|English: Canadian per capita health care spending by age group in 2007. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
From Wednesday’s Globe and Mail
Health care discrepancies between provinces
Atlantic premiers argue they should get more health care cash because their populations are older. Meanwhile Alberta is able to afford new health services like expanded home care. Tuesday’s census data shows that the very different realities provinces face will strain Canada’s promise of offering comparable health care from coast to coast.
Ontario is currently trying to get all provinces to join its effort to reduce doctors’ fees, a plan doctors are resisting.
All provinces are under pressure to squeeze their health budgets now – not just because of aging populations, but because Ottawa has set a cap on how much it will spend in the future.
Work force replenished too slowly
The 2011 census drives home a central concern of federal and provincial governments. The large baby boom generation is starting to leave the work force and there aren’t enough taxpayers coming on line to replace them. Persistently low birth rates will mean future taxpayers will have to carry a heavier load. One option would be to increase immigration dramatically. Immigration Minister Jason Kenney recently told The Globe and Mail that moving too sharply in this area risks an anti-immigration backlash. “Only 10 to 15 per cent of Canadians are in favour of raising immigration levels,” he said.
Pensions are by no means just a worry for government. Changing demographics are a prime concern for many employers, particularly those who offer defined benefit pensions to their employees. Many employers have recently moved away from traditional pensions that offer a guaranteed payment to retirees, in favour of defined contribution plans in which the employee carries the investment risks. Individuals must also factor in Ottawa’s plans to raise the eligibility age of Old Age Security from 65 to 67, delaying a benefit that currently pays out an average $6,122.52 a year.
Consumer spending to shrink
Older people have higher accumulated savings per head than younger people but are likely to spend less on consumer goods as they enter retirement. This is compounded by the fact that many boomers, unlike previous generations heading into their 50s and 60s, are encouraged by low interest rates and an entrenched culture of spending and are entering retirement carrying debt. A report last year found the 65-plus age group was racking up debt at three times the average pace. That debt, along with a fixed income, will be a big incentive to curtail consumer spending.
|The Baby Boomers’ 50th birthday 3 (Photo credit: Christchurch City Libraries)|
From Monday’s Globe and Mail
Canada is at a demographic peak, but the descent will be swift and steep.
A greater proportion of people are working now than ever before. The largest chunk of the population, the baby boomers, are in their highest earning years and only a tiny sliver of that cohort has slipped into retirement. Their relatively fatter salaries are filling tax coffers and funding social programs. And years of low birth rates have meant significantly fewer dependent children to support than in decades past.
“This is the golden age,” according to McMaster University economist Arthur Sweetman.
But the release of new 2011 census numbers this week will show that the period of “peak people” is about to end. Canada’s demographics are at an inflection point, as the number of people of retirement age begins to grow at a faster rate than any other group in the next few years.
This country is still in much better demographic shape than nearly any other in the G8, with only about 14 per cent of its population over 65, compared with more than 20 per cent in Japan, Germany and Italy. And with nearly 70 per cent in the working ages of 15 to 64, Canada ranks ahead of all of those nations except Russia.
But much of its current advantage is explained by the relatively large size of the baby boom in Canada, according to Western University demographer Rod Beaujot. That advantage is about to erode. As the baby boom retires, the ratio of the employed to the not-employed will fall, possibly for a very long time.
“It’s inconceivable that in the future we will see anything but a decline in employment rates,” said Prof. Beaujot.
For Stephen Harper’s government, that shift has a number of important policy implications, from pensions to health care. The government has already proposed a gradual rise in the age of eligibility for Old Age Security to 67 years from 65. Although an aging population is often cited as a reason to cut spending, governments have known the implications of an aging population for more than 30 years. It is among the least surprising developments a government could face.
“We should have been saving by keeping taxes higher, and not cutting things like the GST, so we would have enough to pay for these social programs,” Prof. Beaujot said.
