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6 things that will change on Canada Day weekend

Posted: Jun 29, 2012 10:55 AM ET 

As the midpoint in the calendar year, and a nationally symbolic one at that, June 30 and July 1 are dates on which new regulations or tax changes often come into effect or current ones expire and quarterly adjustments are made to some government programs.
This year, Canada Day weekend will see some of the country’s richest people (at least in Ontario) get a little poorer, the poorest seniors get a tiny bit richer, refugees and would-be immigrants perhaps a little frustrated and MPs come out ahead, as usual.
Here’s a look at some of the changes coming into effect this holiday weekend:

1. Seniors get a bit more money

The maximum basic Old Age Security benefit paid to people age 65 or older rises $4.86 a month to $544.98 for people making less than $69,562 a year.
Guaranteed Income Supplement payments for low-income seniors also increase, by $6.60 to $738.96 a month for a single person or the spouse of a non-pensioner, and by $4.37 a month to $489.98 for the spouse of a pensioner. And the monthly allowance for low income seniors between the ages of 60 and 64 rises by about $10 a month.

2. Rich Ontarians’ pay cheques shrink

As part of a budget deal between the minority Ontario Liberal government and the NDP, Ontarians face a new marginal tax rate of 13.168 per cent on income over $500,000. The “tax on the rich” means more tax will be withheld from pay cheques for those upper-income earners effective July 1.

3. Refugees lose some health benefits

With cuts to the Interim Federal Health Program, announced by Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, refugees will no longer receive dental and vision care and will have reduced prescription drug coverage. The government says the cuts will bring refugees’ health-care coverage on par with what is paid to other Canadians and will save $20 million a year over the next five years. Critics, including doctors who work in community health, say the changes threaten the health of some of the world’s most vulnerable people.

4. MPs’ pension fund will be $23M richer

A quarterly interest payment of 10.4 per cent will be paid into the parliamentary pension fund on June 30, adding $23 million to the fund, according to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. Changes are coming that will see MPs paying more for their pensions and waiting longer to collect, but the CTF says Canadians still pay more than $100 million annually into the fund through set quarterly interest payments and annual contributions, while MPs themselves contribute about $4.5 million. The fund now stands at $950 million.

5. New immigrant workers face language tests

Starting July 1, most applicants for semi- and low-skilled professions under the Provincial Nominee Program will have to undergo testing and meet mandatory minimum language standards in English or French. The PNP, which is managed by the provinces in accordance with federal guidelines, is the second-largest economic immigration program in the country and is expected to bring 42,000 people into Canada this year.

6. Foreign skilled workers and entrepreneurs need not apply

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney this week announced an immediate freeze on applications under the Skilled Worker Program and the Immigrant Investor Program to reduce the backlog of applicants seeking to come to Canada under those programs. Kenney had already announced that applications from skilled workers made before 2008 would be cancelled and fees returned. New applications for skilled workers will be accepted again in January, but the investor program freeze is indefinite as the government overhauls a program some see as a way to buy entry to Canada.

