Showing posts with label Business and Economy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Business and Economy. Show all posts

The Great White tax haven

CanadaImage by alexindigo via FlickrHow Canada has quietly emerged as a go-to destination for the world’s ultra-rich

Until last year, Peter was a successful American fund manager, with roughly 200 employees in New York City and a personal fortune of $100 million. That’s still the case today, save for one detail—Peter is no longer an American. In 2010, the U.S.-born executive took the extreme step of renouncing his American citizenship. “I wanted to remove myself from a society and country that was heading for a financial catastrophe,” Peter said in an email interview through his Toronto-based lawyer, David Lesperance, who specializes in “tax-efficient citizenship, residence and domicile solutions.” In other words, Lesperance moves rich people to places where they’ll pay less tax. So which global tax haven lured Peter (not his real name) away from Uncle Sam? Was it the Cayman Islands? Switzerland? Monaco?
Try Canada. A year and a half ago, Peter moved to Toronto and is well on his way to obtaining his Canadian citizenship. He bought a luxury home in the city, as well as a vacation property. And now he’s in the midst of determining how much of his fund management company to uproot from New York and move across the border. “Five years ago, I would not have considered expatriation as an option, especially to Canada,” he said. “I always thought of Canada as a younger sibling of the U.S.—the same, but less advanced in terms of culture, quality of life, business opportunities and above all, taxation. I now see it as the same, but maybe better in the long term.”
As for those taxes, Peter says he’s fed up with his money going to pay for what he considers needless trillion-dollar wars in the Middle East, and to cover the staggering interest charges America owes on the money it’s borrowed to live beyond its means; by the end of this decade, at least 18 cents out of every $1 of tax revenue America raises will go to interest payments. “I know I get more for my taxes in Canada,” he says. “And the debt levels here are reality-based.”
For decades, Canadians have been told this country is a high-tax, unwelcoming place for business people and the wealthy. It’s a reputation we came by honestly. But a shift has taken place both here and abroad, say experts. While Canada is reforming and lowering its taxes, politicians in other developed countries—those faced with crushing debt loads and economic stagnation—are turning a hungry eye to the bank accounts of their richest citizens. At the same time, instability in the Middle East and Asia means wealthy individuals are looking for a safe place to move their families. Where they might have flocked to the U.S. in the past, many now see Canada as the better option. Tax specialists even use terms like “the Great White tax haven” and “Switzerland of the North” when talking about Canada.
The world’s rich are restless, says Lesperance, whose clients are worth between $30 million and $1 billion. Most work in financial services, but in every sector and every country wealthy individuals are on the move. Lesperance calls these ultra-rich the Golden Geese, arguing that wherever they go, they generate economic benefits—they start companies, buy real estate, keep restaurants busy and spend money on big-ticket items. Along with Ian Angell, a professor at the London School of Economics, he’s writing a book entitled Flight of the Golden Geese, which argues that as countries squeeze wealthy taxpayers, they will pull up stakes and flee. “Canada has an unprecedented, once-in-several-generations opportunity to put up its hand and offer itself as an alternative,” he says.
The migration is well under way. Last year, nearly 12,000 people moved here under the federal government’s Immigrant Investor Program, up from 4,950 a decade ago, according to Citizenship and Immigration Canada. (The figure includes spouses and dependents.) To qualify, immigrants must have a minimum net worth of at least $1.6 million, and are required to “invest” $800,000 with the government, which is returned after five years. (Ottawa says the money is used to fund economic development programs, though critics call it a cash grab.)
Last year, China accounted for half of investor immigrants, while other major source countries included South Korea, Taiwan, the United Arab Emirates, Iran and Egypt. Meanwhile, last year 75 wealthy immigrants moved here from the United Kingdom, while 40 came from the U.S. Over the past five years, 225 rich Americans have made Canada home. Experts suggest these figures dramatically understate the true size of the migration, since many other rich immigrants are coming here through provincial programs. A new report by consulting firm Grant Thornton shows that between 2005 and 2010, B.C.’s provincial nominee program lured 203 permanent residents under the program’s various business categories, which require a minimum net worth of between $600,000 and $2 million. They invested $423 million in the province, creating more than 1,100 jobs.
