Steve Lafleur: Only more immigrants can save Canada’s economy

National Post, National Post
Monday, Aug. 1, 2011
In his immigration policy remarks on July 19, Minister Jason Kenney acknowledged that Canada would need roughly one million immigrants per year in order to maintain the ratio of working age citizens to retirees. Citing a lack of resources for integrating new Canadians, and a concern that accelerating immigration levels too rapidly could lead to a nativist backlash, he said that it won’t happen.
While the Minister’s expressed concerns are valid, they pale in comparison to the demographic reality. The proportion of Canadians aged 60 and over is projected to increase from roughly one-fifth to nearly one-third by 2020. Our national debt stands at over $582-billion, and is increasing at a rate of more than $1,400 per second. This burden doesn’t include provincial government debts, or unfunded pension liabilities such as the $748-billion shortfall for the CPP. For those Canadians hoping to start collecting CPP in the next decade, the question shouldn’t be if we can integrate one-million immigrants per year, but how.
While taking in four times more immigrants than we do now would present some logistical challenges, they are not insurmountable. One criticism against more immigrants is that more immigrants will put greater stress on the housing market. This assumes that the housing stock is fixed, and that all immigrants will go to the hottest real estate markets. Canada’s three biggest cities have admittedly been hostile to new development, which is pricing many out of the market. A healthier attitude toward development will be crucial if those cities are to remain affordable.
However, the immigration question presents a great opportunity not just for smaller metropolitan areas, but for rural areas as well. Rural areas in Canada are often resource rich, but population poor. It is most evident in Saskatchewan, where there are typically 10,000 vacancies in any skilled trade in the province. There are plenty of resources, but not many people. Saskatchewan is twice the size of Germany, with 1/80th the population. There is no shortage of room or resources.
Smaller centres also offer the advantage of lower cost housing, and would require less expensive infrastructure upgrades. Manitoba is leading the country in terms of targeted immigration to smaller centres. Rural Manitoba received nearly 3,200 immigrants in 2008 alone, and the province is clamouring for more. For too long, our immigration policy has been fixated on Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. High levels of rural immigration can revitalize communities, and Manitoba has shown the way.
The immediate costs of immigration have to be acknowledged. Language training, security screening and so forth cost money. Some argue that the costs outweigh the benefits. It is reasonable to require newcomers to our country to shoulder the full cost of their resettlement here, and Canada should consider changing its immigration system to ensure that absorbing a new immigrant does not impose a financial cost on the country as a whole.
Further, rather than relying on the federal immigration system, the federal government should give in to provincial demands for an increase in the number of immigrants admitted through provincial immigrant nominee programs. The programs attract immigrants who come to Canada to fill labour market vacancies, as well as immigrant entrepreneurs.
The federal government has announced that it will increase the quota from 36,000 to 40,000. But this increase is nowhere near enough. The nominee program helps places in lesser demand attract workers and revitalize small urban and rural communities. It also ensures that participants have employment before they arrive in the country. Smaller communities are typically better at welcoming and integrating newcomers, too. If the federal government is concerned about the costs of immigration, and they should be, they could even reduce regular immigration rates and aggressively expand provincial nominee programs.
Regardless of how they go about it, the federal government needs to ensure that we have enough workers to fuel the country’s economic growth where it needs fuelling, and to fund the Baby Boom generation’s retirement obligations. Having made these commitments to retirees, the government must find a way to meet them.
More retirees and fewer workers will make funding unfunded pension liabilities and repaying our national and provincial debts a staggering burden on young workers. Short of forcing people out of retirement, or returning to steady pre-Second World War fertility levels, more immigration is our only option for addressing our demographic decline. The only other option will be steep cuts to social entitlement programs, an option no politician is likely to propose.
National Post
Steve Lafleur is policy analyst with the [external] Frontier Centre for Public Policy.

