Canadian Immigration officials will be allowed to share the personal information of citizens and permanent residents with other government agencies, under new proposals tabled on Friday. The plan would permit the sharing of information between immigration and border enforcement officials, Canada Revenue Agency, Employment and Social Development Canada, the RCMP, and other federal and provincial agencies.
The rules are being proposed to allow government agencies to be alerted to any changes in an individual’s immigration status as well as to authenticate the identity and immigration status of individuals and reduce fraud in the use of government services.
« There is a need to clarify and make explicit the legislative authority for CIC (Citizenship and Immigration Canada) to share personal information through its different business lines and with these partners, » the proposal states.
« CIC has relied on the Privacy Act to support some information sharing. However, this has created uncertainty regarding what information can and should be shared, and has limited CIC’s ability to share information. »
The plan gives the revenue agency a central role in the new information exchange network as it would allow immigration authorities to access the Income Verification Program in order to identify any false or inconsistent declarations of financial circumstances submitted by residency and citizenship applicants.
« This would help uphold the integrity of the immigration system as a whole and improve client service, both in the citizenship and across the government, » it said.
Thousands of temporary foreign workers in low-skill jobs who have been in Canada for over four years will have to leave from April 1, when the first possible four-year limit on their stay comes into effect since its introduction in 2011.
Under the old rules, temporary foreign workers (TFWs) were allowed to re-apply and continue working with their existing Canadian employers. But ever since the 2011 rule change the clock has been ticking down on TFWs, with a four-year cumulative duration limit imposed on their work permits. Moreover once the workers leave Canada, they will not be allowed back in as a TFW for an additional four years.
The rule has been especially harsh on TFWs who have been in Canada for over 15 years in some instances but are now being made to leave their homes and jobs in Canada.
A rush of TFWs leaving Canada is around the corner, employers and lawyers predict, with the fishing and agricultural industries set to be the most adversely affected.
The $900-million Canadian mushroom industry is one such sector where TFWs are doing jobs which Canadian citizens are unable or unwilling to do.
« Frankly, it’s a crisis with us because we’re losing workers who don’t want to leave, who have proven themselves to be valuable, and deserve an opportunity to apply for citizenship, » says Bill Stevens, the CEO of Mushroom Canada.
Stevens is calling for a reprieve, saying the industry will face substantial decreases in production if it isn’t granted.
« The whole thing amounts to a major decrease in the production of our commodity, and they’re going to suffer from it, they’re going to lose markets, and especially now when the markets are really very strong, » Stevens said.
Stevens is urging for a rethink and is calling for low skill temporary foreign workers to be given a way to obtain permanent residency, similar to the one on offer in Alberta, which was allowed a special transitional scheme where some TFWs are being given more time to become permanent residents.
The transitional measure in Alberta offers a reprieve to some TFWs as they wait for their permanent residence applications to be processed, according to Employment Minister Jason Kenney.
Immigration experts say the majority of TFWs work in fisheries, farms and restaurants, jobs that Canadians don’t want, as indicated by the high turnover of Canadian employees in those kinds of jobs. They argue that higher wages are not the solution and that the presence of TFWs increases productivity at the businesses and benefits the economy overall by creating spinoff jobs.
Canada’s Supreme Court has rejected an appeal to remove the country’s citizenship oath, which requires applicants to swear allegiance to Queen Elizabeth II. The appeal was launched by three permanent residents who wanted to obtain citizenship but not pledge allegiance to the UK monarch.
Native-born Canadians do not have to take any oath and the plaintiffs say the vow violates religious and conscientious beliefs.
Australia, also a constitutional monarchy, scrapped its pledge to the monarchy 20 years ago. Government lawyer Kristina Dragaitis argued the monarchy symbolizes the Constitution, the rule of law and the right to dissent. She said, the appellants are taking a « literal approach » to the oath.
The Supreme Court has not given any reasons for refusing to hear the appeal.
Despite having tightened the conditions for granting asylum to refugees two years back, Canada’s refugee acceptance rate has increased, especially from nations that are considered ‘safe’ for applicants facing persecution.
