Each Friday, Yahoo! Canada News asks Canadians where they stand on the important issues of the day, and our panel of experts tackle the same question.
This week we asked:
The Canadian government is creating a new program to fast-track allowing skilled immigrants into Canada. Do you think some immigrants should be admitted faster than others?
Andy Radia: In recent history, immigration to Canada has been used for two purposes: one, to increase our population so to increase our tax base and two, to meet our labour shortages. If you speak with companies — especially in the West — they'll tell you that there is an immediate need for skilled workers. They don't need them in five years, or two years, they need them now. So, yes, let the skilled-workers bud in line. The rest can wait.
Matthew Coutts: If some immigrants are getting in faster, it means others are getting in slower. Those people might not have the specific skills we need right now, but they might have other traits that make them desirable Canadians in the longer term. Queue-jumping aside, I would prefer we train unemployed Canadians for those positions before opening them up to the rest of the world.
Thomas Bink: And any time the government is involved in a two-tiered system, I get nervous. Who decides which skills are in demand and which aren't? Will other considerations be taken into account — like criminal records, Canadian family members and language skills? Or even if a candidate is willing and able to adapt to Canadian life? I'm with Matt on this one — let's keep the system the way it is and train people already in Canada to help areas in need instead of creating a two-tiered system that will inevitably create anger and resentment.
Radia: I agree with you guys: let's train Canadians for these jobs. But the problem is, that training takes time. Again, industries will tell you that we need these workers now — they don't have two, three or four years to get these guys trained. If we don't get these workers, we're losing out on economic opportunities. Immigration minister Jason Kenney has put forward a good plan which targets the right candidates who will be able to adapt to Canadian life, including language skills.
Coutts: True enough, we don't want to block economic opportunities at home, but there has to be a solution that benefits Canadian workers. And what exactly happens when we reach the tipping point? We won't always needs as many welders as we currently do. What happens when our need for, say, solar panel technicians must be addressed instead? We change the system to benefit the new skill. But the number of welding positions drop and we've got a responsibility to those people we brought over here. It's a very touchy game of trying to force supply to meet demand, instead of letting it happen naturally.
Bink: Agreed. Canada's retraining programs have to involve not only training Canadians for jobs now but in the future as well, as skills and workers cycle through the changing job market. It doesn't make sense to be fast-tracking immigrant workers into Canada when our unemployment rate is over 7 per cent. Do you think America would do that? Not a chance. You don't have to be Mitt Romney to know the government's first priority right now is getting every American working again. Canada should have the same philosophy before swinging open the immigration gates.
Radia: Yeah, any type of immigration is always going to be a hard-sell especially when you have a 7-per-cent unemployment rate. But if, as a country, we're going to have immigration, why can't we cherry pick the best of the best.