Canada’s immigration system has many strengths. But Canada’s immigration system does have its problems too. One is the ongoing “skills mismatch”.
Both the economic immigration stream and a hastily revised Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) program are geared almost entirely to bringing in highly skilled and highly educated immigrants only. This sounds like a good thing on the surface, but misses the fact that many of the jobs that go begging in Canada’s economy are in the trades or semi-skilled categories.
The general public glosses over the fact that, for a variety of reasons, there are a growing number of jobs that Canadians just don’t want. Consider jobs that are messy or physically demanding. Or the many jobs where that brand new university degree is not particularly relevant or even needed.
Canadians are just not lining up to apply for these positions. In fact, right now, there are more than 300,000 full and part-time jobs available across the country.
Meanwhile, there are many immigrants and foreign workers overseas who would love to come to Canada to fill these vacancies. Unfortunately, our immigration system ignores these people altogether.
Not since 2013, prior to the revision of the TFW program, have employers been allowed to recruit people keen to fill these jobs and bring them to Canada for the work.
One of the legitimate criticisms that led to the revision of the TFW program was that the positions it filled were not temporary at all.
Most employers would much rather hire a Canadian or permanent resident, that is, if one were available and interested in the work.
When they are not, the employer turns to the TFW.
In response to this ongoing dichotomy, CFIB has continually called on the federal government to create pathways to citizenship for lower-skilled foreign workers.
Our proposal of an “Introduction to Canada Visa” would allow TFWs to apply for permanent residency after a 1 to 2 year period of time building Canadian experience and local connections. Such a policy could also be used to bring some undocumented workers into legal status.
Our history as a nation is full of stories of newcomers who sought a better life here for their families, who came, landed, rolled up their sleeves, and did the work that needed doing.
My Ukrainian and Irish ancestors came to Manitoba not to take jobs at universities or labs, but to work in factories or farms or start businesses that eventually employed other Canadians.
While our immigration system has many strengths, I’m hoping we can find a way in Canada’s next 150 years to remain true to our values, honour our immigrant history, and ensure that we have the workers we need to write the next chapter in our national story.
Dan Kelly is the President
of Canadian Federation
of Independent Business