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Creating Credit History in Canada


Few concepts are more controversial than credit when it comes to a person’s financial decisions. On one hand, credit can be a fantastic tool to help you get a loan or a mortgage, save on interest rates and even rent a home or obtain certain jobs. On the other hand, if poorly managed, credit can haunt you for many years and make you miss out on financial opportunities.

Creditors can run a credit check on you to assess if you are a low-risk or a high-risk borrower, and decide to grant or deny you a loan, or to charge you a lower or higher interest rate.

Landlords can rent or deny you accommodation based on how consistently you pay your bills.

Certain jobs require credit checks to verify information listed on your resumé, or to avoid conflicts of interest in jobs where money and sensitive financial information are involved.

Your credit history speaks volumes to lenders about what kind of risks they take when they agree to lend you money. It takes a long time to build, it’s very easy to sabotage and it takes even longer to rebuild. Can you do without it? Yes. Should you try to do without it? No. Without credit, you will not be able to improve your living standards; at the very least, not quickly enough to get to enjoy the results.

Maintaining good credit history

Credit histories are recorded by credit reporting agencies. Equifax and TransUnion Canada are the two major such agencies in Canada. Your credit report will contain information on your loans, credit accounts, certain bills (outstanding cell phone bills can be listed on your credit report, for example), collections items (meaning if an outstanding debt was sent to a collections agency) and legal items (meaning if you had a court order issued against you for an outstanding debt). Collections items stay on your credit report for six years; legal items, for 10 years.

Take advantage of the fresh start to establish a good credit history in Canada. Get a credit card or two, and use them, but use them sensibly. It’s best to start with only one, until you are financially comfortable enough to afford more. Pay off your balance each month, to show potential lenders your reliability.

On top of paying your monthly bills and loan instalments on time, you need to be careful when signing up for services such as cable, telephone, internet, gym subscriptions and whatever else requires a monthly fee. Check the cancellation fees and deadlines when you sign up for such services.

Never move without cancelling or transferring your services, because sometimes final bills end up in collections out of sheer neglect, and from collections they land on your credit report for the next six years.  Always keep track when you make such changes, by recording the date, the names of the agents you speak to and your case number.

If you hit a rough patch, such as an extended period of unemployment, do not be complacent about your credit. Call your creditors and try to renegotiate your monthly payments. They will likely be willing to help you, because sending outstanding accounts to collections would cost them a lot more money. Cancel or suspend services you can do without, rather than have the bills rack up.

All in all, credit is a rather sensitive tool, but you will definitely need it and you should learn to manage it to your advantage. Even if some aspects seem confusing, keep in mind that it’s always easier to prevent credit damage than fix it later.

Source: http://www.prepareforcanada.com/money/financial-first-steps/creating-credit-history/story.html

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Long-term immigration approach needed to maximize newcomers’ employability

Benjamin Tal, Special to Financial Post  Jul 24, 2012 – 3:19 PM ET | Last Updated: Jul 27, 2012 4:37 PM ET


Textbook economics suggests immigration should lift productivity. After all, new immigrants open up trade opportunities; they diversify the engines of economic growth; they offer new and different perspectives on business; and they inherently take risks in hope of greater gains — a key ingredient of innovation.

Yet the results have been quite different. A recent study by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) found immigration has no impact on overall productivity. In Canada, it appears immigration is, in fact, working to reduce productivity given the chronic underemployment of immigrants in the country. According to some estimates, 20% of the increase in the U.S.-Canada productivity gap over the past decade can be attributed to immigration.

A male immigrant who arrived in Canada in the 1970s made about 80¢ on the dollar relative to a Canadian-born worker, and he was able to narrow the gap at a rate of roughly 1¢ per year. Today, despite the fact two-thirds of newcomers have post-secondary education, their earnings have dropped to close to 60¢ on the dollar and the gap is narrowing at a much slower pace. Nearly half of the individuals who immigrated to Canada between 2001 and 2006 are overqualified for the jobs they occupy.

This disparity is not without a price. I estimate that the current employment and wage gaps between new immigrants and native-born Canadians, cost the economy slightly more than $20-billion in forgone earnings. And more than 20% of working-age male immigrants leave the country within a year of arrival.

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Addressing productivity is becoming increasingly crucial for the Canadian economy. An aging population means that just to stabilize the ratio of working-age to non-work in gage population would require tripling the annual number of new arrivals for decades — something not being contemplated. So without a significant increase in immigration-based productivity, the aging profile of the Canadian population will work to reduce the standard of living of all Canadians.



Many recent changes in Canada are modeled on Australia, which maintains a 50% smaller earnings gap between its native-born and non-native-born workers than Canada. The key here is the recent move by the Canadian government toward an increased use of temporary, employer-driven, lower-skilled workers, while still making it easier for successful temporary workers to gain permanent status through the Canadian Experience Class program.

However, the program should not grow much larger than its current size. Immigration policy should not be based on short-term job market considerations. Too heavy a reliance on short-term, unskilled foreign workers might improve job market flexibility in the near term but will reduce its growth potential in the long term due to the comparatively limited ability of low-skilled workers to adjust to changing labour market conditions.

Even the Federal Skilled Workers program, which is supposed to take a long-term approach, is not immune to short-term bias.

Out of the 29 preferred occupations in the FSW program, no less than one-third of preferred occupations are directly linked to the construction industry. It is not a stretch to imagine many of these immigrants will find it difficult to find or maintain employment in a slower housing market.

The FSW should direct its attention to the job market of tomorrow by developing an information infrastructure system designed to identify emerging trends in labour-market activity. That should be supplemented by a much simpler and efficient credential-recognition process. While difficult to achieve, the ideal situation would be to establish a single regulator assessing credentials for each occupation.

The bar on language proficiency should also be raised.

The move in Australia toward mandatory pre-immigration English-language testing in the late 1990s is probably the most important distinguishing factor explaining the performance advantage of Australian immigrants relative to the Canadian experience. In Canada, language skills have also proven critical to success. Those in the FSW program who are proficient in either national language are 50% more likely to find a job and earn close to 40% more than FSWs who are minimally proficient in either language.

Immigration is critical to Canada’s economy but it is clear some inherent barriers exist that prevent us from reaping the full economic benefits new Canadians have to offer. We need to address these to continue to improve productivity and sustain our standard of living.

