Tara Perkins

With the end of the recession in sight, Canadian employers and policy makers need to develop better strategies to put skilled immigrants to work, says Royal Bank of Canada chief executive Gordon Nixon.

Canada has an opportunity to gain a competitive advantage by becoming a more open economy and society while other countries risk being protectionist toward imported goods, services, and immigrants, Mr. Nixon said in a speech Thursday to the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council.

“At a time when the U.S. economy, in particular, remains weak, we need to be looking to expand our trade and cultural relationship even more,” Mr. Nixon said. “Newcomers to Canada bring skills, including language and cultural skills, knowledge and networks that can help us to reach out to emerging economic giants like China and India, as well as emerging immigrant markets at home.”

Mr. Nixon called for “innovative government policies” and an engaged business sector. Employers across Canada can do more, he said.

“The time is now to innovate rather than stagnate.”

The Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council announced Thursday Mr. Nixon will become its co-chair, along with RBC’s chief human resources officer Zabeen Hirji. They will succeed former Manulife CEO Dominic D’Alessandro and Diane Bean.

Declining birthrates are not keeping pace with the demands of growing economies, and immigrants are expected to account for all net Canadian labour force growth by 2011, and for all net population growth by 2031, Mr. Nixon said.

If immigrants could fully use their skills, personal income in the country could increase by $13-billion a year, and that money would have a multiplier effect in markets for housing and consumer spending, critical elements to kickstarting the economy, he added.

He called for language training programs, settlement programs, and mentoring and internship programs that provide Canadian work experience.

Reference: Globe and Mail