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    Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper

    Canada’s Prime Minister Pledges to Maintain Open Door to Immigration

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    Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper pledged to maintain massive annual immigration to Canada in a nationally televised pre-election debate with his two main challengers, Liberal party leader Justin Trudeau and New Democrat leader Tom Mulcair.

    WASHINGTON (Sputnik) – Harper said at the debate in Calgary on Thursday night organized by the Toronto Globe and Press newspaper that "a large scale immigration program is in [Canada's] interests."

    "We’ve over 250,000 immigrants [per year]," the Canadian leader said. "Main thing is that we make sure we’re maximizing the economic [benefits] of immigration."

    Harper stressed the importance of encouraging high levels of immigration to maintaining Canada’s prosperity and growth, with it slow levels of natural population growth.

    Trudeau agreed on this.

    "Immigration is essential to our growth," he said. "That’s been the strength of our country."

    He also accused Harper of making it difficult for families to re-establish themselves in Canada and stressed the importance of introducing new policies to encourage family reunification.

    "[It is] really important to create strong communities," Trudeau said. "They are community builders."

    Mulcair also attacked the prime minister in this area. "Family immigration has been completely shut down under Mr. Harper’s conservatives," he said.

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    However, Harper defended his policies by saying that he had encouraged the immigration into Canada of more two and a half million people over the past decade.

    "We haven’t cut down immigration levels," he said. "Two and a half million million newcomers [have come] to this country over the past decade [in a process of] controlled legal immigration."

    Harper claimed it was the best record of any major industrialized nation on immigration anywhere in the world during that period.

    The 2015 Canadian federal election will be held on October 19, 2015 and the three major parties are currently running closely in opinion polls.

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    immigration policy, Justin Trudeau, Stephen Harper, Canada
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