Kenney announces upgrades to program aimed at attracting world's talent

Permanent Resident Card (2002-2007)
Permanent Resident Card (2002-2007) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

OTTAWA — The Globe and Mail

Canada has just welcomed its 20,000th permanent resident under a four-year-old immigration program that’s on track to become this country’s premier method for recruiting newcomers.

The Canadian Experience Class, launched only a few years ago, represents the future of Canada’s immigration system – one where the Harper government puts a hard-nosed emphasis on attracting the best and brightest skilled workers.

The program targets temporary foreign workers already in Canada and non-Canadians who have graduated from universities and colleges here – people who have proven they can integrate into society and meet labour market needs.

It removes immigration obstacles for a class of individuals that Immigration Minister Jason Kenney calls "the most likely to succeed."

The 20,000th permanent resident admitted through the four-year-old program is Gaurav Gore, originally from India.

He earned a master’s in business administration from the Unversity of Toronto, a program he began in 2008, and is applying his learning as a consultant with a major bank in Canada’s largest city.

Each year about 300,000 people such as Mr. Gore arrive in Canada. About 100,000 students and 200,000 temporary workers flood into this country annually – a group the Conservatives feel offers the best prospects for new immigrants.

“Mr. Gore completed a challenging, competitive university program,” Mr. Kenney said in a statement Friday. “He is now building a successful career, contributing to our economy and helping create jobs for Canadians here in Canada. Gaurav is exactly the sort of skilled worker that Canada hopes to attract and retain.”

The program fast tracks permanent residency applications for skilled foreign workers and graduate students who have spent time in Canada on temporary permits or student visas – those who can demonstrate they are proficient in either English or French.

Before it was created, highly-skilled outsiders could not become permanent residents from within Canada. Would-be applicants such as Mr. Gore would previously be told they had to return to their country of origin and wait at the back of a queue for about seven or eight years.

Under the new program, applicants can apply from within Canada and expect a quicker decision, normally within one year.

This type of economic immigrant class, unveiled three years ago, was the first new avenue to obtaining a permanent residency card in decades.

Upgrades to the program, announced by Mr. Kenney Friday, will make it easier for applicants to qualify for entry under the Canadian Experience Class.

All applicants will now require 12 months of Canadian work experience gained in the three years prior to their application. Previously, some needed 24 months experience.

This change will make it easier for international student graduates to apply for permanent residency under the program.

Canada was forced to bring in the new program because of a global race for talent with rival destinations such as Australia and the United Kingdom, which had similar programs.

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The coming storm: 9 million retiring Baby Boomers in Canada

The Baby Boomers’ 50th birthday 3
The Baby Boomers’ 50th birthday 3 (Photo credit: Christchurch City Libraries)

Jonathan Chevreau, Financial Post · Jul. 14, 2011 | Last Updated: Jul. 20, 2011 7:23 AM ET

Perhaps it’s just as well Baby Boomers enjoyed a taste of retirement when they tuned in and dropped out in the 1960s. Most have been working ever since and — apart from the exceptions who enjoy spectacular entrepreneurial success — seem fated to work well into old age.

A Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce poll this week found only half of Canadian Boomers aged 45 to 64 have regular savings programs in place. And a TD Waterhouse survey found 31% of retirees aged 55 to 70 are spending more in retirement than expected.

Those who neither save nor have old-fashioned employer-provided defined-benefit pensions seem destined to toil at least until the traditional retirement age of 65. Many may opt for 70, since by waiting the extra five years, annual benefits paid out by the Canada Pension Plan will be 42% higher.

That’s assuming you can even find a place to toil in this depressingly stagnant economy. There’s an emerging trend called “unretirement,” as practised by — here’s a term you may not yet have encountered — “workampers.” That’s a contraction of “work camping,” which refers to an increasingly popular practice whereby aging Baby Boomers sell their principal residences and hit the road, often in recreational vehicles.

Couples or families travel across America and work a few days or weeks at or near minimum wage and/or exchange their labour for a place to stay (or a place to park the RV), according to Steve Anderson, president of Arkansas-based Possibilities Workamper News.