Steve Lafleur: Only more immigrants can save Canada’s economy

National Post, National Post
Monday, Aug. 1, 2011
In his immigration policy remarks on July 19, Minister Jason Kenney acknowledged that Canada would need roughly one million immigrants per year in order to maintain the ratio of working age citizens to retirees. Citing a lack of resources for integrating new Canadians, and a concern that accelerating immigration levels too rapidly could lead to a nativist backlash, he said that it won’t happen.
While the Minister’s expressed concerns are valid, they pale in comparison to the demographic reality. The proportion of Canadians aged 60 and over is projected to increase from roughly one-fifth to nearly one-third by 2020. Our national debt stands at over $582-billion, and is increasing at a rate of more than $1,400 per second. This burden doesn’t include provincial government debts, or unfunded pension liabilities such as the $748-billion shortfall for the CPP. For those Canadians hoping to start collecting CPP in the next decade, the question shouldn’t be if we can integrate one-million immigrants per year, but how.
While taking in four times more immigrants than we do now would present some logistical challenges, they are not insurmountable. One criticism against more immigrants is that more immigrants will put greater stress on the housing market. This assumes that the housing stock is fixed, and that all immigrants will go to the hottest real estate markets. Canada’s three biggest cities have admittedly been hostile to new development, which is pricing many out of the market. A healthier attitude toward development will be crucial if those cities are to remain affordable.
However, the immigration question presents a great opportunity not just for smaller metropolitan areas, but for rural areas as well. Rural areas in Canada are often resource rich, but population poor. It is most evident in Saskatchewan, where there are typically 10,000 vacancies in any skilled trade in the province. There are plenty of resources, but not many people. Saskatchewan is twice the size of Germany, with 1/80th the population. There is no shortage of room or resources.
Smaller centres also offer the advantage of lower cost housing, and would require less expensive infrastructure upgrades. Manitoba is leading the country in terms of targeted immigration to smaller centres. Rural Manitoba received nearly 3,200 immigrants in 2008 alone, and the province is clamouring for more. For too long, our immigration policy has been fixated on Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. High levels of rural immigration can revitalize communities, and Manitoba has shown the way.
The immediate costs of immigration have to be acknowledged. Language training, security screening and so forth cost money. Some argue that the costs outweigh the benefits. It is reasonable to require newcomers to our country to shoulder the full cost of their resettlement here, and Canada should consider changing its immigration system to ensure that absorbing a new immigrant does not impose a financial cost on the country as a whole.
Further, rather than relying on the federal immigration system, the federal government should give in to provincial demands for an increase in the number of immigrants admitted through provincial immigrant nominee programs. The programs attract immigrants who come to Canada to fill labour market vacancies, as well as immigrant entrepreneurs.
The federal government has announced that it will increase the quota from 36,000 to 40,000. But this increase is nowhere near enough. The nominee program helps places in lesser demand attract workers and revitalize small urban and rural communities. It also ensures that participants have employment before they arrive in the country. Smaller communities are typically better at welcoming and integrating newcomers, too. If the federal government is concerned about the costs of immigration, and they should be, they could even reduce regular immigration rates and aggressively expand provincial nominee programs.
Regardless of how they go about it, the federal government needs to ensure that we have enough workers to fuel the country’s economic growth where it needs fuelling, and to fund the Baby Boom generation’s retirement obligations. Having made these commitments to retirees, the government must find a way to meet them.
More retirees and fewer workers will make funding unfunded pension liabilities and repaying our national and provincial debts a staggering burden on young workers. Short of forcing people out of retirement, or returning to steady pre-Second World War fertility levels, more immigration is our only option for addressing our demographic decline. The only other option will be steep cuts to social entitlement programs, an option no politician is likely to propose.
National Post
Steve Lafleur is policy analyst with the [external] Frontier Centre for Public Policy.

Students flock to Canada instead of Australia

International students are flocking to Canada at the expense of Australia due to uncertainty over visa rules and not because of the high Australian dollar, according to a major education company.
One of the biggest providers of English courses to overseas students, Navitas, says parents in China and Vietnam are confused by changes to Australia's visa rules and are now choosing to send their children to other english-speaking countries.
Navitas says student enrolments in Australia have fallen 14 per cent for the 2011 June/July semester, in line with "similar industry trends".
It comes as the federal government conducts a review of the student visa program.
Among other things, the review is looking at reducing visa assessment levels for Chinese and Indian applicants.
Navitas chief executive Rod Jones said parents, particularly in the lucrative Asian markets, were unsure about visa requirements and were now sending their children to Canada and to lesser extent, the United States.
"They don't understand what it all means," Mr Jones said.
"Canada has been an enormous beneficiary out of this. The numbers there have just gone out of control."
However, he predicts the Canadian government will tighten its visa policies for international students as Australia and the United Kingdom have done.
"They just can't absorb the demand," Mr Jones said.
Navitas reported a 20 per cent increase in full year profit on Tuesday despite a softening of demand for student enrolments.
The education provider has more than 8,500 international students on its Australian books and a total of 14,600 students worldwide.
It says instability caused by the federal election, changing government policy and the strong Australian dollar hit the English division in full year 2011.
But Mr Jones said the strong Australian dollar wasn't the "major impact".
Canada, which also had a relatively strong currency, was doing particularly well with international student numbers while the United Kingdom had experienced a downturn despite the weakness in the pound.
"The biggest things at play here are government policy," he said.
Anecdotal evidence from the Navitas' Asian operations shows China and Vietnam markets were the most worrying, Mr Jones says.
Immigration Minister Chris Bowen has said the review of the student visa program will look at ways to better manage immigration risk in the student visa caseload and deter breaches and misuse of the program.
It would also consider the suitability of separate visas for different education sectors.
To date, the review has received two hundred submissions and is expected to release its findings in September.
Nexus Canada can assist you in the process of getting your study permit/visa to Canada.

