Le grand virage de l’immigration

More Quebec coverage of the dramatic shift to temporary workers while the Legault government maintains stable levels of permanent residents, somewhat hypocritically:

Intégration, capacité d’accueil, résidents permanents : pendant que les débats sur l’immigration se focalisent sur la cible de 50 000, ce sont au moins trois fois plus de gens chaque année qui arrivent au Québec avec un permis temporaire ou qui le renouvellent. Les chiffres et les experts sont sans équivoque, c’est un véritable virage de l’immigration qui s’opère en silence.

« Parler des niveaux permanents est absurde et obsolète, puisque l’outil principal est devenu l’immigration temporaire », exprime Stephan Reichhold, directeur général de la Table de concertation des organismes au service des personnes réfugiées et immigrantes (TCRI). « Parler seulement de résidents permanents n’illustre pas réellement la réalité au Québec », poursuit-il.

« C’est un faux débat de parler du seuil [de 50 000], car ils viennent de toute façon sur des voies temporaires », affirme aussi Denis Hamel, vice-président des politiques de développement de la main-d’oeuvre au Conseil du patronat du Québec (CSQ).

Ce déséquilibre vers le temporaire est incontestable, dit-il, et les employeurs membres du CSQ le constatent sur le terrain. « Mettez-vous dans la peau de l’employeur qui doit pourvoir un poste vacant. Il a trouvé un candidat à l’étranger, qui arriverait idéalement comme résident permanent, mais c’est quasi impossible en ce moment. Alors il [l’employeur] prend une voie plus rapide, une voie de contournement », expose-t-il en détail.

C’est « l’arbre qui cache la forêt », affirme également Mireille Paquet, titulaire de la Chaire de recherche en politique de l’immigration de l’Université Concordia.

La professeure y voit une certaine contradiction : « Le gouvernement dit pouvoir régler nos problèmes sans avoir recours à l’immigration. Mais c’est du discours, pas la pratique réelle. »

La « pratique réelle » est que le nombre d’immigrants continue de grimper, mais en passant par des catégories temporaires, disent d’une seule voix ces trois observateurs d’horizons différents.

Qui en est responsable ?

Ce virage date de plusieurs années, mais il s’est considérablement accéléré depuis la venue de la Coalition avenir Québec au pouvoir.

En quoi le gouvernement de François Legault peut-il en être responsable ? Les travailleurs étrangers temporaires — autant en agriculture que ceux hautement qualifiés — sont recrutés par les entreprises elles-mêmes. Les étudiants étrangers veulent décrocher un diplôme québécois. Les demandeurs d’asile arrivent par leur propre volonté et leurs propres moyens sur le territoire.

L’immigration temporaire et celle permanente sont considérées comme des vases communicants. La pénurie de main-d’oeuvre s’est vraiment amorcée depuis 2016, situe M. Hamel. Mais c’est maintenant, « étant donné le plafond [de résidents permanents] imposé par le gouvernement, que les employeurs se tournent vers les [résidents] temporaires, de gré ou de force », précise-t-il ensuite.

Là où le discours converge aussi avec la pratique est que Québec s’est exclu de la création de voies d’accès vers la résidence permanente. Les réformes durant le premier mandat caquiste ont notamment restreint les possibilités d’accéder à ce statut pour les personnes sans formation collégiale ou universitaire. « On a autant besoin d’ingénieurs que de bons soudeurs, alors pourquoi discriminer selon les diplômes ? » demande Denis Hamel.

À la demande répétée des employeurs, Québec a aussi mis en place des mesures pour favoriser le recrutement des travailleurs étrangers temporaires, et donc affiché son intention de miser davantage sur ce type d’immigration plutôt que de toucher aux seuils. Le ministère provincial de l’Immigration note dans son plan pour 2022 qu’il souhaite « appuyer les employeurs » pour « augmenter le nombre » de travailleurs étrangers temporaires.

Dans le reste du Canada, l’immigration temporaire est en forte hausse, mais Ottawa a pris une voie différente en créant davantage de voies d’accès à la permanence pour puiser dans ce bassin plus rapidement.

