The Canadian economy surpassed growth expectations last fall, renewing hope that the recession is slowing down.
According to the latest figures from Statistics Canada, the economy grew by 0.3 percent in both September and October, surpassing predictions. Overall the economy grew every month in 2013 excepting June.
“Canada’s economy is showing sustained strength for the first time since the early days of the recovery,” said Sal Guatieri, an economist with BMO Capital Markets.
Experts are optimistic about gains in the manufacturing sector, in particular, which could strengthen the economies of Canada’s most populous provinces – Ontario and Quebec. The gains are likely due to an increasing U.S. demand.
However, despite the signs of economic recovery, the Bank of Canada has not yet raised interest rates, nor has it provided any hint of the intention to do so. The Bank had predicted an overall growth rate of 2.3 percent for the fourth quarter of 2013 but Guatieri says that the October figures are on pace for a 2.6 percent growth.
Overall economic figures are up from the year before, and GDP outputs are growing as well. Canada has gained back nearly all the jobs that were lost since the recession hit in 2007.
Economists predict that the Bank of Canada interest rates will remain unchanged at least until 2015.
Sources: Globe and Mail; Financial Post
Canada’s newly appointed Immigration Minister Chris Alexander revealed his goals for his department in 2014.
Speaking to Postmedia news this month, Alexander said that his main goal is to provide faster and more efficient immigration and visa services in the New Year.
Alexander praised the work of his predecessor, former Immigration Minister and current Employment Minister Jason Kenney, in successfully building an immigration system suited to Canada’s labour needs. Alexander says he aims to build on that momentum and continuing to streamline the process so that backlogs and wait times continue to drop.
The most important focus for Citizenship and Immigration Canada in the next year will be finalizing the expression of interest program, set to launch in January of 2015. The new system will allow potential immigrants to create online profiles from which potential employers and local governments can choose those best suited to their current needs.
“We have to move at the speed of business in our immigration system,” Alexander said. “Whenever we accept more applications than we process, we’re basically divorcing our immigration flows from our economic needs and that doesn’t serve immigrants well and it certainly doesn’t serve the Canadian economy well.”
The aim by 2015 is for economic immigrant applicants to obtain a visa within six months. Alexander says that dependents, including spouse and parental sponsorships which are to reopen next month, should ultimately be able to join their sponsor within months under the new system.
Three Canadian cities have ranked among the top five places to live in the world, according to a report by the Economist Intelligence Unit.
The association, which is associated with the Economist magazine, ranks 140 cities in terms of quality of life – specifically looking at factors such as access to health care and security from terrorism or war.
The top city in the world to live was once again Melbourne, Australia. Vienna, Austria came second.
Three Canadian cities ranked in the top five – Vancouver, Toronto and Calgary ranked third, fourth and fifth, respectively.
Vancouver was top ranked for a decade until three years ago when Melbourne outranked it.
At the bottom of the list were Damascus, Syria and Karachi, Pakistan. London and New York ranked 55th and 56th, respectively.
A new report suggests that Canada’s increasing reliance upon temporary foreign workers to solve labour shortages could have the unintended consequence of “de-skilling” the immigrant labour pool.
The report, compiled and released this month by Montreal’s Institute for Research on Public Policy, specifically examined provincial nominee programs, which often help temporary foreign workers to fast-track their immigration applications.
In the province of British Columbia, for instance, there is an increase in the amount of provincial nominees being drawn from temporary foreign worker pools. From 2005 to 2010, approximately 79 percent of PNP nominees were temporary foreign workers. In 2010 that number was up to 93 percent.
The report warns that such trends, though helpful to employers in addressing short-term labour issues, could have harmful effects for the long term labour market. For instance, there is little incentive for employers to invest time and money into training Canadians when they can bring in temporary workers much more quickly.
Additionally, temporary workers who have gained resident status are free to then move to other provinces where their skills may not be as highly coveted, thus leading to potential under or unemployment, putting more stresses on social services.