Benjamin Tal is deputy chief economist at Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce

Hard-working Chinese immigrants, once banned, have risen to the highest echelons of Manitoba

English: The Honourable Philip S. Lee, C.M., O...
English: The Honourable Philip S. Lee, C.M., O.M. Lieutenant Governor of Manitoba and Her Honour Anita K. Lee Spouse of The Lieutenant Governor of Manitoba at Assiniboine Park, Canada Day. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
By: Larry Kusch


hey helped build the railway that bound a new nation from coast to coast.
But once the last spike of the CPR was driven into the earth at Craigellachie, B.C., in 1885, low-paid migrant workers from China were no longer welcome in Canada.
At a time when Europeans were being offered free land to settle the still-fledgling nation, the government imposed a 'head tax' of $50 on new Chinese immigrants -- the equivalent of more than $1,000 today.
Unable to find new work or bring their loved ones to Canada, many Chinese workers returned home. The rest -- mainly men -- struggled to earn a living in a land where they were viewed with suspicion, if not hostility.
Such were the humble beginnings of the Chinese people in Canada.
Once the Canadian Pacific Railway was completed, some men rode the rails east to the Prairies in search of opportunity. In the 1880s, they began to open hand laundries in communities such as Winnipeg, Brandon and other Manitoba towns -- one of the few occupations open to them.
"They had to make a living. Nobody would hire them because of their race," said former Conservative member of Parliament Inky Mark, a third-generation Canadian.
Mark's family history is representative of many longtime Canadian families of Chinese descent.
His grandfather, Ma Sing, was one of thousands of Chinese labourers who toiled on the mountainous British Columbia portion of the CP. He would have earned a fraction of what non-Chinese workers were paid. When the railway was completed, he returned to China.
But in 1901, he came back to Canada, paying the head tax, which by that time had increased to $100.
Ma Sing worked in wash houses as he made his way eastward from Victoria until he reached Russell, where he settled. He later opened his own laundry in the town.
Laundry work was tedious and physically demanding.
"A lifetime spent sorting, soaking, boiling, washing, scrubbing, rinsing, starching, drying, ironing, pressing, folding, packaging, collecting and delivering could break the health of even the strongest laundry worker," according to one account of that period.
Typically, in the early days, the men worked in Canada and sent money home to China to support families they rarely saw. The head tax, which was increased to $500 per person in 1903, made the immigration of whole families prohibitively expensive.
According to the 1901 census, there were 206 people of Chinese descent in Manitoba -- all of them male.
Ma Sing returned to China to visit his wife in 1907, and Mark's father, George Mark, was conceived. George Mark came to Canada in 1922 as a 13-year-old to live with a father he had never known, paying the $500 head tax.
One year later, the Chinese Immigration Act was passed, which banned those of Chinese ancestry from immigrating to Canada altogether. No other ethnic group was similarly targeted. The draconian law would remain in effect until 1947, splitting families and causing thousands of Chinese to return to their homeland.

Philip Lee arrived in Winnipeg, fresh out of high school in Hong Kong, in the late summer of 1962.

The youngest of nine children from a well-to-do entrepreneurial family, Lee held a British passport. He was sponsored to Canada by his sister Angeline, who had moved to the Manitoba capital earlier to study education at the University of Manitoba.
His initial reaction upon arriving in Canada? "Wow, it's so spacious. The air is so clean," Lee said recently.
Unlike Chinese immigrants in years past, Lee's acclimation to Winnipeg -- other than the cold and the mosquitoes -- was relatively easy. His sister, an outgoing woman who made friends easily and had married a University of Manitoba agricultural economist, was established in the community.
Lee settled in Fort Garry, near the university, and studied chemistry. His plan was to obtain an undergraduate degree and then return to Hong Kong to article in law. But by the time he graduated, political tensions between nationalists and communists in the then-British colony caused him to change his mind. Rumours swirled about a possible British pullout.
On the advice of his mother, who had also moved to Winnipeg, Lee decided to put down roots.
The man who would become Manitoba's first lieutenant governor of Chinese descent parlayed his science degree into a job with the Metropolitan Corp. of Greater Winnipeg, a municipal umbrella organization that predated Unicity. He worked as a chemist, studying the city's water. One of his early discoveries was that Winnipeg was using far more chlorine in its water than was needed. He worked for the city for 38 years, eventually becoming branch head for industrial waste.
As a young, educated man who spoke good English, Lee caught the attention of longtime respected Chinese community leader Charlie Foo. Although he was still in his 20s, Lee found himself introduced by Foo in the late 1960s to then-mayor Steve Juba, the local police chief and other prominent Winnipeggers as his heir apparent.
The first people of Chinese descent known to have settled in Winnipeg arrived by stagecoach in 1877. Charley Lam, Fung Quong and an unnamed woman opened up a laundry business.

In the latter part of the 19th century, low-paying service jobs were the main occupations available to early Chinese residents in the city. Eleven Chinese wash houses emerged in the 1890s. And by 1901, there were 100 men working in 29 laundries throughout the city. According to author Paul Yee, the first Chinese store, Quong Chong Tai, opened on King Street in 1905.
In order to avoid competing with one another, Winnipeg's Chinese laundries were well spaced out. That, in part, delayed the development of a Chinatown in the city until 1909.
By 1920, Winnipeg's 900 Chinese residents included eight families with 31 children. They ran 150 laundries along with three restaurants, eight Chinese grocery stores and three coal-heated greenhouses, according to Yee.
Brandon University religious studies Prof. Alison Marshall said in the early days, Chinese could own land in Manitoba -- unlike in British Columbia, for instance. They could also vote. In British Columbia and Saskatchewan, ethnic Chinese were disenfranchised until 1947 and 1951 respectively.
At one time, Chinese could also practise medicine in Manitoba, but not in B.C. "Manitoba was a very welcoming place," said Marshall, who has authored two books on Chinese settlement in the eastern Prairies, including one soon to be published by the University of British Columbia Press.
But Manitoba was "welcoming" mainly in comparison to some other provinces. The provincial legislature passed a bill in 1913 banning Chinese from hiring white women in their businesses. Although the law was never proclaimed, it was indicative of the attitudes of the time. Chinese Canadians were not allowed into theatres or dance halls. And there are accounts of laundrymen being harassed or bullied when picking up clothes or making deliveries.
Most hurtful were national policies and laws that kept Chinese husbands and their families apart. In 1923, with the Chinese Immigration Act (known also as the Chinese Exclusion Act) banning virtually all immigration, families began to lose hope of ever being united in this country. Many left Canada. The country's Chinese population shrank to 32,528 in 1951 from 46,519 in 1931. Winnipeg's population shrank by about 25 per cent in the 1930s, Yee said.
The imbalance between males and females among Chinese Canadians continued to be great. In 1921, there were 1,533 Chinese males for every 100 females in Canada. (The ratio of males to females wouldn't come into the balance until the 1980s.) And the few Chinese women who did live in Prairie towns such as Winnipeg felt a debilitating isolation. Many didn't speak English and did not venture into the community unless escorted by a male family member. "The ones who tended to flourish were the ones who converted to Christianity and got involved in the picnics that were organized in Winnipeg beginning in 1917," Marshall said.

Dr. Joseph Du has no regrets about moving to Winnipeg (via Regina) from Taiwan in 1962.