In 2012 the federal government started ‘fast-tracking’ asylum claims from 42 nations that are considered safe, in order to restrict refugee asylum and to expedite the application process. But these measures have failed to restrict refugee acceptance rates, which have increased from 38% in 2013 to almost 50% in 2014.
The asylum reforms led to a drop in the number of refugee claims made – from 20,223 refugee in 2012 to 10,356 in 2013, though in 2014 the numbers went up to 13,652.
The new rules apply to asylum claims filed after December 2012, though a significant backlog of applications filed prior to that date are still being assessed under the old rules.
Figures show a 61% acceptance rate for applications assessed under the new rules, much higher than the rate for backlog applications which stands at 34%. The acceptance rate for Hungarian refugees, who are mainly Roma minorities, tripled to 35% by 2014. Acceptance rates also went up for Slovakians (from 3.3% to 52%), Mexicans (from 18.8% to 28.8%) and Czechs (from 4.9% to 21%). These countries all belong to Canada’s ‘safe’ list.
« The government should explain how exactly it considers Hungary ‘safe’ while at the same time recognizing that hundreds of Hungarians have well-founded fears of persecution, » says immigration law professor Sean Rehaag.
According to Janet Dench of the Canadian Council for Refugees, the high acceptance rates from the safe countries « contravene the government rhetoric that these countries are safe. »
« The new system was set up to be more difficult so claimants have a shorter amount of time to prepare for their case and collect the documents they need, » says Dench.
Historically the refugee acceptance rates have fluctuated in Canada, depending on factors like the profiles of people applying and the conditions in their countries, says Charles Hawkins of the Immigration and Refugee Board. « It is important to recognize that the country composition of our refugee claim intake is somewhat different than it was before the implementation of the current refugee determination system. »
Processing time for refugee claims has been reduced significantly under the new system, down from around 20 months to less than 3 months. The backlog has also been reduced by two-thirds to 9,877 claims.
The government is satisfied with the results the reforms have brought. « By discouraging bogus asylum seekers and sending them home more quickly, we’re able to provide better service and faster protection for people who are actually in need of Canada’s protection, » says a spokesperson for Immigration Minister Chris Alexander.
« All claimants continue to have a fair and independent hearing by professional, highly trained officers. Canada remains second to none in its generosity and fairness, but we have no tolerance for those who take advantage of this generosity and consume welfare benefits and precious health-care resources meant for the truly vulnerable who are in honest need of our protection. »
Professor Rehaag is relaxed about Canada granting refugee protection to a large number of claimants. « The overall figures challenge the government’s assertion that Canada is having its generosity abused by fraudulent claimants, » he says.
The highest number of refugees in Canada comes from China and Pakistan, followed by Hungary, Colombia, Syria, Nigeria, Afghanistan and Haiti.
In January, the Conference Board of Canada warned that Alberta could slip into recession and today, opinion regarding the province’s economy remains unchanged.
Speaking to the board’s Western Business Outlook event on Tuesday in Edmonton, the conference board chief economist Glen Hodgson said, “My fear is that the forecast is still a little bit too optimistic”.
Given the downturn in Alberta’s energy sector, the previous four years of “phenomenal” growth will take “a significant hit” in 2015, the conference was told.
This will lead to reductions in energy companies’ capital spending plans, a shortfall in royalty revenues and a slowdown in people moving to Alberta from within and outside Canada. It will also mean that gains in Albertans’ primary household income will be reduced to one per cent in 2015. This has led to decreased consumer confidence while real estate sales, prices and housing starts are trending down.
In January, the conference board warned that Alberta could slip into recession in 2015 and would feel the largest drop in gross domestic product of any province. The board also warned that business investment in 2015 could be down by $12 billion.
In February, the organization forecast that while Canada’s GDP will grow 1.9 per cent this year, Alberta’s economy will shrink 1.5 per cent. Alberta’s ability to recover from the downturn will depend on oil prices increasing. West Texas Intermediate crude that traded at more than $100 US last summer is now around $50.
With stronger oil prices into 2016, Alberta should see “moderate” 1.5-per-cent growth compared to 2.3 per cent for Canada. “Alberta will re-emerge as a strong part of Canada’s economy,” Antunes said.
