Budget bill gives liberals new power to select immigrants with in-demand skills

The government will be able to select people from certain categories, such as health care workers or merchants, or people destined for certain parts of the country.

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OTTAWA – Buried in the Liberals’ budget is a major change in the immigration system, allowing the government to target new immigrants with specific occupations or skills, just as the country’s labor shortage has reached an unprecedented level.

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The changes are embedded in the government’s budget bill, which is still making its way through Parliament. Immigration Secretary Sean Fraser gives authority to designate specific jobs or skills as high priority and target those groups for permanent residence.

The current government system has an explicit entry pool, in which potential immigrants are assessed using a points system, taking into account a set number of points for their education, language proficiency, work experience, and other measures. When the government draws from the pool, it takes the people with the most points and invites them to apply for permanent residence.

During the pandemic, the number of people waiting in this gathering swelled to over 200,000 people, as the government did not pull much due to travel restrictions and instead focused on people already in Canada on work or student visas.

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The change in the budget will allow the government to be more selective, choosing people from certain categories, such as health care workers or merchants, or even those who are assigned to certain parts of the country. New draws are expected later this year to address the backlog, but they can use this new system to target specific jobs.

The Canadian economy is growing, Fraser said, but a labor shortage is standing in its way, and this change will help get workers where they need them most.

“Our unemployment rate is not only the lowest since the beginning of the pandemic, but it’s the lowest since we started tracking these stats in 1976,” he said. “Despite the extraordinary economic recovery we are already seeing, we can do more.”

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The points system does an excellent job of finding the best and smartest, Fraser said, but it doesn’t necessarily align with what the economy needs.

“We will have the ability to not only bring in people who are highly educated or have incredible work experience, but who are educated and have experience in the sectors most in need,” he said.

That could allow the government to bring health care workers or French language teachers to his home province of Nova Scotia or other professions specific to regions that need them, Fraser said.

“It allows flexibility for the Express Entry system without overburdening the Canadian immigration system,” he said.

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Betsy Kane, an immigration attorney in Ottawa, said the current system is leaving some people out, even though their skills are in high demand and she welcomes change.

“There are a lot of factors that I would say are artificially pushing them to the bottom of the pond. This is a way of supervising the people who are going to take them to meet the job market first hand.” “This pandemic has shown us that we don’t always need the best and the smartest. We need soldiers on the ground to get the work done.”

Fraser said the government will rely on conversations with the business community as well as data from Statistics Canada to choose which occupations to target. He stressed his intention to add to the current system, not replace it.

The liberals’ immigration plan calls for a steady increase in the number of immigrants, with more than 400,000 arrivals targeted this year.

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With levels high, Fraser said the government should continue to be able to bring in large numbers of economic migrants. He said that people who score high in the current system will continue to work, but that this will give everyone a chance.

“Right now, the people who are left out are the people who may have the skills required, but not necessarily have the highest scores.”

Figures released Thursday by Statistics Canada show more than a million job openings in the country now, a record number, with job openings in every province.

Lea Nord, of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, welcomed the change but urged the minister not to be too selective as employers struggle in all sectors.

“We are in an unprecedented labor shortage, not even a labor shortage, it is an employment crisis in this country,” she said. “Right now, we say don’t pick and choose. We need all professions.”

Nord said the government should also ensure that people coming to Canada can work in their field and are not suspended if their credentials are not recognized.

“Recognizing testimonials is key to that. They are not just numbers, they cannot happen in a vacuum.”

• Email: rtumilty@postmedia.com | Twitter:



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