Federal Immigration Minister Jason Kenney is in St. John’s today, spreading the word on the hows and whys of incoming changes to federal immigration regulations.
The changes, he said, will be significant for Newfoundland and Labrador, particularly in terms of easing the pressures caused by an aging workforce.
“Immigration is going to, I think, I predict, continue to grow in importance in Atlantic Canada, including in Newfoundland, because of the skill shortages, because of the aging of the population,” Kenney said.
“We don’t really have much choice but to try to address that partly through immigration. Obviously immigration is not ‘the solution’ to the aging population and the shrinking labour force, it is only a solution and we need to do a much better job of getting Canadians into the workforce.”
Kenney spent about half an hour responding to questions from The Telegram around changes to the various streams for applicants seeking to become new Canadians, including skilled workers.
“Here’s the strange thing... We have a bit of a paradox in that we have large and growing labour shortages which we predict are going to be the major problem in the Canadian economy in the foreseeable future and yet we still have a lot of unemployed Canadians. In fact we’re bringing in a lot of immigrants here who end up being unemployed or underemployed — in an economy with labour shortages,” he said.
In talking about the underemployed, Kenney made note of the “phenomenon” of the “the medical doctor driving a taxi cab.” The federal government will be using certification bodies for medical professionals and skilled workers in other fields, to assess an applicant’s credentials before they come to Canada. This, Kenney said, will provide entrants to Canada with a better sense of their standing before they dive into the immigration process and give up their time and money.
It also helps to avoid “the medical doctor driving a taxi cab,” unless that’s the doctor’s choice.
Nationally, the main source region for immigrants to Canada is Asia, Kenney said, “but I think we see a more diverse makeup of immigrants to Newfoundland.”
Rather than point of origin, “the more important question for me is what skills they bring,” he said.
While in the province, the federal minister will be meeting with Minister of Advanced Education, Joan Burke, to discuss the provincial nominee program and issues relating to immigration aimed at filling jobs.
Kenney also stopped at the Association for New Canadians, to honour long-time executive director Bridget Foster with the Paul Yuzyk Award for Multiculturalism. The award is handed out once a year and Foster is the first to receive it in Atlantic Canada.
It comes with a $20,000 grant for the association.
More from the conversation with Kenney will be available in tomorrow’s print and digital editions of The Telegram.