Canada should boost immigration levels starting 2014

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney - Canreach

OTTAWA — After seven years of stagnating numbers, Canada should start boosting immigration levels starting in 2014, according to an internal government review obtained by Postmedia News.

The study, dubbed a “Literature review and expert advice to inform Canada’s immigration levels planning,” suggests immigration levels should begin increasing six per cent a year to approximately 337,000 in 2018, after which levels should plateau until 2021, the end of the review period.

According to the report, the short-term boost is needed to balance the labour market and is based on economic projections that take into account things like unemployment rates.

Since 2007, annual intake targets have been frozen at about 253,000.

The report also seems to kibosh hopes the provinces have for growing the provincial nominee program. The program allows provinces and territories to choose immigrants to fill short and medium-term, local labour market needs and most often attracts skilled tradespeople and college graduates.

Each province is allotted a certain number of spaces under the program, however, Canadian premiers last week called on the federal government to hand over more control over immigration while regional immigration ministers have been pleading for an increase in their allotment. Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has yet to release his provincial targets for next year, but has suggested they’re unlikely to change.

Noting the provincial nominee program has grown at the expense of the federal skilled worker program and now accounts for about a quarter of all economic immigrants admitted into Canada, the report suggests “it is not immediately apparent that a further shift is needed.

“A guiding principle should be that immigration is essentially a means for addressing long-term human resources needs rather than short or medium-term needs,” the report says.

“Consequently, meeting longer-term human resources requirements should be given significantly greater weight than responding to short-to-medium term needs.”

As such, the report recommends “no further reductions” to the federal skilled worker program which it says has become more “responsive” to both Canada’s medium and long-term economic needs.

The report also recommends the share of economic immigrants remain stable at about 63 per cent of all immigrants, which includes those who come to Canada as refugees and through the family stream.

While the government has announced plans to allow employers to cherrypick from the immigrant pool, the report suggests a review of Australia’s immigration system, which Canadian authorities often look to, does not necessarily support “arguments for greater reliance on employment offers” as a means of guaranteeing immigrant success.

The report also highlights a number of “research gaps” that “should be of concern to policy-makers.”

Noting the number of temporary foreign workers (TFWs) in Canada has tripled to more than 300,000 in the last decade, the report raises questions about whether some more educated temporary workers may be usurping jobs that could be had by recent immigrants, thereby stunting their economic integration.

Or, the report suggests, recent immigrants may not have the necessary skills or the desire to move to a particular geographic area, leaving employers no choice but to hire temporary foreign workers.

“The increase in the number of TFWs could also indicate that immigration levels are insufficient to meet the economy’s human resources needs,” says the report.

“In any event, more should be known about the factors that lead employers to hire TFWs and the subsequent employment patterns of TFWs once they are in Canada.”

The report also highlights the need for Canada to get a better handle on the number of illegal immigrants who may be living in the country, noting it’s a phenomenon that’s “been studied primarily in the U.S. context.”

It presumes the sharp rise in the number of temporary foreign workers has “increased Canada’s vulnerability to persons who over stay the period allowed by their temporary work permit.”

The report also recommends further research into what factors might impede economic and social integration as well as a comparison of the economic performance and contributions made by immigrants who come to Canada under the federal skilled worker program versus those who come through the provincial nominee program.

The report was prepared for the federal, provincial and territorial assistant deputy ministers responsible for immigration in August. The details of the report were shared during a recent closed-door meeting between Kenney and his provincial and territorial counterparts in Toronto.

The report is likely to influence future federal and provincial immigration policy.

Source: The Vancouver Sun

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