Federal budget watchdog to take deep dive into costs of asylum seekers

Canada's budget watchdog will attempt to shed light on the total costs associated with a surge in asylum seekers, and forecast how much it could cost in the future.

Conservative MP says Canadians have been left in the dark over total costs of influx

The Parliamentary Budget Officer will carry out a full costing of the spike in asylum seekers entering Canada outside official border points. (Geoff Robins/AFP/Getty Images)

Canada's budget watchdog will crunch the numbers to shed light on the total costs of a surge in asylum seekers.

In response to a request from Conservative MP Larry Maguire, the Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) will take on a global accounting exercise to determine what costs have been incurred to date and how much the stepped-up pace of irregular migration might cost in the future.

"We just need to know, as Canadians, what the costs are and how the government intends to handle it in the future, given that many of our communities are becoming very loaded with the numbers of refugees, coming in to Toronto, Montreal and other areas," Maguire said.

"We need to know from these various departments just what the total costs are going to be."

More than 23,000 people have crossed into Canada outside official border points in the last year, most of them in Quebec and Manitoba. Major cities such as Toronto and Montreal are buckling under the pressure to house and support the new arrivals.

In a letter to the PBO, Maguire said the asylum seeker spike has created "serious financial strains and workloads" on several federal government departments, yet there has been little public reporting on costs.

Canadians 'deserve to know'

"While this crisis has been ongoing for some time, the government has given no indication of what it has cost to facilitate the increasing numbers of irregular arrivals, nor has it shown any projections for what it may cost in the future," he wrote. "I believe that Parliamentarians, and indeed all Canadians, deserve to know exactly what the influx of irregular arrivals at the border is costing their government."

Maguire's request calls for:

  • Total costs to date, including added costs to the Canada Border Services Agency, the RCMP, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, the Canadian Armed Forces and the Immigration Review Board, as well as any transfers to provinces or municipalities.
     
  • A projection of total costs to deal with similar numbers of irregular arrivals for the next several years, outlining the costs from the time a person irregularly enters Canada to when a final decision is made by the Immigration Refugee Board or Federal Court. 

The PBO is charged with providing independent, non-partisan analysis on federal finances, government estimates and trends in the economy. 

PBO spokesperson Sloane Mask could not say how long the accounting will take, but said the office has begun requesting information from various government departments.

"Once we have received the responses, we will be in a better position to gauge the timelines required to complete the analysis," she wrote in an email.