WINNIPEG — NDP Leader Tom Mulcair says he will make good on his promise to bring 10,000 Syrian refugees to Canada before the end of 2015 — despite bureaucratic barriers and a tight, two-month window to pull it off.
Asked about the issue Thursday, Mulcair said if elected Oct. 19 an NDP government would resettle the refugees before New Year’s Day.
To get it done, he pledged to immediately name a commissioner who would be dispatched to the region to speed up the process.
Mulcair insisted his plan would untangle some of the bureaucratic knots that have slowed efforts to bring refugees to Canada _ obstacles he has repeatedly criticized during the campaign.
“Where there’s a will, there’s a way,” Mulcair said at a campaign stop in Winnipeg after being pressed on how he could deliver on the ambitious goal.
“We have been saying we will meet the United Nations request for Canada to do more and, between now and the end of the year, we know that we can get 10,000 refugees here.”
The refugee crisis in Syria, where millions of desperate people are fleeing the war zone, has emerged over the last week as a top ballot-box issue.
The Syrian emergency suddenly hit home for many more Canadians last week when a photo emerged of three-year-old refugee Alan Kurdi lying dead on a beach in Turkey.
Some 2,500 refugees have arrived in Canada since the government began opening spaces for Syrians in 2013.
In all, the Harper government has committed to opening the doors to 11,300 people by the end of 2018.
Mulcair attacked Conservative Leader Stephen Harper on Thursday, saying he has done little to address the issue.
“Mr. Harper keep piling up the excuses for doing nothing,” said Mulcair, who later called on the federal government to match donations made to registered Canadian charities providing assistance to Syrian refugees.
At a campaign stop Thursday, Harper hinted for the first time that work is underway to accelerate the process of refugee resettlement.
The New Democrats have committed to giving to 46,000 Syrian refugees a home in Canada over four years.
The Liberals, meanwhile, have made a more-ambitious year-end pledge, if elected, promising to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees in Canada by Jan. 1.
The NDP also announced Thursday that it would unveil its “fully costed, balanced fiscal plan” before next Thursday’s economic debate in Calgary.
Mulcair, who was in Winnipeg to announce a multimillion-dollar pledge aimed at addressing youth unemployment, has come under fire by opponents for his costly suite of campaign promises.
Speaking at a training centre, Mulcair promised to create more than 40,000 youth jobs, paid internships and co-op placements over four years.
He said an NDP government would work with the private sector and NGOs and provide up to $100 million a year for the program, which aims to cut the youth unemployment rate from 13.1 per cent.
The plan, he said, requires that apprentices be hired for all federal infrastructure projects greater than $10 million.
The NDP government would also provide $5 million a year in grants so that municipalities can create 1,250 apprenticeships.
The program also calls for a crackdown on unpaid internships.