EVENTS HAPPENING IN VICTORIA

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Filling the Gap through Economic Immigration (2016)

Issue

Chamber members are citing challenges in hiring qualified workers as a barrier to growth. In urban centres with a high cost of living like Vancouver, Toronto, and Victoria, it becomes particularly challenging to fill gaps at the mid- to lower-end of the employment spectrum, particularly for skilled entry-level as well as low-skilled difficult-to-fill positions. Businesses then turn to hiring foreign workers, but are often frustrated by complex bureaucracy and lengthy timelines. The federal government can effectively adjust the system through a demand-driven focus to immigrant selection, such as by awarding points in the Express Entry process for a job offer, without requiring a Labour Market Impact Assessment.

Background

The next 20 years will see a continued exit of baby boomers from the workforce. This exit will create a strain on national finances in the form of reduced income tax revenue and an increasing expense in the health care system as the baby boomers age. As our workforce shrinks, demand will rise, and employers will have increasing challenges attracting and retaining the workers they need, when they need them.

The Government of Canada plans to bring in between 280,000 and 305,000 new permanent residents in 2016. Of this number, 160,600 people are expected under economic immigration, this is comprised of experienced professionals and skilled workers to support Canada’s long-term economic growth.

As Canada’s Asia Pacific Gateway, the Province of British Columbia is positioned to tap into talent from other countries to fill gaps in the labour force, contributing to the ever-changing face of business today. Demographic challenges and competition amongst jurisdictions are growing significantly and the pace of demand for talented individuals means that Canadian companies must be allowed to effectively compete in this global context. Without the ability to tap into this highly-mobile talent pool, Canadian companies will fall behind, hampering our economic prosperity and reducing the opportunities available to all Canadians.

Overview

Immigration to Canada can be either on a permanent basis or temporary in nature, such as to visit, study or work. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) handles large volumes of permanent and temporary resident applications across its extensive global processing network. The process of managing immigration files includes protecting the health, safety and security of Canadians. In collaboration with partners in the Public Safety portfolio as well as the Department of Justice and Health Canada, IRCC works to identify applicants who could pose security or health risks to Canadians. IRCC also works in partnership with other countries to mitigate risks and protect Canada from international threats.

To meet the admission targets set out in the immigration levels plan, IRCC must balance pressures related to processing high volumes of applications for temporary residence with backlog reduction strategies for various permanent immigration programs.

Process

Every foreign worker must obtain a work permit to legally work in Canada. The process by which a work permit is issued involves a complex employment confirmation scheme involving Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) and IRCC.

As a general rule, an IRCC visa and immigration officer is not authorized to issue a work permit to a foreign worker unless, in the opinion of the officer, there are insufficient Canadians or permanent residents who can fill the potential position.

Involvement of ESDC is a convenient way for visa and immigration officers to determine whether the employment of the foreign worker is justified given current labour market conditions. With a confirmation of a valid job offer and a favourable opinion known as the "labour market impact assessment" (LMIA) from ESDC – provided security and medical qualifications have been met - the visa and immigration officer will then issue a work permit to the foreign worker. The process generally requires consultation with the employer and ESDC, national advertising and/or recruitment efforts, substantial documentary support and possible involvement of other government agencies. Without a positive LMIA assessment, a foreign candidate with a job offer often will not qualify for entry.

Temporary

Under the Temporary Foreign Workers Program (TFWP), IRCC facilitates the temporary entry of foreign workers needed to address labour market shortages and to provide other economic opportunities for Canadians, such as job creation and the transfer of new skills and knowledge. With a few exceptions, foreign workers must have an approved job offer and a work permit before arriving in Canada.

Permanent

IRCC manages the permanent entry of foreign workers under the category of Economic Class, including programs such as Federal Skilled Workers, Provincial Nominee, Live-in Caregiver as well as Business. Due to the lengthy timelines associated with applications for permanent residency, employers may turn to the TFWP as a faster alternative, which can be days. As an added benefit, employing a TFWP worker who is applying for permanent residency may increase the candidate’s eligibility as she or he gains Canadian experience.

Timelines

As outlined in Annex A, the processing times for entry as a permanent resident can be lengthy, anywhere from 9 to 97 months. The lengthy timelines, coupled with the LMIA requirement, creates a scenario where the employer identifies the required talent and makes a job offer, but the candidate is either not selected to immigrate, or has moved on to other opportunities in the interim. Skilled foreign nationals have personal lives and families to consider, and for them as well as their prospective employers in Canada, the unpredictability in the provision of the talent to meet organizational objectives is highly problematic.

Express Entry

Introduced in 2015, Canada’s Express Entry system promised transformative change in economic immigration and the opportunity for employers to be involved in immigrant selection.

Express Entry is an electronic application management system for skilled workers to seek permanent residency. It adds a competitive element by selecting candidates based on their scores in a comprehensive ranking system. Scores are assigned based on factors such as education, Canadian work experience and valid job offers.

Job offers must be accompanied by a positive LMIA from Service Canada to confirm that no Canadian or permanent resident is available to take the job. Without the assessment, a foreign candidate with a job offer will not receive 600 points. Candidate assessments below 600 points will likely not receive an invitation from IRCC to apply for permanent residency through the Express Entry system.

By inserting the LMIA process into Express Entry, the government has put two competing policy principles in play. On the one hand, the Government of Canada wants to facilitate employers’ access to a pool of international talent, and on the other hand, it does not want employers to look at international candidates because the government wants Canadians first in the jobs. In the past, the government had other ways to validate job offers for permanent residency applicants. The LMIA is the wrong policy tool for this purpose.

The federal government can effectively adjust the system through demand-driven focus to immigrant selection, such as by awarding points in the Express Entry process for a job offer, without requiring a Labour Market Impact Assessment.

Recommendation

The Chamber recommends that the federal government award points in the Express Entry process for a permanent job offer, without requiring a Labour Market Impact Assessment.

CHAMBER
PARTNERS

Chamber of Commerce Group Insurance Plan University of Victoria Co-operative Education Program and Career Services