For Workampers, home is where the RV is and the RV is parked wherever they can generate short-term cash. Jobs include gigs at parks, fisheries, amusement parks, hotels and even high-tech giants like

It seems we’ve come full circle with a lifestyle similar to what the first wave of Boomers enjoyed in their youth, when they lived in communes or rainbow-coloured minibuses in the psychedelic ’60s. For movie buffs, this may conjure up Jack Nicholson’s About Schmidt, where the veteran actor plays a widowed retired actuary who hits the road in a Winnebago.

Actuaries are shrewd about pensions and retirement, which is why we’re hearing from a lot of them in the current round of pension reform debates. The focus is on impecunious Baby Boomers, judging by a 2010 Liberal white paper entitled Canadian Pension Security, Adequacy and Coverage: Public Policy Challenges and the Baby Boom Generation.

“The undeniable fact is that, over the next 20 to 30 years, Canadian pension regimes will face a perfect storm of an aging population and longer life spans,” it says.

The storm analogy is not misplaced. Many Boomers have failed to batten down the hatches in anticipation of the coming 3-D hurricane of demographics, debt and deficit. The term 3-D hurricane has been popularized by Research Affiliates’ chief investment officer, Jason Hsu. He says the ‘new normal’ is an extended period of lower economic and return expectations for the aging and debt-ridden developed world.

The height of the Boomer retirement cycle in the United States will be 2025, Hsu says, at which point there will be 10 new retirees for each new entrant to the workforce. In 1970, the ratio was closer to 5 to 1.

Boomers should have anticipated these untenable support ratios looming in their old age and saved aggressively in their working years by delaying pre-retirement consumption. But of course, “what we observe today is inadequate retirement savings.”

Hsu frets there are not enough young workers to keep pay-as-you-go Social Security (in the United States) afloat. Employer pensions and forced retirement savings should have protected workers from the demographics of aging but employers have been dismantling DB pensions while Boomers have not embraced voluntary savings as much as they should have.

As we’ve seen in France, Greece and other countries, these tensions are spilling over.

“Serious problems arise when countries have become so indebted that they are unable to raise debt to bail out retirees who have, by and large, undersaved.”

Canada is twice blessed in having largely dodged the 2008-2009 financial crisis and in the fact the CPP was put on a firm footing in the 1990s. While partly pay-as-you-go, CPP is strong enough that in the recent election, the NDP and the Liberal Party both advocated expanding it.

However, the ruling Conservatives are not committed to a “big CPP” beyond perhaps a “modest” enhancement of the system. In an interview this week with Ted Menzies, the Minister of State (Finance), I could get no precise definition of “modest” except that it’s well below the doubling of CPP benefits some have called for.

In a recent article in this paper, the Fraser Institute’s Neil Mohindra warned against using a battering ram to swat a fly. Once interest rates move back to their higher historical levels, he believes Canadians will be able to save more, borrow less and buy annuities with much better payouts.

Still, there’s little doubt the self-employed and workers in small businesses need help setting up employer pensions resembling those enjoyed by employees in large corporations and government.

True to their roots, the Conservatives prefer a private-sector, market-oriented defined-contribution pension model that will be managed by the nation’s banks, fund companies and insurance companies. It’s called pooled retirement pension plan, or PRPP.

With a four-year electoral mandate, the Harper administration has plenty of time to implement this program and prove it’s serious about closing the retirement income gap. Whether the PRPP arrives in time to save the Boomers remains to be seen. Until then, my general advice to them is: “Don’t quit your day job.”

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Joe O’Connor: Canada’s baby blip won’t save us from skyrocketing health-care costs

Film poster for Baby Boom - Copyright 1987, Un...
Film poster for Baby Boom - Copyright 1987, United Artists (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tuesday was my daughter’s first birthday, a celebration that kicked-off at about 5:20 a.m. A few hours later, Statistics Canada reassured us we were not alone in our bleary-eyed joy.

The 2011 census offered us a showstopper of a statistic, a number that injects new life into our greying population while shattering the notion that Canadians are not having kids anymore.

We are having kids, lots of kids. The number of Canadian tots aged four and under increased by 11% between 2006 and 2011, a baby boom not seen since the Baby Boom.

Boom 2.0 marks the highest five-year rate of growth among the Mini-me crowd since 1956 to 1961.

And the birthing trend is national in scope. Fertility rates nudged to within a whisker of 1.7 kids per family, up from 1.5 in 2001.

