Employment Minister Jason Kenney and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander announced changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, following a briefing for news media. The is a detailed and sweeping reform by the government, splitting the program in two and imposing a long list of measures aimed at reducing its use for low-wage positions.
The announcement is an attempt to shrink the program in low-wage sectors and also improve the quality and reliability of data that inform the federal government’s labour market policies. The changes are less restrictive for sectors with above-average wages, even though those categories, including information technology workers, have also come under scrutiny.
Key points in Friday’s announcement:
- The Temporary Foreign Worker Program is split into two: a smaller Temporary Foreign Worker Program will focus largely on low-skilled positions and will be managed by Employment and Social Development Canada. Hiring in this category will require approval through a new screening process called Labour Market Impact Assessments, previously known as Labour Market Opinions. The category is aimed mainly at developing countries.
- The remaining sections of the old program will continue under the name “International Mobility Programs.” It will be run by Citizenship and Immigration Canada and hires will not be screened to see if Canadians are available for the positions. This category is aimed mainly at highly developed countries where highly skilled and highly paid entrants are coming to Canada through international trade agreements
- There will be no access to the program for employers in the accommodation, food services and retail trade sectors if they operate in areas of high unemployment, which the government defines as being above 6 per cent.
- Fees charged to companies that use the program are being increased to $1,000 from $275 per application.
- Employers found breaking the rules will face fines of up to $100,000. The names of employers who are fined will be disclosed.
- The maximum duration a temporary foreign worker can work in Canada is being reduced from the current four years to two years, but a decision is not yet final. The duration of work permits is being reduced to one year from two years.
- No more than 10 per cent of an employer’s work force per worksite can be made up of TFWs.
- Instead of relying on national occupation categories to determine average wages, low-wage positions will be defined as those below the provincial median hourly wage.
- A new fast-track option will approve foreign workers within 10 business days if they are in the highest-demand occupations, such as skilled trades, or are among the top 10 per cent for highest-paid occupations.
- The Live-in Caregiver Program is subject to the new $1,000 fee, but is not subject to the cap or to the reduced timelines. The program is currently facing a separate review and further related announcements are expected.
- A new fee of $230 per work permit will apply to workers in the International Mobility Programs.
The government expects these changes to reduce the number of entries of low-wage temporary foreign workers by 50 per cent by 2016.
Source: The Globe And Mail
Employment Minister Jason Kenney’s response to recent policy studies and negative media coverage has cast a shroud of economic doom over Canada’s very successful temporary foreign worker (“TFW”) program. Mr. Kenney has raised the processing cost for potential employers and limited the geographical scope of the unskilled portion of the program to areas with less than 6 per cent unemployment. Other unspecified changes also loom for the live-in caregiver program. These efforts to curtail the TFW program underestimates the economic benefits derived from TFW’s, including the less skilled, while overstating the costs imposed by their presence.
For any immigration program to be economically successful, net economic benefits should flow to the welcoming country from the increased presence of migrants. Labour market policy interventions can result in benefit for some economic actors and not for others. A policy intervention can be judged a success if the aggregate gains outweigh the losses. Those individuals who suffer the costs of a policy change can be compensated by the realized economic gains. It is therefore not necessary to curtail an economically successful labour market policy such as Canada’s TFW program when a portion of these benefits can be redistributed to offset any losses incurred by a minority of Canadian residents.
Canada’s TFW program has a long, successful history and, unlike elsewhere, has not produced a legacy of undocumented workers. Two categories of lower-skilled TFW workers that impose no costs on resident Canadians who in turn enjoy substantial benefits, are seasonal agricultural workers and live-in caregivers. Restaurant and hospitality TFWs, mostly in Alberta, also generate significant economic activity that is of net benefit to resident Canadians. Wisely, Mr. Kenney has left the historically successful seasonal agricultural worker program alone. However, he has promised a review of the equally successful live-in caregiver program and as noted has incorrectly restrained the hiring of restaurant TFWs in areas with lower unemployment rates.
Each of these lower-skill TFWs produce a service and/or a good that, in their absence, may never have been produced. Agricultural workers have been instrumental in the development of a robust, export-oriented wine industry in Ontario and British Columbia. Live-in caregivers benefit many Canadian families, since few Canadians are involved in this service and the family employer is then able to enter the Canadian labour market. The presence of these two types of TFWs produces economic benefits such as faster industry sector growth and increased government tax revenue.
