Express entry, foreign worker reforms attract ‘fewer’ skilled workers: Chamber report


Express entry, foreign worker reforms attract ‘fewer’ skilled workers: Chamber report

Canada’s competitive edge at risk over reforms made for political expediency, chamber of commerce says

By Susana Mas, CBC News Posted: Jan 14, 2016 11:00 AM ET Last Updated: Jan 14, 2016 3:34 PM ET

Canada risks losing its competitive edge because of immigration reforms brought in under the previous Conservative government for political expediency, says a new report by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.

The report is critical of the Express Entry immigration system launched one year ago and reforms to the Temporary Foreign Worker Programmade in June 2014 following a series of stories published by CBC’s Go Public team alleging abuse of the program.

The chamber calls on the federal government to conduct an immediate review before things get worse.

“In an atmosphere of hyper-political reaction over temporary foreign workers, the government made policy choices that ultimately sacrificed the effectiveness of Express Entry,” the report says of changes brought in by the business-friendly Conservatives.

Canada appears to have attracted fewer high skilled foreign workers since June 2014 when the Conservatives announced the last set of reforms to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, raising serious concerns for the chamber, which represents some 200,000 businesses across the country.

“For the Canadian chamber and its members who employ highly skilled international talent, the situation has become untenable and dismaying,” the report says.

“Policy approaches that were born of suspicion, negativity and reprisal were applied to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program and then similarly and inappropriately applied to Express Entry.

“For all the good work of government officials, the programs are falling short of their goals and creating inefficiencies within departments,” the report said.

Chamber calls for ‘sober, thoughtful review’

In a statement sent to CBC News, Perrin Beatty, the president and CEO of the chamber, says he is calling on the federal government “to act before conditions worsen.”

“The immigration policies that are currently in place aren’t allowing employers to bring in the workers they really need: the highly-skilled workers that don’t take opportunities away from Canadians, but rather that help us create them.

“In the current economic climate, let’s give ourselves the means to stay as competitive as possible by getting the best people to contribute to our economy,” Beatty said.

The 32-page report titled “Immigration for a Competitive Canada: Why Highly Skilled International Talent Is at Risk” lays out what Canadian businesses see as “missteps” with the immigration changes and offers 20 recommendations.

“Canada risks losing its economic and competitive advantage when it comes to attracting highly skilled international talent, says the chamber. “Fortunately, there are simple and efficient ways to mitigate and avoid that risk and undo the damaging impacts.”

The chamber report urges the government to take immediate action saying “now is the time for a sober, thoughtful review of what Canada can accomplish through economic immigration.”

Express Entry undermined by ‘protectionist policy’

A new immigration system known as Express Entry was launched in 2015 to attract what the Conservative government called “the best and brightest” of highly-skilled workers in an effort to meet the country’s labour needs.

“The concept of attracting ‘the best and the brightest’ is missing in action,” says the new report, “as the competitive model of Express Entry is currently undermined by the protectionist policy embodied in the labour market impact assessment tool.”

As CBC reported in September, businesses say the labour market impact assessment (LMIA) — a new requirement borrowed from the newly reformed Temporary Foreign Worker Program — is the biggest flaw with Express Entry.

Under Canada’s new immigration system, highly-skilled foreign workers not only have to line up a job before applying to come to Canada but their job offer has to be backed by what the government calls a positive LMIA. That assessment is a document all employers now need to hire a foreign worker over a Canadian one.

The chamber calls the introduction of this new requirement a “misstep” that has made it “extremely challenging” for businesses to attract highly-skilled workers such as video game developers, top-flight researchers and workers in the trades.