Immigrant Job Limit Proposal Worries Province—Minister says Tory plan will hurt labour needs

Immigrant job limit proposal worries province
Minister says Tory plan will hurt labour needs

By Nicholas Keung
The Toronto Star (Canada), September 24, 2008

The federal Conservatives want to limit acceptance of skilled workers into Canada to 38 occupations, a move that will not serve regional labour needs, says Ontario immigration minister Michael Chan.

The proposed changes, Chan said, were described by Immigration Minister Diane Finley to her provincial counterparts in Ottawa this month. Provinces now worry they will have to expand their own immigration programs and compete to fill labour shortages, Chan said.

Foreigners whose occupations are not on the list, he said, would have to apply to provincial 'nominee' programs a move that, in effect, downloads a large part of the immigration burden on to provinces.

'The (federal) plan would require economic-class immigrants to clear two hurdles,' Chan told the media in Toronto yesterday.

'Applicants would have to qualify in one of a narrow list of occupations I was told 38,' said Chan. 'The second (hurdle) is the points system' in place for many years.

The new limits on occupations would give Ottawa leeway to reject most applicants, Chan said.

Finley said yesterday the specific list of desired occupations won't be made public until later this fall.

The nominee program 'is set up specially to give provinces flexibility to meet regional labour needs and priorities,' she said.

Yesterday's revelation of the latest federal immigration wrinkle shocked advocacy groups and service agencies in Greater Toronto, catch basin for thousands of Canada's newcomers and a key battleground in the current federal election campaign.

The policy changes 'make you wonder what's behind the agenda … political ploy or not, we are playing with real people's lives,' said Debbie Douglas of Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants.

Ontario launched its nominee program last year with a target to bring in 500 immigrants.

Last year, 131,200 newcomers gained entry under Immigration Canada's economic class category.