"I think my life has been fulfilled," the 79-year-old retired pediatrician and longtime Chinese community leader said recently.
Du, along with Philip Lee, was a driving force behind the revitalization of Winnipeg's Chinatown in the 1980s. Now 79 and forced to undergo dialysis three times a week, he continues to broker new projects for the area in his role as head of the Chinatown Development Corp. He's also president of the Winnipeg Chinese Cultural and Community Centre.
Du was born and raised in Vietnam, where his family had moved from China three generations earlier. He was living in the northern part of Vietnam when the Geneva Conference split the country in two in 1954.
Du's family was poor. His dad had died when he was young. But during the political turmoil in Vietnam, he was given the opportunity to enter Taiwan as a refugee and attend university on a full scholarship from the government. Du enrolled in medicine.
By the time he completed his studies, the Vietnam War had begun. He didn't want to go home and be drafted. So he came to Canada, where his first stop was Regina's Grey Nun Hospital.
Du recalls being one of three Chinese doctors from Taiwan at the hospital in 1961. They worked long hours, had no money and no girlfriends. They were lonely.
So, too, were the elderly in the hospital's seniors ward. At night, the three young doctors would visit the ward to help out. The nurses on watch were glad for the extra aid. The seniors were glad for the company.
"They were happy (to see us). We practised our broken English," Du said, smiling at the recollection.
Du's passion was to become a pediatrician. He learned Winnipeg had one of only three children's hospitals in Canada at the time. The other two were in Montreal and Toronto. Winnipeg happened to be closest to Regina. Du moved here in 1962, landing a job at Misericordia General Hospital, where he stayed until an opening came up at the Children's Hospital.
Du soon became a leader in the city's Chinese community. In the early '60s, it was dominated by single men, the result of decades of discriminatory Canadian laws. The few families who lived in Winnipeg took turns hosting potluck suppers once a month to visit one another.
Du was part of a small wave of young Chinese professionals and students who settled in Winnipeg in the 1960s. The immigrant numbers were still modest compared to what they would be in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s.
Men such as Du and Philip Lee encouraged the Chinese community to become more outward-looking and to promote its culture. They knew that by participating more in the political and social mainstream, the community would have more influence in the decisions affecting it, Lee said recently.
"Otherwise (you're) sitting outside watching people on the inside making decisions on your behalf."
With this attitude, Lee helped organize the Chinese community's participation in the inaugural Folklorama in 1970.
But Chinatown by then was a far cry from its heyday in the 1920s. Buildings that no longer qualified for fire insurance were being torn down. An attempt to revitalize the neighbourhood in 1969 was unsuccessful. Lee said a considerable amount of money was spent on a proposal the community wound up rejecting. The problem was it would have displaced too many existing businesses without giving them a viable option in the interim.
By the early 1980s, when the federal-led Core Area Initiative program came into being, the community had its ducks in a row. All three levels of government and the private sector got behind a new proposal to build a cultural centre along King Street, on the site of some vacant warehouses owned by the city and province.
The distinctive multi-roofed Dynasty Building, a six-storey commercial complex that is home to the Chinese cultural centre, was opened in 1987. The Chinese Heritage Garden, Chinatown Arch and King Street beautification project were officially dedicated at about the same time. The Harmony Mansion apartment complex on Princess Street was also completed. The cultural centre, Chinese gate and garden have since become tourist attractions.
Other developments in Chinatown in recent years have included the Sun Wah Supermarket and mall on King Street near Higgins Avenue and the government-funded Peace Tower apartment complex at Princess Street and Logan Avenue. The latter, a 48-unit structure designed to provide affordable housing to newcomers, will be ready for occupancy early next year.

Winnipeg's ethnic Chinese population is estimated today to be more than 20,000. That includes about 5,000 folks who listed Chinese as part of their ethnic background in the 2006 census.

After Canada repealed the Chinese Immigration Act in 1947, it opened its doors just a crack to Chinese immigrants -- allowing relatives here to sponsor family members in China. (More liberalized Chinese immigration was not permitted until the 1960s.) Between 1949 and 1955, 4,247 Chinese children and 3,325 Chinese wives entered Canada, according to author Peter S. Li.
It was during this period, in 1955, that future Dauphin-Swan River Conservative MP Inky Mark arrived in Canada at age seven with his mother and younger sister. Husband and father George had lived in Manitoba since 1922, when he came to join his father as a teenager. George was a stranger to his kids. His children had been conceived during the rare trips he made to China.
George operated the Rex Café in Gilbert Plains, where Inky and his sister Debbie grew up.
"We were the only coloured kids in the community (of about 1,000 at the time)," Mark recalled recently. "So basically, we were raised by the community."
Although he and his sister heard racial slurs, Mark said generally the western Manitoba community was a "pretty welcoming environment." He added this was likely because "there weren't many of us."
He and his sister participated in school and community events like other kids. A lot of doors opened to Mark because of his participation in the United Church.
"We didn't live in a Chinese environment. We lived in a small-town environment and became just like everyone else. Only our skin colour was different."
That experience would shape his strong views that immigrants should integrate in the broader community, as opposed to forming highly concentrated self-sufficient enclaves as in some of Canada's largest cities.
Mark taught high school in Dauphin and was elected to the town council in 1991. Three years later, he became the town's mayor. He was first elected to the House of Commons as a Reform candidate in 1997. At the time, he was one of three MPs of Chinese descent -- and the only one who did not represent a riding with a large Chinese Canadian population. Mark served for 13 years before retiring from federal political life in 2010.

Over the past three years, close to 4,200 people from mainland China have immigrated to Manitoba. And there's every indication the numbers will remain high for some time.

Four decades ago, in 1971, Winnipeg was home to only 2,535 Chinese people. The population has grown eightfold since then due to several waves of immigration.
A refugee boom from Southeast Asia from 1978 to 1981 brought the total to about 6,000, according to a book commemorating the centennial of Winnipeg's Chinatown in 2009.
Subsequent waves of immigrants from Hong Kong in the 1980s and 1990s and then from mainland China in the past decade have given the local population a boost. However, the number is minuscule compared with centres such as Toronto and Vancouver.
In Manitoba, the community's social and economic prospects have soared dramatically. A growing number of professionals, entrepreneurs, students and academics are making Winnipeg home. Many of the newcomers are settling near the University of Manitoba in communities like Fort Garry and Fort Richmond.
Wealthy Chinese families are sending their children overseas to study at the city's post-secondary institutions -- and many of these kids plan to plant roots here once they graduate. (See Schools attract them on J16.) A number of these families are buying homes for the students to live in, helping to spur a residential construction boom.
At the same time, Chinese labourers are still being lured to Canada -- and Manitoba -- to fill jobs that many here still shun. By 2008, close to 500 Chinese workers were employed in Brandon's Maple Leaf Foods Inc. pork-processing plant. Chinese immigrants have also been recruited to toil in a pork plant at Neepawa.

In 2009, when Lee was named the province's 24th lieutenant governor, there was joy in Manitoba's Chinese community.