Federal government seeks comments on tighter rules for foreign students

OTTAWA – The Immigration Department is looking at tightening the rules covering foreign students, and wants to know what Canadians think.
A notice in the latest Canada Gazette asks for written comments from interested parties on proposals that would ensure students from overseas actually go to school, and would prevent them from staying here legally if they quit their studies.
New rules would also ensure that schools drawing foreign students are legitimate operations.
The proposal says the present rules are loose compared with other countries.
There is no formal requirement that students actually go to school once they get here, nor are there rules about what kinds of schools qualify.
The notice says students can attend any kind of institution, regardless of whether it is accredited, or regulated or overseen by a provincial or territorial government or a recognized standard-setting body.
The new regulations would require international students to actually attend school and to leave the country if they drop out. The proposals would also limit the kinds of institutions eligible to take such students.
The notice says the federal government is consulting provinces and territories on eligibility requirements for such institutions.
Foreign study in Canada is growing. The Immigration Department says 98,378 international students entered the country in 2011, an increase of 34 per cent from 2007.
A 2010 study commissioned by Foreign Affairs said international students contributed more than $6.5 billion to the economy in 2008.
The Immigration Department, though, says the international student program is vulnerable to abuse both by phoney students who just want a job; and by phoney schools that want to rip off foreigners with sub-standard courses.
“The goal is to strengthen the integrity of Canada’s immigration system by reducing fraud in the international student movement, while improving Canada’s standing as a desirable study destination,” the Gazette notice said.
Anyone interested in commenting has 30 days to write to the department.
“The proposed changes to the International Student Program are in line with reforms implemented by Canada’s key competitor countries for international students,” department spokesman Bill Brown said in an email.
“Strengthening aspects of the program that could be abused by fraudulent schools or non-genuine study permit applicants is vitally important to protect Canada’s reputation abroad and to ensure that Canada continues to enjoy the tremendous social and economic benefits that the ISP provides.”
Brown added: “International students enrich the life of every campus by bringing new ideas and cultures with them.”

Legislation to Protect Canada’s Immigration System Receives Royal Assent

OTTAWA, ONTARIO, Jun 29, 2012 (MARKETWIRE via COMTEX) — Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney today welcomed the final passage and Royal Assent of legislation that will protect and improve Canada’s immigration system.
“This legislation will help stop foreign criminals, human smugglers and those with unfounded refugee claims from abusing Canada’s generous immigration system and receiving taxpayer funded health and social benefits,” said Minister Kenney. “Canada’s immigration and refugee system is one of the most fair and generous in the world and will continue to be so under the new and improved system.”
The Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act brings further reforms to the asylum system. These changes will provide faster protection to those who genuinely need it by reducing the time it takes to review and decide a refugee claim. There will be faster removal of those who don’t require protection and limited access to appeal mechanisms for failed refugee claimants who come from generally non-refugee producing countries.
With the Balanced Refugee Reform Act and today’s legislation, the provinces and territories are expected to save in the range of $1.65 billion over five years in social assistance and education costs.
The new measures also address the heinous crime of human smuggling by making it easier to prosecute human smugglers and impose stiffer penalties.
“Human smuggling is one of the most dangerous forms of migration,” said Minister Kenney. “Every year people die in human smuggling operations around the world. These new measures send a clear message to human smugglers that Canada’s generosity will not be abused, that we will enforce our immigration laws against human smugglers.”
Under the new measures, the Minister of Public Safety will be able to designate the arrival of a group of persons into Canada as an irregular arrival, and make those involved subject to the Act’s measures such as detention for individuals aged 16 and older.
These individuals may be released from detention by the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada when it conducts detention reviews within 14 days and every six months thereafter, or following acceptance of their refugee claim. Individuals may also be released from detention by the Minister if he/she is satisfied that the reasons for detention no longer exist or that there are exceptional circumstances that warrant release.
The changes also prevent people who come to Canada as part of a designated irregular arrival from applying for permanent resident status for a period of five years. This means that they would be unable to sponsor family members during that time.
The new measures also require biometric data to be included as part of a temporary resident visa application, work permit, and study permit. Travellers, students and workers from certain visa-required countries and territories will be required to provide their fingerprints and have their photo taken before they arrive in Canada.
“With these changes, the integrity of Canada’s immigration programs and the safety and security of Canadians will be protected,” said Minister Kenney.
Some of these new measures come into effect immediately, while others will come into effect later this year at a date that will be determined by the government. The new biometric measures will come into effect in 2013.
See the Summary of Changes backgrounder for more information on timing.
For more information on this legislation, visit the CIC website at http://www.cic.gc.ca .
Refugee Reforms:
-- Overview of Reforms to Canada's Refugee System
-- Designated Countries of Origin
-- Summary of Changes in the Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act

