Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Alberta wants federal government to lift immigration lid

John CotterThe Canadian Press
Alberta wants the federal government to lift the lid on the number of economic immigrants it can nominate each year for permanent residence so it can better meet its growing labour needs.

Jobs Minister Ric McIver said the province has sent a letter to federal Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander.

“I would like the federal government to take the cap off of the maximum number of provincial nominees that we can appoint so that we can bring in the people that we need,” McIver said in an interview Monday.

“We think we are going to be 96,000 workers short by 2023 and most of those (are for) skilled and good-paying jobs.”

McIver said the number of economic immigrants allowed into Alberta should be driven by labour market evidence and local information so the province can better react to its own circumstances.

All of Alberta’s quota of 5,500 certificates under the immigrant nominee program for 2014 have been issued, and they were not enough, he said.

The certificates allow skilled and semi-skilled immigrant workers, along with their spouse and dependent children, to be nominated by the province for permanent residence in Canada.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada makes the final decision on whether to grant permanent resident applications.

“The amount we need will change from year to year, depending on how good the economy is, whether it is up or down,” he said. “Removing the cap seems like a responsible thing to do.”

McIver said the federal quota is not high enough to meet Alberta’s existing job crunch.

In some cases the province has temporary foreign workers filling permanent jobs, he said. Some companies are at risk of losing these employees because of changes Ottawa has made to the temporary program.

McIver said lifting the cap on the number of provincial nominees would help Alberta’s economy across the board, including the energy, beef and tourism industries.

“If you haven’t got people to feed and water the cattle, then the rancher goes home. If you don’t have someone to wash the dishes, make the beds and wash the floors, then the whole hotel closes,” he said.

“You could extend that example across a whole bunch of other business models all over Alberta.”

Citizenship and Immigration Canada officials were not immediately available for comment.

Last week the Canadian Federation of Independent Business called on Ottawa to replace its controversial temporary foreign worker program with a visa that would provide a path to permanent residence for entry-level employees from abroad.

The organization said such a visa would address labour shortages for small businesses.

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