The prime example is health care. Its funding formula is a pay-as-you-go system, where the taxes collected in one year pay for the services provided. It could have been placed on much firmer footing if governments hadn’t cut taxes when taxpayers were abundant, Prof. Beaujot said. Now the key to sustaining expensive social programs will be getting even more people working, particularly those who have traditionally been excluded from work or underemployed. There are already signs that many people over 65 intend to work longer, some of them out of financial need, others because they feel too young and healthy to stop.
“We need to employ people longer and get people on the fringes of the labour force, disabled people or aboriginal groups, for example, more involved,” Prof. Beaujot said.
Many of the barriers that prevent disabled people from working to their potential are frustratingly persistent. Melanie Moore lost her sight at birth and went on to earn a degree in social work from Carleton University. Since entering the work force 13 years ago, Ms. Moore has spent roughly one of every two years unemployed. Unable to find an employer willing to hire her near her home in Hamilton, she commutes four and a half hours daily to a job at the Centre for Independent Living in Toronto. She’s covering a maternity leave, however, and expects to be unemployed again in September. She will continue to look for a new job, but many people with disabilities do not or cannot. Work-force participation rates are about 25 per cent lower among the 14 per cent of Canadians who identify as having a disability.
“The prospects for work aren’t good. When I think about this contract ending, my stomach turns,” Ms. Moore said.
Many of the jobs she would like require a driver’s licence, which she says is unfair. Those employers won’t even look at her application, she said. It’s just one example of a barrier that disabled people face that could be tackled with a more imaginative approach, she said.
“It’s so frustrating,” she said. “And it’s not unusual. It’s a chronic problem and it’s not well understood.”
An important implication of this impending demographic shift is the possibility of labour shortages. Forecasts have suggested as many as a million jobs could go unfilled over the next decade. Provinces and business leaders have suggested increasing immigration rates to help fill some of the shortage, but the federal government has kept rates fairly steady at about 250,000 newcomers a year.
The new census numbers will also reveal how regional differences could be exacerbated by the aging of the population. Already Atlantic Canada has a significantly higher proportion of people over 65, while Alberta is considerably younger. That could worsen in coming years under proposed changes to the Employment Insurance system that will push working-age people toward jobs in the young and booming West. Today, projections show that nearly one in three people in the Atlantic region will be over 65 within two and a half decades. In Alberta, that number will be closer to one in five.
May 25, 2012
Updated May 25, 2012 at 4:10 PM EDT
BUFFALO, N.Y. ( CBC.ca) The Harper government is closing the Canadian consulate in Buffalo only 18 months after spending more than $1.5 million on renovations and signing a 10-year lease that is almost certain to stick taxpayers with millions in rent for empty offices, CBC News has learned.
Foreign Affairs is expected to announce the closure, which will affect about 75 employees, sometime next week.
One official estimates that abandoning the consulate’s two floors in Buffalo’s tallest downtown office tower will leave Canadian taxpayers on the hook for about $8 million in rent (that includes the renovation costs) between now and the end of the lease in 2020.
The closure of one of Canada’s largest and oldest diplomatic outposts in the United States is the result of federal budget cuts and a major change to immigration rules.
For decades, foreign students and temporary workers in the Toronto area wanting to extend their stay in Canada have been forced to travel to the Buffalo consulate to apply for the necessary changes to their visas.
But the Harper government is putting an end to what became known in immigration circles as the “Buffalo shuffle” by getting rid of the requirement that foreigners have to leave the country for interviews regarding a requested visa change.
Instead, officials say, foreigners wanting to alter their visas will be able to apply and pay the necessary fees online, and if an interview with Canadian officials is necessary, they will be conducted at immigration offices in Canada.
Government statistics show that at any given time there are approximately 400,000 foreigners in Canada on various kinds of temporary visas.
