This article was on today’s Toronto Star, I’m off to buy blinds for the new place today but I’ll comment later.
Small step to immigration sanity
June 01, 2007
Minister of Immigration and Citizenship Mike Colle’s announcement of a pilot nominee program is part of a positive shift in Canada’s immigration policy.
Ontario, together with Yukon and nine other provinces, will begin to address three persistent problems that have undermined the success of Canada’s immigration policy: long delays in processing applications; the disconnect between the qualifications of immigrants and their success in the labour market; and the concentration of immigrant settlement in major urban centres like the GTA that combine high living costs with often limited employment opportunities.
With an aging population and a low birth rate, increases in the labour force increasingly depend upon Canada’s ability to attract highly qualified immigrants. In competition with Australia, the United States and European Union countries, Canada’s global immigration strategy uses a point system to recruit highly educated, skilled and experienced immigrants who can readily find employment and contribute to economic growth.
However, numerous studies point to the same troubling conclusion: Canada is losing its status as a destination of choice as delays in the processing of applications and growing awareness of difficulties finding employment related to their education, skills and work experience deter highly qualified immigrants.
Currently, applicants for admission to Canada as independent class or economic immigrants – 60 per cent of all immigrants – face an 18- to 30-month processing time. The waiting list is more than 800,000. Once admitted, based on existing trends, slightly more than 50 per cent of the projected 141,000-158,000 economic-class immigrants in 2007 will settle in Ontario, the overwhelming majority in the GTA.
After a brief period of adjustment, many economic immigrants find employment and fulfill their expectations, but despite high levels of education, skill and work experience, the majority face a high risk of unemployment, underemployment and poverty.
The cost of processing delays and unsuccessful settlement is high, both for the immigrant and their dependants and the Ontario economy due to the underutilization of their skills and expertise at a time of emerging labour shortages.
Ontario’s new provincial nomination program will enable employers in the health, education, manufacturing and construction sectors to recruit employees for jobs in 20 occupations, matching job vacancies with the qualifications of prospective immigrants. Citizenship and Immigration Canada will fast-track the admission of nominated immigrants and their families and the program will allocate 50 per cent of nominations to communities outside of the GTA to encourage more balanced immigrant settlement throughout the province and contribute to regional economic development.
Nomination programs have proved very successful in other provinces. In 2005, more than 4,600 economic immigrants and their families (57 per cent of total provincial immigration) settled in Manitoba, 24 per cent outside of Winnipeg. In three years, admissions under Manitoba’s nominee program have increased by 49 per cent. The program addresses labour shortages but, more importantly, it mobilizes community resources to enable economic immigrants to begin working upon arrival.
Hopefully, Ontario’s modest pilot project of 500 nominees will be the beginning of the elimination of the problems which have undermined immigration policy and immigrant success. Initially, nominees will likely be selected from the resident pool of temporary work-permit holders and recently graduated international students, but the pilot project will provide an incentive for employers to adopt global employee recruitment practices and enable prospective immigrants to search for employment and accelerate their admission to Canada.
But the nominee program does not address the plight of the thousands of undocumented workers in Ontario who would readily qualify for the program if not for their illegal status. Ottawa must deal with the contradiction of sanctioning the international recruitment of workers to fill labour shortages when qualified but undocumented workers are now resident and employed in Ontario.
Arthur Ross is a professor in the Department of Politics and Public Administration at Ryerson University, where he teaches a course in immigration policy.