Albertans, with a robust economy and young families aplenty, are the nation’s most productive reproducers with a birth rate of 1.8, reflected by a 20.9% jump among kids under four.

Saskatchewan (19.6%) and Quebec (17.5 %) are likewise beefing up on tots.

Why the boom? Demographics. Baby Boomers’ kids, the so-called Echoes, may not have jobs for life but they have a zest for creating new life and an army of potential new Moms to do it. The number of women in the 21-34 age bracket is ballooning, a numeric reality any parent hoping to secure a daycare slot in a major Canadian city without putting their name on a waiting list at the moment of conception can fill you in on.

There is more at play here, though, a deeper societal shift, a reawakening of a yearning to go forth and multiply. It ebbed away in the 1960s when women joined the workforce in ever-greater numbers, the cost of living increased and family photos featuring three or four or more kids became the preserve of the rich and the nanny-supported, or poorer immigrant families bound by custom and kept afloat by social welfare.

“Women were doing more paid work, so they didn’t have time to have children,” Roderic Beaujot, a demographer at the University of Western Ontario, said. “Having children has become more positive.”

And practical. Things like parental leave, $7-a-day daycares in Quebec, RESPs and the Universal Child Care Benefit have softened the economic blow of feeding a growing brood. Another factor is the changing nature of work.

“With the way that technology is advancing, it is increasingly easy to seek out alternative work arrangements like working from home, starting your own online business, and so on,” says Amber Strocel, a Vancouver-based writer/Mommy blogger. “With more flexibility around work-life balance, it becomes easier to have children. The same technology also makes it easier to stay connected with friends and family, which means a better support network.

“That also makes it easier to have children.”

Doug Norris, the former director of social and demographic statistics with Statistics Canada, cautions against reading too much into the numbers. We are getting older, he says, not younger as a country, and our current baby blip is a passing bump, an accident of demography that will not save us from our greying selves — from skyrocketing healthcare costs — postponed retirement parties and underfunded Canadian pension plans.

“In 20 years, one in four of us is still going to be up over the age of 65 almost inevitably,” he says. “There would have to be a substantial increase in the fertility rate and I don’t see that coming.”

Instead of taking over, Canada’s army of tots appears to be just passing through town. Marching through the statistics, celebrating first birthdays, making mornings foggily perfect for a new generation of Moms and Dads.

National Post, with files from news services
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Canada heating up as a destination for tech employers

The Globe and Mail

Computer engineer Bryan Gislason had his eyes on California as he graduated from the University of Victoria this spring.

“I wanted to work for a company that was innovative, growing and at the cutting edge of technology and I was focusing on Silicon Valley,” said Mr. Gislason, 24.

They were looking for him as well. “A lot of the large companies in the States, including Google and Facebook, are constantly recruiting for Canadian talent at Waterloo, Toronto, and in the West,” he found.

But rather than having to move to Silicon Valley, Kontagent, a San Francisco-based software company, placed him in its new Toronto-based engineering and support division. Kontagent has hired 15 Canadian software specialists for the office in the past year and is looking to bring another nine on board by the end of the year, said Jeff Tseng , Kontagent’s chief executive officer.

To drum up interest, Kontagent launched a worldwide contest in September for potential employees for the Canadian division, with a $10,000 cash prize for the person who does the best data analysis.

“We’ve already seen hundreds of entries from around the globe. In our view Toronto is a growing epicentre of innovative technology development, and this challenge is putting a global focus on Canada’s place in technology innovation,” Mr. Tseng said.

Information technology is among the most competitive fields for talent, according to a market analysis by job site Job listings for software engineers on the site are up 74 per cent year over year and postings for social media managers are up 48 per cent, according to CareerBuilder CEO Matt Ferguson.

“The world’s dependency on technology, the pervasiveness of social media, and the need to drive sales and expand into new markets are all driving double-digit growth,” Mr. Ferguson said.

The trend is expected to continue, with the U.S. Bureau of Labor projecting that IT jobs are destined to grow much faster than most other fields until at least 2020.

U.S. employers are looking far afield and finding rich veins of talent in Canada, but a countertrend is making Canada an attractor of tech talent, industry advisers say.

