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New citizenship rules wrongly devalue standing of Canadians abroad

The new act will lead to lower citizenship accession rates, which will result in reduced economic benefits for resident Canadians. Extensive research has shown that there is a citizenship premium of higher earnings and greater tax payments that come from naturalized Canadians who have invested in themselves while waiting to become citizens. The new more stringent rules will reduce the incentive for new immigrants to make that kind of investment and - by denying the vote to those who fail to meet accession criteria - lessen their attachment to Canada.

Yet, immigrants who don't meet citizenship requirements can retain their landed immigrant status indefinitely, which means they are able to draw on social benefits. What is the point of bringing in immigrants (who receive social benefits) and denying them citizenship, which would increase their tax contributions? If it is to "punish" them for not being in Canada, the predictable result is perverse: they will indeed choose not to come back to Canada, which deprives the country of a talent pool that was specifically sought out in the first place.

The proposed bill will be popular because it responds to the personal offence that many feel over "citizens of convenience." That sense of offence is real and it is founded on a deep-rooted belief in the value and importance of Canadian citizenship. But it is never a good idea to design public policy around spite. The broader interest of the country should be about building the talent pool of Canada by investing in young people and workers, attracting high-quality immigrants and creating incentives for these immigrants to stay attached to Canada whether or not they live within our borders.

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