« Le nombre de personnes qui deviennent résidents permanents en ayant déjà eu un statut temporaire est énorme », a ainsi résumé le ministre fédéral de l’Immigration, Sean Fraser, l’automne dernier.

Plusieurs catégories d’immigration

Le nombre de 50 000 résidents permanents est une cible annuelle. Pour la comparer, il faut donc utiliser les données pour chaque année et pour chaque catégorie de temporaires. Il y avait en tout plus de 145 000 titulaires de permis temporaires en 2021, et au moins 181 000 en 2022, selon les données disponibles jusqu’en octobre ou en novembre, selon les catégories.

Il peut s’agir de personnes qui entrent nouvellement sur le territoire, ou encore qui se trouvaient déjà ici et renouvellent leur permis temporaire.

La grande boîte des temporaires, telle qu’illustrée dans notre graphique, regroupe des situations diverses. Les possibilités de devenir résident permanent varient grandement d’une catégorie à l’autre. Ces différents programmes et catégories ont néanmoins une chose en commun : une date d’expiration sur le papier qui donne le droit d’être sur le territoire québécois.

Il y a d’abord les étudiants internationaux, qui détiennent aussi le droit de travailler, un droit sans limites d’heures depuis novembre dernier.

Il y a ensuite le vaste Programme de mobilité internationale (PMI), composé de 70 sous-catégories telles que l’Expérience internationale Canada ou la trentaine de programmes vacances-travail (PVT). Ces immigrants temporaires sont souvent diplômés ou « qualifiés », mais peuvent aussi avoir des permis fermés.

Et enfin, les deux catégories considérées comme les plus précaires : les demandeurs d’asile et les travailleurs étrangers temporaires. Les uns vivent dans l’incertitude de voir leur statut de réfugié reconnu, un processus qui prend actuellement deux ans. Les autres, les travailleurs étrangers temporaires, arrivent sur le territoire avec un permis portant le nom d’un seul employeur ; ils ne peuvent donc pas être embauchés ailleurs au terme de leur contrat.

Ce stock de nouveaux permis temporaires s’ajoute à un bassin de résidents temporaires déjà sur le territoire, grâce à des contrats ou à des permis d’études chevauchant plusieurs années par exemple. Résultat, le nombre de résidents non permanents (temporaires) comptabilisés par Statistique Canada a presque triplé en 10 ans.

Au 1er juillet 2022, l’effectif des résidents non permanents était de 290 000 personnes au Québec, soit plus de 3 % de la population totale de la province.

En posant l’hypothèse que ces « non permanents » veulent s’installer au Québec, il faudrait donc près de six ans pour leur octroyer un statut permanent avec le plafond actuel.

Goulot d’étranglement et conséquences

« On croit que la majorité des résidents temporaires souhaitent rester. Mais pour obtenir la résidence permanente, le nombre de “places” est limitée à 50 000. Ça veut donc dire que les délais s’allongent sans mesure, on s’en va vers une crise et on va perdre beaucoup de monde dans ce goulot d’étranglement », dit M. Reichhold.

Ce virage s’opère silencieusement puisqu’il « n’a jamais été discuté d’un point de vue politique », dit Mireille Paquet. Ces gens temporaires ne répondent peut-être pas « aux idéaux linguistiques et culturels du gouvernement », mais la professeure croit que le Québec « ne peut pas faire l’économie de cette discussion difficile ».

Au-delà des chiffres, « c’est un changement de paradigme », ajoute-t-elle : « L’approche historique du Canada est que les gens arrivaient avec la résidence permanente. C’est toujours comme ça qu’on a compris l’immigration. »

« On perd l’élément intégration et [le fait de pouvoir] dire que ces gens font partie de notre société, ce qui était à la base de notre philosophie », renchérit Stephan Reichhold.