“Until recently we were seeing a brain drain, but now there is a growing flow of candidates from the U.S. into Canada as well as applicants from countries facing more financial uncertainty than Canada,” said Mike Winterfield, president of Randstad Technologies, the IT hiring division of recruiter Randstad Professionals in Toronto.

Canadian companies are willing to devote a lot of time and effort sponsoring work visas for immigrants to fill roles that are in high demand, such as people who have governance skills or executive-level advisory experience, in addition to their technical capabilities, he said. Among specialists Randstad has recruited to Canada this year are candidates from New York, England and India who are skilled in Java and also experienced in capital markets.

The demand is not just in Ontario but also Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Quebec, said Joanne Boucher, general manager of recruiter Bagg Technology Resources in Toronto.

“Across all industries, as technology becomes more and more ingrained in all aspects of business and as companies look for production gains and efficiencies, the demand for top IT talent is continuing to rise.”

That creates opportunity for people in other fields who want to retrain for a career with a technology component, said Mary Lynn Manton, co-chair of the school of information and communications technology at Seneca College in Toronto.

Seneca’s two-year diploma and three-year advanced diploma programs have seen a steady increase in demand, with a sharp spike in enrolment from people in business careers who, in the aftermath of the recession, want to retrain in a tech specialty, she said.

Constant career development is a good way to stay on top of the job market by ensuring your skills are constantly in demand, said Robert Howden, an instructor at the Computer Systems Institute in Chicago that specializes in upgrading the technology skills of people who want to change their careers.

There’s strong growth in specialties that analyze social media to spot trends, that provide tech support for data bases and develop corporate websites, he said.


Know what these mean?

Technology titles in growing demand and shortest supply, according to a Randstad Canada survey:

Microsoft SharePoint 2010, .net 4.0 specialists

Java and Core Java developers

Specialists in cloud computing

SAP and Peoplesoft implementation consultants – particularly those willing to travel throughout North America on assignments

Capital markets business system analysts – people who understand products, but can also handle full technical implementations

PHP developers with distributed computing experience

Ruby on Rails developers

Senior quality assurance analysts who are also skilled in automated test tool script development

Source: Randstad


Most in-demand job titles for computer science majors:

1. Software engineer

2. Systems engineer

3. Software developer

4. Java developer

5. Business analyst

6. .NET developer

7. Web developer

8. Systems administrator

9. Project manager

10. Network engineer


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Alberta Crackdown on Employment Agencies: Could Atlantic Canada Be Next?

Welcome to Bienvenue à Nova Scotia
Welcome to Bienvenue à Nova Scotia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

September 21, 2012
Written by Lana MacLellan

Alberta is cracking down on unscrupulous provincial employment agencies with some of the strictest rules to date in Canada.

New regulations under Alberta’s Immigration Act came into effect on September 1st and are primarily designed to protect temporary foreign workers.  However, they also protect any worker who uses and employment agency in Alberta. They build on existing rules that require employment agencies to be licensed, and prohibit them from charging employees a fee to find a job.

Most significantly, the new regulations require employment agencies to:

Keep better records;
Operate under a licensed name;
Register agents; and
Have written contracts with job seekers.
In addition, agencies recruiting internationally will be required to provide the government with a $25,000 security.

The new regulations also make it illegal to mislead temporary foreign workers about their chances of becoming permanent residents or Canadian citizens. Agencies cannot mislead workers about their rights, intimidate or threaten them, ask for a performance bond, or pressure them to lie to Canadian officials.

Under the Fair Trading Act, companies that break the rules can expect to be fined up to $100,000, repay up to three times the profits earned in an offense, and/or forfeit the $25,000 security.

So why should employers in Atlantic Canada pay attention to what is happening in Alberta? Because it may very well be an indication of new rules and regulations that could be headed our way.

More and more Canadian provinces are implementing new rules for employment agencies and employers recruiting overseas that aim to protect temporary foreign workers. Manitoba was the first province to enact this type of legislation in April 2009 with the introduction of the Worker Recruitment and Protection Act (WRPA). Under WRPA, all Manitoba employers wanting to recruit temporary foreign workers are first required to register with the province and anyone engaged in foreign worker recruitment, including agencies, is required to obtain a license from the province. Recruiters must provide an irrevocable letter of credit in the amount of $10,000 and employers and recruiters are prohibited from charging fees from foreign workers to find them work. Fines for breaching obligations under WRPA are as high as $25,000 to $50,000.