The report calls for caps on temporary foreign workers. Over the last decade, the amount of temporary workers entering the country each year has nearly doubled. As of 2012, there were approximately 491,547 temporary foreign workers in the country.
Source: Ottawa Citizen
Concerns are being raised over fairness in Canada’s immigration system after hundreds of doctors were granted immigrant status due to processing errors.
The blunder, which was made public this month, occurred in a Polish processing center in 2011. Approximately 1,000 applications from doctors were processed using out-of-date guidelines, which resulted in hundreds of acceptances which otherwise might not have been issued.
In an internal email sent shortly after the error, a Citizenship and Immigration Canada official admitted that some clients might be upset by the mistake but that they would not retroactively reassess the processed files.
“From now on, I propose we follow the newer guidelines,” said CIC official Helene Girard in the email. “This may generate some complaints from clients and consultants when they will realize we have changed our approach. It will also increase the risk of litigation.”
Immigrant advocates are concerned over the lack of willingness to address the error, which resulted in unequal treatment of applicants, depending on the luck of when they applied. Furthermore, the lack of transparency raises concerns that these types of errors might be commonplace across processing centers.
CIC has not publicly responded to the issue since it was brought to light this month, but observers guess that confusion likely occurred at the Warsaw office when files and officers were transferred from the office in Damascus, which had been closed due to the ongoing conflict in Syria.
Source: Regina Leader-Post
Critics are expressing concern that recent changes to Canada’s parent and grandparent sponsorship programs will not be enough to offset the financial costs of welcoming aging immigrants.
As of 2014, the government will reopen the popular sponsorship immigration stream, which had been suspended after a 160,000 application backlog had increased waiting times to as high as eight years in some instances.
The government has introduced new regulations to streamline the process and ensure that the backlog does not build back up again. One change has been to raise the financial responsibility of those who are sponsoring loved ones.
However, some critics are now expressing concern over whether those new responsibilities will offset the actual costs of providing health and social services to aging relatives. Some experts estimate that an aging immigrant can cost up to $300,000 in services after their arrival in Canada.
The government has already introduced quotas in an attempt to keep costs down, but most policymakers are hesitant to come forward too strongly against sponsorship of the elderly, which would risk alienating a large segment of the ethnic minority vote.
In general, however, despite favouring skilled immigration, the majority of Canadians are wary of parent and grandparent sponsorships, precisely because of the cost to taxpayers. It is up to the government now to try to find a balance between the needs of Canadian taxpayers, the economy and skilled immigrants who want to bring their aging relatives with them in embarking on their new life in Canada.
Source: Ottawa Citizen
Immigrant advocates in Calgary are launching a new program to help better inform newcomers about what challenges to expect upon arrival.
Launched this month by the Calgary Immigrant Educational Society, the Welcome Resources Information Program’s key initiative is a website specifically designed to provide information and resources to newcomers before their arrival. The program will also entail setting up a booth at the Calgary airport to greet newcomers and provide direct contact and access to information.
“We have to show (newcomers) the way,” said Calgary Immigrant Educational Society executive director Salim Sindhu. “We cannot just leave them at home, isolated, with their families.”
However, Sindhu wants to make clear that the program is not intended simply to promote his own agency, which is mandated to assess newcomers’ needs and refer them to other immigrant resources.
In recent years Calgary has become one of the most popular destinations for new arrivals with a booming economy, increasing cultural diversity and massive infrastructure to support growth. Approximately 70,000 immigrants settled in Calgary between 2006 and 2011.
However, many newcomers are not taking advantage of the resources available to them, instead relying upon friends and relatives for information. They might not be aware of the existing support, and with the new program, website and airport presence, the Calgary Immigrant Educational Society hopes to directly address that issue and raise awareness.
Source: Calgary Herald
A new report from the Conference Board of Canada has found that in Ontario alone, the gap between the skills that workers have and the skills that employers need is costing the province almost $24-billion per year. Despite the increasing university-graduation levels, employers say that one in five positions cannot be filled.