Brad Ferguson, president of the Edmonton Economic Development Corp., said Alberta’s story has sounded “unnecessarily negative” of late and he believes that Edmonton is well-positioned to deal with its share of Alberta’s economic challenges, Ferguson told the conference.
In today’s global economy, immigration is vitally important to every nation looking to improve its competitive standing. The challenge is to ensure that the right programs are in place to attract the brightest and the best.
British Columbia expects more than a million new job openings between now and 2022, including 985,000 from economic activity already confirmed or planned in addition to another 100,000 jobs from the expected LNG activity. Over one third of those workers will be migrants, and 78 per cent of jobs will require a college degree or higher.
While this anticipated job growth presents a huge opportunity for Canada to attract and retain high skilled labour, it will likely be wasted thanks to the overhaul of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program in 2014 and the significant restrictions of the new Express Entry system. These changes are already creating havoc and uncertainty for thousands of highly skilled workers and executives employed by some of Canada’s top employers seeking permanent residency.
While the federal government is promoting Canada to the world, aggressively negotiating free trade agreements, which include contemporary rules to facilitate greater mobility of workers, at the same time its invoking immigration reforms that make it ever more difficult for highly skilled workers admitted under these programs to remain in Canada.
The Express Entry system is intended to provide expedited permanent residency to highly skilled workers, but there are significant concerns emerging as program details become clearer.
One key concern is that before an employer can provide an applicant with a qualifying job offer, a positive Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) must be secured, which requires the employer to post the position (for which they have already hired a foreign national under one of Canada’s free trade agreements) on the government’s job board and prove no Canadians are available to perform the work.
In many cases, these individuals have held the positions for several years, and so there are no negative consequences to the domestic labour market. The same goes for foreign graduate students looking to make a permanent life in Canada, the very people that create employment opportunities for Canadians.
These new requirements may lead to some multinational companies re-evaluating the viability of Canadian operations. This could lead to potential job losses as key positions are moved outside of Canada.
Thousands of international students that graduate from Canadian universities, hoping to make Canada their home will also be affected. In the absence of a provincial nomination or qualifying job offer there is no bridge to permanent residency for these individuals.
The Temporary Foreign Worker Program needs to be immediately revised to provide a separate stream that is not wrapped in red tape to evaluate and process employer applications for high skill foreign workers.
High skilled workers with valid work permits who have been working in Canada for over a year, should be deemed to have a qualifying job offer for Express Entry, without the employer having to re-post the job.
International students with Canadian degrees in science, engineering, management studies etc. should be given a clear and rapid path to permanent residency. Work permits for students on postgraduate work should be extended to allow them to qualify under Express entry.
Today, Canada has companies successfully attracting or moving high skilled talent. We should be grateful when those individuals choose to make a permanent contribution to our economic success and therefore seriously question the merits of any new application processing system that puts up roadblocks and impedes our global competitiveness.
A new study suggest that Toronto ranks among cities of key importance to the world’s mega rich and will be among those that “dominate.” The study released today by Knight Frank, a global real estate consultancy whose annual Wealth Report is widely followed.
The study ranks Canada’s financial capital as No. 12 among the 40 “most important cities” for the wealthy this year.
The report says, “If we assess quality of life, a clutch of northern European, Canadian and Australian cities, led by the likes of Melbourne and Toronto, will dominate.”
High net worth individuals have been flocking to Canada, which is among the top countries where destination is concerned. Canada also ranks as No. 4 in the study’s “Big Spenders Index,” which looks at how the wealthy among us are likely to spend their money.
The report adds, “Positive gains are also anticipated for the Vancouver market, while Montreal is expected to maintain balance. Continued uncertainty in the Calgary economy is expected to temper sales throughout the spring, with the degree of long term impact to be determined. Toronto’s recent ranking as the best place to live in the Economist’s 2015 Safe Cities Index, along with a lower Canadian dollar, only strengthens its global appeal as a destination for foreign real estate investment.”
The Greater Toronto Area, which takes in several surrounding regions, will see “strong demand” for detached homes worth more than $1-million, in particular.
Shares of Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. rose this week after a pleasant surprise from an otherwise bleak oil patch. Pleasant for shareholders only since managers and directors are taking a pay cut. Canada’s second-biggest energy producer boosted its dividend and reported better-than-expected fourth-quarter results. However, it again trimmed its spending plans.
