VP warns of worker shortage
By STEVE PROCTOR
The Chronicle Herald
Fri. Nov 7 – 5:31 AM
Nova Scotias efforts to woo new businesses to the region will falter unless we find new ways to keep our young people at home and attract more immigrants, says a Halifax real estate executive.
Bob Mussett, Atlantic vice-president with CB Richard Ellis, told a business crowd Thursday there is $84 billion worth of projects pending in the region that will require thousands of skilled workers “that we dont have.”
“There will be expats who want to return that will help fill the void, but we are still going to need to attract new talent, ” he said. “The absence of skilled labour is going to keep companies away.”
Appealing for the business leaders in the audience to press the province to make immigration a greater priority, Mr. Mussett said it is unacceptable that only 2.2 per cent of all immigrants that come to Canada settle in Atlantic Canada.
He said that along with businesses becoming more welcoming and the professional accreditation system being improved, he would like to see a system that requires a certain number of immigrants to settle in the region for a prescribed period.
In a video, former New Brunswick premier Frank McKenna said he would support a “regional allocation” system to ensure the area got its fair share of immigrants, but he warned that businesses and governments have to be prepared to offer new residents real opportunities so they have a chance at success.
Don Drummond, chief economist with the Toronto-Dominion Bank, said he doesnt believe immigration is the silver bullet that many believe it could be.
In Toronto, with a huge immigrant population, he said a tremendous amount of time and money has been spent on education and integration without a big corresponding leap in employment and job creation prospects. In fact, he said tracking has shown that years after immigrants arrive, their incomes remain below national levels.
Mr. Drummond also said government hasnt shown itself to be that competent in managing immigration. At times, the wrong kinds of specialists have been recruited; for example, a large number of IT people were brought to Canada just as the tech boom imploded.
He added that when Canada tried to move from passive immigration to a more aggressive approach, as in Australia, the federal government backed off after it was attacked on all sides for being unfair or racist.
Rather than focus on immigration, Mr. Drummond suggested changes should be made to make it easier to attract older workers, women and native Canadians.
Halifax developer Sam Nahas said Mr. Drummond was entitled to his opinion, but he still believes a smart reform of immigration rules could provide a quick and easy source of skilled labour.