7 Success Secrets for New Immigrants


By Brian Epstein



In March 2010, I attended a conference sponsored by the Newcomer Centre of Peel in Mississauga, Ontario. Nick Noorani, Motivational Speaker, Speaker, Entrepreneur, and Immigrant Advocate was the guest speaker.

His 7 Success Secrets for Canadian Immigrants are:

1) Learn English – Many new immigrants speak English but they need to perfect their English to be well understand by English-speaking Canadians and to excel in the Canadian workplace. Although one may speak English in his/her native country, it may not be at the same level as Canadian born speakers or at the acceptable standards in the Canadian workplace. Be open to do what you can do to improve your English Speaking skills – take upgrading courses, join Toastmasters, listen to English-speaking talk stations including CBC radio and watch English news. Make friends with English-speaking people and try to speak as much as possible.

2) Stay Positive – Coming to Canada and finding work and integrating into a new society can be very challenging. The people who stay positive and look upon their new experiences in a positive light and a new adventure will be in a better situation. You will come across negative people in Canada as there are in every country – for every negative person you have in your life, you need to add a positive person. Surround yourself with positive people – there are many naysayers. These people are not going to help you. The positive people will help your attitude and your outlook.

3) Embrace Canada – You have made a big move to come to Canada – be a part of your new country and know as much as you can about it – whether it be news, sports or politics. This is your country now. Get involved in your community in Canada. Know about your sports teams – whether it is in basketball or hockey or others. Be able to talk at the water cooler about what is going on.

4) Have a Plan B – Everyone has his own skills and experience. One comes to Canada with the goals and hopes of working in a field that is similar to what you have done. To ensure that you are successful, one needs to have a Plan B and as some of the participants at the symposium said, you need to have a Plan C, D and E. Perhaps you may have another passion – it may be in a different career path or a second or third choice related to what you were originally chosen to do. Be open to the idea of taking another risk after doing your research first.

5) Stay Clear of ethnic – Silos – Immigrants who integrate into the Canadian workplace and Canadian life the best are those who make friends with people from all ethnic groups. Canada is a very multicultural country. Don’t limit yourself to be only with people from your native country or from your own language group. Be open to making friends with people from all religious and cultural groups.

6) Take risks – By deciding to come to Canada, you have taken one of the biggest risks in your life. For that you should be congratulated. To continue your road to success, you need to keep an open mind to new ideas and possibilities. This may be a new business venture or a possible job opportunity for you to consider.

7) Volunteer, mentor, network – The way to finding work and succeeding in Canada is being involved in the community, volunteering with different professional associations, charities and causes that are important to you. This will build your network and your friendships/relationships that will help you in ensuring your success in Canada in the present and future time.

Attracting the entrepreneurial immigrant

By:TAVIA GRANT,The Globe and Mail.