Peu importe le programme utilisé, le statut temporaire induit davantage de vulnérabilité, disent-ils aussi. « Empêcher les gens de se projeter vers l’avenir est paradoxalement un frein majeur à l’intégration », affirme Stéphanie Arsenault, professeure de travail social à l’Université Laval.

« La précarité nuit aussi aux employeurs », note quant à lui M. Hamel, à cause du roulement de personnel et des démarches administratives très lourdes.

Ce virage remet aussi en question l’idée qu’une immigration trop rapide mettrait la cohésion sociale à risque, selon M. Reichhold. « Pour les dizaines de milliers, voire des centaines, de temporaires, ça se passe relativement bien. Ils ont déjà un travail ou font des études, ils occupent un logement et ils consomment. Il n’y a pas de signal de saturation », insiste-t-il.

« Si ce qui nous importe est de savoir si tous ces gens sont capables de trouver de l’emploi au Québec, on le sait, ils sont déjà ici », réitère Mireille Paquet.

La journaliste Sarah R. Champagne a participé au documentaire Essentiels, qui sera diffusé à Télé-Québec le mercredi 25 janvier à 20 h.

Source: Le grand virage de l’immigration

Alberta immigration program changes to prioritize those with immediate family in the province

Of note, combining economic and family class immigration:

Alberta is adjusting its immigration process in an attempt to make it easier for those with ties to the province to move to Canada.

The province announced Wednesday that they will allocate 25 per cent of express entry nominations to potential newcomers with skills in high demand who have immediate family members already living in Alberta.

It’s a move that Rajan Sawhney, Alberta’s minister of trade, immigration and multiculturalism said will help address the ongoing labour shortage while easing the process for potential immigrants.

“AAIP’s change will draw workers in high-demand sectors through Express Entry who have immediate family ties in Alberta,” she said in a statement.

“This approach will help ensure Alberta’s economy will prosper by dedicating a portion of provincial nominations toward in-demand workers who will have a great support network right from day one.”

The Alberta express entry stream allows the province to nominate a limited number of qualified candidates from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada’s express entry system.

The province said the change will apply to prospective newcomers who have immediate family in Alberta — such as a sibling, a parent, or a parent — and have the skills to work in high-demand sectors including tech, healthcare and agriculture.

In December 2022, Alberta gained more than 41,000 new full-time jobs for a total of nearly 94,000 full-time jobs in 2022 and 221,000 full-time jobs have been added in Alberta since the start of 2021.

It’s anticipated that a there will be a job shortage of 33,100 workers by 2025 across several occupations, skill levels and sectors in Alberta.

Alberta gets 6,500 nomination certificates each year and it’s expected that 815 of those will be used for the new stream in 2023.

“As an agency that works on the ground with newcomers, we know based on just the data and the stories that we hear from our clients that those that have familial supports here fare a lot better than those who don’t,” said Alka Merlin with Immigrant Services Calgary.

“We are excited to see that the government is responding to what the community has been saying all along.”

Merlin, however, says more can be done.

“We really encourage the government of Alberta, especially the Fairness for Newcomers Office to continue working with regulatory Bodies to simplify and accelerate the assessment of qualifications by eliminating the barriers to registration,” she said.

According to IRCC, there is currently a backlog of more than 2.15 million immigration applicants.

Source: Alberta immigration program changes to prioritize those with …

Daphne Bramham: With Canada failing to meet its immigration promises, B.C. needs more control

The British Columbia perspective, similar to that of Ontario, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba.

One idea that has been suggested by some is the Provincial Nominee Program should be used for regulated professions (e.g., healthcare, some trades) given that regulatory bodies are provincial, not federal.

Definitely worth consideration as the federal government’s progress on foreign credential recognition appears to have been more about process and consultations than concrete action. Making the provinces directly responsible for selection of applicants in regulated professions might simplify accountabilities:

Across B.C., “Help Wanted” signs are ubiquitous. Labour shortages have forced businesses to drastically cut their hours, hospitals and emergency rooms to close, as well as planned and unscheduled cancellations of B.C. Ferries sailings.

Despite grumbled anecdotes about people not wanting to work, B.C. has one of Canada’s highest workforce participation rates.

