Corriere Canadese

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TORONTO - Have a seat at the Irving Family (of companies) Boardroom table, in New Brunswick, Canada’s only Constitutionally Bilingual province. It is about 14% the size of France with only about 1% of that country’s population: circa 750, 000 (about the size of the Italian-Canadian population in the GTHA).
 
The Chair says the enterprise has a bright future ahead: resources galore, “assets to burn”, underutilized capacity, supportive social and civic infrastructure and shipbuilding contracts for the next two generations.
 
Problem? No people; worse, it has a declining population. Unlike as in other provinces, immigration is not filling the void. No workers, no skilled tradespeople. Provincial school systems throughout Canada are notoriously inept at creating a culture that validates and produces tradespeople.
 
The Economy cannot be sustained. Opportunities will be missed. The cycle will worsen. But the Federal bureaucracy seems fixated “process” – how to make an aimless system function more efficiently. An impossible and pointless task, as far as the Irving business model is concerned.
 
For Irving, immigration is all economics; “process”, policy, regulations be damned. Waiting for someone to apply and the meet the criteria some “think tank” in the depths of Ottawa considers to be in the “Canadian interests” has not worked.
 
A better model is to “recruit and retain”. It is not new, much less ground-breaking. It formed the basis for Immigration policy from the birth of Confederation onward. It is how the country “was built and populated”.
 
The Canadian Pacific Railway, the Canadian National, mining companies, steel manufacturers, bridge builders, agricultural developers and infrastructure project managers, and so on were partners with governments to find and employ human resources needed to turn Canada into what it is today.
 
If it worked for them, why can’t it work for Irving, so goes the reasoning. Step aside federal government; ditto the Provincial Nominee Program; forget the language proficiency test. The company will decide if the worker can produce.
 
Irving is recruiting in Italian, Spanish, Polish and Dutch. The concept of “substitutive evaluation” as a legislative authority to permit the placing to one side the language requirement as a condition for permanent residency is now alive and well. But it is being applied by the Employer rather than by a faceless bureaucrat removed from the “need”.
 
The government has, de facto, accepted that the employer has a better grip on the concept of supply and demand locally. One can only conclude that Irving must have some heavy clout around the Cabinet table to convince the Government to step aside and concern itself with security issues related to Immigration while Business takes care of the rest.
 
In Ontario, meanwhile, where the number and wealth of both Businesses and Unions are more abundant, no one is stepping up to the plate in their (and the country’s) own long term interests.  
 
I often wondered how the “Barber of Seville” could have attained such fame and influence. Despite the operatic portrayal of a character who permits himself the odd self-indulgence, at closer inspection, it becomes easy to appreciate how and why.
A good barber keeps his own counsel, shares his wisdom and treats his customers like a precious marble bust that has to be caressed and sculpted with the deftness and artistry of a Michelangelo.
It helps to have a sense of humour; to cultivate an appreciation for the most eclectic of tastes and views; to stimulate dialogue without crossing boundaries and giving offense, as would priest in a confessional, without passing judgement or giving penance. 
Yes, all of that, and for little financial compensation in return for cutting, trimming and shaping your hair, polishing your image and stroking your ego. It’s a skill as well as an art. No flash; just substance. 
Alfredo has been doing that in Toronto and North York for… dare I say it … six decades of it at the service of the rich, the famous, the powerful and the rest of us with equal deference and attention. Three generations in my own family. I wanted to know more.
“I came to Canada as a 19-year-old in search of fame and fortune – like everyone else”, he said, while clipping away at my hair almost as if his instruments were guided by an unforeseen panel of experts.
“Post-war Francavilla al Mare wasn’t an especially promising place. I had apprenticed for years so as to earn some spare change while pursuing my life’s dream of being a world-famous musician”, he said half jokingly. I was young.” 
“Once in Canada, I began performing at the Church Halls at the usual Italian festivities. I and the group I played with were in demand; even performed regularly at the Brandon Hall, the Italian community’s post-war first “big deal” place. Met lots of “Bingo Players” when they were younger and less well-off than they are today.”
Did you start there in the St. Clair-Dufferin (Dupont to be precise) area, I mused. “No. I worked at Orfus and Dufferin where personalities like Tino Baxa and Dan Iannuzzi were clients. But I moved to Leaside where I had my first brush – pardon the pun - with F & F (fame and fortune). There I was, recently arrived in 1958, standing outside the shop when this strange-looking character in cowboy boots and black hat asked if I would cut his hair.”
“Know who I am - without waiting for an answer - Stompin’ Tom Connors. I am at the Horshoe Tavern tonight”. Who knew English. I barely had enough to say yes and no, but I understood quickly that he was a musician and told him I was one too. “Come see me,” he said. I didn’t have money for a street car ticket much less for a night out at a Tavern. Didn’t go.
“Fast forward twenty years later, same place, after I had returned from Italy. A scraggly-looking, hippy type comes in and says, “listen, I really need to be cleaned up – even if my fans won’t recognize me on stage; can you do it?”
By now my English is a little better; “where are you playing”, I asked, ‘Horseshoe Tavern. I front for Stompin Tom’. Well we hit it off right away. He promised to relay the story. He did, secured an autographed copy of a program for me and members of our salon.”
Did you ever make the jump to “the professional music scene”, I asked curiously. “Almost, he answered. I had a client who knew a performer, a big deal, Eddo-Pany, who gave me an audition shortly after I first met Stompin Tom. He liked my style and my ability to blend in with his other performers; offered me an opportunity right then and there. I thought that this was a great country.”
What did you do, I wondered. “I gathered up my savings, had a friend accompany me to register with the Musicians’ Union; bought an amplifier and showed up for work. Except that I never had an opportunity to familiarize myself with the technology or with the signals that demanded I ‘cut on cue’ (pardon the pun again). After the first piece when I just kept playing and playing, Eddo-Pany took me backstage and fired me on the spot. It wasn’t nice. Now I was in debt and had to re-assess my talents and ambitions.” He went back to Italy, briefly.
Again, back in Leaside, this time an older gentleman asked for a haircut but said “I can’t pay. No money”. “Ok”, Alfredo thought to himself, “I can’t throw the man out.” But the man started to laugh, “I just sold my gardens and land to the City of Toronto”.  His name was Rupert Edwards. The park and Botanical gardens southeast of Lawrence and Leslie bear his family name. “Get into business for yourself”, he advised
“Seemed like a good idea. Between gigs in the Italian community and my barber duties, I was able to make ends meet and address my responsibilities as a husband and father. Let my wife take care of raising the kids. Best decision I made. They have turned out wonderfully.”  
“I moved west to a shop at Lawrence and Keele, on the understanding that I would eventually get first right of refusal on the business. It was a little more complicated than I expected. The owner turned out to be a “silent partner” who asked what we (my brother and I) were prepared to offer, then demanded double the amount.”
“But the business was good. We paid it off. Athletes like Eddie Shack and more recently, Mark Osborn, became regulars. Entertainers of various degrees of talent would come by. Some of the most successful builders in the Italian community were customers, and of course politicians from all levels of government popped in … sometimes to get a haircut.”
One of them has been a client for 30 years. His children, and now theirs, have followed his footsteps into Alfredo’s chair. Jokingly, I asked if any publishers or writers ever showed up. “Only to get info for their next story”, he answered without skipping a beat.
 
