Business council calls on Canada to budget for skilled immigrants

Shelby Thevenot
Published: March 1, 2021

On March 1, business leaders sent a list of pre-budget recommendations to the Canadian government, calling for a focus on long-term growth and job creation.

The Business Council of Canada's open letter to Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland outlined seven key recommendations to promote economic recovery. Among these recommendations, the author, Goldy Hyder, touted the importance of facilitating immigration for skilled foreign workers.

Hyder wrote: "We need to cultivate and enhance our human capital by developing a more agile and adaptable workforce, doing more to help young Canadians build rewarding careers, and enhancing our immigration system to make our country an even more powerful magnet for international talent."

The letter also called on the federal government to remove barriers to labour market integration. Specifically, they draw attention to foreign credential recognition, which prevents some skilled workers from working in their fields. An example of this could be a doctor who drives taxi instead of practicing medicine.

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In addition, the letter reiterates how low-wage, immigrant, and racialized workers have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. Hyder notes that many of these recently displaced workers will need to be retrained in order to return to work.

"The federal government should work with employers, provinces and territories to develop a comprehensive skills agenda that prepares displaced workers for new careers in sectors where talent is in high demand," Hyder said in the letter, calling for training initiatives that are "business-led and results-driven." He specifically touted the models of Palette, a not-for-profit that offers training in sales and cybersecurity, and the Business and Higher Education Roundtable, which offers work-integrated learning.

Earlier this year, Canada opened up to pre-budget public consultations for three weeks. Canadians were able to tell the government what they would like to see prioritized in the new budget.

The federal government has not tabled a budget since March, 2019. The former finance minister, Bill Morneau, was set to table the new budget in March, 2020, but it was put off due to the sudden set-back in Canada's economic situation during the coronavirus outbreak.

When Freeland launched the consultations in January, she did not talk about how Canada would approach the budget, but she did tell reporters that the focus on Canada's economic recovery would be around "jobs, jobs, jobs, and growth."

In the fall, the Liberal government committed to investing $15 million in 2021 and 2022 to scale up and expand existing supports for the labour market integration of skilled newcomers with a focus on in-demand sectors, such as health, IT, and skilled trades. In July, Canada allotted $72.1 million to the federal immigration department to modernize their processing system away from paper-based applications.

Katherine Cuplinskas, a spokesperson for Freeland, cited these figures in response to the business council's recommendations on immigration.

“Attracting talented workers from around the world is an essential part of growing our economy and supporting Canada’s recovery from the COVID-19 recession," Cuplinskas told CIC News. "Canada will continue to welcome newcomers with skills to help grow our economy."

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