Bear in mind that last year, B.C. also had the highest number of new arrivals recorded in 60 years — 100,797 people. International migration was the second-highest recorded, while cross-country migration was the highest in nearly 30 years.

Even with that, and despite a seemingly intractable, affordable-housing crisis, the fact is B.C. needs more people to fill essential jobs.

And that is exactly why the provincial government wants Ottawa to give it more control over who comes here, and is asking for more money to help settle all the newcomers.

Last year, only 6,750 people came under the provincial nominee program that allows provinces to select applicants whose skills and training match labour needs. Next year, it wants 8,000 nominees, and 10,000 three years from now.

It made the request ahead of Thursday’s meeting of federal and provincial immigration ministers.

Nathan Cullen is B.C.’s municipal affairs minister and has responsibility for immigration. He describes the program as “more precise” than other immigration programs, noting that B.C.’s priority last year was health-care and long-term care workers.

“(The nominee program) is not a blunt instrument, which is what a federal immigration program is by its nature,” he told Postmedia before leaving for the federal-provincial meeting in New Brunswick.

“We’ve just heard from Ontario and they’ve been making similar requests of the feds to gain a little bit more control over what happens.”

As a former MP, Cullen isn’t certain how much of its “cherished authority” Ottawa is willing to give up. But he hopes to convince Federal Minister Sean Fraser that expanding the nominee program, which has a much faster turnaround time than myriad other immigration streams, will help clear the backlog of applications that is nearing two million files.

The benefit isn’t just a bureaucratic one. With skills matched to jobs, it should also mean that highly skilled newcomers don’t end up driving taxis instead of doing the jobs they are trained for.

Of course, there is a huge caveat that Cullen readily acknowledges. Canada is glacially slow in recognizing internationally obtained credentials — especially for physicians and surgeons. Here, he said it can take up to three times as long as in other G20 countries — “And if you’re slow in this kind of world, it means you just don’t get the person at all.”

The minister plans to raise that at Thursday’s meeting, along with concerns about what might best be described as Canada’s “do-it-yourself” immigration offer to Ukrainians.

Within days of the Russian invasion, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau offered safe haven and a pathway to citizenship to all Ukrainians who could find their own way here.

“We’re not ready for them, and we need the feds to be,” Cullen said. “(Federal politicians) have had time. There’s no more excuses like, ‘It’s all happening so fast.’ That’s done. They’ve had the time and the program has not been set up properly yet.”

With the usual processes waived, Ukrainians are arriving and often there is no one to meet them. Nobody knows when they are coming, where they are landing, or even how many of the six million who have fled might end up here as Russia intensifies its attacks.

Earlier this year, B.C. shored up settlement societies with nearly $15 million because the number of immigrants and refugees arriving is beyond the capacity that Ottawa has funded them for. And last month, the province set up a hardship fund for Ukrainians offering up to $1,770 a month for a family of four.

Ukrainian-Canadians have also stepped in to fill the gaps since the only federal help Ukrainians get is a two-week housing allowance.

Still, with no contact point with any agency or government, vulnerable women, children and unaccompanied minors are open to exploitation. It’s something that keeps Cullen awake at night.

Already, his officials had to rescue one family who had found rental accommodation on social media. When they arrived, the landlord confiscated their passports and tried to restrict their movements. Fortunately, they had a contact in the Ukrainian community who got in touch with the ministry.

Meanwhile, immigrants are enduring months-long waits in overcrowded hotel rooms in dangerous neighbourhoods because there is nowhere else to go until settlement societies or concerned citizens manage to scrounge something better. Sometimes, it’s from developers waiting for demolition permits.

Cullen insists that recent increases in housing starts and measures his government has taken to get unused housing into the rental pool is starting to make a difference. But he said it is still going to take more time to even out.

Immigrants also need health care and schools for their children. Those, too, are provincial costs.

So far, the federal government has failed to match its immigration promises and targets with the money necessary to properly fulfill them.

Small wonder that the provinces want more control and more money.