A senior official says the change in rules, coupled with a move to electronic immigration applications that will be processed in Canada rather than in Buffalo, led the Department of Foreign Affairs to conclude it “simply could not justify keeping open the rest of the mission.”
All of the remaining functions of the Buffalo mission will be taken over by the consulate in New York City, the second-largest Canadian diplomatic office in the U.S. next to the main embassy in Washington.
One immigration official says: “Our government is saving taxpayers’ money while continuing to provide a high level of service through the use of new technologies.
“This change will be much more convenient for in-Canada applicants.”
The changes will similarly impact the Canadian consulate in Detroit, but officials say there are no plans to shut it down.
Foreign Affairs recently announced it was closing five smaller trade offices in the U.S. — Phoenix, Philadelphia, Raleigh, Anchorage, and Princeton — as part of its budget-cutting efforts to trim $170 million in annual spending.
But the Buffalo office is the first full-service consulate being shuttered, eliminating walk-in services for everything from lost passports to visa applications.
Foreign Affairs and immigration officials stress the closure of the Buffalo consulate and five trade missions south of the border is not meant to be a snub of the U.S. in any way.
They point out that even after the six closures, Canada will still have 15 consular and trade offices across the U.S., as well as the embassy in Washington.
OTTAWA— Globe and Mail Update
Canada’s big consulate in Buffalo will be shut down as the Harper government has decided it can be sacrificed to cost cuts now that it’s no longer a hotspot for processing visas.
For decades, foreigners living in Canada have trooped to the upstate New York consulate to renew visas – because of rules that they had to apply from outside Canada. But now that those rules have been scrapped, the consulate is going, too.
Ottawa has already announced that it will close four other consulates, in Philadelphia, Phoenix, Raleigh, and Anchorage, because of budget cuts. Now Buffalo, a large diplomatic mission with about 75 employees, will be the fifth.
Most of those employees, about 45, work in processing visas, often renewals, and many of those are U.S. citizens hired locally. They are set to be laid off after the closure is officially announced Tuesday.
An official with Citizenship and Immigration Canada said that now that immigration applications can be made electronically, there’s no longer a need for a big staff in Buffalo processing them, and because of the new rules, immigration interviews can be done in Canada. Once the immigration department made its decision, the Foreign Affairs Department decided it didn’t need to keep the rest of the mission. “Our consulate in New York City will cover all of NY state,” said a government source.
The government insists the closures of consulates in the U.S. are not a statement on bilateral relations, but just efforts to use money efficiently. Junior foreign minister Diane Ablonczy noted that Canada has more than 20 missions in the U.S., and argued the closures are only “modest” reductions.
|Self Employment Tax Form – Schedule SE (Photo credit: Philip Taylor PT)|
Toronto – Two recent reports by the Maytree Foundation in conjunction with the Metcalf Foundation and the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation highlight the importance of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and immigrant entrepreneurship in the Canadian economy. This insight will paint a picture of current trends and issues by combining the findings of Sarah Wayland’s report on immigrant self-employment and entrepreneurship in the GTA and ALLIES’s report on global talent for SMEs. Full reports are available online: Immigrant Self-Employment and Entrepreneurship in the GTA and Global Talent for SMEs: Building Bridges and Making Connections. The Martin Prosperity Institute is releasing this Insight to facilitate the continual discussion regarding small business and immigrants, and as a summary of papers released by the Maytree and Metcalf Foundation.
Structural changes in the global and local economy have brought about the growth of smaller business and entrepreneurship in the Canadian business environment. In the past ten years, 98.5 percent of jobs in the nation were created by firms with under 200 employees, 60% of which had fewer than 5 employees. Collectively, SMEs generate 54 percent of Canada’s gross domestic product and employ 64 percent of its private sector workers. Although they are vital drivers of the economy, SMEs face disadvantages in finding talent and clients alongside larger corporations.
