According to a new report by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, Canada risks losing its competitive edge due to changes that were brought in by the previous Conservative government for political gain.
The report is critical of the Express Entry immigration system launched one year ago and reforms to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program made in June 2014 after allegations of program abuse.
The chamber has called on the federal government to conduct an immediate review.
Launched in 2015, Express Entry aimed to attract the “best and brightest” highly-skilled workers from around the world in an effort to meet the country’s labour needs. However, employers looking for software engineers, family physicians or university academics were entered into the same category as workers with far less specialized skills.
According to Perrin Beatty, president and CEO of the chamber, “It was a political response to a political problem, but with significant economic consequences for Canadian businesses.”
However, since 2014 Canada appears to have attracted fewer high skilled foreign workers after the Conservatives announced the last set of reforms to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program
According to the report, “Policy approaches that were born of suspicion, negativity and reprisal were applied to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program and then similarly and inappropriately applied to Express Entry.
“The concept of attracting ‘the best and the brightest’ is missing in action,” says the new report, “as the competitive model of Express Entry is currently undermined by the protectionist policy embodied in the labour market impact assessment tool.”
Under Canada’s new immigration system, highly-skilled foreign workers not only have to line up a job before applying to come to Canada but their job offer has to be backed by what the government calls a positive LMIA. That assessment is a document all employers now need to hire a foreign worker over a Canadian one.
This new requirement has made it extremely challenging for businesses to attract highly-skilled workers such as video game developers, top-flight researchers and workers in the skilled trades.
The 32-page report titled “Immigration for a Competitive Canada: Why Highly Skilled International Talent Is at Risk” lists what Canadian businesses see as “missteps” with the immigration changes and offers 20 recommendations which include:
- Removing the new requirement of a labour market impact assessment from the Express Entry system.
- Tweaking the points system under Express Entry to benefit high skilled workers applying under the International Mobility Program.
- Reducing processing times for study permits and visas.
“Canada risks losing its economic and competitive advantage when it comes to attracting highly skilled international talent, says the chamber.
“Fortunately, there are simple and efficient ways to mitigate and avoid that risk and undo the damaging impacts.”
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