Human Smuggling
-- Overview: Ending the Abuse of Canada's Immigration System by Human
-- Protecting Our Streets and Communities from Criminal and National
Security Threats
-- Tougher Penalties for Ship Owners and Operators Who Fail to Comply with
Canada's Marine Security Legislation
-- Deterring Abuse of the Refugee System
-- Designating Human Smuggling Events
-- Cracking Down on Human Smugglers Who Abuse Canada's Immigration System
-- Better Tools to Successfully Prosecute and Impose Mandatory Prison
Sentences on Human Smugglers

-- Biometrics in Canada's Temporary Resident Program
-- Five reasons why we need biometrics

Follow us on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/CitImmCanada
Photo of Minister Kenney will be available later today at: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/department/media/photos/high-res/index.asp .
Building a stronger Canada: Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) strengthens Canada’s economic, social and cultural prosperity, helping ensure Canadian safety and security while managing one of the largest and most generous immigration programs in the world.

Reciprocal work permit agreements for Canadian and international youth travelers

Canada’s International Youth Program encourages young Canadians to travel and work abroad; to acquire the skills, training, and cultural experiences that are so valuable in Canada and in the global marketplace. Canada has coordinated reciprocal work permit arrangements with close to 40 countries in which qualifying Canadians and international youth can visit each others’ countries to experience a new culture and different work environment. 

Just this month, Poland became the most recent country to sign a youth mobility agreement with Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC). The agreement will allow young Canadians and Poles (between 18 and 35) to travel and work in each other’s country for a one-year period. 

“The Agreement will serve to actively engage our youth to learn about our respective countries, develop skills for global careers and build networks to ensure an even stronger relationship between Canada and Poland for the future,” stated Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs David Emerson.

More than 22,000 young Canadians travel abroad every year through Canada’s various youth mobility agreements, and about 36,000 international youth choose to travel and work in Canada. Beyond its reciprocal work permit arrangements, Canada has formal agreements for youths with close to 20 countries, through which four specialized programs are available for Canadians.

The first is the Working Holiday program, which is geared towards non-students visiting participating countries. The program allows them to work in order to finance their travel expenses. Then there is the Young Workers’ Exchangeprogram which allows Canadians to acquire professional work experience and training in a foreign culture. The SWAP Working Holiday program (short for Student Work Abroad Program) is geared toward students. Canadian youth traveling to participating countries can receive assistance with finding accommodation and work from SWAP’s partner organizations abroad. Finally there is the Co-op Education program which aims to provide students with valuable foreign work experience related to their current academic field of study.

Participating countries may partake in all or some of these programs. The full breakdown is available on the Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada website

To apply for one of these programs, Canadian youth must have a valid Canadian passport, a reasonable amount of money, and a pre-purchased round-trip airline ticket. 

By promoting world travel to young Canadians, the government is encouraging international network-building and cultural discovery. Those who participate can gain the skills and work experience to succeed in an increasingly globalized world.

International Experience Canada (IEC) manages Canada’s youth mobility arrangements and agreements with different countries around the world. These arrangements and agreements make it easier for you to obtain a work permit to travel and work in Canada for up to one year.
Work permits under IEC are available to young people aged 18-35* who are from one of the countries that have a bilateral reciprocal youth mobility arrangement or agreement with Canada. Consult the list below for participating countries to see if your country of origin has a bilateral reciprocal youth mobility arrangement or agreement with Canada. Click on the name of your country to be redirected to the corresponding Embassy of Canada website for specific application details.
Can’t find your country in the list? Connect with one of these recognized organizations for other travel and work opportunities in Canada.
Over the age of 35?* Contact Citizenship and Immigration Canada for information on other work permit options.
Australia Yes Yes Yes
Austria No Yes Yes
Belgium Yes No No
Chile Yes Yes Yes
Costa Rica Yes Yes Yes
Croatia Yes Yes Yes
Czech Republic Yes Yes Yes
Denmark Yes No No
Estonia Yes Yes Yes
France Yes Yes Yes
Germany Yes Yes Yes
Hong Kong Yes No No
Ireland Yes No No
Italy Yes No No
Japan Yes No No
Korea, Rep. Yes No No
Latvia Yes Yes Yes
Lithuania Yes Yes Yes
Mexico Yes Yes Yes
Netherlands Yes Yes No
New Zealand Yes No No
Norway Yes Yes Yes
Poland Yes Yes Yes
Slovakia Yes Yes Yes
Slovenia Yes Yes Yes
Spain Yes Yes Yes
Sweden Yes Yes Yes
Switzerland No Yes Yes
Taiwan Yes Yes Yes
Ukraine Yes Yes Yes
United Kingdom Yes No No
Are you a Canadian citizen looking to travel and work abroad for up to one year? Find out more about international travel and work abroad options for Canadian citizens.
In some countries the age limit is 18-29, or 30