Variations on the Manitoba model have been implemented by British Columbia and Alberta, and will soon be implemented in Nova Scotia though Bill 53, which makes a series of amendments to the Labour Standards Code. The details of the Nova Scotia regime have yet to finalized, however, they will likely be based on the Manitoba model.

We anticipate draft regulations will go to Cabinet sometime this fall, and be proclaimed shortly after. It appears the new regulations will require every employer who recruits foreign workers to register with the province. The registration process is designed to be as facilitative as possible for employers, and will likely be done online without a fee. In addition, recruiters will be required to have a license to recruit Nova Scotian employers, whether the recruiter is based in Nova Scotia, elsewhere in Canada, or overseas. A nominal fee will be charged for the license and a security will be required. Again, the details of this process will not be known until the regulations are before Cabinet later this fall.  However it seems the license fee will be approximately $100 and the security will be roughly $5000. After the registration and licensing regimes are introduced, there will be a transition period before each becomes a requirement for employers and recruiters.

These new regulations in Nova Scotia will create additional immigration hurdles for prospective and current employers of foreign workers. Employers that recruit and hire foreign workers must ensure they are registered and that they only work with licensed recruiters. Employers must comply with provincial laws to remain eligible to hire foreign workers and avoid fines.

Although Nova Scotia is currently the only Atlantic province with this type of legislation in the works, employers in other provinces may want to turn their attention to the new changes. Given the rate at which provinces across Canada are implementing similar rules, it may be just a matter of time before New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador develop their own provincial regimes.


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Average Canadian family paying more than $11,000 per year for public health care insurance

English: Canadian per capita health care spend...
English: Canadian per capita health care spending by age group in 2007. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

CALGARY, AB—An average Canadian family of two adults and two children will pay about $11,400 in taxes for Canada’s so-called “free” health care in 2012, calculates a new report from the Fraser Institute, Canada's leading public policy think-tank.

The report, The Price of Public Health Care Insurance: 2012 Edition, calculates the amount of taxes an average family pays to all levels of government in a year and the percentage of the total tax bill that goes towards public health care insurance.

By estimating the average income for six types of Canadian families, the report breaks down how much money each will contribute to public health care insurance in 2012:

A family of two parents with an average income of $106,808 and one child will pay $10,623.
A family of two parents with an average income of $113,226 and two children will pay $11,401.
A family of one parent with an average income of $46,134 and one child will pay $3,418.
A family of one parent with an average income of $50,964 and two children will pay $3,429.
A family of two adults with an average income of $96,458 and no children living at home will pay $11,358.
Unattached individuals earning an average income of $37,812 will pay approximately $3,707 for public health insurance.
"There’s a widespread belief that health care is free in Canada. It’s not; our tax dollars cover the cost of it. But the way we pay for health care disguises exactly how much public health care insurance costs Canadian families and how that cost is increasing over time," said Nadeem Esmail, Fraser Institute senior fellow and co-author of the report.

The report notes that since 2002, the cost of health care insurance for the average Canadian family increased by 59.8 per cent before inflation. By way of comparison, the cost of public health care increased more than twice as fast as the cost of shelter, roughly four times as fast as the cost of food, and more than five times as fast as the cost of clothing.

"We also found that the cost of public health care insurance grew 1.6 times faster than the average income over the decade," Esmail said.

In addition, the report calculates that the 10 per cent of Canadian families with the lowest incomes (less than $12,500) will pay an average of about $487 for public health care insurance in 2012. The 10 per cent of families earning an average income of $55,271 will pay $5,285, while families among the top 10 per cent of income earners will pay $32,628 towards public health care insurance this year.

"With a more precise estimate of what they really pay for health care on a personal level, Canadians will be in a better position to judge whether they are getting a good return on the money they spend on health care," Esmail said.

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Venture capitalists take lead role in immigrant visas

Image representing Steve Jobs as depicted in C...
Image via CrunchBase

The Globe and Mail

Venture capitalists are eager to become overseas scouts to lure potential technology stars to Canada as part of the federal government’s plan to fast-track immigration of promising entrepreneurs.

