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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Skilled Work Visas Dropping

Industry groups argue more immigrants needed for jobs  What do you think?

Despite Immigration Minister Jason Kenney's boasts of a huge increase in immigration to Canada in 2010; new figures show the department plans cuts to overseas visas in 2011.

The CBC News article raised two questions for me: Why is the Conservative government hauling on the Visa reigns? and Why would Minister Kenney boast of last year’s increases, when they are clamping down this year?

What do you think?
In Monday’s question period, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney bragged  the Conservatives welcomed a record high of "281,000 permanent residents to Canada, 106,000 more than the Liberals did shortly after they came to office and cut immigration levels."
To me, Kenney, lacked foresight in making his proclamation- poor marketing  indeed,  advertising something you are currently discontinuing.  The conservative government is really back pedalling on its Visa policies this year, having already noted they were cutting Visas to parents and grandparents. Previously, when Kenney was asked about family Visa cuts, the minister cited his commitment to economic Visas, as the government’s focus.  However, Access to Information figures show the government plans to cut all economic class visas by six per cent, and in particular, federal skilled worker visas, by 20 per cent, in 2011. Employment and industry groups, are voicing strong concerns about the planned government cut to the number of visas issued for federal skilled workers this year.
Do you think Canadian Visas should be decreased?  Here are some of the opinions from the CBC News online article, followed by my two cents worth:

Director of Workforce Strategy says Stop Visa Cuts!

Elsbeth Mehrer, Director of research and workforce strategy for Calgary Economic Development, told CBC News,”The notion of reducing the number of skilled workers we aim to take in 2011 is certainly a move in the wrong direction given where we expect the economy right across the country to be heading,"
Mehrer added,"This is a time when we need to ensure we're ramping up to meet worker demand. While we had some great success last year, in terms of having our highest ever number of immigrants coming into the country, we need to make sure we keep the foot on the gas to meet labour demand in the future."

Immigration Lawyer Points out Minister’s Words and Actions Contradictory

Richard Kurland, a Vancouver immigration lawyer,pointed out the lack of consistency between Kenney’s statements and the Conservatives’ actions. The problem is, the government isn't robbing Peter to pay Paul — it's robbing them both, Kurland pointed out reflecting on the minister’s statements regarding the drop in Visas for parents and grandparents.
"There are tradeoffs. And this government is focused on the priority of Canadians, which is economic growth and prosperity," he said. "Mr. Speaker we need more newcomers working and paying taxes and contributing to our health care system. And that's the focus of our immigration system."- Immigration Minister Jason Kenney re: drop in Visas for parents and grandparents.
Kurland, who obtained the target numbers through Access to Information, notes the government is decreasing economic visas overall. In 2011, there will be six per cent fewer economic class visas issued this year over last.
"The 2011 targets dramatically show the substantial reduction in federal skilled workers and a slight increase in provincial selection," Kurland says. "We really should be targeting more skilled workers to make up for Canadians' inability to demographically reproduce. We need the young workers to pay the taxes to support the pensions for Canada's aging population."
  Here are the Overseas visa targets for 2011
Source: Citizenship and Immigration Canada/Access to information release
Visa 2010 2011

% change
Federal Skilled Worker visa 69,915 55,900 - 20
Provincial Nominees visas 36,650 40,300 + 9
Total economic class visa 161,630 151,000 - 6
Note: Officials at Citizenship and Immigration caution these  targets are for overseas visas only and do not include inland claims.

Canadian Construction Association Head Questions Government’s Motivation

Michael Atkinson, head of the Canadian Construction Association,  says the construction industry has had trouble for years getting workers through the point system, since it is heavily skewed towards post-secondary education and language proficiency.
Atkinson voiced concerns about the government's motivation for cutting the economic visas overall.
"If the motivation behind reducing those target levels is, 'Well gee, the economy is improving, we don't need as many skilled workers,' then I would suggest that is a huge mistake, given the fact that just our aging workforce, our aging population, our low fertility rate shows us and other industries that it is only going to get worse.
"We are facing bigger challenges in the future with respect to building our workforce and training them than we ever have before," Atkinson says.
He adds his industry expects to face a shortfall of 400,000 workers by 2018 if government policies — both federal and provincial — don't move with the times.
Atkinson notes the government has taken a step in the right direction by opening a review process of the point system for federal skilled workers.
'We are facing bigger challenges in the future with respect to building our workforce and training them than we ever have before'—Michael Atkinson, Canadian Construction Association

Motivation Political Decision? Calgary Employers Say Yes!

Mehrer, points out, while the government has  reduced wait times for some new applications of federal skilled workers; workers who applied under the system prior to 2008, still wait for years for a decision.  The fast racked new applications are those that fit into a list of 29 specific occupations and are processed in seven to eight months.
Since the government has shown it is able to process applications more quickly, Mehrer notes many employers believe the government's current motivation is  a political one, rather than a policy decision.
"It's really difficult to say, but certainly the speculation I hear from employers here is that it's based on political pressure that may be coming from other parts of Canada, where the unemployment remains higher and where the understanding of the labour market dynamics in Alberta and in much of the west are less clear," she says.
She adds that the economic recession is no argument for the cuts, as things are improving rapidly out west.
"We're already starting to see re-employment of Canadians and Albertans who lost their work during the recession," she says.
"I'm already hearing from some industries who recognize that their talent pools are shrinking in terms of the skill set they are going to need. So as much as they may not be in foreign markets right now looking for talent, we certainly expect that by the latter half of this year there will be certain skill sets we simply won't have available in the province."

So, what do you think?

My Two Cents:
I wonder if the Conservatives, are backpedalling on their immigration numbers, to counterbalance last year’s record number of immigrants. They set a record, for the history books, and now need to deal with the consequences of creating that record.
Having increased numbers of skilled workers immigrate to Canada, will not solve our doctor shortage, or any other skilled labour shortage, if no programs are set up to easily allow the skilled workers to ply their trades in Canada. I have met numerous doctors, who after immigrating to Canada, could only find work as lab techs or even taxi drivers.
The real strategy to solving our skilled labour shortage lies in the methodology of recruiting to those fields. Governing bodies of skilled worker associations need to be handed the reins, and given a mandate and deadlines to recruit immigrants whom they will approve to fill the gaping holes in our health care system, and other areas . Doctors, for example, who are approved for immigration need to be able to start plying their trade as soon as possible, not having to wait. When skilled workers are approved for immigration, it should include a direct line to a choice of at least three job locations where they can start work immediately. otherwise, our skilled workers will not be adding to the economy, but creating a greater burden.
What do you think?
Read the original article here:
Article Accessed: Wednesday, February 16, 2011 | 5:04 AM ET By Louise Elliott, CBC News


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