Lee's title was a sign there were no limits now on what their children could accomplish here.
The appointment also showed how far Canada had come in embracing people from all ethnic communities.
"Suddenly, the ethnic groups all sort of circled around me," Lee recounted recently. "They said, 'If you can be appointed the Queen's representative, all our children in the future will have a chance for any position in the government.' "
larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca
-- secondary sources:
Peter S. Li, The Chinese in Canada, Oxford University Press, 1998.
Alison R. Marshall, The Way of the Bachelor, Early Chinese Settlement in Manitoba, UBC Press, 2011.
Paul Yee, Chinatown, An Illustrated History of the Chinese Communities of Victoria, Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Halifax.
Winnipeg Chinatown: Celebrating 100 Years, A Remarkable Achievement 1909-2009.
Government of Canada websites.At the same time, Chinese labourers are still being lured to Canada -- and Manitoba -- to fill jobs that many here still shun. By 2008, close to 500 Chinese workers were employed in Brandon's Maple Leaf Foods Inc. pork processing plant. Chinese immigrants have also been recruited to toil in a pork plant at Neepawa.

-- -- --

In 2009, when Philip Lee, a former city chemist and community leader, was named the province's 24th lieutenant governor, there was joy in Manitoba's Chinese community.
Lee's title was a sign that there were no limits now on what their children could accomplish here.
The appointment also showed how far Canada had come in embracing people from all ethnic communities.
"Suddenly the ethnic groups all sort of circled around me," Lee recounted recently. "They said, 'If you can be appointed the Queen's representative, all our children in the future will have a chance for any position in the government.' "
larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

Secondary sources:
Peter S. Li, The Chinese in Canada, Oxford University Press, 1998.
Alison R. Marshall, The Way of the Bachelor, Early Chinese Settlement in Manitoba UBC Press, 2011.
Paul Yee, Chinatown, An Illustrated History of the Chinese Communities of Victoria, Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Halifax.
Winnipeg Chinatown: Celebrating 100 Years, a Remarkable Achievement 1909-2009
Government of Canada websites
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 28, 2012 j1

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Labour shortage, not Dutch Disease, biggest obstacle for manufacturers: CME


The salvation of Canada’s manufacturing sector lies in taking advantage of opportunities in the natural resources sector and emerging markets through enhanced productivity, says one of Canada’s foremost authorities on the industry.

Jay Myers, president of Ottawa-based Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, said during a BMO-hosted panel discussion today that if Canada’s manufacturing industry is to continue its upward trend, it will need to seize opportunities in Alberta’s oil sands, Quebec’s Plan Nord projects and natural resource-related initiatives in Newfoundland.

Despite claims from federal NDP leader Thomas Mulcair that the sector cannot compete because of a high dollar generated by natural resource exports, Mr. Myers says manufacturing’s biggest challenge is the country’s shortage of labour.

“I think [Dutch Disease] is taking a look at some of the symptoms, but it’s a misdiagnosis,” said Mr. Myers, later adding that “If anything, the first thing I hear talking to those companies that supply [the natural resources] sector is [the challenge in] finding people and I think what we’ll see over the next couple of years is that those labour shortages will spread across the country and companies will have to be more innovative in the way they supply these projects.”

‘Most companies are more intent on focusing on the opportunities than wringing their hands about what Mr. Mulcair is saying’
Canadian manufacturing has seen a significant boom in the past year with approximately 1150,000 jobs created in the past six months — the most for any similar period in the past. In addition, Canadian factories were at 81% in potential capacity — the highest since the financial market crash of 2008.

Mr. Myers later added that the true catalyst to the high loonie is the low U.S. dollar, which has pushed up the price of natural resources and, in turn, the value of the Canadian dollar.

“The price of oil is closely related to the trade-weighted value of the U.S. dollar and it only makes sense that if the U.S. dollar falls in value then the price of U.S. dollar-denominated resources (i.e. oil) will increase, and that has had much more of an impact on oil prices than the other way around.”

Mr. Myers added that manufacturers can find numerous ways to streamline operations and reduce costs by doing away with peripheral expenses that aren’t directly related to consumer needs. In doing so, he says, companies will be able to provide faster and more efficient service to the natural resources sector’s many projects and, in turn, see greater profits.



“There will be a premium on those companies that can supply these projects fast. If you can position yourself as a solution provider there, you’ve got a pretty good business opportunity in the domestic market. And most companies are more intent on focusing on the opportunities than wringing their hands about what Mr. Mulcair is saying.”

An estimated $0.5-trillion in private sector investment will be made in the natural resources sector over the course of the next five years — much of which will drive demand for technology and services from the manufacturing sector.

Nominal manufacturing sales have recently seen a return to pre-recession levels while production levels are just slightly shy of the levels of that period. At least part of that success can be attributed to an increase in market diversification through investment in emerging markets.

According to the CME, 2011 was the first year in which sales of Canadian affiliates of markets outside of Canada exceeded exports to foreign markets.

Also in 2011, countries outside the United States represented 26% of merchandise exports, compared with 16% in 2005, and the Asia-Pacific region now accounts for 11% of exports (compared with 6.5% in 2005); and, Europe is now the destination for 10% of exports compared to 6.6% in 2005, according to the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.

Despite reports earlier this month from the Canadian Auto Workers Union that an estimated 2,000 jobs are likely to be lost when GM closes one of its plants in Oshawa, Ont., automotive production has grown 30% over the past year — much of which is being sold to the United States.

“It has been doing very well over the past 10 months and continuing to show ongoing strength in sales in both Canada and the U.S.,” said Tina Kremmidas, chief economist at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.

To ensure continued growth, Mr. Myers says manufacturers will need to learn to do more with less by finding ways creative and innovative ways around the labour shortage. In other words, be more productive.

“Productivity isn’t just about removing costs. It’s about increasing the value around your existing product or increasing the value of the product itself, and you do that by new product development through innovation and improving technology and the functional capabilities of the product; or, customizing through design or through the service you’re providing for the product — the support services, the logistics, the customer service, the financing, which is really important.”

Posted in: Executive, Productive Conversations  Tags: Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters, Dutch Disease, Jay Myers, Manufacturing, Thomas Mulclair


DAN OVSEY

How the productivity of Canada’s health care stacks up to the U.S.


The debate over Obamacare in the United States saw the Canadian health-care system maligned as an inefficient socialistic enterprise.

But using Canada as a cautionary example to steer U.S. reform ignores the facts offered by a simple comparative analysis.

Canadians pay much less per capita on health care than do Americans, while ranking higher among the most common measures of human health.

Against the United States, Canada’s productivity gap in the business sector is perpetually upheld as a source of national shame. Last week’s release of the OECD’s latest report card on Canadian productivity revealed Canada’s productivity remains low among industrialized nations — an outcome of poor practices in taxation, post-secondary education, R&D funding and competition policy. Yet, health care may be the one area in which Canada has an advantage over its southern neighbour. Can it be said that Canada’s health-care system is more productive? Possibly. But the answer would first require the economic value of health care to be measured.

Accurate measures of health-care output and productivity are essential
It remains a mystery why there is “no serious attempt” to measure the economic contribution of health care, William Nordhaus, a Yale University economics professor said in a 2003 paper.

“The techniques used to measure the price and quantity of health care are highly defective, and there are no attempts to account for improvements in the length of life into current measures of living standards,” Mr. Nordhaus said.