Canada in 2014 has the world’s most comprehensive TFW program for which the economic and employment benefits to Canadians far outweigh the costs. The costs have usually been associated with isolated instances of Canadians denied jobs in industries that use the program. The policy solution to these negative effects is new government regulations that financially penalize employers guilty of this abuse.
Source: The Globe And Mail
Employment Minister Jason Kenney and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander have announced an overhaul of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, effectively confirming the growing abuse of the program and a reduction of wages.
“We will better prevent and detect abuse and penalize employers who abuse the program,” Kenney said. “We will severely sanction those who break the rules. We’ll better protect foreign workers and we’ll also recognize that Canada benefits from international mobility.”
Kenney said the changes announced Friday are intended to send employers a clear signal that abuse of the program will not be tolerated and that they must increase efforts to hire Canadians first.
The minister described the new measures “as bold, broad, ambitious, and balanced.”
The moratorium on the fast-food industry’s access to the program is lifted immediately in light of the new changes. The revamped program will bar employers from hiring foreign workers in regions where unemployment is high, it will put a cap on the number of workers employers can hire, include a more stringent screening process for employers to prove they need to hire a foreign worker over a Canadian one, and increase the number of spot checks in the workplace and fines for those who break the rules.
The Temporary Foreign Worker Program will now be divided into two programs: One — still called the TFWP — will require that employers prove the need to hire a non-Canadian worker. The other, to be called the International Mobility Program, won’t.
Reforms to the program include:
- In regions where the unemployment rate is above six per cent. Employers will be barred from hiring low-wage temporary foreign workers.
- A cap of 10 per cent on the number of low-wage temporary foreign workers employers can hire per work site by 2016. The cap will be gradually phased in, starting at 30 per cent effective immediately, then reduced to 20 per cent on July 1, 2015, and 10 per cent a year later in 2016.
- An increase in the number of inspections: one in four employers will be inspected each year. The government says it will add to the current pool of inspectors, bringing the number to about 60.
- Application fee employers must pay per worker increased to $1,000
- Fines of up to $100,000 for employers who abuse the program
- Additional funding for the Canada Border Services Agency
- Posting the names of employers who receive permission to hire foreign workers.
- Making public the number of positions approved through the program on a quarterly basis.
- Reducing the amount of time a temporary foreign worker can be employed in Canada, to two years from four.
The government said it received growing reports of abuses, with over 1,000 complaints filed through a tip line launched on April 6.
Kenney said he heard time and again of Canadian workers not even receiving a phone call back from potential employers in the fast-food industry. He said he expects the new measures to have a significant effect on some businesses, particularly on those in the fast-food sector.
He added that the government would be spending $14 million to fund two new labour market studies — a quarterly study on job vacancies and an annual survey on wage rates. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business, a group generally supportive of this government’s initiatives, said today’s announcement was “a gross overreaction to a handful of negative stories. Unless the federal government is prepared to force unemployed Canadians to move to take jobs they don’t want, these changes leave a huge gap for employers.”
NDP MP Pat Martin said today’s changes acknowledge that the program is broken but said they do little to fix it.
Liberal MP John McCallum wondered how the government would meet its commitment to increase the number of inspections without hiring significantly more inspectors.
Source: CBC News
According to a new study, recent immigrants to Canada who begin small or medium-sized businesses are more likely to export and target markets other than the U.S.
The Conference Board of Canada investigated 15,000 small and medium-sized businesses to determine how companies begun by immigrants who have arrived within the past five years compare to other businesses of the same size.
It found Canada’s diverse pool of immigrants is a source of strength in expanding into new markets, partially because they have an understanding of the language and culture of business in their country of origin.
The study found 12 per cent of immigrant-owned businesses export goods and services to markets beyond the U.S., versus 7 per cent for businesses owned by non-immigrants. The majority of such immigrant-run businesses were in Ontario and Quebec. About 19 per cent of immigrant-owned businesses exported, compared to 14 per cent of other SMEs.
However, the study raised some concerns about the long-term health of companies with a recent immigrant as majority owner. Despite being among the fastest-growing SMEs, these companies earn lower returns on investments in business assets than other Canadian exporters and sell less in dollar value.
The profits of non-U.S. immigrant exporters grew at an average annual rate of 21 per cent compared with 2 per cent for their non-immigrant counterparts. Many are concentrated in wholesale and retail sectors and thus vulnerable to competitive pricing from other markets.
Non-U.S. immigrant exporters also lack networks within Canada, a factor that could ultimately limit their ability to grow. In fact, their cultural ties helped them overcome a weak business model, Goldfarb said.