Despite being one of the most educated countries in the developed world, Canadians are falling behind in the skills that matter most in today’s economy, argues Conference Board of Canada Vice-President Michael Bloom. A recent OECD report ranked Canada 15th out of 19 countries in technological problem solving, reflecting Canadians’ poor testing in numeracy, literacy and problem solving.
Bloom argues for a post-secondary education strategy that will bring together members of private sectors, the government, universities, trade schools, apprenticeship programs and community services. He says that an empirical focus on cooperation, communication and coordination can help these institutions and stakeholders come together to produce workers whose skills are valued and needed in today’s economy.
The Conference Board of Canada is helping to push this goal by launching its own Centre for Skills and Post-Secondary Education with a summit in Toronto this month.
The five-year initiative is intended to bring the above groups together to ensure not only that Canada can produce the workers that it will increasingly need in the coming years, but also to remain a competitive destination for the best and brightest students both in Canada and internationally who are looking for a post-secondary education that will give them an advantage in today’s knowledge economy.
Source: Globe and Mail
Experts are concerned that Quebec’s controversial Charter of Values could end up driving away the much-desired francophone immigrants who help keep the language alive in the province.
Immigrants from French-speaking countries like Lebanon, Algeria and Morocco have long been among the biggest group of new arrivals to the province, whose immigration system is specifically built to target French speakers. However, many of the immigrants from those countries are also Muslim, which involves donning religious symbols such as the hijab as a part of everyday dress.
The highly controversial Charter of Values would ban the wearing of any such religious apparel for all public-sector employees, meaning that many Muslim women, for instance, would not be able to work in public schools, hospitals or government.
According to Statistics Canada, Montreal currently has the second-largest Muslim community thanks to the influx of French-speakers in recent years. However, officials with the Quebec government argue that the Charter of Values will not hinder Muslim immigration, but rather help to attract “moderate” Muslims.
“I think there are a lot of people from Maghreb and Lebanon and elsewhere who choose Quebec because it is a secular society,” said Montreal Minister Jean-François Lisée. “If we send a message that here in Quebec we take secularism seriously, we will have moderate Muslims, moderate Christians, and moderate Sikhs, who say ‘I like my religion a lot at home, but I like a secular state,’ and Quebec is a progressive state that sends that message.”
However, experts on the other side of the debate, such as executive vice-president of the Canadian Institute for Identities and Migration Jack Jedwab, argue that the Charter will instead drive away desirable immigrants.
“People don’t like places where there are restrictions on people’s rights and where there is intolerance toward certain religious minorities,” said Jedwab. “These people do have choices and this kind of instability is not attractive.”
Many officials have come out publicly against the Charter in recent weeks, including the president of the Fédération des médecins spécialistes du Québec. For now the province appears intent on moving ahead with the controversial policy.
Source: Montreal Gazette
Officials in Saskatchewan this month proposed changes to the province’s Immigrant Nominee Program, starting in January 2014.
The changes are intended to improve the system by balancing the interests of both immigrants and government, according to Saskatchewan Economy Minister Bill Boyd.
“There was a broad-based consultation with people across the province – immigrant consultants, immigrants themselves, immigrant communities,” said Boyd upon announcing the changes. “[We] had discussions with them about it to determine what they thought was a proper course of action, recognizing, of course, the federal government had parameters that we had to work within.”
One significant change is the move from nine different immigrant categories to three, with most former streams being consolidated. For instance, family member applications will fall under the new international skilled worker category, which recognizes applicants who have either the skills or social support base necessary to succeed.
The system will also move to a solely online application process, which will itself be streamlined and offer as many resources as possible for newcomers.
Critics expressed skepticism about the success of the new program, but did acknowledge that some form of change is necessary.
“What I will say is the government’s track record when it comes to the SINP isn’t a positive one,” said Opposition Leader Cam Broten. “We’ve seen huge problems that were created when the government unilaterally, without consultation, changed the program and created a lot of chaos and a lot of problems for a lot of families, so I hope that this has happened in a better way.”
Source: Saskatoon Star-Phoenix