The obvious proposal would be to simply include health care output in productivity measures, through an accounting of expenditures, which is easy enough. By simply measuring health care’s portion of national GDP against the size of the sector’s labour force, productivity in health care and social assistance declined in Canada by 0.7% between 1987 and 2006.

Little should be taken from the apparent productivity loss, said Andrew Sharpe, executive director of the CSLS. Using expenditures, or inputs, as a measure of health care’s output is misleading.

“You can spend all sorts of money needlessly,” Mr. Sharpe said. “If you raise salaries, you might be spending more, but you wouldn’t be getting any more output. Or you could be spending on procedures with no value at all,” he said.

As various studies demonstrate, this approach tends to underestimate the value of health care to an economy.

Over the same 20-year time span that health-care productivity declined marginally, life expectancy in Canada rose from 77 years to 80.4 years, while infant mortality declined from 7.3 deaths per 1,000 live births to 5, according to OECD figures.

Yet, nothing in the national productivity estimates reflects the economic utility of those improvements to the health of Canadians.

Productivity improvements can also be directly observed in the delivery of health care, Mr. Sharpe said.



“Look at laser surgery for eyes. It used to take hours, now it takes 15 minutes. You can do many more cataract surgery operations in a given amount of time. That’s definitely a productivity gain. But if we just look in terms of labour, that wouldn’t show up.”

It makes more sense to measure health-care output not through expenditures but rather something like number of procedures, he said.

But the true economic contribution from a successful surgery must be greater than that of a failed surgery. “The issue there is whether you adjust for outcomes or not. Procedures aren’t really productivity,” Mr. Sharpe said.

There is simply no easy way to monetize the most common measures of health outcomes, like life expectancy and infant mortality. Still, getting a gauge on the sector’s performance is crucial, given the rising importance of health care to the Canadian economy, a trend that is not set to change given demographic pressures.

Between 1975 and 2011, total expenditures on health care rose to 12% of GDP from 7%, according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information. Adjusted for inflation, health-care spending increased to $4,100 from $1,700 for each Canadian over that time frame.

Is that a lot? Is the money being used well? Is the sector relatively productive? Is productivity improving?
Canada’s major health outcomes measure at about the OECD average, while our spending tends to be substantially higher than average.

However, in both categories, Canada largely outperforms the United States. In at least one sense, then, it can be said the U.S. healthcare system is much less efficient than Canada’s.

“Overall, the U.S. is hopelessly more inefficient than us, mostly because of their administrative costs, which are just massive,” Mr. Sharpe said.

But again, the problem of output measurement precludes sweeping conclusions about U.S. health care.

“If you’re talking about delivering high-quality health care, they exceed Canada and everybody else,” said Dale Orr, an independent economist who has long studied Canadian productivity. “If you’ve got serious problems, you go off to the Mayo Clinic, or the Houston Heart Institute. They deliver very high quality,” Mr. Orr said.

The “biggest problem” in the U.S. system is that “15% of its people have no meaningful coverage,” he explained.

Likewise, the case for the superiority of Canada’s system is undermined by problems many have in finding a family doctor, and in relatively long wait times, among other considerations.

“People might wait in emergency rooms for six or seven hours,” Mr. Orr said. “Then there’s those people who need a hip replacement; they’re told to wait for three or four months. In the U.S. it would be three or four days.”

If there is to be an aggregate economic measure of national healthcare sector, surely all of these factors must be considered.

That statistical challenge has largely kept national accountants from including any measure of health in living standards.

The building pressures on health-care spending alone, however, demand a better accounting of the sector’s economic effects, the CSLS report said.

“To achieve efficient allocation of resources in the health-care sector, accurate measures of health-care output and productivity are essential.”

Posted in: Executive, Productive Conversations


TIM SHUFELT
tshufelt@nationalpost.com

In depth: How the OECD says Canada can fix its ‘key long-term challenge’


Dan Ovsey

There’s been much buzz in the media this morning about the findings of the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) with respect to Canada’s state of macro-economic affairs.

While early headlines were quick to pick up on the report’s broad-based message that Canada’s economy was on the right track and set to see growth, they also noted there were “key long-term challenges” to which our leaders should take heed. Most notably, as an economy, we must be more attentive to our ballooning household debt and our perpetual lack of productivity.

“Tax breaks to manufacturing and natural resources penalize services, which are a critical emerging area for the knowledge economy.”
The latter point should be of key interest for business leaders and policy makers alike. Canada is an innovation and productivity laggard relative to its OECD counterparts. The report notes several factors that contribute to this stagnancy.

Taxation

To the chagrin of anti-corporate activists, the OECD points out that while Canada has made some progress with respect to reducing Corporate Income Tax (CIT) — one of the lowest in the G7 — more progress is still needed if we are to foster an attractive environment for our blooming knowledge economy.

“Tax breaks to manufacturing and natural resources (abstracting from oil and gas royalties) penalise services, which are a critical emerging area for the knowledge economy.”

The report appropriately notes that while the current tax structure for small business is effective, the scaled tax rate discourages businesses from growing by penalizing them with progressively higher taxes as they do so.

“The reduction in the general federal CIT [corporate income tax) rate will serve to reduce the disparity in treatment of large and small firms, and to that extent should encourage small innovative firms to expand sales,  enter foreign markets and attain the scale needed for successful innovation, competitiveness and high MFP growth.”

Funding R&D

As any business that has attempted to fund research and development via public funding knows, the traditional system of allocating these resources through tax credits was inherently flawed. Big business used tax consultants to help them acquire public funds for R&D projects they were doing anyway while small businesses were getting the short end of the stick.

When the federal Conservatives revealed the 2012 budget in late March, it revamped the funding model in response to recommendations from the Jenkins Panel (led by OpenText head Tom Jenkins).The OECD lauded the government’s changes — namely the reduction of the Scientific Research and Development (SR&ED) tax-credit pool in exchang for a $400-million Venture Capital (VC) fund and more money for the grant-based Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP) — but cautioned it against “picking winners”.

Funding innovation through financial markets

It’s little secret that VC funding in Canada has been desolate since the bursting of the Dot Com bubble, but the dearth in VC capital is as much related to the way VC funds are allocated as it is to their accessibility. As the report notes:

“Indeed, some 50% of the VC market is publicly funded, compared with less than 5% in the United States. However, a large portion of this investment is directed to regional development rather than small firm growth. Canadian enterprises supported by private, as opposed to public, VC appear to have superior performance in terms of value creation and innovation intensity overall. More worrying is evidence of crowding out of private projects by public VC (Brander et al., 2008).”

The report goes on to state that if Canada is to generate R&D that leads to innovation, and, in turn, higher productivity levels, a co-funded system of public-private VC investment — in which the private partner makes the investment decisions — must come to fruition. While the $400-million VC fund is seen as a bright spot, it still relegates VC funding to the public sector, which has been traditionally poor at identifying companies that will raise the innovation bar.