Such rosy claims will do little to quell the ire of many Canadians wondering why the country is throwing its arms open to wealthy individuals fleeing tax obligations elsewhere. There’s already a pervasive belief, reflected in survey after survey, that the rich in Canada don’t pay their fair share at tax time. There are also signs of resentment as the flood of wealthy immigrants reshape neighbourhoods. In Vancouver, local politicians have complained that rich homebuyers from mainland China drive up property values and shut local residents out of the market.
While the debate is sure to intensify, it’s unlikely to stop the flow of rich immigrants. “People still view Canada as a high-tax, chilly weather destination,” says Tom McCullough, CEO of Northwood Family Office, a boutique Toronto firm that advises wealthy families with assets of between $10 million and $500 million. “The reality is things have changed dramatically.”
It wasn’t so long ago that many feared Canada’s higher taxes would drive the wealthy away. In the mid-1980s, the U.S. slashed its top federal tax rate from 50 per cent to just 28 per cent in the span of two years; one Toronto newspaper fretted in 1986 that with top Canadian hockey players decamping to U.S. teams to avoid higher taxes, “the danger of the Stanley Cup leaving Canada forever has increased substantially.” By the 1990s the threat was far more pervasive. Tens of thousands of professionals moved to the States, adding to Canada’s “brain drain.” Yet today, those trends have almost completely reversed.
For one thing, the high tax rates Canadians love to gripe about aren’t really all that high compared to the U.S. The combined federal-provincial top marginal tax rate is 39 per cent in Alberta while in Ontario it’s 46.41 per cent (after factoring in the province’s surtax)* compared to an average federal and state rate of 39 per cent in the U.S. (Quebec is the outlier, with a combined top rate of 53 per cent.) Canada is less appealing when it comes to the income level at which those top rates kick in‹in the U.S., the top rate applies to income above US$373,650, while the top federal rate in Canada kicks in at just $128,800. But that’s an improvement from a decade ago, when income over $60,000 was taxed at the top rate.
And the tax environment for upper income earners and their businesses is getting more attractive. Finance Minister Jim Flaherty recently said that after Canada’s budget is back in the black, he will flatten the income tax system by reducing the number of tax brackets from the current four. This would allow Canadians to earn more of their income at lower tax rates. Canada is also on track to cut the federal corporate tax rate to 15 per cent next year from 18 per cent. A recent study by PricewaterhouseCoopers and the World Bank found Canada’s corporate tax rates are already among the best in the world.
But Canada’s tax laws also contain gems that appeal particularly to the super-rich. For one thing, high-net-worth immigrants can benefit from a five-year tax holiday under the Immigrant Investor Program if they store their investment assets in a trust held outside Canada. The program dates back to the 1980s, when U.S. companies were setting up branch plants in Canada, and it permitted American executives to move here without facing a double whammy of taxation. Today it allows immigrants to become Canadian citizens without immediately incurring taxes on assets they accumulated before moving here. Any income they earn in Canada is taxable at our rates. Other countries are paying attention. Earlier this year, when theFinancial Times in London reported on efforts by the British government to attract more high-net-worth immigrants, it noted that Britain attracts just a tiny fraction of the number of rich migrants Canada does.
More importantly, Canada does not impose any of the punitive taxes other countries target their rich with. Since the 1970s there has been no inheritance tax, which in the U.S. and U.K. enables the taxman to grab between 35 per cent and 40 per cent of a person’s estate after he or she dies. Unlike those countries, Canada doesn’t tax gifts either. That means wealthy relatives from the old country can send money to the grandkids in Canada without a tax penalty, or parents in Canada could give money or property to their adult children without facing a gift tax. (They might still incur a capital gains tax.) And unlike some countries, such as France, there is no explicit wealth tax on those with high incomes.
Taxes aren’t everything, of course. Canada’s biggest cities now boast the types of amenities and services once the domain of larger centres like New York and London. Millionaires who move to Vancouver or Toronto have their pick of high-end condos. Top-notch restaurants and luxury shopping abound. Meanwhile, Canada’s stable banking sector and straightforward financial regulations set it apart at a time when other global financial centres are piling on red tape.
Put it all together and Canada’s appeal to the world’s wealthy is compelling. “There are jurisdictions with zero income-tax rates, so it’s not like Canada has the very best taxes in the world,” says McCullough. “But the question is, do you want to live on a little tiny island somewhere to pay no tax, or do you want to live within an hour of Manhattan in a place where your kids can go to school and you don’t have to live in a gated community?”
