Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Business immigrants continue to take top billing in Canada

MP Jason Kenney of the Conservative Party fiel...Image via Wikipedia
A lot of the talk about immigration recently has focused on would-be refugees trying to cheat the system to gain entry to Canada and eventually become citizens.

It got me thinking about the numbers and types of immigrants who come to Canada - just as the latest release of quarterly statistics from the department of immigration crossed my desk. The report contains year-to-year and quarterly statistics that track who's coming to Canada, why, where they're ending up.

There are too many statistics to discuss in this space. So allow me to mention a few of the numbers in the third quarter for 2010 that caught my attention.

There are three main classes of immigrants: business, family and refugees. From the chart below, you see the trend that's in play.
(David McKie, Jan. 26, 2011) class charts for blog.JPG
When comparing their numbers from the second quarter of 2010 to the third quarter (the most recent statistics), we see that the business class - represented by the red line in the chart - grew by eight per cent; the family and refugee classes dropped by 2.6 per cent and 2.8 per cent, respectively.
These trends held firm when comparing the first three quarters for 2009 and 2010. 
In a news release last summer, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said Canada wouldn't increase the number of business-class immigrants at the expense of family or humanitarian immigration categories, but the numbers tell a different story.
Predictably, advocates and some Opposition MPs accuse the Harper government of favouring people who either have money or who are coming here to do certain jobs over potential refugee claimants.
The government responds by pointing out that Canada needs people who can contribute to the economy and pay taxes (or put another way, stay off welfare) while helping to increase our population by sponsoring their relatives or having kids, or both.
I recall a scrum Kenney had with reporters on Nov. 1, 2010. We asked him about numbers, which even then showed an increase in people coming to Canada through temporary work permits. While he fielded specific questions about that program, there was no mistaking his government's take on the value of business-class immigrants. 
"Within five years, there will be no growth in the Canadian labour market (workers)," he explained to reporters. "All labour force growth will be because of immigration. There are, in certain regions, significant labour-market shortages. We've also seen some recent data that show that federal skilled workers who have arrived in the last few years have seen significant improvement in their economic outcomes."

(Click here to listen to audio of Kenney talking to reporters)
There are also some interesting trends within the general numbers from those Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism spreadsheets.

For instance, within the business class, one of the largest growth areas is something called the "Provincial or Territorial nominees" program, which allows jurisdictions across the country to determine who they get to keep. It's often the case that they end up choosing individuals who are on temporary work visas. This category has grown, in part, because provinces such as Alberta have asked Ottawa to raise the cap. The "investors" category has enjoyed even more impressive growth.

In the "refugee class," even though the overall category is in decline, there are parts of it, such as "privately sponsored" refugees, that are increasing. This comes as no surprise, as Kenney has touted this as a preferred route for refugees entering the country. But "Refugees landing in Canada" and those sponsored by the government are two parts of this overall category that are declining. And these declines are responsible for the refugee category's overall downward trend.

If you have any feedback on any aspect our immigration program, please feel free to contact me at: david_mckie@cbc.ca
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