“Express entry” seems expressly suited to employer needs, not national interest

As Canada’s new “express entry” immigration system struggles to find its feet, Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander has been at pains to focus on the dramatic reduction in wait times for would-be immigrants, dismissing complaints by critics that the new program is driven primarily by the needs of employers.

But labour market demand was the main factor Canada’s federal, provincial and territorial immigration ministers agreed to priorize last year, when they set the goal of raising “economic class” immigrants to 65 percent of the total, an all-time high.

This was about the time that Ottawa decided temporary foreign workers would be limited to four years in this country, summarily sent home when their time was up.

The result has been an upheaval in immigration policy, one that makes it increasingly difficult for cities, where most newcomers live, to plan the future. Worse, it puts many new arrivals at the mercy of employers and economic cycles, rather than making a firm commitment to open the way to citizenship.

How cities can support the integration of new arrivals? That was the issue I was asked to explore April 9 at a leadership awards presentation by the Immigrant Employment Council of BC, where the City of Vancouver won significant recognition.

What does it mean to support the arrival and integration of newcomers when their status is so dependent on economic goals, rather than national ones? When new arrivals are literally here today, gone tomorrow. I, for one, am not sure, and believe that the new direction taken by the federal Conservatives leads in the wrong direction.

Here’s what I said, reprinted here at the request of several members of the audience. My conclusion: we would be better served by an immigration policy that can be summed up in five words. “Welcome. Join us. Please stay.”