John McCallum, the immigration Minister of Canada has a plan to increase immigration beyond its current record level to fulfil the country’s labour need. McCallum made his pitch during a speech to the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines pointing to an aging population and looming labour shortages.
Earlier in the week, McCallum was in Beijing, where he sought to open more offices where Chinese can apply for visas, in the hope of attracting more high-skilled workers. The Trudeau government is already seeking to admit between 280,000 and 305,000 new permanent residents in 2016, a record increase from the 260,000 to 285,000 newcomers the previous Conservative government had planned to welcome by the end of 2015. McCallum said no final decision on immigration has been made and that he has to get his cabinet colleagues on board with his new plan and convince Canadians it's the right thing to do.
Reducing barriers to immigration
The Express Entry system, launched under the previous Conservative government promised transformative changes to Canada’s economic immigration policy. McCallum says they will ease some of the rules to make it easier for international students to come to Canada and become permanent residents.
McCallum is also reviewing what is known as a labour market impact assessment (LMIA), a document all employers need to hire foreign nationals over Canadian workers and which could do be done away with in some instances.
Businesses have also said the biggest flaw with Express Entry is a requirement the previous government borrowed from the temporary foreign worker program.
"So we're going to make it easier for international students, we're going to reduce some of the barriers in our immigration system … we don't think that every immigrant needs to go through what we call a labour market impact assessment process. We think it can be simplified. We think there are some rules which are no longer necessary," McCallum said.
McCallum, who worked as a chief economist at one of Canada's Big Five banks and a professor of economics before he entered politics, also acknowledged he has his work cut out for him. McCallum says "Not every Canadian will agree. But I think with our mind set of welcoming newcomers in the beginning, with the facts of the labour shortages, aging population, we have a good case to make, and I think we will be able to convince a higher proportion of Canadians that this is the right way for Canada to go."
The Philippines is currently the top source country for permanent residents in Canada, according to data published by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada as of May 31. The immigration minister also said that processing times for reuniting families from the Philippines has dropped dramatically to 12 months.