“We have to match the story we want to tell about ourselves as being a generous, open country … with the resources and the determination that’s required,” Cullen said.

And right now? That’s not happening.

Source: Daphne Bramham: With Canada failing to meet its immigration promises, B.C. needs more control

Ontario needs stronger voice in immigration, McNaughton says

Pre-negotiation starting position. Higher national levels provide federal government with room to meet or partially meet Ontario’s demands:

Ontario needs more autonomy in immigration to ensure newcomers meet the economic needs of the province, Labour, Immigration, Training, and Skills Development Minister Monte McNaughton says.

The province is seeking more control as it negotiates a new federal-Ontario immigration agreement this fall, similar to the deal with Quebec, with the goal of filling an estimated 340,000 job vacancies, he said.

“Over the last 18 months, we’ve reprioritized the immigrants that Ontario needs, so skilled trades workers and health-care workers are the professionals that we’re prioritizing through the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program (OINP),” McNaughton said Saturday. “But as it stands today, the federal government only gives us 9,000 newcomers to select out of 125,000 that come to Ontario every year.”

Given its population, Ontario has a disproportionately small voice in choosing newcomers compared to other Canadian jurisdictions, he said.

As a first step, the federal government should immediately double the number of newcomers through OINP to 18,000 a year, he said.

McNaughton said he has already reached out to his counterparts in other parts of the county to determine common ground and goals before approaching the federal government at a joint meeting at the end of the month.

“That’s how Ontario and Canada was built over the last 155 years, by bringing in newcomers with the right skills to build the future of our country,” McNaughton said. “And that’s exactly what we’re asking for from the federal government.”

Being free to choose newcomers based on their skill sets means a better match with the labour market and more success for new immigrants, he said.

“Only 25% of immigrants today that are here in Ontario are actually working in fields that they’ve studied,” he said.

The Doug Ford government has been set on its labour and immigration agenda for several years, becoming the first government in Canada to recognize all foreign credentials outside health care, he said.

Ontario has now opened all its training programs as widely as possible including to newcomers, people on social assistance and those with criminal backgrounds, he said.

“My message is if you have the skills and want to work, Ontario needs you,” McNaughton said.

A substantial time lag in the federal immigration approval process remains a challenge with some applicants waiting years, he said.

Ontario has offered its own resources to accelerate the process, he said.

“I just can’t press enough of the federal government to give us more of a say, to speed up the process and ensure that we’re bringing in immigrants with the right skills to build the future of Ontario,” McNaughton said.

Source: Ontario needs stronger voice in immigration, McNaughton says

ICYMI: Ontario PCs want immigration deal with Ottawa changed

Of note:

Although a provincial election stands between now and when Ontario and Ottawa will decide the terms of a new immigration agreement, the Progressive Conservatives are keen to make changes to the pact that’s up for renegotiation in 2023.

The province’s existing immigration deal with Ottawa was agreed to in 2017, while Justin Trudeau was prime minister, but before Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives (PCs) were elected to govern Ontario.

Monte McNaughton, Ontario’s Labour minister, says the PCs want more of a say in which immigrants are allowed to come to Ontario, so they can better leverage them to fill holes in the province’s job market.

“The Liberals have used immigration as as a social tool, and that’s an entirely valid purpose — and one, I want to be clear, that we support, like for family reunification, for example,” McNaughton told iPolitics in a brief interview on Thursday.

“But to me, immigration is one of the key economic drivers of Ontario’s growth, and one that can be used strategically to fill critical gaps in labour supply and to create more jobs.”

Ontario usually takes in more than 125,000 immigrants each year, but it’s allowed to nominate fewer than 9,000 potential immigrants each year through the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program (OINP), the main mechanism the province uses to attract the skilled workers it lacks domestically.

The federal government has to approve the province’s OINP nominees, because the former is responsible for Canada’s borders and for assigning citizenship and permanent residency.

The PCs have changed the OINP by improving its intake system and giving more priority to workers in health care and the skilled trades, but they want Ottawa to allow Ontario more autonomy in the system, and to double the number of nominees it’s allotted.