But while rich foreigners have much to gain by moving to Canada, critics have long questioned whether Canada gets enough out of the deal. Last year, the Analysis Group set out to gauge the economic impact of the federal government’s Immigrant Investor Program, conducting the first formal survey of investor immigrants. The results suggest rich immigrants are having a profound impact. More than 60 per cent aquired assets in Canada ranging in value from $100,000 to $999,999, while another 28 per cent bought assets worth more than $1 million. Just over half were self-employed, while 33 per cent invested up to $1 million or more in businesses. The study concluded the average immigrant investor injects roughly $800,000 into the economy. With roughly 2,500 families entering Canada under the program each year, the economy gets a boost of roughly $2 billion.
Even so, a common complaint is that wealthy immigrants spend just enough time here to get a coveted Canadian passport, then leave. After obtaining the five-year tax break, thanks to the immigrant trust rules, there’s nothing stopping a newly minted Canadian from moving elsewhere and never paying a dime in income taxes here. How common that may be is up for debate. Lawyers who work with wealthy migrants say many may intend to leave, but their families quickly become accustomed to the lifestyle here—particularly those from the Middle East or Asia. “Canada is extremely sticky,” says Jonathan Garbutt, a Toronto tax lawyer. “Even though the tax plan may have been ‘get in, get passport, get out,’ it often doesn’t work like that. My big fear is that Canada will have a knee-jerk reaction and say we’ve got to make these people pay. The answer is: they’ll just leave because they can go wherever they want.”
As attractive as Canada is now, it may get even more so, particularly when compared to the U.S. In short, America is broke. Decades of overspending, declining tax revenues and the future bill for social programs threaten to leave a US$60-trillion hole in America’s finances. It’s not one that can be plugged by cost cuts alone, as President Barack Obama argued last month. “It would be nice if we could keep every tax break there is, but we’ve got to make some tough choices here if we want to reduce our deficit,” he said. “If we choose to keep those tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires . . . then that means we’ve got to cut some kids off from getting a college scholarship…that means that Medicare has to bear a greater part of the burden.”
In other words, wealthy Americans can expect to see their tax bill shoot up. How high? According to a recent Wall Street Journal editorial, Americans earning US$1 million could see the combined federal and state top tax rate climb to 62 per cent. At one point, Senate Democrats proposed a three per cent surtax on rich Americans, while Obama has vowed not to extend Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy if he’s re-elected. Many dispute the actual increase in taxes, but the trend is clear. “The question is, where are you going to go to get those extra taxes?” says McCullough. “You have to go to the wealthy, who already pay 43 per cent of the taxes. It’s going to become very onerous.”
And very hard to escape. Most countries, Canada included, impose taxes based on residence. If one were to move to another country, taxes would no longer be payable here. Not so in America, which applies taxes based on citizenship no matter where a person lives. “There’s a growing number of very wealthy people realizing they’ll have to give up a huge chunk of their fortune to Uncle Sam if they remain American,” says Garbutt.
It’s why high-net-worth types like Peter, the millionaire fund manager, are giving up their citizenship instead. He’s far from alone. American law requires the names of people who give up their citizenship to be published in the U.S. Federal Registry. According to, which tallied the names, 1,485 individuals became ex-Americans last year, up from 731 in 2009 and 226 the year before. And because of flaws with the way renunciation records are kept, the number of people quitting America is likely far higher.
Canada isn’t alone in trying to attract wealthy immigrants. Britain has said it will dramatically cut the time it takes rich foreigners to get permanent residency. Canada also throws up roadblocks to super-rich immigrants, says Lesperance. Since it can take five years for applications to be processed, he’d like to see Immigration Canada charge ultra-high-net-worth immigrants an even bigger fee, then use the money to set up a special unit dedicated to handling their cases. He also says rules that require permanent residents to be physically present in Canada for a minimum amount of time don’t make sense when targeting rich immigrants with international business interests. “The government of Canada needs to acknowledge that it’s not always a bad thing to act in our own country’s best interest,” he says. “These people are wealth creators. They are good for Canada.”
Of course, as rich immigrants like Peter have found, the tax haven of Canada can be good for them—and their bank accounts—too.