The company said annual average production rose to record levels towards the end of 2014.
Canadian Natural hiked its quarterly dividend to 23 cents a share as profit climbed to $1.2-billion, or $1.09 a share, diluted, from $413-million or 38 cents a year earlier.
ECB boosts outlook
Things are looking brighter this week for Europe with the European Central Bank having raised its forecasts for economic growth, though its new projections put the region dangerously close to a deflationary period.
The government held its benchmark rate steady and rolled out details of its bond-buying stimulus program, known as quantitative easing. the central bank of the euro zone raised its growth forecasts to 1.5 per cent this year and 1.9 per cent next year.
“The latest economic data and, particularly, survey evidence available up to February point to some further improvements in economic activity at the beginning of this year,” ECB chief Mario Draghi told reporters.
“Looking ahead, we expect the economic recovery to broaden and strengthen gradually.”
The Bank of England also held steady today.
China trims target
At this week’s annual meeting of Parliament in China, Premier Li Keqiang unveiled a slower 2015 growth target of about 7 per cent, down from last year’s 7.5 per cent, which it didn’t make. This is the slowest pace of economic growth in almost 25 years for China.
This comes amid action from the People’s Bank of China, which on the weekend cut interest rates.
According to economists at Bank of Nova Scotia, “His speech at the annual meeting of the legislature overnight reinforced other key 2015 Chinese themes that investors should be watching, including: (i) fiscal policy will remain proactive; (ii) monetary policy will continue to be prudent; (iii) the yuan exchange profile will be kept at a reasonable and balanced level; and (iv) the government will push ahead with the reform of state-owned enterprises and the liberalization of the banking system and financial markets.”
Job quality sinks
Job quality in Canada has sunk to its lowest level in more than two decades, a study released this week shows.
According to the report by Benjamin Tal, the bank’s deputy chief economist, an employment quality index, compiled by CIBC and which tracks part-time versus full-time work, paid versus self-employment and compensation trends, has fallen to its lowest level on record. The findings may confirm that Canada’s job market is not as robust as it once was.
The Canadian business community has pushed Ottawa to launch free-trade talks with Beijing. Instead, China agreed to provide 10-year multiple-entry visas to Canadian travelers crossing the Pacific for business, tourism or family purposes.
Last week In trade minister Ed Fast said the change will “reduce costs, cut red tape” and make life easier for Canadian companies.
The arrangement was first announced in Beijing by China’s Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, who said the agreement would have the countries “issuing visas to each other’s citizens with the validity period of up to 10 years.” However, Canada has been providing 10-year visas to Chinese citizens as early as 2012. In November of 2014, China and the United States also reached a mutual 10-year visa arrangement.
Up until now, Canadian business travelers were typically given a single-entry visa for the first visit, and then multiple-entry visas with increasingly long periods of time on subsequent occasions. The visas were primarily an inconvenience.
The primary push from the business community, however, is for Ottawa to make progress on a free-trade agreement with China, which it has resisted amid broader concerns among Canadians over giving Chinese companies legally-binding rights in their trade with Canada.
A growing number of German lawmakers from across the political spectrum agree on one thing: It’s time for the country to be a little more like Canada.
Canada has emerged as a model as Germany grapples with a new wave of unease about its approach to immigration. Last fall this disquiet burst into public view when thousands began attending controversial anti-migrant, anti-Islam marches. These marches tapped into a broader dissatisfaction with the country’s immigration policies.
Now politicians have begun looking at reforming the law in ways that help the economy in the long-run and also address the immediate political mood. Canada is seen as an inspiration, despite the significant and still untested changes to the Canadian immigration system implemented by the Conservative government that began in 2015.
Last week, the centre-left Social Democrats, the junior party in Germany’s governing coalition, proposed a plan to reform the country’s immigration law with a heavy emphasis on the Canadian example. In particular, the plan envisages imitating Canada’s use of specific criteria – like education level and work experience – to tally a number of points to evaluate candidates for immigration.
