Lee Berthiaume (Ottawa Citizen):
Canada’s immigration department returned more than $350 million to the federal treasury in unspent funds over a three-year period, a sum that included millions for processing refugee applications and helping asylum-seekers settle into Canada.
The figure, drawn from official government financial reports, has prompted renewed criticism of the Conservatives, who have been under fire on the campaign trail for their handling of the Syrian refugee crisis.
The election campaign has been dominated by the refugee issue since shocking photos were published last week of three-year-old Alan Kurdi’s lifeless body on a Turkish beach. This was followed by revelations that Citizenship and Immigration (CIC) had rejected an application by Kurdi’s uncle to come to Canada.
The crisis was sparked by outbreak of war between Syrian dictator Bashar Assad and rebel forces in 2011, and exacerbated by the rise of the Islamic State.In the face of mounting pressure from premiers, mayors and faith leaders across the country for the federal government to do more to help Syrian refugees, Conservative leader Stephen Harper said for the first time Thursday that some type of action is coming.
“We will move forward with some plans on that in the very near future,” he told a rally in Prince Edward Island. “The position of this government has been we have been the world leader in refugee resettlement and we intend to do that in a responsible way, a responsible and affordable way for Canadians.”
But according to the figures, which were compiled by the Parliamentary Budget Office, CIC returned more than $130 million – or eight per cent of its budget – to federal coffers in fiscal year 2013-14. It returned, or allowed to lapse, more than $140 million, or nine per cent, in 2012-13, and $80 million, or six per cent, in 2011-12.
Full figures for 2014-15 were not immediately available.