Financial crisis causes Greeks to move to Canada

March 25 - Greece Independence Day
March 25 – Greece Independence Day (Photo credit: Aster-oid)

June 28 2012 by Paul Jones

With Greece’s economy and its political life in turmoil, more Greek nationals are considering living and working in Canada.

Peter Kletas, President of the Hellenic Community of Vancouver, says after Greece imposed drastic austerity measures, he has received many inquiries about immigration to Canada.
He told Canadian radio station News 1130, “In the past month with the strictest austerity measures, we’re getting a lot of telephone calls and emails from people in Greece and they’re asking about how they  can immigrate to Canada and what the job prospects are like.
Inquiries are coming from people with different backgrounds, he explains.
“We’re seeing people with university degrees that are looking to move their family for a better future here in Canada; from labourers to university professors.”
Mr Kletas is not the only Greek community leader who has received inquiries from nationals wanting to obtain work visas in Canada. Other Hellenic organizations have also been inundated.
John Yannitos, President of the Hellenic Society of Calgary, told the Metro News newspaper, “A while ago, it was in the dozens [of calls]. Now we’re approaching a hundred-plus inquiries, and that’s just in Calgary.”
This year, Canada plans to admit 250,000 immigrants and to target those who have a good grasp of English or French and have studied at higher education levels.
This is good news for those Greeks who have received a good education subsidised by the state. With more than 1 in 4 Greeks unemployed, rising to 2 in 4 young Greeks, it is no wonder that many are looking to Canada, where the economy has remained relatively strong.
In fact, the financial news service Bloomberg says 53% of university age Greeks plan to emigrate and 17% are already taking active steps to do so. At the same time, the National Technical University of Athens says 4 out of 10 of the current graduating civil engineers are aiming to emigrate.
Former Greek restaurateur George Varvarigos has begun a new career in car sales in Toronto after immigrating from Greece 7 months ago.
He told the Vancouver Sun newspaper, “Everybody works hard for every daily expense… and the bills they have to pay. Nobody is lazy… So they’re fighters.
“[Canada] is a better environment with better chances for people who would like to do something in their life, to have a family, to have their job and to get paid for that and to look straight to the future.”
According to John Yannitsos, a few dozen Greek residents are arriving in Calgary every week. The majority are Greek citizens with Canadian relatives, along with some Canadian citizens who had been living in Greece and are now starting to return.
“You can sense the desperation in their voices and in the inquiries. [They say] “can you help us with opportunities? How can we get there? We’ll take our chances when we get there.”

Source: http://www.globalvisas.com

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Canada offers peace, cultural diversity to new comers

By Graham Lanktree

More immigrants are landing on Canadian shores than ever before. In 2010, 280,636 new permanent residents, the highest increase of new Canadians in 50 years, joined the country.
Since Canada Day is a time to celebrate all things Canadian, Metro invited a recent new comer to share his first impressions of the country.
“I think this is the most peaceful land,” said Abbas Mokabbery who came to Canada from Iran with his wife and two children in 2008. “Based on my knowledge, Canada was the best place to live and work.”
Settling in Toronto first, it wasn’t long before he and his family left for Ottawa. “I love Ottawa,” he said. “Canada has a very lovely cultural diversity. We go to all the different restaurants whether Indian, Chinese or Arabian.”
“For me, Canada Day creates national pride. People should believe in this land and believe in their flag,” he said. “This is a country with lots of opportunities and bringing immigrants here shares them.”
If Abbas had to offer up one criticism, he said, it would be that immigrants could be better prepared before arriving.
“Learning English is a big barrier for some. There are people who spend nine years in a queue to get here,” he said. “It would be good if they were given training and had to pass some sort of English test.”

