Tuesday, March 20, 2012


It seems that a major policy shift will be announced shortly. But how pro fund can it be? For decades, all the governments do is "tweak" the system, but the hard choices are never made. Stay tuned.

Immigration reform will prevent unemployment 'cycle,' Kenney vows

By Tristin Hopper, Postmedia NewsMarch 19, 2012
TORONTO — By targeting younger and more language-proficient immigrants, a "transformational" package of immigration reforms promises to end the "vicious circle of unemployment" for newcomers, says Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney.

"For too long the story of immigration to Canada has been summed up by the frustration of the highly trained professional who arrived with the expectation of being able to work at his or her skill level," he said, addressing the Canadian Club of Toronto on Monday.

"We're going to stop this practice of inviting highly trained people to come to Canada if they don't have jobs or they're not likely to succeed in the labour market."

In advance of the March 29 federal budget, Kenney was in Toronto to announce immigration reforms aimed at boosting economic growth. "We'll be reforming our immigration programs to do more in ensuring that our historic openness to newcomers works to fuel prosperity in Canada," said Kenney.

Among the changes proposed: adjusting the points system for Federal Skilled Workers; focusing on skilled tradespeople; and boosting the minimum amount required for investor immigrants, which stands at $800,000. Canada needs to get the "biggest bang for its buck" in attracting investor-immigrants, said Kenney.

Once the changes take effect, all applicants to the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP) will undergo pre-assessment of their credentials to ensure they are a good fit for the Canadian market.

Language proficiency will take precedence. "The No. 1 factor for success in immigrants is language proficiency. No point in bringing folks here if they don't have language proficiency," said Kenney.

The points system is being changed to allow a skilled labourer, such as a welder, to enter the country with less English or French than a regulated professional, such as a doctor or veterinarian.
Immigration officials are also set to streamline the clunky process for granting permanent residency to international students. "We used to tell foreign students at the end of their diploma, 'Thanks very much . . . please leave the country, get in the back of a seven-year-long queue and we'll be in touch with you,' " said Kenney.

Meanwhile, he said, that same graduate could obtain residency in Australia or New Zealand in as little as six months. "We created a rigid system, which meant that we were losing the competition for the world's best and brightest," said Kenney.

The reforms reflect a pledge made by Prime Minister Stephen Harper at the World Economic Forum in which he said that economic concerns would be the primary driver of Canada's immigration policy. "We will ensure that, while we respect our humanitarian obligations and family-reunification objectives, we make our economic and labour force needs the central goal of our immigration efforts in the future," he said.

Among recent immigrants, the unemployment rate stands at 12 per cent. Meanwhile, severe labour shortages persist — particularly in the resource and construction booms of the West. The country's labour situation is becoming "desperate," the Canadian Chamber of Commerce warned last month, estimating that the country faces labour shortfalls of up to 500,000 workers over the next 10 years.

Three weeks ago, the Alberta Coalition for Action on Labour Shortages, a group of major Alberta employers, met for its first meeting. "If there is going to be any limit to the growth in Alberta, it is the lack of people to fill jobs," Tim Shipton, president of the Alberta Enterprise Group, said in an interview at the time.

The shortage has increasingly left employers relying on provincial nominee programs to close the gap. Under these specialized arrangements with the federal government, the provinces, in conjunction with employers, select workers to be fast-tracked into the country. Since provincial nominees arrive with jobs lined up, they do "considerably better" than immigrants through the FSWP, said Kenney.
The FSWP used to be the primary avenue for economic immigrants to Canada, but now accounts for only 46 per cent. Provincial nominee programs, meanwhile, are expected to account for nearly one-fifth of all immigration to Canada in 2012. This month, British Columbia Premier Christy Clark called for immigration responsibilities to be completely "devolved" to the provinces.

On Monday, Kenney stood firm that immigration would remain a federal responsibility. "I will not cede the territory to the provinces alone, there needs to be an appropriate balance," he said.

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