Advisory group’s economic blueprint calls for dramatic increase in immigration, foreign investment, infrastructure bank

The focus on immigration of note. 450,000 would be about 1.3 percent (current level for 2016 is 305,000).

The upcoming immigration levels plan, expected next month, will provide an indication whether or not the government will support this recommendation and if so, to what extent, as there appears to be a lively debate within the government.

Equally significant will be the mix of economic, family and refugee classes. The report’s recommendation essentially means that any increase should be with respect to the economic class of immigrants, not family or refugee class:

A group of external advisers to Finance Minister Bill Morneau will call on the government this week to dramatically increase the level of immigration and foreign investment coming in to Canada to stimulate a sluggish economy in future years.

Their recommendations include increasing immigration by 50 per cent to 450,000 people annually over five years while easing the process for high-skilled and entrepreneurial foreigners to come here; building a new department to entice foreign direct investment into Canada; and creating an arm’s length infrastructure bank. The recommendations were confirmed by several senior sources who spoke with The Globe and Mail.

…The 14-member Advisory Council on Economic Growth, chaired by Dominic Barton, global managing director of the consultancy McKinsey & Co., will deliver its first three recommendations to Mr. Morneau in Ottawa on Thursday. The council, which includes venture capitalists, institutional investors, business executives and academics, plans to present up to 20 ideas in the coming months intended to help Canada boost economic growth beyond forecast levels of less than 2 per cent annually through 2030.

The minister is expected to announce plans to act on at least one of the recommendations in his fall fiscal update, sources said. “My sense is [the government is] keen to receive these recommendations as soon as possible,” said one source close to the council. “That probably tells you they want to do something.”

…Expanding and improving the immigration process would address a key concern raised by fast-growing Canadian tech companies. Many say visa approval times for foreigners with high-level executive experience or in-demand skills can drag on for up to a year, and that coveted recruits who would otherwise move to Canada are not willing to put their lives on hold for so long when they have multiple opportunities. As a result, many tech firms say they have either lost out on key hires, or been forced to have such people work for them outside Canada.

“The current immigration process is overwhelmingly convoluted – even Kafkaesque,” said Tobi Lutke, CEO of Ottawa-based retail software firm Shopify, Inc., which is hiring hundreds of people this year and has lost recruits because of immigration delays. “The people we need to bring to Canada are not building widgets that Canadians otherwise would. The people we are recruiting … are the teachers that help us scale [up]. If we want to build the best companies in the world here, we need to allow the best people in the world to move here.”

Such thinking has guided panel members, who believe that increasing immigration and making it easier for skilled foreigners to move to Canada can increase the pool of people with the training, ambition and drive to create substantial economic value and help support Canada’s aging population. For example, a recent study by the National Foundation for American Policy said more than half of Silicon Valley startups valued at $1-billion (U.S.) or more were founded by immigrants.

The panel is calling for employers in technology and other expanding sectors to be exempt from the time-consuming process of proving no Canadian could do a job they want to offer to foreigners for senior positions or specialized roles, such as data science or digital marketing. Foreign students who have studied in Canada should have an easier time immigrating, the council also believes.

….The council and government officials are anticipating some resistance to the recommendations.

Immigration Minister John McCallum and Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains say they support more immigration, but acknowledge facing some opposition from within the government. Several recent polls – including one conducted for Mr. McCallum’s department – found little support for increased immigration.

Mr. McCallum said in an interview on Tuesday that he is not prepared to go as high as 450,000. But he suggested the number will rise from current levels of 300,000 when the government releases its 2017 immigration targets by Nov. 1. “This is a somewhat controversial issue, especially when you talk about numbers that high,” he said. The minister said no final decisions have been made.

Source: Advisory group’s economic blueprint calls for dramatic increase in immigration, foreign investment, infrastructure bank – The Globe and Mail

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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