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Bridge programs helping skilled immigrants find jobs in their profession

English: Government Conference Centre (formely...
English: Government Conference Centre (formely Ottawa Union Station), Ottawa, Ontario, Canada (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Graham Lanktree

Immigrants with skilled professions who came to Canada used to make due finding a job in their field on their own, but Ontario is making it easier with a new $57 million investment in programs to help them out.
“I had my own company back in Iran,” said Abbas Mokabbery, an IT professional who came to Canada in 2008. “You grow your roots little by little, but coming to Canada was like moving that tree from one garden to a different land.”
One thing that struck him on arriving, he said, was how different the work environment is. “People are very serious about their work. Some people are not so serious about their work in Iran.”
To help himself adjust, Mokabbery enrolled in an Ontario bridge program with the Information and Communications Technology Council where he could get work experience in his field of geomatics gathering and analyzing geographic information.
Announced earlier this week, in 2012 Ottawa will see $2.67 million go to similar bridge programs in the city.
The bridge program, he said, taught him the ins and outs of doing business in Canada. “They taught us about the laws of the office place, how to deal with personnel and understanding if they are satisfied with your work,” he said.
With renewed confidence on leaving the program, Mokabbery set out to start his own business GeoInfoCom.
“Bridge programs are an excellent way of helping new comers integrate in our economy,” said Ottawa Centre MPP, Yasir Naqvi. “It is a real challenge when it comes to professionals where they have to get more Canadian experience, licensing and examinations.”
Coming from Pakistan, both of Naqvi’s parents were trained as lawyers, he said, and without some kind of assistance to help them through, both switched professions and opened their own hotel.
“The least we can do,” he said, “is help new comers do is bridge into their profession and benefit our economy at the same time.”

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News Release — Minister Kenney Hits the Reset Button: Sets the Foundation for New, Faster, More Flexible Immigration System

Canada Gazette (January 26, 1901)
Canada Gazette (January 26, 1901) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Calgary, June 28, 2012 — Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney today announced the latest step in re-designing Canada’s economic immigration system.
Effective July 1st, 2012, Citizenship and Immigration Canada will place a temporary pause on new applications to the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP) and federal Immigrant Investor Program (IIP).
“We have been making lots of changes to our economic immigration system,” said Minister Kenney. “We will take the next six months to do a lot of the heavy lifting to get us closer to a fast and flexible immigration system.”
The pause will allow CIC to make important changes to its economic immigration programs before accepting more applications. This is an important step in moving towards a faster, more flexible immigration system, while immigration levels are at a historic high.
Since the launch of Canada’s Economic Action Plan 2012, Minister Kenney has announced a series of changes to CIC’s economic immigration programs. They include:
  • eliminating the backlog of old FSWP applications;
  • improving the selection of FSWs;
  • creating a new Federal Skilled Trades Program;
  • modifying the Canadian Experience Class to help transition successful skilled temporary workers to permanent residence;
  • changing business immigration programs to target more active investment in Canadian growth companies and more innovative entrepreneurs; and
  • moving towards a new application management system, to develop a pool of skilled workers who arrive in Canada ready to begin employment.
“This temporary pause on new Federal Skilled Worker applications will allow us to set the program on a new course as we intend to launch revised selection criteria soon,” said Minister Kenney. “The pause has no impact on the number of workers Canada admits into the country, as CIC continues to process applications already received. Current immigration remains at historically high levels.”
Application intake is expected to resume in January 2013, when the proposed FSWPregulatory changes – which will be published in the Canada Gazette in the coming months – are expected to come into force.
The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act allows the Minister to issue special instructions to immigration officers to enable the Government of Canada to best attain its immigration goals. Since the 2008 Action Plan for Faster Immigration, four sets of “Ministerial Instructions” have been issued relating to Economic Class applications.
Under this fifth set of Ministerial Instructions, CIC will also introduce a pause on new federal IIP applications. This pause will remain in place until further notice, allowing the Department to make progress on processing its existing inventory.
As Minister Kenney announced earlier in April, CIC will be consulting with provinces, territories and stakeholders on ways to reform the current IIP in order to maximize the economic benefit to Canada. The Department is also consulting on whether to create a new investor program on a short-term basis, to promote growth in the Canadian economy.
The temporary pause on FSWP applications does not apply to candidates with offers of arranged employment or those applying under the PhD eligibility stream. The full set of Ministerial Instructions will be available online in the Canada Gazette tomorrow.

