Immigration Change Urged

Immigration change urged
By Ian Wilson
The Calgary Sun (Canada), July 21, 2006

Major changes to the immigration system are needed to help the country deal with labour shortages, says the Canadian Construction Association in an open letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

The CCA today released the letter, which calls for a more pro-active approach to finding workers.

'Although aggressive efforts by all industry players must continue in order to recruit Canadians to the construction industry, the fact remains that immigration policy must play a bigger role in meeting future labour demand,' said association president Michael Atkinson.

Several recommendations were made by the CCA, including a call for an immigration policy which targets and expedites the entry of people with needed skills and the addition of construction trades to the list of allowable occupations under the temporary foreign worker program.

As well, the letter asks that the point system for skilled workers be revised to put greater emphasis on experience and arranged jobs.

But Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour, called the letter 'self-interested, self-serving spin to loosen rules for temporary foreign workers.'

McGowan said industry needs to help improve the apprenticeship and training system in Canada.

'The construction industry is looking to the government to solve a problem they themselves created through years of neglect of the Canadian labour pool,' he said, adding less than half of Albertans who enter apprenticeship programs complete them.

Boosting completion rates to 75% could add 4,000 new certified trades workers to Alberta's labour market each year, said McGowan.

'Immigration policy should be about building a stronger society, not importing cheap labour to serve the short-term needs of employers.'