TORONTO - At least his heart seems to be in the right place. But his priority is, by his own admission, “client service”. That is how the Minister for Refugees and Immigration interprets his mandate.
 
He is the Minister; his is the mandated letter, received from the Prime Minister, to bring to fruition. Saturday, at the request of local MP, Francesco Sorbara and accompanied by their colleague, MP Deb Shulte, he held a “conversation” with interested members of the Italian-Canadian community in Woodbridge.
 
He got an earful. People were polite and insistent. The “system” is faulty - rotten even - and incomprehensibly uninviting – at least from the experience of those present. 
 
It penalizes “them” (professionals, “trades, millennials and anyone willing to work – any work) seemingly because of geographic and ethno-racial considerations.
 
But the reality is that the “oversized elephant in the room” is Canada’s over-reliance on the language criterion. 
 
Ironically, had that criterion been applied to the Minister’s parents, or to those present, with the same religious zealotry it is applied today, the room would have been empty, and the city Vaughan, one of Canada’s richest cities, would still be farmers’ fields lying fallow. 
 
To his credit, the Minister allowed that “Canada needs to do better”, that it must stop putting obstacles in the way of potential immigrants. Which obstacles, which immigrants? 
 
The Minister admitted to having been surprised, everywhere he has gone, at the number of employers who have complained about the shortage of skilled trades people (that neither our educational system nor our culture seems able to provide) and the excessive and punitive burden that the Labour Market Impact Assessment process places on them.
 
In fairness, The Minister did point out the steps his government has been implementing to facilitate a more fluid transition from Europe and more specifically from Italy (given the audience). No argument by the public or the Minister stands a chance of overcoming the wall of political will or lack thereof.
 
MP Sorbara, freshly returned from Italy, where he was involved in fairly high level meetings with officials from Italy and Canada. Noted that some 120 000 residents left their homes in Central-South Italy last year to seek a better future elsewhere. 116 000 citizens left Italy for places beyond. Very few are choosing Canada; it is not an inviting place.
 
Yet, Canada has all the necessary social and economic infrastructure for successful integration. Brexit will release a new wave of emigrants who will lose their mobility rights under the Schengen Agreement. Moreover, CETA chapters 10 and 11 have stimulated greater interest on the part of potential emigrants.
 
Companies need to step up to fill in where governments have demonstrated little ability to operate. The Irving group in New Brunswick has effectively become the Office of Immigration into and for Atlantic Canada.
 
They have been given authority to process 2000 applicant-workers and their families – provided they pass a security screening – as per needs of the company. No LMIA; no language test.
 