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Feds putting freeze on skilled worker, immigrant investor programs .

English: Supreme Court of Canada Français : Co...
English: Supreme Court of Canada Français : Cour suprême du Canada (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


OTTAWA — The government is expected to issue a moratorium on new immigration applications under the popular Federal Skilled Worker Program and the Immigrant Investor Program, Postmedia News has learned.
Both programs were set to reopen to new applicants on July 1, but efforts are underway to revamp the programs by the end of the year.
The government doesn’t want to process new applications until it’s dealt with the existing backlogs and put in place a “just-in-time” economic immigration system, probably by January.
Immigration Minister Jason Kenney is expected to announce the new directive in Calgary Thursday during a speech to the C.D. Howe Institute.
The decision means Citizenship and Immigration’s central intake office in Sydney, N.S. won’t be bombarded by applications from wealthy foreigners who last year chartered planes so they could be the first to submit their paperwork for the Immigrant Investor Program after it was capped at 700 applicants.
The cash-for-visa scheme is so attractive that last year’s application window closed within 30 minutes.
Kenney has argued the minimum investment of $800,000 — it was just $400,000 in 2010 — remains too low and that it should be a permanent investment in the Canadian economy.
Right now, provinces get the cash to invest in economic development projects but must pay back the principal five years later.
Kenney said in April that legislation was coming to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to give him more power and flexibility to create, change or cancel specialized programs like this one based on market demand and proven effectiveness.
He said he also was launching consultations with stakeholders and provincial and territorial colleagues on how best to reform the investor program.
Earlier this month, officials said consultations were ongoing and that the new powers were contained in the omnibus budget bill set to become law by the end of the week.
The Immigrant Investor Program backlog currently stands at about 25,000 cases involving more than 86,000 people.
Richard Kurland, a Vancouver-based immigration lawyer and longtime critic of the investor program, said the decision makes sense.
“Why not hold off until you’re ready to launch a new program with higher eligibility thresholds?” he said.
“There’s plenty of inventory to process. We don’t need to add inventory.”
He’s less enthusiastic about the temporary pause on federal skilled workers, however, noting Canada needs people like nurses and pharmacists and that there’s value in setting a predictable date on which the intake doors are opened.
He noted many already have couriered their applications and that this will mean more stress and additional costs for applicants.
The budget bill also will eliminate about 280,000 visa applications submitted under the Federal Skilled Worker Program before February 2008 by refunding their application fees to the tune of $130 million. The move effectively will reduce the skilled worker backlog to about 110,000.
Last year the government capped the number of applications it accepts from federal skilled workers without prearranged offers of employment at 10,000.
Kenney has called for a faster, more flexible immigration system that’s economically-driven and designed to attract workers with strong language skills, employment credentials that are in demand by the current labour market and Canadian experience.
He’s announced a variety of initiatives to that end, including replacing the entrepreneur program with a startup visa and allowing employers and provinces to cherry-pick immigrants based on occupation.
The moratorium is expected to be lifted once the full plan is in place.