With a low birth rate, Canada will need immigrants to help drive economic growth. But does our system reward the immigrants most likely to create that growth?
We want skilled workers, or so goes the mantra. But the set of skills most likely to create jobs – entrepreneurship, or that intangible mix of creativity, personal drive and business acumen – gets short shrift in our immigration system.
Immigrants on both sides of the border have been a driving force behind innovation, job creation and entrepreneurship, from Google's Sergey Brin to Intel's Andy Grove, Research In Motion's Mike Lazaridis and Lee Lau, who started ATI Technologies which has since sold for $5.4-billion.
Canada, however, has done a generally poor job of recruiting the most promising entrepreneurs. The federal government recently suspended its entrepreneur-class immigrant program after waiting times ballooned and the number of successful applications dwindled. It says the program needs an overhaul and is studying how to attract and retain innovative entrepreneurs.
Under former rules, entrepreneurs needed $300,000 in net worth, a threshold that deterred many immigrants, young people in particular. The other challenge: waiting times of up to eight years in the entrepreneur class. Immigration lawyer Sergio Karas says that wait is driving away the best and the brightest.
The review comes amid a growing public debate over the level and mix of immigrants entering the country. The discussion isn't just about immigration, though; it plays into the very notion of what kind of a country citizens want Canada to be.
Mr. Karas believes entrepreneurs with a proven track record in their home country should be vaulted to the very top of the priority list, ahead of every other type of newcomer, including skilled workers.
“We need someone who’s going to create the next RIM, or the next Magna. … We should make a commitment as a nation that this is what we want from our immigration system,” Mr. Karas says.
The first step is to attract aspiring entrepreneurs. In that respect, “Canada has lost a bit of its edge in the past few years,” says Andy Jasuja, founder of tech firm Sigma Group, who is based in Toronto but spoke from a business trip in New Delhi. “It still has a good brand, no doubt about it. But these days, countries are competing for talent, and entrepreneurs are in very, very short supply.”
Promising young people nowadays are drawn to Australia, which is aggressively promoting itself to them, says Mr. Jasuja, who started his business in 1990 and now employs 800 people in Canada and India. He believes Canada should market itself to global entrepreneurs more assertively and create a whole “ecosystem” that nurtures new businesses – for example, giving them a tax holiday for the first few years of a startup.
Canada – an innovation laggard – would see rich rewards from getting it right. At every level of analysis, immigrants boost innovation, the Conference Board of Canada has found. Newcomers have disproportionate success in research, spark business ideas, expand trade relations and bring greater foreign direct investment, it said in a study last fall.
In the U.S, a whopping 25 per cent of all venture-backed public companies started between 1990 and 2005 had at least one immigrant as a key founder, including companies such as eBay. Immigrant-founded venture companies are clustered in the most innovative corners of the economy – high-technology manufacturing, information technology and life sciences.
It's not enough to attract them. The next step is to ensure the soil is fertile for them to flourish once they arrive.
***
Some newcomers arrive in Canada aiming to start a business off the bat. Others turn to entrepreneurship out of necessity, lack of job opportunities or happenstance, and typically face more headwinds. Either way, immigrants are far more likely than Canadian-born people to be self-employed.
Kam Ko fits into the latter category. The Hong Kong engineer started his Ontario business in 1993 by chance, after a customer gave him an extra order to weld parts. The first year was a slog: he couldn’t get a bank loan, so he borrowed start-up money from family. He kept his full-time day job and then toiled in his rented shop as a “janitor, cleaner, engineer, robot programmer and also operator” until one or two in the morning.
The hard work bore fruit. After the first year, he quit his regular job and began to hire others. He got a patent for a new type of ergonomic dental chair. Now his company, Kobotic Ltd., has expanded into robotics and design and exports products worldwide. Nearly all of his 40 employees are newcomers, even though some struggle with English, because he knows how hard it can be to get Canadian work experience.
“I look at entrepreneurs as two types,” he says. “The first have money and experience already. … The second are younger and not as well-to-do, yet they have a lot of ideas and energy. We should make it easier for them.”
Mr. Ko says aspiring entrepreneurs could use something he didn’t have – help navigating the system.
Support needn’t be complicated, or, in this age of austerity, expensive. But so far, much of it has been piecemeal and varies by province and city.
Some schools, such as York University, are running bridging programs to help immigrant professionals adjust to the Canadian labour market. Mentoring and apprenticeships have been shown to improve immigrants’ outcomes, by expanding their networks and giving them Canadian experience.
Social networking sites, such as LoonLounge, which has 52,000 members, make connecting and getting advice easier. This spring, the Business Development Bank of Canada and the Canadian Youth Business Foundation teamed up to announce financing of up to $15,000 for young entrepreneurs who are newcomers. At an entrepreneurial boot camp – aimed at the next 36 young leaders of Canada – half of its inaugural winners are immigrants.
Marion Annau is founder and president of Connect Legal, a new charity that gives legal education and advice to immigrants with few resources who want to start a business. She helps people untangle the complex legalese of contracts, for example, and is seeing demand for her services grow.
“We open the doors to Canada and we say we are the land of opportunity,” she says. “And we get some fantastic talent – the people I deal with are incredibly smart, driven, determined – and we need to harness that talent when it comes.”
By the numbers
291
Number of immigrants who landed as permanent residents last year as entrepreneurs, down from 820 in 2006.
19
Percentage of immigrant workers who were self-employed in the late 2000s, compared with 15 per cent of the Canadian-born population.
33
Percentage of immigrants in 2000 who pursued self-employment because of a lack of job opportunities in the paid labour market.
42
Average age of immigrant entrepreneurs admitted to Canada last year, at the time of their application.
71
Percentage of immigrants who entered self-employment voluntarily, motivated by entrepreneurial values, versus 59 per cent among their Canadian-born peers.
Sources: Conference Board of Canada, Citizen and Immigration Canada, Statistics Canada.

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