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More Skilled Workers Needed

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OTTAWA — Canada’s immigration policies are becoming restrictive at a time when the country needs to build its skilled workforce, Nancy Hughes Anthony, Canadian Chamber of Commerce president, said yesterday.

To make the economy more productive and innovative, Canada should be encouraging highly skilled people to come to Canada, Ms. Hughes Anthony told the Canadian Club in Toronto.

The goals of the government’s innovation strategy — announced last month by Allan Rock, the Industry Minister, and Jane Stewart, the Human Resources Minister — are being blunted by new immigration rules now being considered by Parliament.

The rules are in response to a heightened concern for security and will reduce the numbers of immigrants able to enter the country, Ms. Hughes Anthony said.

“Immigration has always been a major source of qualified workers for Canada, but as global competition for skilled labour increases we must become more aggressive in our approach,” Ms. Hughes Anthony said.

“Unfortunately, there seems to be a contradiction between this goal and the new restrictive immigration regulations before Parliament. If Canada does not fix its system and cannot compete in a positive way for people, then our members cannot continue to grow the country’s economy or compete globally.”

Canada’s workforce is ageing and will not be completely replaced by subsequent generation in the decades ahead.

Ms. Stewart has suggested Canada will need at least one million new workers from overseas by the end of the decade.

If Canada plans to attract this level of immigration, the country also needs to be more accommodating in recognizing the skill levels of immigrants, Ms. Hughes Anthony said.

“Too many high-skilled people faced with the costs of repeating their studies or undertaking further training have simply given up, resulting in a significant productivity loss to Canada.

“The government can help to ease this problem by working with industry and professional associations to develop national and international accreditation standards to evaluate foreign credentials.”

The government can also help to attract highly skilled people by cutting taxes, particularly income taxes, she said.

“In order to attract and retain highly skilled and productive human capital, much more needs to be done in providing fair taxes for all individuals,” she said.

In its innovation strategy, Ottawa has committed to keeping tax levels consistent and competitive with the G7 nations.

But Ms. Hughes Anthony said that it is imperative that Canada use the United States as a benchmark if the country hopes to retain investment and talent.

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