The best newcomers for Canada are well-educated and English-speaking but they’re no longer our chief priority, a new analysis on immigration policies says.

Toronto Star
July 22, 2009

Leslie Ciarula Taylor

The best newcomers for Canada are well-educated and English-speaking but they’re no longer our chief priority, a new analysis on immigration policies says.

“Everything is a priority except skilled workers,” said Naomi Alboim, author of the study released today.

“(We know) federal skilled workers … do the best in terms of their long-term economic contributions to Canada.”

Instead, said Alboim, “the federal government is devolving responsibility to the provinces.”

The result is a national immigration system built on short-term thinking and outdated methods of integrating newcomers, she said.

The study spells out 15 fixes that involve federal and provincial governments, educators who recruit foreign students and employers who hire temporary workers.

Step one, said Alboim, is to put the emphasis back on federal skilled workers, with a refined points system that factors in skilled trades and requires proof of the ability to speak English or French.

Called “Adjusting the Balance: Fixing Canada Economic Policies,” the study involved a year of research by governments, academics and immigrant settlement workers for The Maytree Foundation, a non-profit organization devoted to developing policies and finding solutions to combat poverty.

Part of the problem, said Alboim, is a patchwork of new immigration programs unloaded on Canadians with no public debate.

“If they do have a vision, it sure would be nice for it to have been developed with debate, even parliamentary debate,” she said.

“Immigration policy is one of the most important policies we have. It determines who we will be tomorrow.”

Ottawa has increased the number of temporary foreign workers by 100 per cent from 2004 to 2008. The number of provincial nominees, who are chosen by each province based on their own rules, has risen by 40 per cent to 22,411 from 2006 to 2008.

However, skilled workers who came through the federal system from 2006 to 2008 fell by 2,211.

Eight years ago, fewer than 500 immigrants came as provincial nominees, a quick route that lets employers recruit foreign workers based on their needs. Ottawa relaxed the rules because of frustration with its long delays, which had swelled the backlog of waiting immigrants to nearly 925,000 before new rules arrived last year.

Along with opening the doors to temporary workers and provincial nominees, Ottawa in 2008 created a priority list of 38 occupations to further screen federal skilled workers and created a new category: the Canadian Experience Class, which gives international students and temporary workers here a shot at permanent residence.

By June 2009, the new category had drawn 2,600 applicants.

“I think it’s a great idea,” said Alboim of the Canadian Experience Class. But the Australian experience, in which an unrestrained similar program swelled to cover more than 50 per cent of all immigrants, shows how it can go off the rails.

There are risks involved. Universities may not be ready for a flood of international students. And temporary workers are forced to first come without their families, security or government support programs.

Meanwhile, said Alboim, the new 38-job priority list is outdated in some cases and in others involves people having to jump through the credential recognition hoops provinces set up.

The 15 recommendations from “Adjusting the Balance: Fixing Canada’s Economic Immigration Policies,” released today by Naomi Alboim and the Maytree Foundation:

1. Articulate a national vision for economic immigration through public dialogue and debate.
2. Improve the capacity for long-range planning to achieve the vision.
3. Make the Federal Skilled Worker Program Canada’s priority for economic immigration.
4. Revise the Federal Skilled Worker Program to better match labour market needs.
5. Connect applicants to employers.
6. Create a national framework for provincial nominee programs that allows for provincial variation and that complements but does not replace the Federal Skilled Worker Program.
7. Eliminate the Low Skill Pilot Program for temporary foreign workers.
8. Monitor recruitment and working conditions of temporary foreign workers.
9. Strengthen the “labour market opinion” process.
10. Define the role of employers and post-secondary institutions in two-step economic immigration.
11. Expand eligibility for the Canadian Experience Class on a one-time basis for temporary foreign workers already admitted under the Low Skill Pilot Project.
12. Expand overseas information and services,
13. Broaden eligibility for federally funded settlement services.
14. Expand access to funding for labour market services.
15. Fund successful and creative labour market supports.



Reference: Toronto Star