McNaughton has already spoken to Sean Fraser, Canada’s new minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, but the two haven’t had the chance to meet officially yet. McNaughton said their first formal tête-à-tête could happen as soon as next week, which is when he’d start appealing to Fraser with the PCs’ requests.

A year ago, the federal Liberals set higher immigration goals, including increasing the number of permanent residents from 351,000 to 401,000 this year, and from 361,000 to 411,000 in 2022.

The Liberals also promised in the recent election campaign to reform economic-immigration programs and to recognize more foreign job credentials.

On a similar front, McNaughton tabled a bill on Monday to recognize the licences of foreign workers in nearly two dozen trades in Ontario.

Source: Ontario PCs want immigration deal with Ottawa changed

Jason Kenney announces UCP immigration policy

Kenney does know the immigration file and focus on rural Alberta reflects ongoing concerns in rural communities across Canada and the focus on the Provincial Nominee Program makes sense.

One of the interesting apparent paradoxes is that rural Canadians tend to have more reservations about general immigration levels (particularly family and refugee class) and multiculturalism but yet recognize their demographic needs require more immigrants:

Kenney said the UCP plan would aim to bring approximately 10,000 newcomers in total to rural Alberta every year.

Kenney, who served as federal immigration minister from 2008 to 2013, said the plan is meant to address population decline in rural Alberta and reinvigorate the provincial economy.

It mirrors a recent move by the federal government aimed at placing more immigrants in rural communities across Canada.

While immigration is largely seen as a federal responsibility, it is shared between the provinces and Ottawa.

Each province and territory negotiates its own agreement, but that falls within a broader immigration policy set by the federal government.

Alberta immigration policy

In Alberta, there is both a comprehensive immigration agreement and an immigrant nominee program that allows the province to target would-be Albertans based on labour needs.

The federal government assigns a quota of approximately 5,000 positions for the Alberta nominee program.

Kenney says for each one of those positions, typically four people — family members of the nominee — settle in the province.

“I truly believe we have not been as proactive or energetic as we should be in this program,” said Kenney, as he outlined the UCP’s plan if it forms the next provincial government in an election that has not been called yet by Rachel Notley’s governing NDP.

Under Alberta legislation, the election must take place between March 1 and May 31, 2019, with a 28-day campaign.

Kenney’s plan calls for partnerships with rural communities, where referrals from those communities can help place immigrants into the provincial nomination process.

He estimates these changes could bring 8,000 newcomers to smaller communities each year.

Kenney says the plan is based on Manitoba’s system, where 20 per cent of newcomers now settle in rural areas.

Entrepreneur program could add 2,000 people to rural areas

The UCP would also create what it’s calling a rural entrepreneur stream.

It would set aside 500 position for immigration to the province for those who meet minimum income and investment thresholds and are willing to invest in businesses in rural communities.

Kenney says those immigrants would have to be active majority owners of those businesses.

He says the UCP estimates the entrepreneur program could mean an additional 2,000 people coming to rural communities each year.

That system is based on one in British Columbia.

Kenney said there are details that would have to be worked out before the immigration policy was established, based on what he said would be extensive consultations with immigrants, agencies, municipalities and more.

He also said Alberta under the UCP would push for a larger share of immigrants outside of the provincial policy.

“My goal would be to get a larger share of the federally selected immigrants by getting our economy back to work,” said Kenney.

Source: Jason Kenney announces UCP immigration policy

‘Determining our growth:’ Morden, Man., finds hope for future in provincial immigration program

It all began 20 years ago with Manitoba’s provincial nominee program, one of the very first experiments in Canada matching foreign workers with specific job openings.

It’s a fast-track option, allowing provinces and territories to nominate people who want to immigrate to Canada, are interested in settling in a particular province or territory and have the skills, education and work experience to contribute to the economy.

Each province and territory has its own criteria and “streams” — programs targeted to specific groups such as students, business people, skilled workers or semi-skilled workers.