However, it’s precisely that system which Ottawa has overhauled. The new process tilts heavily in favour of those who already have a job offer in Canada. It also gives bureaucrats discretion to move candidates to the front of the line. Both are distinct breaks with past practice and some have criticized the new system as being less compassionate and more prone to interference.
Managing immigration effectively is critical to Germany’s future. The country is facing a demographic diide as the population ages and families shrink. According to the proposal by the Social Democrats, the working-age population will contract by nearly seven million over the next 10 years. Businesses are already complaining about the difficulty of finding highly skilled employees.
Currently, Germany is the strongest major economy in the region, and as such has drawn in skilled workers seeking opportunity from the rest of the 28-member European Union. But if other major European economies start to rebound, such flows will diminish, which will mean Germany will have to look beyond the EU for future sources of immigrant talent.
After the U.S., Germany has become the second-most popular destination for immigrants worldwide. The country absorbed 437,000 immigrants in 2013, the highest such total in more than 20 years.
Yet there is a sense in Germany that the country’s approach to immigration is neither transparent nor efficient. Most new arrivals come from other EU countries, whose citizens face no restrictions on entering Germany or working there. The number of refugees flowing into the country is also rising. Last year the number of new applications for asylum jumped nearly 60 per cent from 2013 to 173,000.
While a majority of Germans say they embrace diversity, immigration remains a sensitive topic. A poll released last month by the European Commission found that 61 per cent of Germans held negative views of immigration from non-EU countries. One new way of expressing that unease came in the form of Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West – or PEGIDA, after its German acronym – a previously unknown right-wing movement that began drawing thousands to its weekly demonstrations.
Looking to Canada, German politicians see an immigration system that is open about its priorities, attracts a large pool of qualified applicants and enjoys widespread domestic support.
The Social Democrats, the junior partner in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition government, have formally proposed adopting a points-based system for would-be immigrants. A group of young legislators within Ms. Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union party have also voiced support for such a system, as have the Greens, with some variants. Even a new, conservative euro skeptic party, Alternative for Democracy, says it endorses the Canadian approach. (The far left party in Germany’s parliament, however, rejects it.)
A council of migration experts has asserted that Germany doesn’t actually need a points system like the one Canada has. There is already a way for highly skilled workers from non-EU countries to immigrate, through what’s known as the EU’s “Blue Card” program.
However, Germany needs a more welcoming image. To that end, an overhaul of Germany’s immigration law might be a good idea.
A study by the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) suggests that Canadian job quality has fallen to its lowest level in 25 years, which may be indicative of a severe systemic problem that might be difficult to reverse anytime soon.
The report reveals that the bank’s employment quality index fell by 1.8% last year, amounting to a 15% overall decline since the 1990s.
The study also showed that there was a faster growth of part-time jobs in the country compared to high-quality full-time employment over the same time period. Even though last year saw full-time positions increasing at double the rate of part-time jobs, the overall negative impact on full-time employment during each recession was mostly permanent, the study noted.
In addition, the study also highlighted several « ongoing labor market challenges » like low participation of prime-aged Canadians.
Figures for 2014 show that the Canadian economy is about 270,000 jobs short of its full capacity, with more than one in four part-time workers looking for full-time work.
Experts have warned that these trends have far-reaching consequences for the Canadian economy. In particular, the increasing number of people in part-time positions and self-employment is going to lead to lower levels of savings and consumer spending. Debt, which is already growing consistently, is also likely to increase further.
« After every recession, job quality goes down, but it doesn’t fully catch up. So there is almost a permanent loss every time that there is a shock, » says Benjamin Tal of CIBC, who also believes that the long-term trends pointing to deterioration in job quality « is more of a structural issue than a cyclical one ».
The trends also point to a shift in the balance of bargaining power in the labor market. The fewer highly paid workers now enjoy higher bargaining power than the larger section of people holding low-paying jobs. « This is the main reason why the income gap is rising, which I believe is the number one economic, social issue facing the country in this decade, » says Tal.
However, some experts have cautioned that all part-time work must not be assumed to be of low quality.
The CIBC report’s findings come as talks are taking place between Ottawa and the provinces about training policies and employment insurance. The negotiations are focused on whether or not to renew Labor Market Development Agreements worth $2-billion a year to fund job training programs.