Read more: http://www.canada.com/business/Feds+putting+freeze+skilled+worker+immigrant+investor+programs/6850692/story.html#ixzz1z5m160Ay

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Job-hungry Alberta scours globe for workers

Map of the Western provinces. See Image:Canada...
Map of the Western provinces. See Image:Canada provinces blank vide.png for additional information. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Claudia Cattaneo

CALGARY – For the past seven years, the mining community of Baia Mare in Romania’s northern interior has eagerly stepped up to alleviate Alberta’s labour shortages. For Joe Giusti, founder and CEO of one of Western Canada’s largest construction companies, it was a long way to travel to search for workers.

It was hard, too, once he found them. His firm, Giusti Group, had to teach recruits basic English so they would understand safety regulations. They had to meet rigid immigration requirements for temporary foreign workers. They had to be moved to an unfamiliar work environment, and sent back home just as they were getting used to their new jobs and way of life.

Yet Mr. Giusti was so encouraged by the enthusiasm shown by hundreds of young people who answered his calls for carpenters, cement finishers and general labourers, and by their performance in Alberta, he led recruitment missions there several times. Meanwhile, he was pleased to notice how the local community’s economy flourished from a steady influx of Alberta oil cash, as people dressed better, bought new furniture and renovated houses.

‘I invested 40 years of my life to build up a business and I have no people’
“When I went to Romania the first time, it brought me back to the 1960s in Italy,” said the builder, who since moving to Western Canada four decades ago from Treviso, near Venice, completed more than 50,000 multi-family units and took on some of the West’s biggest industrial projects, even as he fine-tuned a passion for oil painting using Titian’s colour techniques.

“I looked at them and I said: These are my people, like the ones from my village. I can see it in their hands. They are hard working people.  They can do anything.”

Employers in Western Canada, and particularly in the ever-expanding oil industry, have been looking for workers farther and farther afield to fill jobs in resource development. The early favourites decades ago were farm kids from Saskatchewan. Then it was women and First Nations. Then it was Newfoundland. Then they brought in planeloads of workers from northern Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia in elaborate fly-in and fly-out schemes.

Today, with those sources tapped out and more and more projects on the horizon, the new fix is foreign labour.

While the practice is not new, what’s new is how many employers, who seem to be sticking with their growth strategies regardless of the state of the global economy, are looking to struggling countries to replenish their workforces – including advanced economies such as the United States and the U.K.

Mr. Giusti is continuing to tap Romania’s workforce and is looking in other foreign markets such as the U.S. for pump operators and mechanics, who must be fluent in English.

And yet he is watching with anxiety Western Canada’s rising economy. With a staff of 500 and 200 job openings he is struggling to fill, he no longer accepts construction work in Calgary, while his family-owned company doubles down on work already under way, including a 1,500-worker camp and a processing plant for Husky Energy Inc.’s Sunrise oil sands project northeast of Fort McMurray.

“We are creating a mess,” Mr. Giusti laments. “There is a boom, and there are few qualified people. Most of the jobs are done with unqualified people and improper workmanship. I would say lousy workmanship — and for a huge amount of money.”

The push for foreign labour is in part a response to immigration reforms announced two months ago by Jason Kenney, the federal immigration minister, that opened up access to skilled tradesmen and make it possible for them to come to Canada as permanent residents, rather as temporary foreign workers.

Workforce pressures have been mounting for a long time. Western Canadian employers are concerned about Baby Boomer retirements and leakage to other sectors. They are worried that workers laid off in the 2008/2009 financial downturn may have left the industry. They complain that Canada’s youth are snubbing trades because they don’t consider them as prestigious, the work is hard and drug and alcohol use isn’t allowed because of safety concerns.

Increasing foreign investment is also playing a role. International companies, from Europe to China, are clamoring to bring in their own staff to work on their projects.

While the growing list of mega-projects in the Alberta oil sands, Saskatchewan’s potash industry, new pipelines, new liquefied natural gas projects in British Columbia is good news for Canada’s economy, it also raises questions about who will do the work. The labour markets of Alberta and Saskatchewan, where most of the projects are based, are already the tightest in the country, each with an unemployment rate of 4.5% in May.
Projections show a staggering number of jobs will open up in coming years.