Opening closed competition

As Jeremy Leonard noted recently in his Financial Post commentary, the key to higher productivity (and wages) is the removal of barriers to competition that artificially insulate Canadian business and stunt competition. While recent legislation (namely in the telecom sector) has undoubtedly made progress in this arena, the OECD report notes that more work needs to be done, specifically referencing the government’s controversial blocking of foreign investment and ownership in Canadian potash.



“Barriers to FDI are mainly in the form of ownership restrictions or regulatory discretion over mergers and acquisitions in specific sectors. The more general “net benefit test” has long been thought to have insignificant disincentive effects. However, its recent first-time use by the government to deny proposed investments in certain sectors (aerospace and potash) and subject others to questionable scrutiny (Target), relatively low thresholds for review in sheltered sectors (culture), and a lack of transparency in the review process, could have a dissuasive effect on future FDI and on openness to Canadian companies abroad (Bergevin and Schwanen, 2011). The federal government recently announced that targeted improvements to the administration of the Investment Canada Act will be introduced to enhance transparency while preserving investor confidentiality.”

Indeed, there’s little incentive for the massive companies associated with these industries to find efficiencies and become more productive if they can rest easy knowing that the government will prevent foreign competitors from invading their turf.

Bridging the commercialization gap

While Canada maintains an impressive track record of research, little of that research actually contributes to products, services and technology that benefit society. We have a commercialization gap. Part of the gap, as noted in the OECD report, can be attributed to Canada’s conservative business culture, which is highly risk averse because barriers to competition have ensured Canadian businesses are rarely exposed to risk.

“The best way to stimulate willingness to take risk may be to boost competitive pressures and openness”
“More generally, an apparently high degree of risk aversion in doing business, rooted in a fear of failure is one characterisation of Canadian social attitudes toward commerce. These attitudes are partly confirmed by surveys, which also point to a greater dependence on government help than on market opportunities for commercial success (Deloitte Research, 2011). The best way to stimulate willingness to take risk may be to boost competitive pressures and openness, as discussed above, and to complement this by enhanced attention to management training and diversity at all educational levels.”

Education

The report notes an interesting phenomenon in education as it relates to innovation and productivity. To enhance productivity, we need more people coming up with ideas that will streamline processes and generate efficiencies. Unfortunately, we don’t have the right people and enough people to do this in the industries that need it most. The solution?

Immigration, of course, is one, but more importantly, a new emphasis needs to be placed on “tertiary education” and primarily that found in community-colleges that can offer a streamlined path to certification in skills that will be in increasingly desperate need throughout the country.

“Colleges differ from universities in that their programmes tend to be shorter in length and emphasise practical, technical and occupational training for the labour market. While colleges typically grant diplomas and certificates rather than degrees, a small but growing subset of “polytechnic” institutes has emerged that grants baccalaureate degrees and differentiates itself by its focus on applied research for industry.”

Unfortunately, due to a lack of consensus among these different post-secondary institutions, the transferability of students from one type of educational institution to another is at best challenging and at worst prohibitive.

Meanwhile, universities will need to do a better job of focusing their research programs on challenges currently being faced in the private sector (rather than things that make academics go hmmm…)

“Academics should be provided with stronger incentives to produce research relevant to business needs”
“Academics should be provided with stronger incentives to produce research relevant to business needs, starting with the peer-review granting process, then sharing their IP with business through collaborative efforts and finally having some form of ownership rights over their patented inventions.”

The long and short of it

In reviewing the OECD’s recommendations, it’s fairly clear the Paris-based organization is encouraging a general movement toward small government and greater free enterprise. Indeed, lower corporate taxes, private-sector guidance in public VC allocation, the removal of barriers to foreign ownership and competition, shifting educational models to meet market demands, and basing academic research and private-sector needs are all recommendations likely to cause advocates of big government to get hot under the collar.

The report and its recommendations point to a troubling trend in the way Canada’s government, private sector, and workforce operate — a trend of which all parties should be wary and one they should work toward combating — regardless of where they may sit on the political spectrum.

Long-term immigration approach needed to maximize newcomers’ employability

Benjamin Tal, Special to Financial Post  Jul 24, 2012 – 3:19 PM ET | Last Updated: Jul 24, 2012 3:21 PM ET


Textbook economics suggests immigration should lift productivity. After all, new immigrants open up trade opportunities; they diversify the engines of economic growth; they offer new and different perspectives on business; and they inherently take risks in hope of greater gains — a key ingredient of innovation.

Yet the results have been quite different. A recent study by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) found immigration has no impact on overall productivity. In Canada, it appears immigration is, in fact, working to reduce productivity given the chronic underemployment of immigrants in the country. According to some estimates, 20% of the increase in the U.S.-Canada productivity gap over the past decade can be attributed to immigration.

A male immigrant who arrived in Canada in the 1970s made about 80¢ on the dollar relative to a Canadian-born worker, and he was able to narrow the gap at a rate of roughly 1¢ per year. Today, despite the fact two-thirds of newcomers have post-secondary education, their earnings have dropped to close to 60¢ on the dollar and the gap is narrowing at a much slower pace. Nearly half of the individuals who immigrated to Canada between 2001 and 2006 are overqualified for the jobs they occupy.

This disparity is not without a price. I estimate that the current employment and wage gaps between new immigrants and native-born Canadians, cost the economy slightly more than $20-billion in forgone earnings. And more than 20% of working-age male immigrants leave the country within a year of arrival.

Related
13 ways to make Canada world’s most ‘energy productive’ nation
In depth: How the OECD says Canada can fix its ‘key long-term challenge’
Addressing productivity is becoming increasingly crucial for the Canadian economy. An aging population means that just to stabilize the ratio of working-age to non-work in gage population would require tripling the annual number of new arrivals for decades — something not being contemplated. So without a significant increase in immigration-based productivity, the aging profile of the Canadian population will work to reduce the standard of living of all Canadians.



Many recent changes in Canada are modeled on Australia, which maintains a 50% smaller earnings gap between its native-born and non-native-born workers than Canada. The key here is the recent move by the Canadian government toward an increased use of temporary, employer-driven, lower-skilled workers, while still making it easier for successful temporary workers to gain permanent status through the Canadian Experience Class program.

However, the program should not grow much larger than its current size. Immigration policy should not be based on short-term job market considerations. Too heavy a reliance on short-term, unskilled foreign workers might improve job market flexibility in the near term but will reduce its growth potential in the long term due to the comparatively limited ability of low-skilled workers to adjust to changing labour market conditions.

Even the Federal Skilled Workers program, which is supposed to take a long-term approach, is not immune to short-term bias.

Out of the 29 preferred occupations in the FSW program, no less than one-third of preferred occupations are directly linked to the construction industry. It is not a stretch to imagine many of these immigrants will find it difficult to find or maintain employment in a slower housing market.

The FSW should direct its attention to the job market of tomorrow by developing an information infrastructure system designed to identify emerging trends in labour-market activity. That should be supplemented by a much simpler and efficient credential-recognition process. While difficult to achieve, the ideal situation would be to establish a single regulator assessing credentials for each occupation.

