Politicians Court Immigrant Votes

Immigration is becoming a hot topic in the upcoming federal election, as Canada’s major political parties scramble to win immigrant votes.

Already, a variety of election promises are being made by all parties, but the Conservatives are leading the way as they fight to gain more seats in the ethnic urban communities of Ontario.

The latest Conservative campaign promise is that the party, if allowed to remain in power, would offer loans to immigrants to help in transferring their skills and credentials to the Canadian labour market.

Foreign credential recognition has long been a hot topic for policy makers trying to woo immigrant voters. Thousands of professionals from engineers to doctors enter Canada each year and find themselves unable to work in their field of specialty.

Government loans could help skilled immigrants to pay for the training required to become certified in Canada. Loans are not readily available to newcomers who have no credit history in this county, and many federal education funding programs do not cover professional certification.

Source: National Post

Reduction of Family-Class Targets Sparks Outcry

Many Canadians are upset by the government’s recent announcement that it will greatly reduce certain family-class immigration targets in 2011.

“If you accept immigrants to come over, you have to allow them to see their families – If not don’t let them come in,” says Ukrainian immigrant Tatyana Skorobogatko, who in 2009 applied to sponsor her grandmother’s immigration to Canada. Under new target numbers, Skorobogatko could end up waiting another six years before the application is processed.

Earlier this month the Conservative government announced intentions to reduce parent and grandparent family-class immigration from last year’s number of 16,000 to 11,200 for this year. Overall family-class immigration last year was down 15 percent from 2006. Instead, the government is focusing on bringing in more economic-class migrants – accepting a record number of 186,881 in 2010.

“There are trade-offs, and this government is focused on the priorities of Canadians which are economic growth and prosperity,” said Immigration Jason Kenney. “We need newcomers working and paying taxes and contributing to our health care system. That is the focus of our immigration system.”

However, critics say that the burden on Canada’s health care system will not be substantially worsened by accepting parents and grandparents of new arrivals and could, in fact, deter the immigration of skilled workers who are concerned about not being able to sponsor their relatives one day.

Still, the government argues, Canada is one of the world’s best countries in terms of family reunification opportunities, as evidenced by its second-place ranking in the 2010 Migrant Integration Policy Index conducted by European analysts, behind only Portugal in terms of family reunification policies.

Critics are quick to point out that the MPIX study is based only on policies, not on numbers, which might lower Canada’s ranking if taken into consideration.

“The central question [around this issue] is what kind of Canada are we trying to build?” asks Liberal MP Immigration critic Justin Trudeau. “Obviously one that is prosperous and creates jobs, but also one that is more compassionate and generous and more respectful of the things we value in life more than money – like health and family.”

Source: Montreal Gazette

Ontario Premier Calls For More Immigration Autonomy

Ontario’s Premier says that the federal government must give the province more control over skilled worker immigration policies.

“The reality is, right now, we’re being held back by an uneven playing field,” said Premier Dalton McGuinty, adding that the upcoming federal elections are providing a perfect opportunity to raise this issue to the public in Ontario who hold a great deal of voting power.

McGuinty argues that other provinces such as British Columbia and Manitoba have more control over immigrant programs and settlement assistance. Quebec even has the autonomy to select immigrants under its own rules and regulations.

Experts, however, predict that McGuinty’s cries will most likely fall upon deaf ears, as politicians simply have too much to gain from the immigrant voters to comply.

“The federal government doesn’t want to give up the power to go into community centres from a variety of different ethnic backgrounds with a $200,000 cheque,” says Matthew Mendelson, director of one Ontario public-policy research firm.

Though Ontario remains still Canada’s most populous province, more and more immigrants are choosing other places for settlement – particularly the booming Western provinces such as Alberta and Saskatchewan. The recent changes to immigrant regulations, which seem to favour Western resource-based economies, also are not helping to attract the manufacturing labour that Ontario needs.

Source: Globe and Mail

Local Settlement Organization Celebrates Anniversary

The Calgary Catholic Immigration Society, one of the busiest newcomer settlement assistance organizations in the province of Alberta, is celebrating its 30 year anniversary this month.

CCIS has been helping refugees, immigrants and temporary foreign workers by providing shelter, language programs, and a variety of other forms of assistance. Formed in 1981, with only a small handful of staff, the organization now employs 240 people with about 1,500 volunteers.

Though immigration has long been a strong part of Canada's heritage, only recently has Calgary become a major attraction for newcomers. This is mostly due to the economic boom of the early- to mid-2000s, in which employers across the province faced mass labour shortages, and were forced to amplify wages to attract workers.

Though the recession has slowed the influx somewhat, experts in Calgary are bracing themselves for more arrivals as the local economy shows signs of recovery.

"I think people have to be ready to accept that immigrants are coming to Canada and are coming to Calgary," said CCIS executive director Fariborz Birjandian. "Immigrants now are no different from those who came a hundred years ago. They're immigrants at first and then they're your neighbours or classmates."

The CCIS plans to continue its support of newcomers, particularly with the opening of a new resettlement centre in Calgary.

Source: Calgary Herald

India As Solution to Saskatchewan’s Labour Shortage

Economic experts in Saskatchewan are urging officials to look to India as a potential source for the skilled labour it will increasingly need in the coming years.

“What we really need is a proactive Indian strategy,” said John Hopkins, head of the Regina and District Chamber of Commerce. “India has 1.2 billion people – many who are highly skilled and salivating about coming to a country like Canada.”

Economists are concerned that Saskatchewan’s continuing economic boom, coupled with the imminent baby-boomer generation’s retirement will leave a large gap in the workforce that Indian immigration could address. In particular, their English language skills make Indian citizens desirable workers for Canada. Hopkins says that discrepancies in education could easily be addressed with upgrading programs set up in both countries.

Other solutions touted by the Chamber include increased engagement of First Nations’ communities and intensifying recruitment efforts toward both youth and residents of other Canadian province.

Source: Regina Leader-Post