A statement from the immigration ministry last week said a Startup Visa program launching next year would set aside as many as 2,750 immigration places for innovators with investment backing from Canadian venture capitalists. But in an interview with The Globe and Mail, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney cautioned that he doesn’t want to he held to that number.

“I would be surprised if we get a few dozen entrants the first year,” Mr. Kenney said. “We’re starting this as pilot program. But if it works and picks up momentum, I can easily see hundreds of immigrants a year coming through this program.”

The federal government put a moratorium on new entrepreneur visas more than a year ago because the program had an eight-year backlog of applicants, and the vast majority of the 1,000 immigrants admitted each year opened small family businesses that didn’t create new jobs. A major change to the system is that applicants will have to be sponsored by Canadian venture capital or angel investor groups and be identified as having the potential to employ several Canadians in the first year of operation.

Immigrant entrepreneurs must secure an investment from the sponsoring fund, though the minimum amount has not yet been set, Mr. Kenney said.

The new program is slated to launch in January, and it will green-light applications at “lightening speed” compared with the earlier program, “because it will be starting without a backlog and it’s a priority for us. I think the timing for approval will be at most a few months,” Mr. Kenney said.

The program was developed through a series of consultations this summer between Ottawa and representatives from more than 20 startup accelerator programs, venture capitalists and angel investors. “There were concerns about ensuring it is not abused,” said Boris Wertz, who was in on the discussions and is principal and founder of Version One Ventures and the GrowLab accelerator in Vancouver. “But I think in general there is a great optimism among government officials and the entrepreneur community that this can provide a much better basis to attract entrepreneurs to start business in Canada.”

Richard Remillard executive director of Canadian Venture Capital Association in Ottawa, said his members “are looking to find the next Bill Gates or Steve Jobs, and that person could be in Bangalore or Singapore.”

The association – Canada’s largest, with 160 funds as members – was also involved in consultations with the ministry. About 80 of CVCA’s member companies invest in overseas startups, representing about 100 overseas investments a year. That compares with about 400 investments in Canada, he said.

“We’re looking at having to work more closely than before with Canadian offices abroad and trade commissions and consul-general offices. As awareness of this program spreads, we’ll look at those offices abroad as part of the scouting system for the industry.” Mr. Remillard explained.

The immigration ministry will still have to vet all Startup Visa requests like other immigration applications, Mr. Kenney said. “The visa will require security and medical checks and there may be some other criteria we set up, like a minimal language requirement. There’s no point in bringing people here to start a business if they speak zero English or French.”

Mr. Kenney said he wants to begin promoting the program overseas to get a jump on the United States, which is also planning to launch a startup visa program.

That plan is an amendment to the U.S. Immigration Act that would allow entrepreneurs sponsored by a qualified investor who invests at least $100,000 to get a conditional permit to come to the country to set up shop. The temporary permit would become permanent after two years if the business generates at least $500,000 and employs at least five people. The visa plan has been put on hold due to the leadup to the next U.S. election.

“We want to say, ‘look, the United States may have a dysfunctional immigration system, but Canada is open for business,’” Mr. Kenney said.

Canada’s plan is admirable, but there needs to be a bigger push toward implementation, says Alan Diner, partner and immigration practice leader at Baker McKenzie, who was a founder of the Ontario provincial nominee program. “The minister is justified in changing the program to find and bring in young entrepreneurs who can create growth and jobs rather than just open restaurants or laundromats,” he said. “But let’s get the program running and up to speed as fast as possible, because otherwise these young innovators will end up going to another country to set up their businesses.”

He said he still has doubts that Canada has enough venture capitalists to generate hundreds of new entrepreneur immigrants a year. “And I’m not aware that there are big bundles of capital that are not going to use.”

But Mr. Remillard said venture capital firms are hoping to find higher quality candidates for investment. “Our focus in the discussions was our role to look at the investment merits of the entrepreneurs. The same rigour with which our folks do their due diligence to potential investments will get applied to this new program,” he said.

And the advantage is they will do their innovation and hiring in Canada rather than overseas, he explained.

“I think Canada has a huge power of attraction now,” Mr. Remillard said. “We can offer political stability, an economy that’s market friendly. In a world where financial eruptions can occur, Canada is looking pretty good as an environment for newcomers to start a business.”

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