In a recent study, the Petroleum Human Resources Council of Canada predicted the oil and gas industry alone will need to fill 15,000 direct jobs between now and 2015, on an industry base of about 187,000, just to replace retiring employees or those moving to other sectors, and not including employees moving from company to company.

Growth projects beyond 2015 — when many major energy projects are scheduled to begin construction — aren’t even taken into account. Even an economic pullback related to a softening global economy won’t matter.

“Right now, [oil and gas] exploration and production companies are actually hiring more and retaining more than they need to given their current activity because they are preparing for growth and for the loss of experienced people,” said Cheryl Knight, the council’s executive director and CEO. “No downturn is going to eliminate that. It’s more a structural issue. I believe these [economic] cycles are going to have less of an impact on hiring than they have in the past.”

Ms. Knight said the oil and gas industry tends to hire new entrants right out of school, but there are not enough of them to replace the skills shortage that is looming because of retirements. That’s one reason for the focus on foreign-trained workers.

The construction industry, which in Western Canada is heavily focused on projects related to the oil industry and other resource sectors, has even bigger job requirements. Mr. Kenney spoke of tens if not hundreds of thousands of job shortages in the skilled trades in the next decade when he announced the immigration reforms.

The Alberta government estimates there will be 114,000 more jobs of all kinds than people in the province in the next 10 years.

Mark Salkeld, president and CEO, Petroleum Services Association of Canada, said his members have thousands of job openings and are aggressively pursuing foreign workers.

Among the occupations in most demand are heavy-duty mechanics, truck drivers, welders, electricians, rig labourers, field supervisors, petroleum technologists.

“This sector has grown with respect to international exposure,” Mr. Salkeld said. “We are getting experience in other countries. And we are seeing what’s out there for talent, whether it’s Russia, or South America, or Australia. There is a lot of talent that would work well in our industry and we are going after that.

“Just like Australia is coming here, we are going there,” he said, referring to a recent job fair in Calgary by some of Australia’s top energy employers who are looking to recruit 100,000 people to man their booming energy industry.

Some companies, meanwhile, are feeling the pinch of labour shortages.

One of them is Concord Well Servicing, a unit of Calgary’s Tervita Corp. that brought in 16 Mexicans to man drilling rigs last winter. With a staff of 4,700, Tervita plans to hire 2,000 people every year for the next five years and sees foreign workers a part of the solution.

“We find ourselves in a position — as do a lot of our competitors — where we’re completely sold out,” CEO Deborah Close said recently in the Calgary Herald. “It’s not because we’re sold out of equipment; we are sold out of crews. It is the people shortage that is our constraint for growth.”

Calgary Economic Development is planning recruitment missions in coming months to the U.S. and the U.K.

In August, the agency is leading Calgary employers to Riverside County, Calif., where the unemployment rate is 12.8%, and to Clark County, Nev., where the unemployment rate is 12.1%. The two communities have 25,000 unemployed construction workers who haven’t had a paycheque for 90 weeks or more and don’t expect one in the next three to four years because of the poor U.S. economy.

“If there is a way to move the economy forward, and provide opportunities so certain projects aren’t shut down, we all prosper,” said Jeannette Sutherland, manager of workforce and productivity with Calgary Economic Development.

“To know there is a motivated supply of workers [in the U.S.] with similar skill sets, on top of the supply that we have in Alberta, and employers are very interested in looking at options.”

As part of the program, Calgary is working with business organizations in the two U.S. communities to facilitate the temporary workforce transfer.

More recruitment missions will be held in October in Ireland, where the unemployment rate is at a 20-year-high of 14.4%, and in Scotland, where the unemployment rate is 10.4%. In both countries, many skilled workers are looking to leave, Ms. Sutherland said.

Mr. Giusti says Western Canada must increase its labour pool, or the consequences for many businesses and projects will be severe, including high costs and poorly built projects.

“Companies like us will close up,” he said. “Our group cannot stay in business. I invested 40 years of my life to build up a business and I have no people.”

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