Bill Gates – arguably the most successful businessman ever – has endorsed Canada’s ‘enlightened immigration policies’, saying they will serve to boost the commercial sector and therefore the economy.
The Microsoft co-founder, named by Forbes as the richest man in the world, is a supporter of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the manner in which the Liberal government has welcomed more than 30,000 Syrian refugees since coming to power.
Gates feels Canada has positioned itself at the forefront of the immigration field with a number of forward-thinking policies that set it apart from other tier one nations.
The big number
Bill Gates’ net worth (Source: Forbes)
As other countries battle against the rise of anti-immigration, anti-refugee politics, Canada’s immigration department is dealing with complaints from private sponsors who say the government is not bringing in vulnerable people quickly enough.
“I think Canada’s very well positioned. It’s got good, strong universities, good policies — certainly more enlightened immigration policies than most countries have, which is a real asset,” Gates said in Vancouver at a conference promoting business ties between B.C. and Washington state.
But while Canada is establishing itself as a world leader on immigration, there is a feeling within that not enough is being done to help businesses bring in top talent, particularly in the technology field.
Immigration Minister John McCallum regularly has to field complaints about the bogged down process for hiring the world’s best technology minds.
He spoke to a range of stakeholders over the summer, who gave him a clear message that more immigrants are needed to boost businesses and counter Canada’s aging population and shrinking workforce.
Now his main challenge is to reach a consensus within his own party.
The avenues open to businesses include permanent works under the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP), via Express Entry, or temporary workers under the Skilled Worker stream of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP). The latter was dramatically reduced in the numbers of workers admitted to Canada by the previous Conservative government.
The time consuming under both programs is the Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA), designed to ensure immigrants are not coming in and taking jobs from Canadians.
Under proposed changes, expect the LMIA to become to allow for increased exemptions – situations that will not require an LMIA altogether. One suggestion being considered is to only apply the LMIA to certain professions, although it remains to be seen how Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada would pursue this route.
Another suggestion is to pull certain technology jobs that are known to be difficult to fill, out of the FSWP altogether and create a sub visa stream aimed only at the most sought after IT talent in the global market.
A new technology talent immigration stream would need to be clear on exactly the aims, goals and criteria to qualify. It is important to form clear requirements and guidelines so the program is not open to abuse. That would mean defining a clear list of eligible professions with no room for manoeuvre.
It has become clear that a growing need exists for Canadian employers. The Information and Communications Technology Council predicted recently that by 2019, 182,000 high-paying Canadian technology jobs would be vacant.
Carl Rodrigues, CEO of Mississauga software company SOTI, recently described Canada’s immigration policies as ‘archaic’ and called on the government to make changes to help companies grow.
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