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Immigrants important to economy, survey finds

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While skilled immigrants face great difficulties finding jobs in the Greater Toronto Area, they play an important role in keeping the economy growing, according to a survey of attitudes toward immigration.

The Environics survey, commissioned by the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council and to be released today, sought to discover what people living in the GTA think about newcomers.

The results were a pleasant surprise, said David Pecaut, chair of the Toronto City Summit Alliance, which formed the council last year.

Seventy-eight per cent of respondents agreed that the GTA needs skilled immigrants to keep the economy growing, with 42 per cent of that number agreeing strongly.

“To say that 78 per cent of respondents in the GTA understand this is heartening,” Mr. Pecaut said.

“We were surprised at the depth of leadership that the community has on this issue.”

Of the 1,000 people surveyed by telephone in April, 86 per cent said they agreed that employers who fail to recognize the value of skilled immigrants are missing important opportunities, with 52 per cent agreeing strongly.

Less than a month ago, a study by Statistics Canada found that foreign work experience is worth nothing in Canada and is the reason earnings among new Canadians are plummeting.

Thirty-three per cent of respondents in the Environics survey said they’d be more likely to do business with a company that went out of its way to hire skilled immigrants.

“It’s good business to employ immigrants,” Mr. Pecaut said.

The survey results are considered accurate within three percentage points, 19 times out of 20, and the information has been statistically weighted so that the composition of the sample reflects the Canadian population in the 2001 census.

Mr. Pecaut said the positive responses received in this survey, the first commissioned by the immigration council, reflect the ethnic diversity of Toronto.

He pointed to the 68 per cent of respondents who disagreed with the statement that it is easy for skilled immigrants to find jobs in their chosen field in the GTA.

“That says that people really do understand the problem,” he said.

Presented with the statement that Canadians have a responsibility to provide opportunities to skilled immigrants when they arrive here, 68 per cent said they agreed, with half agreeing strongly.

Mr. Pecaut said the results send a message to political leaders, especially those campaigning for the federal election, that help is needed for skilled immigrants trying to enter the labour force in their fields.

“This is an issue that really matters and must be addressed by politicians,” he said.