The bar on language proficiency should also be raised.

The move in Australia toward mandatory pre-immigration English-language testing in the late 1990s is probably the most important distinguishing factor explaining the performance advantage of Australian immigrants relative to the Canadian experience. In Canada, language skills have also proven critical to success. Those in the FSW program who are proficient in either national language are 50% more likely to find a job and earn close to 40% more than FSWs who are minimally proficient in either language.

Immigration is critical to Canada’s economy but it is clear some inherent barriers exist that prevent us from reaping the full economic benefits new Canadians have to offer. We need to address these to continue to improve productivity and sustain our standard of living.

Benjamin Tal is deputy chief economist at Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce

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Canadian strip clubs set to recruit from high schools due to visa ban

Toronto Skyline
Toronto Skyline (Photo credit: Bobolink)

TORONTO - Recruiters of teenage strippers may soon be scouring Toronto high schools in search of female students who can be groomed into disrobing part-time as exotic dancers to earn college tuition.

A flyer praising the benefits of the burlesque trade has been produced to target students in high schools, colleges and universities in the Toronto area, says a group representing dancers and club owners.

The brochure claims working as a dancer pays well, offers flexible hours and makes a "great part-time job to raise college tuition."

A scramble is underway by the Adult Entertainment Association of Canada to fill a demand for dancers after the federal government this month stopped issuing visas or extensions for foreign strippers to work here. There are up to 800 foreign strippers in Canada and most vow to go underground and work in the sex trade if they can't dance legally.

The foreign dancers, many of whom are from Eastern Europe and South America, represent about 5% of the 38,000 strippers working in clubs across Canada. Most of them dance in Toronto, Windsor, Ont., London, Ont., Montreal, Ottawa, Winnipeg and Calgary.

Caroline, 28, and Nicola, 25, have been dancing in a downtown Toronto club for more than a year and have tasted the good life, and now don't want to return to their native Hungary.


"We are not happy that visas are no longer being issued to us," Caroline said. "I am very disappointed and afraid of what may happen to me in the future."

The women say they work long hours and send most of their earnings back home to their families.

"We did not do anything wrong in Canada," she said. "They should not be sending us back home."

Nicola said she's stressed out and hasn't been able to eat since hearing news of the visa revocation.

"My visa is almost expired and I am very scared," she said. "I am very shattered that I may no longer be able to work and help my family back home."


Dancers Caroline (left) and Nicola. Dave Thomas/QMI AGENCY

The association said the visa ban that began July 14 means more Canadian women have to be hired to meet the demand. The new rules will prevent strip clubs, escort services and massage parlours from having access to foreign women.

"They're destroying the industry by creating a labour shortage," association director Tim Lambrinos said. "The word 'exotic' means foreign and that's what people want to see."

The association has created a "six-point action plan" to help keep the dancers in Canada. That includes more recruitment of women in high schools and colleges, lobbying the government for changes and if all else fails, the strippers plan to file refugee claims or marry Canadian citizens to sponsor them.

Lambrinos said girls 18 and older can work as dancers in Ontario, according to advice from their lawyers.

He said recruiters from strip clubs will try to attract students by attending job fairs at high schools, colleges and universities in Toronto and surrounding areas.

"We are already doing some outreach work in some areas," Lambrinos said. "We will be taking a strippers' dance pole with us to the schools."

He said overcrowded Toronto high schools can become a prime recruiting ground for potential dancers.

QMI Agency has obtained a draft copy of the flyer to be circulated to high school students. It advises them that they can earn tuition fees while working as an "exotic dance entertainer" and that no sex with customers is permitted.

"If you are visually appealing and comfortable with your naked body and are comfortable about taking all your clothes off," the flyer states. "You can be working right now as an exotic dancer and earn your tuition fees for university or college."

Students are told they must be "comfortable ... onstage at a club and disrobing," and are guaranteed that "no actual sex or sex acts (will) occur."

It warns them that they will have to provide private dances, or table dances, in dark lounge areas and part-time, full-time or seasonal jobs are available.

Officials of the Toronto District School Board did not return phone calls or e-mails about the proposal despite repeated attempts by QMI Agency. Several high school students said they did not like the idea of strippers being recruited from among their peers.

Foreign dancers said they're willing to get married to a Canadian citizen or file refugee claims to stay here.

Plans are in place to seek Canadian men to marry some of the strippers whose visas are about to expiry, which could force them to go underground and into the hands of organized crime to work in the sex trade.

Lambrinos said photographs and descriptions of some the dancers will be posted on the Internet and newspaper ads with text seeking Canadian husbands. Potential hubbies will have to be citizens and not have a criminal record.

"This is very urgent for some of the dancers whose visas are nearing expiry," Lambrinos said. "Every potential sponsor will be looked at and the girls will make a decision on who they want to marry."

There will be a phone number and e-mails for the potential husbands to contact their potential brides.

Officials of the Canada Border Services Agency said the scheme can be considered a marriage of convenience, since there is no history of courtship between the couple. If approved, the sponsor will be responsible for his wife for about 10 years in Canada.

"We're trying to do all we can to keep the dancers here," Lambrinos said. "The girls themselves have said they are not going back home."

He said another plan will have the strippers file claims for refugee status and there is no guarantee that they will be accepted.

Immigration officials said filing a claim will allow the women to remain here for more than a year as they challenge the case, but eventuality they will have to leave.

The controversial "stripper visa" dates back to 1998 and allowed hundreds of foreign dancers into the country each year. In 2001, for example, 660 foreign dancers, mostly from eastern Europe, were admitted.

All they had to do was provide a Canadian job offer from a strip club and prove they were qualified to "dance."

Roughly 100 of the visas have been renewed each year since 2006.

Support for the program has plummeted ever since MP Judy Sgro, a former Liberal immigration minister, resigned in 2000 after facing accusations that she fast-tracked a stripper who worked on her campaign -- a scandal dubbed "Strippergate."

Students already stripping to pay tuition: Club owner

One popular Toronto strip club owner says his stable of exotic dancers include more than a dozen college or university students.

The well-known Toronto businessman, who did not want to be publicly identified, said two of his dancers are studying to become doctors; four are attending law school and six are taking classes to become chartered accountants.

"They just do their job and go home," the owner said. "They are very intelligent and always show up on time and don't perform extras."

Club owners have created a six-point plan of action to recruit strippers as foreign dancers are becoming scarce as their visas can't be renewed under a new federal law.

They plan on organizing the dancers; stepping up recruitment in high schools, colleges and universities; seeking Canadian husbands to marry those whose visas are expiring; filing refugee claims, lobbying the federal government and working with civil servants.



 





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Lycamobile wants to shake up Canada's mobile market

lycamobile
lycamobile (Photo credit: osde8info)

By Rita Trichur, The Globe and Mail
Monday 23 July 2012
U.K.-based low-cost international calls specialist in talks with a number of potential Canadian network operator partners.
European telecommunications provider Lycamobile is planning to shake up Canada's C$18-billion wireless market with a new service aimed at immigrants and other ethnic consumers who regularly talk and text with family and friends living overseas.

