CHARLOTTETOWN — The P.E.I. government is hoping a new immigration agreement signed recently with Ottawa will help fill gaps in the labour market and boost stagnant population growth.
"It does afford us more flexibility in being able to direct our efforts toward immigration in areas in the province that need it more," said Rural Development Minister Allan Campbell, who signed the deal on behalf of the province.
"We can move toward a more demand-based immigration system on P.E.I. where we can now attract immigrants that go a long way to meeting the shortage of skilled labour in the province."
Mr. Campbell said Tuesday having job opportunities in their field allows immigrants to fit into the community much easier.
He said "this is a win-win situation for both . . . immigrants and P.E.I."
The focus of the agreement is the removal of limits in the provincial nominee program, collaboration on overseas marketing initiatives and the targeted use of the nominee program to attract and retain francophone immigrants.
The agreement allows the province to nominate more immigrants possessing the skills needed in the province for quicker processing by the federal government.
The two governments have also agreed to improve the process for recognizing foreign credentials.
The federal government has also pledged $2.6 million over the next three years to help newcomers successfully settle and integrate Island communities.
The P.E.I. Association for New-comers to Canada is receiving more than $1.1 million to deliver language assessment and settlement services to newcomers.
Holland College is receiving more than $1.2 million to deliver English-language training, including enhanced language training for professionals.
Study Abroad Canada is getting $84,922 to deliver language training, while Carrefour d’Immigration Rurale Evangeline is receiving $76,327 to deliver settlement services to francophone minority communities and deliver anti-racism programs.
Newfoundland and Labrador's standard of living on rise
May 27, 2008
The standard of living in Newfoundland and Labrador is improving faster than anywhere else in the country, and will rise to the national average within five years, a new study predicts.
Dale Orr, chief economist at Global Insight Canada, looked at each province's real gross domestic product per person – considered the best measure of standard of living.
He found that rapid economic growth fuelled by the energy industry in Newfoundland, coupled with a shrinking population, has meant that the province climbed from “perpetual last place” at 71 per cent of the Canadian average in 1998, to 91 per cent of the Canadian average by 2003.
By 2007, Newfoundland's standard of living stood at 96 per cent of the Canadian average, and it should climb gradually in the next few years to reach 100 per cent of the average by 2013, Mr. Orr says.
“Over the past decade, real GDP per capita has grown much more rapidly in Newfoundland and Labrador (66 per cent cumulative) than in any other province,” Mr. Orr writes, pointing to strong investment and production in offshore oil, as well as mining activity as the sources of growth.
The Newfoundland economy has expanded by 54 per cent in the past 10 years, compared to 34 per cent for the Canadian average. However, the population has been dwindling, except for a recent increase that Mr. Orr deems temporary. That shrinkage will likely continue in the next five years, so even if economic growth comes back down to earth in that province, the standard of living will improve.
Tories knew of program problems Officials aware immigration plan was flawed, but still praised it to the public By DAVID JACKSON Provincial Reporter Fri. Jun 13 - 2:18 PM
The MacDonald government had a report detailing glaring problems with an immigration program well before the auditor general tabled his assessment this week.
Cabinet ministers and government officials haven’t fully revealed publicly the extent of the problems, even though the internal analysis was done a month before a two-hour session last October that was meant to clear the air about the business mentor program.
The September cabinet document shows the program was riddled with problems, from the criteria for immigrants to the intrusion of third-party brokers to mismatching immigrants and businesses. There has been information on those issues in the past year, but much of it stemmed from enterprising media and opposition MLAs looking for answers.
The government had withheld the cabinet document since last fall, citing cabinet confidentiality. But Immigration Minister Len Goucher released it late Wednesday, with sections of it left blank.
The internal analysis says most nominees weren’t getting Canadian work experience, immigrants in legitimate work placements were "rarely" at a middle management level as the program promised, and many nominees didn’t stay in the province and those who did said the program didn’t meet their needs.
There was even an admission that the program didn’t seem to follow federal immigration rules.
"The majority of business matches are not bona fide and therefore suspected to be passive investment and contravene federal immigration regulations," says the Sept. 25 memo to cabinet, signed by then-immigration minister Carolyn Bolivar-Getson.
Ottawa was concerned that immigrants didn’t have an active role in the day-to-day management of the company they were at, and didn’t receive an ownership stake, says an appendix released with the memo.
New Democrat immigration critic Leonard Preyra said the documents are significant because they contradict the government’s past positive comments about the program.
Elizabeth Mills, executive director of the Office of Immigration, acknowledged at the October briefing that there were some problems, but she said many people had positive experiences with the program and she didn’t want to leave the impression there were many problems with it. Mr. Goucher also didn’t get into the analysis in the cabinet document at the time.
He and Premier Rodney MacDonald have said since then that there had been issues with the program, but he also said that it was successful in attracting people to the province, helping boost immigration numbers here.