Exhibit 1: Self-employment rates & industry, immigrants, Toronto CMA, (%)
250,000 newcomers arrive in Canada every year, the majority of which have high levels of education and international work experience that are under-utilized in the Canadian labour market. These phenomena present a mismatch that, if addressed, could propel both individuals and the larger economy forward.
SME and Immigrant Entrepreneurial Trends
Immigrants are found to be more likely to seek self-employment than non-immigrants, especially during economic downturns, possibly due to less job security in the positions available to them. They are mostly self-employed by choice, also at a higher rate than the Canadian-born self-employed population. Among immigrants, recent immigrants are more likely to prefer paid employment, as are younger immigrants. Only 3.2 percent of immigrants aged 15-24 are self-employed, while 14.9 percent of immigrants aged 45-54 are self-employed. Men are more likely than women to be self-employed, and in more concentrated industries. Almost half of self-employed male immigrants work in 3 sectors: construction; professional, scientific and technical services; and transportation and warehousing. Immigrants who are self-employed are morel likely to be married and/or have at least one child at home, adding to the time pressure and responsibilities of owning a business.
Lower immigrant entrepreneurial rates were found in Toronto in comparison to the rest of Ontario and Canada. This may be due to greater paid employment opportunities in the city and also due to the city’s relatively younger population. Personal factors also play a role in shaping self-employment trends, with more than 7 in 10 self-employed immigrants citing entrepreneurial values such as independence, challenge, control, creativity, etc., as the reason for self-employment.
Barriers of SMEs and Immigrant Businesses
SMEs and immigrant businesses face many of the same challenges as larger, Canadian competitors, but have less resources and upstream support in addressing them. One main disadvantage is in the search for skilled employees. Small businesses are less able to find skilled employees, and have fewer resources for hiring and training employees. They are willing to hire skilled immigrants, but do not know where to find qualified candidates or how to access the programs and services that facilitate this employment. Another shared barrier is financing. The general two-year Canadian credit history required to obtain financing make bank loans inaccessible to new immigrants, most of whom turn to government backed lending programs. SME’s, on the other hand, expressed a need for incentives such as wage subsidies and tax credits to encourage hiring immigrants.
Immigrant businesses face additional obstacles in starting and maintaining a business. Linguistic barriers such as technical and legal vocabulary lead to difficulty in expanding business activity beyond their ethnic enclaves, or manifest in larger time costs beyond their enclaves. Combined with different business cultures and a lack of connections from the past, immigrant business are often confined to a more homogenous social and professional network, limiting their ability to hire Canadian-born employees and access Canadian-born clients.
Current support programs in the GTA are lop-sided both geographically (none are available in the East end of the city) and structurally, catering to specific populations such as women, Francophones, and youth. Responses from immigrant entrepreneurs described government programs
to be insufficient in size and scope, and not flexible enough to meet their needs.
Better Support for SMEs and Immigrant Entrepreneurs
To sustain the growth of SMEs and immigrant businesses, programs need to provide stable, multi-year funding rather than project-based support. Entrepreneurs are more encouraged to invest—whether it be hiring immigrants or expanding beyond their networks—knowing their actions are accompanied by longer term, secure funding. Programs also need a have a more nuanced understanding which types of support are most widely used by businesses, and the various reasons for self-employment and varying degrees of entrepreneurship among immigrants. The settlement sector has a critical role to play, although its funding and structure have not traditionally fostered a business focus.
The value added of support programs can be increased by providing aid that is directed at SMEs’ and immigrant businesses’ steeper learning curves and lack of stable financing. Designing incentives for private lenders to engage small businesses, promoting micro loans and orientation and wage subsidies for hiring can all contribute in this regard. Programs can also compliment existing innovative social media hiring practices by building accessible and diverse platforms of networking, such as an online database of screened candidates or business-to-business mentoring programs.