The Conference Board report put a special focus on the select group of businesses in the knowledge sector run by immigrants, saying it represents important potential in non-U.S. markets.
Because such businesses are innovators and compete on new products rather than low prices, they should be a particular focus of policy makers, the study said.
It advocates policies that encourage financing of knowledge-intensive companies, which have less access to financing than other types of businesses. It also suggests export promotion policies that open doors for such businesses in non-U.S. markets.
Source: CBC News
The elimination of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program for low-wage jobs will be seriously considered by the government in 2016, says Employment Minister Jason Kenney. From the Canadian Meat Council to the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, business groups are speaking out against Ottawa’s latest plan to cap the number of low-wage foreign workers and impose higher fees.
Through a phase-in of new caps on low-wage foreign workers and the launch of more detailed labour market surveys, Mr. Kenney indicated that by 2016 the government will be in a position to assess whether it should take the next step.
The overhaul of the program has been called an “appalling overreaction” by business groups. All three men hoping to become the next Alberta premier, including front-runner Jim Prentice, say Ottawa is unfairly punishing the province and would demand more control over immigration policy to deal with labour shortages, as Quebec has now.
Mr. Kenney also confirmed that further changes to the Live-In Caregiver component of the TFW Program will be announced later this year. The government remains concerned with the caregiver stream even though that part of the TFW Program was left largely untouched Friday when he and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander announced major changes.
Canadian officials in the Philippines have been warning colleagues for years that the caregiver program was facing abuse and had largely become a “hidden” family reunification program. As far back as 2009 when he was immigration minister, Mr. Kenney said he recalls meeting in Manila with 70 women who were on their way to Canada via the program and every single one of them planned to work for a relative.
The list of invited speakers includes people, such as Canadian Chamber of Commerce President Perrin Beatty, who have been critical of the government’s foreign worker changes.
The four main topics on the agenda include whether skills shortages exist in Canada, how labour market data could be improved, how to reform educational and vocational training and how to match underrepresented groups like aboriginals and people with disabilities to available jobs.
Source: The Globe And Mail
A Federal Court judge has ruled against more than 1,000 Chinese millionaires who tried to immigrate to Canada under the now-scrapped immigrant investor program and then tried to force their way in through the courts.
As Canada’s immigrant investor program became increasingly popular with China’s newly affluent population, the Canadian consulate in Hong Kong was inundated by eager applicants. Over 80,000 applications applied, with about 80 per cent in Hong Kong being wealthy would-be immigrants from mainland China.
In the last federal budget, the government killed the program, prompting more than 1,000 court orders filed on behalf of wealthy Chinese, Turkey and elsewhere, who argued that their applications should still be processed.
This week, a Federal Court judge dismissed the cases en masse.
Justice Mary Gleason ruled that would-be investor immigrants to Canada had no legitimate expectation of a visa or Canadian residency, and that the government acted within the law. First, the program was closed to new applicants as it was inundated, and the government eventually ended the existing program entirely.
The federal immigrant investor program allowed foreigners with a net worth of at least $1.6-million to gain a visa and eventually Canadian residency by offering the government an interest-free loan of $800,000. The government said the program was susceptible to fraud.
The program, which was broadly criticized as flawed and inefficient, is being replaced by new programs. These are likely to be launched in the fall of 2014 with a higher net worth threshold and a much larger loan which would be invested with Canadian start-ups or venture capital firms, says Richard Kurland, an immigration lawyer in Vancouver.
Mr. Kurland said the large number of applicants was a result of immigration agents, mainly in Hong Kong and China, who were pushing the cases in a desperate attempt to gain their commissions.
Source: The Globe And Mail
The U.S. economy saw a dismal first quarter and the bad news is not yet over. An updated estimate by the Commerce Department showed gross domestic product deteriorated at an annual rate of 2.9 per cent in the first three months of 2014, a stark revision that forced economists to downgrade their forecasts of how much the world’s largest economy will grow this year.
More recent evidence shows the economy is back on track: Hiring, retail sales, new-home construction and consumer confidence all rebounded smartly this spring. A separate government report recently showed inventories for non-defence durable goods jumped 1 per cent in May after a 0.4-per-cent increase in April.
The Commerce Department initially reported the GDP growth simply stalled in the first-quarter. A second estimate said GDP shrunk at an annual rate of 1 per cent, the first contraction since first-quarter of 2011. The final reading shows the U.S. endured its biggest economic collapse since the Great Recession in 2009.