Mr. Preyra said they haven’t been upfront with Nova Scotians.
"One of the things that’s striking about this report is that the government deliberately misled the House and deliberately misled the public in its defence of the program," Mr. Preyra said.
Mr. Goucher disagreed.
"I’ve never, ever downplayed any issues with this program," he said after a cabinet meeting in Bible Hill.
"Were there any positive sides to it? Of course there were. I mean, we’ve got a whole bunch more immigrants now that are staying in the province. . . . There’s over 60 per cent of the people that are in that program that are still living here and trying to make a go of things."
The province had recognized problems with the program going back to 2005 and stopped taking applications for it as of July 1, 2006. The day before, the Office of Immigration took over the program from private contractor Cornwallis Financial Corp.
Mr. Goucher just announced Wednesday that the province will extend residency refunds to people who took part in mentorships. The province said last October that refunds would be available to people who were accepted into the nominee program but hadn’t yet signed a contract with a business.
Under the program, immigrants paid $130,500 in fees, with $100,000 of that to secure at least a six-month placement with a Nova Scotia business, for which they’d get paid at least $20,000.
The internal analysis said many immigrants saw little benefit in their money going to a company without receiving any equity. It said most interested immigrants were entrepreneurs who wanted to start a business or invest in one.
The document also notes some employment contracts weren’t legitimate because the immigrant wasn’t working in his or her field of study, "for example, physicians who are placed as managers in small restaurants."
Auditor general Jacques Lapointe’s interim review of the program noted a majority of businesses didn’t even meet the province’s own criteria for being mentors.
Liberal immigration critic Diana Whalen said the government’s September analysis outlining the problems with the mentorships shows the province should have moved faster to offer compensation. The refunds won’t be available until this fall.
"They should have at that time expected, anticipated that people would be unhappy, that there would be an outcry from those who had participated and were now finding that they really had their opportunities curtailed as a result," she said.
The cabinet document says there were problems with brokers misrepresenting themselves as being involved with the provincial program. A provincial lawyer sent letters to two of them, the report says.
There were also reports of brokers pestering companies to take an immigrant.
The document says there also wasn’t a clear definition of the management experience people applying to the program should have had.
Ont. schools shouldn't 'pick and choose' with illegal immigrant kids: McGuinty
Maria Babbage, THE CANADIAN PRESS
TORONTO - Ontario schools shouldn't "pick and choose" which children can enter the classroom based on their immigration status, Premier Dalton McGuinty said Wednesday amid calls for the province to adopt a "don't ask, don't tell" policy to keep school doors open to all kids.
By law, no child under 18 in Ontario can be denied access to schools because of their immigration status or that of their parents, but a new study released Wednesday indicates some Toronto schools are shutting out the children of illegal immigrants.
"If a child shows up at the door looking for an education, our responsibility is to provide that education," McGuinty said.
"If the federal government feels that that child and that family should not be in our province, then that's something they should do something about. But we're not going to start picking and choosing which kids are going to be allowed in the classroom."
Four adults who responded to the study by the Community Social Planning Council of Toronto reported that their children had been denied enrolment in a Toronto District School Board school based on immigration status.
One parent was rejected by four different schools, the report said.
Other parents were hesitant to try and enrol their children in school for fear of being reported to immigration officials by administrators, the report found.
Fifteen of the 17 respondents said immigration status came up during the enrolment process, the report said. Some were asked to provide proof of immigration status, such as passports, refugee papers, visas, or an application pending an immigration decision.
The council is urging the province to enforce the law and forbid school officials from asking about the immigrant status of students, parents or guardians, or sharing that information with others, including police and immigration officials.
Schools are turning away children who have the right to an education, yet McGuinty isn't taking any action, said NDP critic Cheri DiNovo.
"We need a provincewide policy of 'don't ask, don't tell,"' she said.
"Our first and only duty, really, should be the education of our children. We shouldn't be visiting the sins of the parents, if you will, on their children."
Immigration rules should be enforced, but not by school officials, said Progressive Conservative critic Peter Shurman.
"Ten thousand kilometres away, families await immigration to Canada who have completed the forms in a legal way, want to come here and obviously they have children who want an education," he said.
"And the places for those children are being taken by illegals."
The study was conducted after four children attending two schools in the Toronto Catholic District School Board were apprehended by immigration officials in April 2006 and subsequently deported along with their families.
The Toronto District School Board adopted a "don't ask, don't tell" policy in May 2007 in response to the incident.
But the report said parents are still being asked their date of entry into Canada and documentation, which the board claims is necessary to receive provincial funding for English as a second language programs and to determine whether a student should be charged international fees, which can cost about $12,000 for a full year.
Only 15 adults and two youths participated in the study because of limited funding and the challenge of recruiting respondents due to fear of being reported to authorities, the report noted.
An estimated 20,000 to 200,000 people who lack full immigration status live in Canada.