Pilot Project to Attract More Working Families to B.C.

"Zooming across frozen Green Lake near Wh...Image via Wikipedia
ICTORIA, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(Marketwire - Aug. 12, 2011) - Family members of most temporary foreign workers in British Columbia will be able to work for any employer in the province, thanks to a pilot project launched today.
The announcement was made by Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney and British Columbia Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation Pat Bell.
"Since I became Minister, I have heard from workers, employers, labour advocates and others who have asked me to make Canada more welcoming for working families coming to Canada as temporary residents," said Minister Kenney. "With this pilot project, we will examine the benefits of allowing family members of temporary foreign workers to work while they are here with a principal applicant who has been hired because of his or her skills."
In general, temporary foreign workers come to Canada to meet the needs of a specific employer who has been unable to find citizens or permanent residents for the available jobs. An open work permit, however, allows the holder to accept any job with any employer.
Previously, only spouses and common-law partners of temporary foreign workers employed in a managerial, professional or skilled trades job have been eligible to obtain an open work permit in British Columbia. Starting August 15, spouses, common-law partners and working-age dependants of most temporary foreign workers will be eligible, including many workers in occupations that require lower levels of formal training.
"More than a million jobs will open up in B.C. by 2020, and we will need foreign workers to help meet the skills shortages our businesses are already beginning to face," said Minister Bell. "Giving more spouses and working-aged children of temporary foreign workers the chance to take jobs will support local businesses, while contributing to local, regional and provincial economic growth."
Up to 1,800 open work permits will be available under the pilot project, which will end on February 15, 2013.
"Nearly 32,000 temporary foreign workers made the transition to permanent status in 2010, and of those, almost 2,300 chose to immigrate permanently to BC," Minister Kenney noted. "We understand the important role that foreign workers have in every region of the country and we will continue to look at ways to attract workers who have the skills we need now and into the future."
British Columbia's shared role in immigration was cemented in April 2010 with the signing of the Canada-British Columbia Immigration Agreement.
Connect with the Province of B.C. at

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation: Welcome to Canada!

Canada Mortgage and Housing CorporationImage via Wikipedia
OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - July 28, 2011) - You've made Canada your new home and are probably in the process of searching for a place of your own. Looking for a home can be a very exciting experience that can be both rewarding and challenging.
As Canada's national housing agency, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) has been providing Canadians – including new Canadians like you – with information and tools to help you make informed homeownership decisions.
Canada's population growth is becoming increasingly reliant upon immigration. In the 2006 Census, close to six million Canadians identified themselves as immigrants, representing about 20 per cent of the entire Canadian population.
To help new Canadians make informed housing-related decisions and find safe, affordable homes for their families, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation has developed a multi-language one-stop online source for housing-related information. Visit CMHC at
CMHC wants to provide newcomers to Canada with relevant and culturally appropriate housing-related information. A wealth of information is available for newcomers in both official languages – English and French – as well as in Mandarin/Simplified Chinese, Arabic, Punjabi, Spanish, Tagalog and Urdu.
This housing-related information is divided into three areas to make things simpler: Renting an apartment - for most newcomers, your first home will likely be a rented house or apartment. Renting a home should provide you with a safe place where you can begin to adjust to your new life in Canada. It can also give you the time to look for a home to buy without feeling pressured into making a quick decision; Buying a home - CMHC has created a series of guides and tools that take you through the home buying process; and Looking after your home – which will help guide you on how to take care of your home and prevent problems before they happen. Don't forget to also check out the videos on buying, renting and renovating a home.
For more information or for FREE information on other aspects of renting, buying and renovating a home in Canada, visit For 65 years, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation has been Canada's national housing agency and a source of objective, reliable housing expertise.