America’s economy expanded at annual rates of 4.1 per cent in the third quarter of 2013 and 2.6 per cent in the fourth. Wall Street analysts had predicted the first-quarter estimate would be revised lower, but only to a contraction of 1.8 per cent. Equity markets rose, evidence that traders are more focused on signs of future growth.
Like a race car coming out of a pit stop, the U.S. economy is reaccelerating. In the winter, personal consumption expenditures grew at an annual rate of 3.3 per cent in the fourth quarter, and exports surged 9.5 per cent. Non-residential fixed investment advanced by 5.7-per-cent. Freezing temperatures and relentless snow storms slowed down any recovery. Consumption gains slowed to 1 per cent in the first quarter and exports and investment plunged to annual rates of 8.9 and 1.2 per cent respectively.
The U.S. economy now is growing again. Economists at National Bank Financial, PNC Financial Services, and Deutsche Bank, among others, say GDP likely grew at an annual rate of 4 per cent in the second quarter. State and local governments in the U.S. are starting to spend again, removing a drag on the economy. Steady hiring should buoy household spending and a stronger global growth should bolster exports.
But it’s possible the sustained surge in economic activity that usually follows recessions won’t come this time. According to Hamilton Place Strategies, a consultancy based in Washington, the average annual growth rate of the current expansion is 2 per cent, slower than the 3.2-per-cent average pace in economic expansions since 1980.
Source: The Globe And Mail
OTTAWA – A new agreement has been signed between the United States and Canada which will allow biometric information about Canadian visa applicants to be shared with third countries.
This means the fingerprints and photo of someone who may visit, study or work in Canada could be passed to Washington, from where it might be shared with another country to help verify the person’s identity. Concerns have been raised by the federal privacy commissioner’s office that such personal information provided by Canada could end up in countries that have a poor human rights record, possibly endangering the applicant or their family.
At a ceremony to sign the information-sharing agreement, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney and U.S. ambassador David Jacobson stressed that the information would be handled with due regard for privacy. The initiative, affecting nationals of 29 visa seeking countries, is part of a perimeter security deal reached in 2013 between Canada and the United States.
Employment Minister Jason Kenney told a skills summit last week that one of Canada’s greatest future economic challenges will be a shortage of skilled workers. The conference held in Toronto brought together stakeholders to discuss the labour market, employee training and those under-represented in the labour force.
It’s necessary that an “informed national discussion” take place about the condition of Canada’s labour market, in order to address future skills gaps, Kenney said.
While it’s not a market-wide issue, skills shortages are looming in specific sectors. The construction, mining and petroleum sectors are examples of industries that will face serious shortages of skilled workers over the next decade, he said.
According to Skills Canada, an estimated one million skilled trade workers will be needed by 2020. Stephen Cryne, head of the Canadian Employee Relocation Council, said discussions about skills shortages are often short-sighted.
In 2012, a McKinsey Global Institute report estimated that by 2020 the global economy could see 90 to 95 million more low-skilled workers than employers will need. This projection highlights the need to compete for workers on an international level, while increasing the mobility of workers within Canada.
Source: The Leader Post
An Egyptian court levied a sentence against Mohamed Fahmy, a dual citizen of Canada and Egypt and Cairo bureau chief for Al Jazeera English news network. The day after Canada issued a relatively muted response to the sentencing, Mr. Baird made these remarks during an interview with an Ottawa radio station.
On charges of conspiring with the Muslim Brotherhood to broadcast false reports Mr. Fahmy and two Al Jazeera colleagues, an Egyptian and Australian, were sentenced to between seven and 10 years in prison. No trial evidence was made public. This in addition to two British journalists and a Dutch journalist being handed 10-year sentences in absentia.
Mr. Baird is the most senior Canadian official to speak about the conviction “We are doing all we can,” he said. “We want to pursue the path that’s most effective to resolving the case.” He added that Mr. Fahmy’s case is complex because he is a dual citizen who returned to Egypt years ago and is subject to Egyptian law.
Canada’s initial response to the conviction came Monday from Lynne Yelich, a junior minister in charge of consular affairs. In a statement, she said Canada was “very disappointed” in the ruling, and concerned the judicial process in Egypt was inconsistent with the country’s democratic aspirations.
An editorial in Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper Tuesday said the Canadian response was “meek”. A statement on the website of the Egyptian Embassy in Canada said due process was adhered to with all of the defendants, and they still have the right to appeal.
Canada and Egypt were involved in a diplomatic row last year after a Canadian doctor and Canadian filmmaker were held in an Egyptian jail without being charged. Mr. Baird played a high-profile role in pushing for their release, which came after seven weeks.
Source: Wall Street Journal