Immigration could help solve labour shortage

Ashley Fitzpatrick
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Government, businesses advocate for acceptance, welcoming

Jason Kenney

The federal minister responsible for immigration, Jason Kenney, made the prediction for local business during his visit to St. John’s.

“Immigration is going to, I think, I predict, continue to grow in importance in Atlantic Canada, including Newfoundland, because of the skill shortages, because of the aging of the population,” he said.

“We don’t really have much choice but to try to address that partly through immigration.”

Bringing in new workers from other jurisdictions is not a new idea. As The Telegram reported in September, temporary foreign workers have been gaining ground with local employers finding themselves facing immediate shortages.

Fly-in, fly-out operations are being proposed to fill the rush of skilled trades and construction management positions for rapidly expanding mining operations in Labrador West. For example, flying workers in and out of site is being considered for construction of the Kami iron ore mine, according to the environmental impact statement filed for that project.

However, “during operations and maintenance, (the company) aims to hire a residential workforce,” it states.

Hiring new Canadians, people already living near the existing business, is a far more attractive option for employers than transporting workers into and out of the area as needed. It is generally cheaper and avoids both regulatory hurdles and logistical challenges — all suffocating for smaller businesses.

For Newfoundland and Labrador, there is a financial incentive to see new Canadians hired over outside workers. There are tax considerations, and temporary foreign workers are likely to send more of their earnings outside the province, rather than injecting their paycheques into the local economy.

On the other hand, immigration provides both employees and potential new business owners who can fill labour market needs long term, adding to business growth and provincial coffers.


With this in mind, the provincial government published its strategy for immigration in 2007. At the time, Newfoundland and Labrador was attracting an average 400 new Canadians annually. The province set a goal of attracting between 1,200 and 1,500 immigrants a year within five years of publication.

The release of the immigration strategy was followed by the creation of the Office of Immigration and Multiculturalism, the publication of a multiculturalism policy and the release of an “Employers’ guide to hiring immigrants and international students in Newfoundland and Labrador.”

Yet, attracting more new Canadians, having them fill more vacant positions with local businesses long term, will ultimately require there be more new Canadians available to hire and that they be matched with employers.

Recently, the St. John’s Board of Trade has been advocating on behalf of its members for an increase in the number of economic-class immigrants welcomed into the country each year.

“Newfoundland and Labrador, the country’s leader in economic growth for the last three years, is losing hundreds of millions in contracts, future business, and opportunities because we physically do not have enough people to do the work that presents itself,” the board stated in an August submission to Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

The economic class of immigrants is the largest category for immigration. In all, Canada welcomed about 250,000 people into the country in 2011 and more than 155,000 were economic immigrants.

The majority of these skilled workers set down roots in major cities — about 60 per cent in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver — but the percentage choosing larger centres has been declining over the last decade.

Manitoba, New Brunswick and Newfoundland were the first provinces to operate provincial nominee programs — beginning their attempts to draw in workers with specific skill sets in 1999.

So far, this province has struggled to attract new Canadians, but there have been improvements. Last year, for example, the provincial nominee program had 526 applicants, up from 105 in the year the provincial immigration strategy was launched.

The provincial government recommends local business managers and employers touch base with organizations offering services to new Canadians in their area and provide information on any open positions they have available.

It is also suggested employers participate in networking sessions, steering committees, community groups or cultural events with new Canadians if they are seeking workers.

International recruiters have a role to play, with organizations like the St. John’s Board of Trade able to guide employers to credible enterprises.

“Permanently increasing the number of annual immigrants to Atlantic Canada by 25 per cent above 2011 levels for 20 years would require a huge shift in immigration policy. APEC estimates such a policy change would boost the labour force by about 12,000 by 2031,” the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council has stated.

In tomorrow’s edition, The Telegram looks at another part of the labour solution — tapping into the underutilized workforce.


Organizations: The Telegram, Board of Trade, Office of Immigration and Multiculturalism APEC

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Atlantic Canada, Labrador West Toronto Montreal Vancouver Manitoba New Brunswick

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Recent comments

  • Harold
    October 11, 2012 - 18:30

    Cynic- October 10, 2012 at 12:17:59 well said, i echo your comments. i also agree with Jackie Neehuis and wrong answer. train our own people. treat our own people fair. look after our own people. look after our own young people because when we get older it's they who be be looking after us and our province not migrant workers.

    • james currie
      October 23, 2012 - 23:03

      I agree with what you are saying, however, I have a small business, and Cannot keep Canadians at any price. It is a cleaning business. The maximum we can pay to stay in business is $18 per hour, and we still cannot keep people. Especially out west, there is a desire to avoid labour jobs unless they are highly skilled trades.

  • Jackie Neehuis
    October 10, 2012 - 14:41

    Please consider appealing across the country first. There are so many unemployed university grads and families that are unaware of positions and opportunities available in other provinces not to mention a superior quality of life.

    • james currie
      October 23, 2012 - 23:05

      Where? I have a business that needs a lot of people. Where are these so called grads? We advertise all the time in Calgary , see very little in terms of what you are talking about.

  • Deann
    October 10, 2012 - 12:36


  • Wrong Answer
    October 10, 2012 - 11:43

    Train young people. Unemployment is rather high for them right now. The business community is largely too lazy to do that right now. My cohorts drive me nuts with this babble that they can't find people. High someone with the right attitude and train them. Not a difficult concept.

