A new Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) report says the federal government has "more than enough" staff to promptly process applications for economic immigrants, despite claims suggesting otherwise.
Yves Giroux states his office analyzed the cost of processing applications for economic immigrants through the express entry system for five fiscal years.
For the 2022/23 fiscal year, the report said Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has 65% more staff than needed to process applications on time.
"That excess number of employees will go down gradually over time but should still be more than sufficient to meet the service standards that the department has set for itself," said Giroux.
By 2026/27, the department will have 4% more employees than it needs to process these types of applications.
Ottawa intends to welcome upwards of 500,000 immigrants annually by 2025, per its immigration plan, calling for the admission of 1.45 million more new permanent residents over the next three years, equivalent to 3.8% of the country's population.
Ottawa aims to process 80% of those applications within six months.
According to a federal memo last year, the IRCC also expressed concerns about "eroding the public's trust" owing to a backlog of 700,000 Temporary Resident Visa (TRV) applications. They previously deliberated on reducing the number of visitor visa applications.
However, two anonymous IRCC sources unveiled Immigration Minister Sean Fraser would waive eligibility requirements for roughly 450,000 applications with other efforts underway to reduce the TRV backlog further.
Visitors still face admissibility checks to ensure they are not a national security threat. Still, in waiving eligibility rules, foreign nationals do not have to demonstrate that they will leave Canada when their visa expires or possess sufficient funds to stay in Canada.
Last year, Canada announced a hiring blitz to address the backlogs as it faced mounting political pressure over delays.
"Canada is now processing visitor visa applications faster than it did even before the pandemic," said Fraser.
In November, the IRCC processed over 260,000 visitor visas — up significantly from 180,000 per month in 2019.
If the department is as efficient as it should be, Giroux said it could divert staff from processing applications in the economic stream to the family reunification or refugee streams.
Canada plans to ramp up immigration in the coming years significantly, a decision the feds claim is necessary to address changing demographics and labour shortages.
In 2021, the feds committed to successive 10,000 quota increases in 2022 and 2023 at 411,000 and 421,000 permanent residents to tackle those 'unprecedented' shortfalls.
According to the IRCC, Canada added over 437,000 new permanent residents in 2022, accounting for three-quarters of the country's population growth.
"We wanted to look in the context of these backlogs as to whether or not the issue was one of resourcing from an HR perspective," said Giroux, who adds if the backlogs persist, the onus will be on the federal government to explain why.
"Just because you put something in a memorandum to the cabinet doesn't necessarily make it a secret if it is otherwise publicly available."