Contact Information

For story ideas or to access CMHC experts or expertise
CMHC Media Relations - National Office
(613) 748-2799


Safety first: Foreign investors bond with Canada

An assortment of United States coins, includin...Image via Wikipedia

DAVID PARKINSON | Columnist profile | E-mail
From Saturday's Globe and Mail

Canadian investors have long been accused of being homers. As the rest of the world has been telling us lately, that might not be such a bad thing.
Despite the elimination of foreign-content restrictions on registered retirement savings plans six years ago, most Canadians still keep the vast bulk of their investments in domestic securities. A recent study showed that even the country’s wealthiest investors – those with more than $250,000 to invest – average only 15 per cent of their portfolios in overseas holdings.


But while investing experts have been telling us for years that we should be looking beyond Canada, data this week from Statistics Canada highlighted that foreign investors have increasingly been flocking to Canada. Foreign buyers snapped up a net $15.4-billion of Canadian securities in May, adding to a year that is shaping up as another big one for foreign buying of Canada’s stock and bond markets.
Seeing as most of us – for better or worse – have most of our money in the Canadian market anyway, it might be worthwhile taking a closer look at what those investing tourists in our country have been buying.
Destination of choice
Warren Lovely, head of macro strategy at CIBC World Markets, broke down Statscan’s data in a report this week to get a better sense of where the foreign money has been flowing.
While equity purchases are up significantly for the year to date, bonds have increasingly replaced equities as the destination of choice for foreign buyers – punctuated by a big surge in bond buying in May, particularly in federal government and federal Crown corporation bonds.
The impetus may be the deterioration of the government debt situation in Europe and the United States, which has fuelled a flight to safe, high-quality bond markets such as Canada. At the same time, it has convinced investors to step back from so-called “risk assets,” such as equities. Canada is being perceived as a low-risk market in risky times, and government bonds are the lowest-risk option for investors.
Crowning your portfolio
One particularly interesting trend has been the sharp gains in buying of bonds issued by federal Crown corporations. Mr. Lovely said that as big foreign buyers such as central banks have become more comfortable with Canada, they have begun to move past the federal government debt to buy high-quality Crown issues such as Canada Mortgage Bonds – which carry the same top-notch credit rating but offer higher interest rates.
“It’s yield enhancement without erosion in credit quality,” he said – adding that this same logic makes sense for smaller retail investors, too.
“There is a very strong argument that this could be a diversification tool for investors of all stripes.”

CIBC’s Launches Campaign In Different Languages To Reach New Immigrants

CIBC Tower, Windsor, ON CanadaImage via Wikipedia
TORONTO – CIBC has recently launched a new marketing campaign, which includes print, online, in-branch, out-of-home and TV ads, featuring advice, expertise and products that are relevant to the specific needs of newcomers to Canada.
The campaign includes unique elements that reach out to new Canadians with important cultural tips and financial advice, through advertising in Chinese grocery stores, South Asian movie theatres, and malls and community centres in select neighbourhoods.
For the first time ever the campaign will also include dedicated TV spots in Mandarin and Cantonese during Asian programming and in English during South Asian programming in order to demonstrate our commitment to reaching these audiences in a culturally relevant way. The commercials begin airing this week.
In addition to highly competitive products and services, CIBC continues to invest in new and expanded branches in high growth markets. These branches reflect the communities they serve, with many offering banking and advice in multiple languages. CIBC also offers telephone banking in English, French and Chinese languages.
CIBC’s Welcome to Canada website has a wide range of helpful information for new Canadians preparing to move to Canada and to help them get established once they are here.
The campaign will have high visibility in newcomer communities nationwide, with a special focus on the Greater Toronto Area, Vancouver Lower Mainland, Montreal, Calgary and Edmonton.


