled workers across the country and fears about what will happen when the baby boomers retire.
According to Wilson there are 800,000 immigration requests pending, including half a million skilled workers.
As for the problem of deporting some immigrants while allowing others to stay, Wilson said the majority of immigrants are hard working and law abiding while a few bad eggs get most of the publicity. He also said the perception that immigration is too easy is flawed, noting that it takes an average of five years for people to immigrate to Canada.
He said he would be in favour of a two-year probation period for immigrants to speed up the backlog, as well as for encouraging trade associations to speed up their acceptance and testing of workers with foreign credentials.
"Im an accountant by trade, and even my association wouldnt accept credentials right away, we would make them take another exam that would take two years," said Wilson.