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
Immigration Minister Chris Alexander has announced plans to welcome nearly 50,000 sponsored partners, spouses and children in 2014.
In its annual immigration target levels report released last month, Citizenship and Immigration Canada indicated that 68,000 of an approximate total 260,000 immigration spots will be reserved for family sponsorships – 48,000 of those will be spouse and children sponsorships, while 20,000 are designated for parents and grandparents.
The government has also changed some of the key regulations surrounding spousal sponsorship, particularly in introducing a new conditional residency status requiring partners or spouses to live together for two years upon arrival in Canada before the sponsored partner can obtain their permanent residency.
Additionally, the government will not allow applicants who have arrived as sponsored partners to themselves sponsor another partner within a five-year time span.
Officials say that both of the above changes are intended to minimize cases of marriage fraud, but they have stirred controversy – particularly the two-year residence requirement that might coerce battered spouses to stay with their abusers, as they would have no other claim to legal status in Canada.
Though the government has announced a quota of 5,000 on new parent and grandparent applications in 2014, there are currently no quotas on partner and child sponsorship cases for next year.
Sources: Citizenship and Immigration Canada
In less than a month the Canadian government will begin to accept applications for parent and grandparent sponsorship cases once again.
The reunification program was a main target in the government’s plans to streamline Canada’s immigration system. A backlog had pushed waiting times as high as eight years when officials stopped accepting new applications two years ago. Since then, Immigration Minister Chris Alexander says, the backlog has gone down by nearly 50 percent.
To ensure that the backlog does not build back up again, the government has announced plans to cap new applications for 2014 at 5,000. Officials at Citizenship and Immigration Canada say they will maintain acceptance levels near those of 2012 and 2013, during which time the country welcomed approximately 50,000 parents and grandparents.
Aside from the changes in numbers, the government has also altered requirements for sponsors, increasing their financial responsibility in caring for their newly arrived loved ones.
“These new criteria ensure sponsored family members are well supported by their sponsors throughout their time in Canada,” said former Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, upon announcing the changes last May. “The redesigned Parent and Grandparent program reunites families faster while respecting Canadian taxpayers and the limited resources for health and social programs.”
New applications will be accepted starting January 2, 2014.
Source: Citizenship and Immigration Canada