Source: MuchmorCanada
By now you’ve read every bit of advice that explains how to make yourself more attractive to employers. You know to clean up your online profiles, update your résumé, practice your interview answers, and network. But what if you’re looking for a job in a different time zone?
Long-distance job hunts bring with them a special set of requirements that can seem daunting at first, but aren’t all that much worse than a regular job search. With a little planning, you can conduct a long-distance job search that will land you a job in any city you want.
Choose locations
Hunting for a job in a single city is difficult. Hunting for one in all 50 states is virtually impossible. Rather than approach your job search as a nationwide Easter egg hunt, decide what cities you want to focus on. Although you might be open to any location that will offer you a job, you should make a list of five or 10 cities where you can see yourself working. For example if you hate to drive and love cold winters, then you should probably cross Los Angeles off of your list.
Know the job market
When you’re looking at potential locations for your job search, do some research on the local economy. Not all cities offer the same opportunities. Although you know that local unemployment rates differ from city to city, remember that industry vitality is just as diverse. One city might have a low unemployment rate, but your industry isn’t necessarily enjoying the same boom. Look at data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and peruse newspapers for localized information.
Use your network
The glory of social media is that networks aren’t confined by geography anymore. Look at your Facebook friends and you probably know people in dozens of states, if not countries. Use your contacts from all of your social media profiles to publicize your job search and ask for any information that could guide you toward the right opportunity. When it comes to job hunting, you can’t ever have too many people looking for jobs on your behalf.
Brush up on your phone skills
Phone interviews typically come before any in-person interview, but the likelihood of them increases greatly when you’re searching long distance. In most cases, employers won’t expect you to fly out for a first-round interview, so a phone interview is most common, and you shouldn’t take it lightly. Practice speaking at a calm pace, be certain your phone signal is strong and do a few dry runs with a friend.
Perhaps most importantly, job seekers are often afraid to appear impolite when interviewers call and say, “Sure, I can talk right now.” If you are caught off guard or if you are in the middle of feeding your children and doing laundry, you can be honest. Even if you ask for 15 minutes to go to a quieter room, you want to create the best setting for your interview.
Decide if you’ll travel for an interview
Sometimes you’ll get to a second or third round of interviews when the employer wants to meet you in person. Sometimes the company pays for travel, but other times they don’t. Set a few ground rules for yourself in order to determine what opportunities you consider worth your time and money. Also, if asked to travel, find out as much information as possible about so that you can make the arrangements that work best for you. See what dates are available (so you can book the most affordable flight) and how long the process takes (so you know if you can fly home that day and save hotel fare). You want to know as much as possible beforehand so you can make the most informed decision possible.
Relocating for a job is a big move that can pay off for your career, but it can also require sacrifices. Leaving behind your friends, paying for the move, and spending the time on the move itself all require a lot of energy. You want to be certain the city you’re moving to is worth it, so if you haven’t visited in a while or ever, find a way to visit before you move. Not only will you find out if the culture is right for you, but you will also get a better idea of the layout. You could realize that you should extend your job search to nearby suburbs or towns, which can open up a new set of possibilities.
Know your own relocation plan
The most important part of your long-distance job search is having a flexible game plan. Without a job offer, you might not have a definitive move date, but you should have an idea of what is possible in case you get an offer. Employers know you’re not a local candidate, so they will want to know how soon you can start and when you plan to be in the city.
If you get an offer and then say you need time to put your house on the market, find a good school for your children, and decide where you want to live, you’ll probably lose out on the opportunity. Most employers understand the complexity of a long-distance job search, but they don’t have six months to wait for you, either. A flexible plan allows you and the employer to negotiate a mutually agreeable start date while also showing that you’re serious about relocating.
Writers Bio: Anthony Balderrama is a writer and blogger for and its job blog, The Work Buzz. He researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues.

