BY PETER O'NEIL, POSTMEDIA NEWS MARCH 30, 2012 4:02 PM
OTTAWA — The federal government plans to create a global job bank to bring in more skilled foreign workers, while using a new technique to end the "bizarre" situation where low-skilled temporary foreign workers are hired in Canadian communities with double-digit unemployment, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said Friday.
The job bank idea, modelled after New Zealand's immigration system, is a major departure that will take legislation and at least two years to implement, according to Kenney.
Every application from a prospective skilled foreign worker will go into an online pool, and provincial governments and employers will have the ability to cherry-pick potential employees who will have their applications fast-tracked.
"We'd essentially operate that as a huge, overseas federal job bank if you will," Kenney said of the proposal, which was mentioned in a single sentence in Thursday's budget and got little attention.
"If they get that job offer and if they're already among our qualified pool of candidates we'd bring them in at light speed, because we know they're set for success."
The proposal is part of a broader budget plan to meet the growing demand, especially in Western Canada's booming resource sector, for skilled workers.
While the federal government is anxious to bring in skilled foreign workers to boost the economy, Kenney said measures are also needed to deal with an anomaly in the huge temporary foreign worker program.
"We're bringing in, for example, Russians to work in a fish processing plant in Summerside, P.E.I., where there's double-digit unemployment. We're bringing in Romanians to work at the Ganong chocolate factory in St. Stephen, New Brunswick.
"We're bringing temporary foreign workers into Labrador, into the Saguenay, to work in the service industry in areas where there is double-digit unemployment."
Thursday's budget includes the promise of stricter provisions requiring employers to show they've made clear to local people making Employment Insurance benefit claims that there are jobs available.
"And then we're going to go to the local work population and say, 'look, the fish processing plant is hiring. Have you applied for that job?' And if they say no, we're going to say, 'well, look, you're not actually trying to get other employment'," Kenney said.
"We're basically going to try to put pressure on the folks who are collecting Employment Insurance in those areas to at least take the work that's available, so we don't have this bizarre situation where we're bringing in foreigners to do work in areas with double-digit unemployment."
If workers refuse those jobs their claims will be denied, he said.
Canada typically brings in roughly 250,000 immigrants and refugees each year, but the number of temporary foreign workers has risen due to labour shortage issues.
There were 190,769 in 2011, according to Citizenship and Immigration Canada, compared to 179,192 the previous year.
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