Irving has already indicated that it will recruit in places like Poland, Portugal and Italy. 
 
Is it possible that the Irvings have the federal government’s ear whereas the province of Ontario and its Industry leaders do not?
 
Matera - Mayor Raffaello De Ruggieri  offered up a challenge to the Canadian delegation, which he (flanked by his Executive Council), had received in his offices to discuss the MOU on the twinning of Matera-Toronto.
Yes, he said, Matera would accept the MOU as written because the initial intent was to explore opportunities for co-operation between the two cities on matters of cultural significance and/or with tourism implications.
In an hour-long meeting, he offered up two very specific proposals that had not been on the table prior to the meeting. As an indication of his serious intent, he had secured the presence and input of the President of the Chamber of Commerce, the president of the Council of Lucani nel Mondo and that of his respective Executive Councillors responsible for Heritage and IT Applications.
First, he laid out a plan to welcome, immerse and integrate Canadian “budding and accomplished” artists in the “workshop” that Matera had become in the creative and restorative arts.
Second, despite the constraints of time remaining for the bidding process, he invited the delegation headed by York University Professor and former municipal bureaucrat, Frank Miele, to search out Canadian companies to participate in the 5G project. Matera, as part of the “infrastructure build-up” leading to 2019 when it will host the World as the “cultural Capital of Europe, has been designated as a nerve centre for the development of the next generation of IT platforms and communications. The project is international in scope and co-funded by the European Union and the Government of Italy.
Mayor De Ruggieri reached out specifically to MP Francesco Sorbara that he engage his expertise in finance and his access to the Canadian Minister of Finance to promote the economic potential of a Canadian participation in the 5G project.
Matera, along with Bari, will co-host the Economic component of the G7 next month when the Finance Ministers of those countries meet in advance of the Leaders’ meeting in Taormina.
He also specifically singled out the potential roles that the two businessmen/entrepreneurs members of the Basilicata Cultural Society (Dan Montesano and Pat Tremamunno) might play in bridging the richness of what Matera’s vibrant cultural arts community has to offer to what Canadian artists might wish to experience.
In that regard, the region and the national government have already put in place a program – “artisanship to artistry” that aims to recover knowledge of raw materials and techniques in “best use practices” – to maximize productivity of creative and restorative talent.
“It is there for the taking by the willing”, gushed Mayor De Ruggieri, “the rebirth of Matera and its renaissance of the priceless cultural heritage of the past needs to be shared. We have been the site of human activity for 10 000 years and only recently have we begun to peel back the veil covering a patrimony of creativity brought forth from people indigenous to the territory.” “Matera’s potential is exponentially greater than it relatively small population of some 60,000 people”, said his delegate, Michele Grieco, the Mayor’s spokesperson and representative assigned to the delegation. “It is an incubator for creativity, from art, engineering, to music and the culinary inventiveness that traditionally make Lucana cuisine a prized culture world-wide. The potential fruits of this twinning are as diverse as they are unlimited”, he added.
The presentation, live in a tour of the facilities available, included the University, the Conservatory and a Panificio (Bakery) whose service and products date back to 1890 – a fact incorporated in its name.
The University will be the Hub for the 5G project. Led by Professor Vincenzo Crispino, the Conservatory, with its 1,500 students and 110 staff – and a fully funded “exchange program” – will work with international students who aspire to professional music careers. Small and medium sized businesses like Maria Bruno of 1890 will share their command of the slow food business with restaurateurs and others.
The Toronto delegation will have a final copy of the MOU approved by Matera City Council fine tuned to include the outcomes of discussions for the approval delegation in 10 days by Toronto’s  delegation. 
 

Versione Italaina >>> Matera-Toronto, passi avanti per il gemellaggio

MATERA - The twinning project started to take the definitive shape yesterday as the delegation headed by Frank Miele and led by Francesco Sorbara, mp from Vaughan Woodbridge, met with local officials from Basilicata at Palazzo San Gervasio, part of the Region of municipality of Potenza.

 

In display of the commitment of the initiative, the Mayor of Palazzo, Michele Mastro, opened City Hall to the delegation - which included Dan Montesano, President of the club Palazzo San Gervasio, Toronto, and Pat Tremamunno, senior Vice President of the Basilicata Cultural Society, Toronto - despite being the national holiday.
Joining the delegation at City Hall: Michele Grieco, representative from the Regional Municipality of Matera; assessore comunale, Luca Festino, Regional Councillor Aurelio Pace, President of the Commission for the Lucani nel Mondo; President of the foundation “Ente Morale D’Errico”, Dottor Mario Saluzzi; Mario Romanelli, representing the town of Palazzo in the same foundation; and, Lella Piarulli, former Vice Chair of the Regional Council of Potenza, and promoter of the initiative.
The group extended an invitation as well to the Mayor of Regional Municipality of Potenza, dott. ing. Dario De Luca, who, together with his wife, came to show his support.