Near 50 per cent increase to online Sask. jobs

Saskatchewan employers continue to create job opportunities in huge numbers, even on the web.
Saskatchewan employers continue to create job opportunities in huge numbers, even on the web.
Photo Credit: -, Global Saskatoon website experiences its second straight month of over 13-thousand job posts. The website saw an approximate 50 per cent increase over June, 2010.
Rob Norris, Advanced Education, Employment and Immigration Minister, said “employers in every corner of the province continue to open the doors of opportunity for Saskatchewan people.”
Employers from 327 Saskatchewan communities posted over 67-thousand job opportunities on the Saskatchewan website between January and June. This shows an increase of over 13-thousand over the same period last year.
“We already have the lowest unemployment rate in the country, and with a growing number of job prospects, people from across Canada and around the world are looking at Saskatchewan as a great place to live, work and raise a family.”
The trades and primary industry categories accounted for more than a third of the overall total for June. is Saskatchewan’s largest job-matching website. The site provides job posting services free of charge for employers across the province and free resume posting for job seekers from around the world.

Small towns try to jump-start immigration

Manitoba Legislature, meeting place of the Leg...Image via WikipediaBy: Bill Redekop

CARTWRIGHT -- When Alex and Nadia Tolmachev and daughter, Ekaterina, emigrated from Russia five years ago, they didn't know a soul in Manitoba but at least Alex had a job waiting, thanks to an immigration consultant.
Alex worked in Winkler for a few years, then moved west to the village of Cartwright, where he opened his own carpentry shop, and now has gained a reputation in restoring heritage buildings like the Christ Church Anglican (1898) in Cartwright, and the historic train station museum in Miami.

He's fortunate. That kind of immigration -- matching immigrants with jobs -- has virtually stopped in rural Manitoba the past two years, the unintended result of the provincial government's Bill 22.
Now the government is trying to correct the problem by supporting a pilot project.
The pilot project resulted when companies in the Pembina Valley told a recent survey they need at least 600 new employees within the next 12 to 18 months. Many businesses in the Winkler-Morden area have rebounded from the recession stronger than ever and, if they had more staff, could fill the void left by American companies that went out of business in the recession.
But they haven't been able to access foreign workers like before under Bill 22.
Bill 22, passed in 2009, changed the Worker Recruitment and Protection Act to protect immigrants from unscrupulous immigration consultants. Under the bill, consultants can no longer act as both immigration agents and job recruiters. There were too many cases of immigrants landing and not having the job promised them.
But Bill 22 made it too hard for many legitimate consultants to recruit immigrants for the labour market, to the point where most new immigrants to rural Manitoba are now arriving under the "family stream" of the provincial nominee program (PNP). Under the family class, landed immigrants sponsor a friend or close relative for immigration but not for the labour market. However, the PNP was designed primarily to match skilled foreign workers with provincial employment needs.
Winkler officials initiated talks with the province that resulted in the "strategic initiative." Under the program, the local economic development office will act like a recruiter by reviewing immigrant applications and identifying newcomers with skills that are in demand. The economic development officer for the City of Winkler and RM of Stanley will fill that function along with an industry committee. They have already begun reviewing immigrant applications on a weekly basis.
If successful, government hopes to roll the pilot project out across the province, said Ben Rempel, assistant deputy minister in the province's immigration office. Rempel said an imbalance of immigrants was starting to arrive under the PNP's "family stream."
He maintained the pilot project is part of "a learning experience" for communities trying to adapt to Bill 22.
How big an impact did Bill 22 have? To the west of Pembina Valley, in small-town Cartwright, people pulled off a minor miracle six years ago by drawing 140 immigrants to their small, little-known town near the Canada-U.S. border, including the Tolmachev family.
Penny Burton, the economic development officer for that area, said that immigration would not have taken place under Bill 22.
"The province now recognizes what has happened," said Irma Maier, an immigrant herself and owner of Compass Canada Immigration Services in Morden. Maier helped bring most of the newcomers into Cartwright.
In Winkler, about 10 families have already been approved under the new "strategic initiative."
"Our goal is to bring in 100 to 150 families" under the pilot project, said Darlis Collinge, the Winkler-Stanley economic development officer.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 30, 2011 B3

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