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Tories survive another confidence vote, MPs vote in favour of Bill C-50

Last Updated: Monday, June 9, 2008 | 7:54 PM ET

The Tories survived yet another confidence vote on Monday when politicians voted in favour of a government bill that also contains controversial changes to Canada's immigration law.

Members of Parliament voted 121 to 90 in favour of Bill C-50, the 2008 budget implementation act, in the House of Commons on Monday evening. The bill received third and final reading in the House.

The amendments, which are embedded in the budget bill, will give the immigration minister greater selection powers to limit the number of new immigration applicants.

"I'm absolutely delighted," Immigration Minister Diane Finley said as she left the House.

It will also allow the government to fast-track applications from the types of immigrants it wants, such as skilled workers, and freeze applications from others.

The Tories have argued the measures are necessary to reduce a backlog of more than 900,000 immigration applicants, which has created wait times of between three and six years for even those who meet all the requirements.

The Liberals' abstention Monday ensured the vote on Bill C-50, a confidence motion, did not bring down Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government.

Earlier on Monday, the CBC's Rosemary Barton reported that there was debate within the Liberal caucus over the bill, but Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion didn't seem to want an election right now.

"The Liberals pride themselves on being close to immigrant communities in this country," Barton said, "but most of them also want to avoid an election. As recently as Friday there was a push inside the Liberal caucus to try and trigger an election, but it would appear the only person who's digging in his heels is Stéphane Dion."

Reluctant to face an election with opinion polls showing a lack of enthusiasm for his leadership, Dion and his party have been abstaining or not showing up for key parliamentary votes for months.

Both the Bloc Québécois and the NDP voted against the bill.

NDP tried to amend bill

Last month, NDP MP Olivia Chow tried to force the government to decouple the immigration provisions from the budget measures, but her amendment failed to pass.

Immigrant associations, refugee advocates and human rights campaigners have criticized the proposed changes. Many fear that the discretionary powers will be used by ministers to discourage family reunification while priority is given to providing skilled workers for the corporate sector.

Businesses in need of professional and skilled employees have supported the bill, pointing to Canada's current labour shortage of more than 300,000 workers.

Immigration lawyer Joel Sandaluk told CBC News that the bill would limit parliamentary oversight of the fairness and practicality of choosing who comes to this country.

"More and more changes are going to be able to come through the system without any oversight, without any consultation, which is really important for something that deals so fundamentally with the human rights of so many people," Sandaluk said.

The Liberals have called the immigration amendments an affront to Canadian values and suggested they will overturn the legislation if they win the next election.

With files from the Canadian Press
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