Small scale enterprises, although a key driver of the Canadian economy, face shortages of labour market linkages and resources. SMEs and immigrant businesses have unique needs and niches that, when addressed by government policy and programs, can bring growth and prosperity to both individual entrepreneurs and the regional and national economy.
|Matti (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
BY TOBI COHEN, POSTMEDIA NEWS
The figures are in a memo written three months before the government froze the parent and grandparent immigration stream and introduced a 10-year, multiple-entry super-visa that requires visiting relatives to show proof of a year’s worth of health insurance.
The memo was obtained through an access to information request.
The freeze was billed as a stopgap measure while Ottawa deals with a huge backlog in applications. But the memo suggests the government – which favours economic immigrants – wasn’t just trying to be fair as it got rid of the backlog, but that it also has grave concerns about the cost of accepting elderly immigrants given their low earning potential.
The memo was prepared for Immigration Minister Jason Kenney in “response to a request for information regarding the cost of health care to senior immigrants and the contribution that parents and grandparents make to house-hold income.”
It suggests Canada might be moving toward a two-tier health care system for newcomers.
The memo says that, in 2010, some 5,655 parents and grand-parents over the age of 65 arrived in Canada, and cost about $10,742 each a year on average for health care.
Based on data collected between 1980 and 2010, Citizenship and Immigration estimates there were about 275,000 immigrant parents and grand-parents over 65 living in Canada in 2010 at a cost of nearly $3 billion a year for health care.
The total cost for a newcomer senior who lives to age 85 was cited at about $160,000.
According to data collected by Citizenship and Immigration between 1980 and 2000, none of the parents and grand-parents who arrived in Canada aged 50 or older have reported annual employment earnings that exceed $15,000.
A Commons committee has called already for the controversial supervisa to be made permanent. Last month, the government announced it was cutting certain health benefits to refugees, which touched off a wave of protest among physicians.
In an interview Thursday, Kenney rejected the notion that Canada was moving toward a two-tiered health care system for immigrants, but indicated a premium aimed at defraying health care costs is something the government is considering as it consults with immigrant groups in a bid to reform the parent and grandparent stream, which is on hold for two years.
“One idea has been to require families to put down some kind of a health care bond for sponsoring parents or grandparents. They would pay up front for a portion of the health care costs that their parents would use in Canada,” he said.
“Family sponsorship is a privilege, not a right. We are com-mitted to family reunification within our system, but it has to be linked to our scarce public resources. It’s not fair for us to raise taxes on Canadians to pay for future health care costs for folks who’ve never lived in the country or paid taxes in it.”
He envisions a “hybrid” sys-tem that includes a “money” stream for those willing to pay and a “freebie” stream in which provinces – which are responsible for the delivery of health care – tell the federal government how many parents and grandparents they’re willing to absorb on the public dime.
Critics see it all as the erosion of family reunification, a key tenet of Canada’s immigration system, which they say is increasingly favouring the rich.
“The level of coverage we are requiring people to buy for their family member who visits and the fact that it all has to be paid for in advance to qualify for the supervisa means effectively there’s a huge swath of people in Canada who will no longer be able to even have their parents at their child’s bar mitzvah or wed-ding,” Queen’s University law professor Sharry Aiken said.
“I’m very concerned about this shift because what it’s saying is family reunification is for those who can afford to pay.”
NDP immigration critic Jinny Sims added her office gets daily calls from people who have been denied a supervisa, many of them from China, India, Pakistan and the Philippines.
She said she believes any move toward a two-tiered health care system for immigrants would be “so un-Canadian” and that parent and grandparent reunification has spinoff benefits the government must not overlook. Parents and grandparents, she said, often assist with child care, which allows both parents to work. For newcomers from one-child policy countries such as China who come through the economic streams favoured by the Conservatives, she said, the freedom to bring parents and grandparents over is a key reason they chose Canada.”
Postmedia News has obtained updated figures on the parent and grandparent supervisa that show an approval rate of about 83 per cent.
|Canadian per capita health care spending by age group in 2007. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
By Andy Radia