    • a business man
      October 15, 2012 - 09:34

      Why would I as a business owner incur the cost of training a Canadian worker when I can hire an immigrant who is trained and ready to work. I have nothing against the Canadian worker, but I really don't care who get the job as long as the work gets done.

  • Sara Philips
    October 10, 2012 - 08:35

    I know people that it takes years to get immigration paperwork thru. The Federal goverment has cut back and the immigration workers have slowed the process even more. HOW is he gonna get more immigrants here legally? EQUALLY is the question.

  • Christopher Chafe
    October 10, 2012 - 08:31

    IMO I do not think that wages are 100% to blame here. Personally I feel that my generation are smart enough to know that there are more opportunities off Newfoundland than there are on Newfoundland. If Newfoundland wants to attract younger people to stay here or move home, Newfoundland has to undergo a major identity revamp. We can no longer market ourselves as a small town mentality province, we must market ourselves the same as Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and Edmonton market their surroundings. Other wise we could have larger wages but we would still loose young people!

    • LAB
      October 10, 2012 - 16:31

      Good comment Christopher..If we are a "Have" Province, it might be time to start paying wages on par with other provinces..Immigration certainly isn't a viable option.

  • NowISee
    October 10, 2012 - 07:58

    I lol at the notion of a lack of skilled trades. There is no such thing There is a shortage of union members Open up to apprentices you union reps and lets get Canadians working This is nothing more than a ploy to bring in cheap and inferior labor Most of us are too smart to do the same job here in NL for half the wage Back to the Fort...

  • T
    October 10, 2012 - 07:56

    It doesn't take years of education and experience to see that if the government were to investigate the thousands of people taking advantage of the social assistance program, the majority are fit to work (they just choose to sit home and do nothing!). Force these lazy people out of their houses that are paid for with MY well-earned tax dollars, put them through school and make them work for their income. I am willing to bet that labour shortage would not be a problem them! STOP wasting MY tax dollars on these low-lifes who CHOOSE to not work!

    • Cynic
      October 10, 2012 - 10:47

      Thousands? You can document this, I assume. And it isn't just YOUR tax dollars. We all pay taxes, and while I don't want to brag about my own salary, I'd lay money I pay more taxes than you do. And that's the way it should be: make more, pay more. Unlike you, I think my taxes are how I play my part, however small, in supporting this country's social services network, which, by the way, we gave up our country for in 1949. If it was worth the cost of our country then, it's damned well worth preserving now. If you can back up your claim that the majority of people who use our social services network are fit to work and just choose not to, then please do so. I disagree. I think the vast majority of the people who use that network are honest. If I can do my bit to help support them, I don't really mind if a few people get something dishonestly. You can't have a system that size and not have a few people cheating, that's just life. Thousands of people should not be in want just because you don't like a few people cheating. I might need that social services network one day. So might you. If that day ever comes, I'd like to think that the people who paid the taxes, along with me, to create that system, won't begrudge me having to take some of that money. I'd hope the same for you. But if the time ever comes when you need help from this country's social services network, why don't you let me know and I can put a rant like this in the Telegram demanding the government make you get out of your house and stop CHOOSING not to work.

  • cynic
    October 10, 2012 - 07:29

    For two generations, we've told young Newfoundlanders and Labradorians that they have no future here and they should go away to get work. I'm not opposed to immigration, I believe people from other countries and cultures add to our society. But how about we try something different? How about we try to keep our young people home instead of bringing in foreigners to take their place after we've driven them away? Jason Kenny's comments just show little he knows of this province. And that's odd, considering how many of us live in his party's heartland. I just hope none of them voted for his party, since he seems to have no understanding of why they are there.

    • John
      October 10, 2012 - 15:10

      Sorry Cynic, T has it right and as an ex pat I have lived in two other provinces and seen what has happened in those jurisdictions. I want to say right off the top that I AM NOT AGAINST WELFARE!! Just its abuse by people. I lived in Ontario when Mike Harris became tough on the recipients in the mid 90s and guess what a load of people got off their couches and into the workforce when forced to do so. In Saskatchewan where I now live there has been some social assistance reform but not enough to deter people from abuse. I will show you an example of how I am FOR welfare and two others to show HOW I am against its use in certain situations. At one point, I knew of one male mid 20s who was on welfare after getting fired from his job. He decided that life would be better if he stayed home and played video games all day long. That is what he did and enjoyed life on his terms. Another person I encountered, decided he just wanted to stay home all day after a night of partying and sleep while on social assistance. Work was the furthest thing from his mind and nobody bothered him. The third person who attempted to get welfare when it was really needed was put though hell and back again before he got 100 dollars from them. Now this guy really needed it and struggled. He and his spouce were having marital difficulties and his situation was made worse by the fact that the wife cleaned out the bank account and left him penniless after separating. He worked very hard each and every day to look for a job until he found one and is now gainfully employed. In NL, the situation is a complete farce. There has NEVER been any reforms to get the couch potatoes working and probably never will be. Over the decades, politicians have used social programs to get support and get elected. That does not mean they told people they could go on welfare for nothing but today it means they won't have anyone check on them to see if they are job searching. It is all part of the idea about government money being used in the wrong way or waste. A lot of people seem to think the government owes them a living whether it be through EI, welfare, TAGS...etc. The government owes them a living they think No elected administration has ever done anything to change that perception particularly when it comes to welfare. Answer me this question, when was the last time you ever heard of ANYONE being kicked off social assistance in Newfoundland and Labrador.