Nova Scotia government officials have recently announced plans to allow immigrant families to bring in relatives to assist those families with their businesses. Before federal and Nova Scotia officials allow this plan to go any further, they should take a close look at past federal goverment failures with Business Immigrants (Entrepreneurs, Investors and Self-Employed). They should also take a sober look at high poverty levels among post 1990 immigrants, particularly Canada's Family Class of immigrants. Both governments should think carefully about the precedent this programme may set.
The Nova Scotia plan is called the Family Business plan—a reference to the combining it does of two current federal immigrant categories: the Skilled Worker/Business category, part of which is for business immigrants who should be bringing a skill with them, and the Family Category which consists of immigrants who are almost completely unskilled.
The Nova Scotia plan has been described as a way to bring in skilled workers to compensate for the loss of the province's skilled workers to other areas of Canada. It has also been praised as a way of reversing an alleged decline in Nova Scotia's population.
However, Statistics Canada does not back up statements that are being made about Nova Scotia's population. That province had a population of 930,200 in 2001. In July, 2006, Statistics Canada estimated that Nova Scotia's population had actually increased to 934,172. In other words, over a period of five years, there has been no population decline. There have been reports of an outflow of some skilled workers to Alberta, but according to reports, those numbers are very small and refer to tradespeople such as carpenters and plumbers. Does it make sense to replace carpenters and plumbers with business people who specialize in the carpet business? In other words, if workers (temporary or permanent) are to be brought in at all, shouldn't immigration be specifically targetted to Nova Scotia's worker needs?
Former Immigration Minister Volpe was fast and loose with figures that did not add up to the conclusions he drew. Since the bill for immigration is paid by all Canadians, it is logical that Ottawa should give some guidance and that Nova Scotia should be sensible in its decisions. Neither should be bowing to pressure from immigrant groups who have invented the latest immigration trick.
Here are two important matters that have to be looked at:
First, Ottawa should ask for evidence of skilled worker loss—especially since the claim of population decline cannot be substantiated. Since it has been demonstrated that bringing in foreign workers discourages locals (especially young people) from taking training to fill job vacancies, it should first give Nova Scotians the opportunity through the province's educational system to fill any real loss. It should then look for skilled workers in the other Atlantic provinces which have long suffered from higher than average unemployment. As a last resort, it should use immigration. These steps should be self-evident.
Second, Ottawa should have Nova Scotia government officials note the downward spiral that has occurred in the Business Immigrant programme. A major intent of this programme was to create employment for Canadians through the capital that Business Immigrants would bring into Canada and invest here. According to the plans for the Business Immigrant programme, each foreign investor was to create five jobs in Canada. However, this did not happen. Charles Campbell, former vice-chairman of the Immigration Appeal Board, has noted in his book, “Betrayal and Deceit”, that major failures occurred early. When business immigrants were not able to employ five people, “the requirement became two jobs, and when that didn't work, the requirement was reduced to one job”.
In many cases, the “one” job created was given to a relative (spouse or child) of the business investor. In many cases, the business person did not bring much capital into Canada, but borrowed it here. In a number of cases, the business was never established. After a required time passed and the business immigrant had received citizenship, the business immigrant returned the borrowed money to the lenders. In other words, Business Immigrant abuse of the plan and lax enforcement almost completely undermined the purpose of the plan. Canadian citizenship was “sold” for nothing.
Like the older federal plan whose aim was to provide employment for Canadians, the Nova Scotia plan will probably result in serving the good of non-Canadians at the expense of Canadians. The total cost of the old programme has never been calculated, but it is undoubtedly enormous. For example, it has created a host of other unintended problems such as unnecessary competition between Canadian-born and Business Immigrant dependents for scarce post-secondary spaces in a number of professions. Business Immigrant dependents tend to outnumber Business Immigrant applicants by a 3:1 ratio. The strange phenomenon of post-secondary committees granting admission preference (along the lines of so-called Equity Employment” measures) to these dependents rather than to Canadian-born applicants has never been carefully looked at. This is a sleeping dog which will be awakened.
Most Canadians are generous, but they have been abused. They should recall that even Mother Teresa, the world's model of generosity, told potential helpers outside of India not to move to her location in Calcutta, but to work at solving similar problems in their own areas. She was correct. Canada has its own national disgraces such as homelessness in all of its cities. This country's “great humanitarians” continue to see no contradiction between throwing several billion dollars every year at immigration/refugee issues and doing virtually nothing about thousands of Canadians sleeping in our streets.
The probable result of the Nova Scotia programme is that it will further debilitate both the Skilled/Business Category and the already weak Family Class category.
As one auditor of the Business Immigrant program concluded several years ago, that programme, which has brought in well over 200,000 immigrants (most of whom are dependents) was “riddled with fraud”.
As many critics have said, Canada's Family Class category is already far too broad. It has become the major source of immigrants who are mostly unskilled and who, over the past 25 years, have dramatically underperformed both earlier immigrants and Canadian-born. Close to 2 million of the nearly 4 million immigrants who have arrived since 1990 are living below Canada's poverty line and are probably being subsidized (through social assistance) by other Canadians. The blunt and sad truth is that Canada did not need many of these people. Who should be receiving subsidies?
It is quite likely that these potential Business Family arrivals will not remain in Nova Scotia, thus completely defeating the purpose of the programme. It is also likely that in other provinces, immigrants who have been unable to bring in relatives will use the proposed Nova Scotia programme as a precedent to have their provinces establish a similar programme. Does Canada need to enlarge the enormous immigration mess it already has?
It would seem wise for Nova Scotia to take a sober look at what it is proposing. It would seem equally wise for Ottawa to administer an ounce of prevention now rather than a pound of cure later.
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