Minister of Immigration in Halifax: Nova Scotia’s Message is “Loud and Clear”
March 17, 2016
The Federal Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, The Honourable John McCallum, was the guest speaker yesterday at the Halifax Chamber of Commerce Distinguished Speakers Series. He was respectfully introduced by Wadih Fares, President & CEO of W.M. Fares Group, who has been promoting immigration to Nova Scotia for many years. Mr. Fares made a pull for the Province by indicating that though we are pleased that we’ve been able to maintain our 1,350 person cap on the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP), it is not enough! We would like to see a higher cap introduced, and ultimately, to have the cap removed entirely.
The Minister began by addressing the immense collective effort of the Federal Government in its response to the Syrian refugee crisis. But, he emphasized, the work has only just begun. It is now up to the private and public spheres in each Province to ensure that “our new Canadians are equipped for success.” The Minister touched on the swift action of the Liberal Government to redact the changes to the Citizenship Act that stripped certain dual citizens of their Canadian citizenship. Quickly, the Minister moved to the evident topic of interest – immigration as it applies specifically to Nova Scotia. He joked that he has heard the message loud and clear – from various meetings with the Premier, again from Mr. Fares – We want immigrants. He has read the Ivany Report, and is well versed in our provincial mandate to increase immigration to our Province. He understands the Country’s population decline dilemma, and uses Japan as a model of how an aging population coupled with lack of immigration has grave economic consequences.
Compellingly, the Minister declared to the room lunching at the Halifax Marriot that he is determined to increase the immigration quota in our country. The capacity has been set for 2016 – 300,000 immigrants- but he is hoping to increase the capacity next year, and in the years to come. In order to do that, the Department needs additional funding and, most importantly, to reform the efficiency of the immigration process. He is hoping that lessons will be drawn from the recent refugee response – when we want them to, things can happen quickly. As it stands, processing times for certain streams of immigrants are “embarrassing;” spousal sponsorship applications are currently taking more than 2 years to process.
The Minister believes that it is “foolishness” to treat economic stream immigrants differently than family stream immigrants. All immigrants – refugees, family members, workers- should be treated as economic immigrants, as they will all contribute in different ways to our national economy.
In conclusion, the Minister said his objectives upon being appointed to the Department were threefold:
1) To maintain 2015 capacity levels, and to increase levels of capacity in subsequent years;
2) Reform the Express Entry system, particularly in respect of international students. We should be “courting them actively,” as they are educated young individuals, speaking English or French, and are greatly beneficial for Nova Scotia especially;
3) Broaden focus from the PNP streams. We can recruit immigrants to NS just as effectively through federal programs by encouraging collaboration between the Provincial Government and business.
NS has demonstrated that we “know how to work the system” – we have maximized use of our PNP levels, whereas most provinces have not. We have also demonstrated satisfactory retention levels of 75%. If we continue to demonstrate that we have the conditions necessary to welcome increasing numbers of immigrants, it will work in our favour as the Minister works to increase the size of the pie.
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