Headquartered in London, Lycamobile sells low-cost international mobile calls. It has roughly 20 million customers in 16 countries, including Britain, France, Germany and Australia. The company was established in 2006 with an eye to serving expatriate communities--a multilingual niche market that numbers at least 250 million people around the world.

Lycamobile's goal is to be in 25 countries by the end of 2013, and Canada is a market in which so-called ethnic consumers wield increasing spending power.

Immigrants are expected to comprise more than 22% of Canada's population by 2017, with visible minorities, such as Chinese and South Asians, making up more than 50% of the population in cities like Vancouver and Toronto by that year. As a result, companies ranging from banks to retailers are tailoring products and services to court ethnic consumers.

Lycamobile Group CEO Milind Kangle said there is pent-up demand for more affordable services that allow consumers to make high-quality and frequent international calls and texts from their mobile phones. Immigrants often keep in daily contact with loved ones around the world, he said, but resent the inconvenience of being tethered to their land lines and webcams, or having to fumble for international calling cards that sometimes provide spotty connections.

"This is a lifeline service. We believe that our customers should get the same quality connection as any other customer would get in any other part of the world," Mr. Kangle said. "And we believe that the communication should be affordable--as in they should be able to make daily calls without having to feel the pinch in their wallet."

As a "mobile virtual network operator," or MVNO, Lycamobile does not own spectrum or cellphone towers. Instead, its business model is based on agreements that allow it to lease space on an existing carrier's network. Retailers such as Loblaw Cos Ltd. and Petro-Canada offer wireless services under MVNO deals.

Lycamobile is currently in talks with a number of Canadian carriers. Mr. Kangle declined to provide specifics due to confidentiality agreements, but the company is looking for a Canadian partner that uses GSM network technology.

Rogers Communications Inc. is Canada's biggest GSM-based carrier and is also considered an industry leader with respect to MVNO partnerships. The Toronto-based carrier has signed just less than 20 of those MVNO deals and operates a national wireless network.

BCE Inc. and Telus Corp. also support MVNO partnerships. Both could potentially partner with Lycamobile, but their newer shared network may have trouble supporting older GSM-based handsets.

Lycamobile, which recently opened an office in Toronto, is aiming for a Canadian launch this year. Although it plans to provide a national service, it will initially focus on major urban centres like Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal, offering unlimited and pay-as-you-go plans.

"We will target, of course, the bigger communities--the Asian communities, the Chinese communities, the Indian communities and what have you. But typically Lyca's approach is not to exclude any particular community," Mr. Kangle said.

To use Lycamobile's service, a consumer needs an unlocked GSM handset. She would then insert a Lycamobile SIM card and power up her device. Although the company does not sell handsets, Mr. Kangle says most consumers have at least one old handset lying around at home, adding availability of devices has never been an issue.

Zunaira Anderson, a 28-year-old resident of Woodbridge, Ont., knows firsthand the high cost of using mobile phones to keep in touch with her family and friends in Pakistan. She calls her mother every day. Although she uses free Web-based services like Skype, she also spends hundreds of dollars each month to call overseas on her Internet-based land line and her cellphone.

"I make the calls and he gets the shock," she says of her husband, Chris Rayan Anderson, who manages the bills.

"You feel empty if you don't talk to your parents. It's like our ties are so strong. We're so strongly in touch with each other," she said."I have to be in touch with them all the time. You know, when your parents are older, you are kind of more scared and you want to stay in touch more."

Winnipeg resident Hemant Shah is also hunting for cheaper alternatives for international calls. As an international marketing consultant, he frequently calls India, Saudi Arabia, Russia and a variety of West Asian countries from his mobile phone.

"It is not only keeping in touch with the family, but it is a business purpose also," he said of his smartphone. Although he often hunts for Wi-Fi hot spots when travelling, that approach is not always convenient.

"We are hooked up with the cellular phone today. Part of life has become a BlackBerry or iPhone. It has become a necessity of life."



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Newcomers need to learn intricacies of Canadian life: Research

Citizenship Ceremony @ MaRS 2011
Citizenship Ceremony @ MaRS 2011 (Photo credit: mars_discovery_district)

Immigrants need help learning not just Canada's two official languages, but also the "secret rules" of Canadian life in order to fit into their new home, according to the authors of a report released Thursday.

The ability to speak and read English or French is viewed as key to the economic success of newcomers, and the federal government is implementing mandatory language testing for immigrants in their country of origin and increasing the level of proficiency required. But in their report for the Institute for Research on Public Policy, Tracey Derwing and Erin Waugh looked at the role of language and cultural practices in how immigrants develop friendships, join social organizations and build networks within the mainstream.

The study, Language Skills and the Social Integration of Canada's Adult Immigrants, reviewed the federal Language Instruction for Newcomers (LINC) program, which is available to all permanent immigration classes until they become Canadian citizens. It also reviewed existing literature, including a Citizenship and Immigration study of language proficiency levels and a longitudinal study Derwin co-authored that has followed Mandarin and Slavic-language speakers since their arrival in Canada, assessing their accents and fluency as part of overall comprehensibility.

Courtesy: CanadianImmigrant.ca


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Employment, language barrier, key concerns of immigrants

Province of Ontario in Canada
Province of Ontario in Canada (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Employment, followed by language skills is the biggest concern for immigrants and refugees in their settlement process, according to a new study.

The study, "Making Ontario Home," by Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI) is based on research carried out over a period of two years, on newcomers' experience with use of immigrant services in the province.

"This study shows that investment in settlement and integration services is making a real difference in the lives of immigrants," said Debbie Douglas, executive director of OCASI, launching the report on July 18. "Investing in services at the front-end as soon as immigrants arrive, will have significant long-term benefits for immigrants and their families as well as Canadian society and the economy."

Nearly two-thirds of the 2,530 respondents identified employment as their highest concern, and immigrant and refugee-serving agencies were the main access point for employment service. Skills upgrading programs and the provincially funded bridge training for non-regulated professions, created to remove barriers faced by foreign trained professionals, were among the highest rated employment services, according to the report.

"Putting the skills of newcomers to work and improving their social and economic integration is key to Ontario's economic prosperity," said Charles Sousa, Ontario's minister of Citizenship and Immigration. "Ontario is committed to supporting these important immigrant services, which this study confirms remain a priority for newcomers." Sousa told Canadian Immigrant that he would be asking the federal government to reverse the cuts made in funding to the province's settlement services. "I'm going to reiterate and reinforce that we need to have consultations — federal-provincial meetings."

Sousa also noted that such a meeting has been postponed several times and that he would call for at least a meeting with his counterparts in other provinces and territories.

The study, funded by the provincial government, is said to be one of the largest surveys of immigrants and refugees ever undertaken in Canada outside of government.

Courtesy: CanadianImmigrant.ca


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