The more points they have, based on their work qualifications, experience and language ability, the faster they move up the queue in the immigration process. A definitive job offer by an employer is a significant benefit.

After being nominated, applicants still have to apply to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada for permanent residence status.

Manitoba’s program remains one of the most successful. It boasts high recruitment and retention rates and accounts for a significant percentage of the province’s population growth.

“We see a program that has specific objectives. It’s met them and it’s one that we can measure as a successful government program,” Winnipeg immigration lawyer Ken Zaifman said last month during a celebration of its 20th anniversary.

Province Program started Total landed nominees Estimated 2017 annual provincial growth* 2017 landed nominees Percentage of 2017 growth from nominee program
Man. 1998 130,000 21,786 9,425 43
B.C. 2001 63,230 59,502** 7,650 13
Alta. 2002 89,979 54,189 6,996 13
N.S. 2003 17,365 6,536 2,735 42
Ont. 2007 27,890 216,727 6,980 3

*Population growth estimates from Statistics Canada

**Source: Province of British Columbia

According to provincial statistics, of the 130,000 immigrants who have settled in Manitoba through the nominee program since 1998, 85 per cent were working within three months and 76 per cent were homeowners within three to five years of their arrival.

In 2012, Morden began a community-driven immigration initiative under the provincial program to attract even more people. Since then, it’s brought 50 families a year to the rural community.

“It’s a win-win situation for us because we get to choose people that our employers want. I believe it’s a win for [the program] because our retention is really good because of the support we give,” Voth said.

With an unemployment rate of just three per cent and a small local labour pool to draw from, Voth said some businesses might be hesitant to invest in the community “but because of our steady flow of people coming in and the fact that we can target skill sets to what they’re looking for, it is a really great incentive for setting up in Morden.”

The city program has been so successful that other communities across the country come to get advice on how to set up their own strategic initiatives inside their provincial nominee programs, Voth said.

It’s more than just the skill set. It’s the work ethic…. That’s a hard thing to find.– Jim Duff, vice-president of manufacturing for ON2 Solutions

The national and international rhetoric around foreign workers taking jobs from Canadians crops up now and then in Morden. Voth and others say they sometimes get asked why they’re recruiting immigrants when there are local people without jobs.

Their answer? Some of these are jobs Canadians don’t want to do while others require skills and experience that can’t be found — or recruited — in the area.

And, Voth said, very few of those who apply are chosen.

“It’s not just an open the doors and anybody comes in. We go through a tough application. We’re picking about five per cent of our applications,” she said.

“We’re picking really good people and I think the success stories of the people that have been coming in speaks a lot for the program and also helps the community to be more comfortable with the program.”

‘It’s the work ethic’

Jim Duff, vice-president of manufacturing for ON2 Solutions, is working with Voth to find up to 200 workers in the next three years. He needs electricians and plumbers to help grow his business of manufacturing oxygen concentrators for hospitals and emergency shelters for mining companies.

Duff has tried to hire local people, but says he can’t find what he needs.

“It’s more than just the skill set. It’s the work ethic. It’s the contribution to the team, the desire to be part of the team. That’s a hard thing to find,” he says.

“Our last interview process, we interviewed a couple of born and raised Canadians and the attitude was shocking, really, when it came down to it. I don’t know how to put that in words but it was a significant difference.”

Duff has talked to the school division and local educational programs to try to train workers, but said he has run into the same problem.

Jim Duff, left, is working with Morden’s immigration program to find up to 200 new employees in the next three years and says foreign workers like Victor Kovtan, right, are helping ON2 Solutions grow and thrive.(Warren Kay/CBC News)

Meanwhile, he’s thrilled with the workers he’s hired through the provincial nominee program and Morden’s strategic initiative.

“I would very honestly say that if we didn’t have these five people, we wouldn’t be where we are now. I don’t even know that we would necessarily be in business. I would say [the foreign workers are] that crucial,” he says.

Source: ‘Determining our growth:’ Morden, Man., finds hope for future in provincial immigration program