Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Canada badly needs skilled immigrants

The best immigration policy is controlled immigration. That has been the practice of successive Canadian governments since the end of the Second World War.

Immigration alone can't solve the epidemic of Canada's low fertility rate. It has never been designed to solve inherently local social problems.

Canada's aging population is just at the beginning of its ascendency. Just imagine what Canada would look like without the 250,000 to 260,000 immigrants that it is getting each year.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business released a study in 2007 saying: "Sixty-nine per cent of small businesses expect the shortage of labour to get worse, but the immigration system does not come close to meeting the needs of smaller firms." Furthermore, by 2012 all labour growth in Canada will be dependent entirely on immigration.

In fact, in 2008 the government introduced a new category for immigrants called the Canadian experience class. It targets specifically international graduates and foreign workers already in Canada who most likely acquired language skills and basic knowledge of the country. We badly need these doctors, IT specialists, engineers, retail workers and general labourers in all trades.

The government is caught between a rock and a hard place: On one side, the business community keep lobbying and pushing for an immigration system that is adaptive and reflective of the economy's needs.

And, on the other side, demographers of all stripes and social conservatives are telling the government that immigration is not a solution and may well become a problem down the road.

By as early as 2015, a recent study by Statistics Canada predicts, Canadians aged 65 and older will, for the first time, outnumber those aged 15 and younger.

Immigration alone cannot change a demographic makeup of a country in one or two generations.

Columnist Dan Gardner is right in sending the message that producing babies, changing social habits and culture are more important and urgent than depending on foreign help to solve indigenous calamity that is heading our way. He is as thoughtful, elegant and well-prepared as ever.

Elie Nasrallah,

Source: The Ottawa Citizen