Canadian Immigration Policy Shift
This much is not in dispute. Canada has become one of the most affluent, peaceful and, for good measure, diverse countries in the world. There are many reasons for our good fortune and among them is the sound immigration policy upon which Canada… at least until recently, has been built.
Most will also agree that our dependence on newcomers will intensify in the years ahead. Our aging population continues to retire in ever larger numbers. Already, we face specific labour shortages in different parts of the country and this phenomenon will expand, both by location and industry, going forward. Whichever way you cut it, our continued prosperity depends to some extent on workers who are not yet in Canada. How they come here is worth consideration.
Until recently, Canadian immigration policy targeted economic immigrants (permanent residents) to fuel our country’s growth. However, in the past few years a significant shift has taken place. Starting in 2006, and for every year since, Canada has admitted more temporary foreign workers than economic immigrants. We are now choosing to fill labour shortages with guest workers ahead of permanent residents. This change in direction will have consequences.
There are big differences between immigrants and foreign temporary workers. Immigrants come to Canada with the idea of laying down roots. They are committed and become part of the Canadian fabric as they make their way towards citizenship and full participation in our society. Guest workers are brought into the country and stay here legally only as long as their Canadian employer wants them. While it’s true that some foreign workers may qualify to upgrade their status to permanent residency, the majority of them never get the chance. Many work permits are valid for a maximum of four years and then guest workers are gone… or they’ve gone underground.
What’s happened is that our government has delegated the selection of newcomers to the private sector and more particularly to employers. The problem is that “what’s good for General Motors isn’t necessarily good for Canada.” Companies owe a duty to and look out for the interests of their owners. They like cheap labour and often think short term. Serving the public interest? That’s what good governments are supposed to do.