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Investment intended to help skilled workers

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The government will spend $41.4 million over the next two years to attract more skilled workers and foreign students to Canada and to help workers find jobs once they get here.

And at a time when the vast majority of immigrants settle in Toronto, part of the money will be earmarked for efforts to attract immigrants to smaller communities.

The goal is to help the skilled workers who make up the bulk of Canada’s annual intake of immigrants to land on their feet, jump through hurdles if they need professional accreditation and also to improve language skills.

The government also wants to streamline the process for issuing student visas.

Citizenship and Immigration Minister Denis Coderre said the budget was a step in the right direction for his drive to make immigration a regional phenomenon in Canada, rather than something that focuses only on major centres like Toronto.

Finance Minister John Manley, in his budget speech, said: “Canada’s distinct knowledge advantage is built by expanding the skills of our labour force and by helping every Canadian who wants to work, including new Canadians, to apply their talent and initiative.

“We will invest $41 million over the next two years to help new Canadians to integrate quickly into our economy, whether it is second language skills, or faster recognition of foreign credentials, or pilot projects to attract skilled immigrants to smaller communities.” Much of the new money, $13 million, will be spent in partnership with provincial and territorial governments as well as regulatory bodies and employers, to speed up the credential assessment process for immigrants in certain professions.

Another $10 million will be devoted to pilot projects in language training, to upgrade the level of second-language training given to newcomers.

About $6.6 million will help launch a fast-track system for processing applications from skilled workers with Canadian job offers. And $8 million will be go to better processing for foreign students’ study permits.

In a pet project of Coderre’s, the government will invest $3.8 million to work on approaches to attract skilled workers to communities across the country. Nearly 80 per cent of newcomers gravitate to Toronto, Vancouver or Montreal, with the majority settling in Toronto.