Canadian Government Celebrates First Skilled Trades Immigrant

Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander welcoming one of the first successful Federal Skilled Trades Program applicants (Citizenship and Immigration Canada)

New Canadian Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander this month welcomed Eric Byrne, a Canadian immigrant from Ireland, and one of the first individuals to become a permanent resident of the country through the Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP), in a press conference to promote the new immigration program.

Describing the program’s connection to the Canadian government’s broader economic goals, Alexander said:

“Our Government remains focused on job creation, economic growth and long-term prosperity. The new Federal Skilled Trades Program enables us to attract and retain skilled workers—like Eric—so we can address regional labour shortages and strengthen Canada’s economy.”

Byrne met the FSTP’s first requirement, a Certificate of Qualification from a provincial trades authority – in his case the Ontario College of Trades – in May 2012, and is currently employed as a plumber for University Plumbing and Heating.

He initially entered Canada through the country’s working holiday program, called International Experience Canada.

The reciprocal visa program allows the young adults of countries that Canada has a working holiday agreement with, like Ireland, to work and live in the Canada for a period of one to two years, while Canadian youth are given the same opportunity in the contracting country.

The program grants a maximum of 6,350 two year working holiday visas to Irish permanent residents and citizens per year. The visas have become highly sought after in Ireland, with the annual quota being met just two days after the program began accepting applications in 2013.

Part of new immigration selection strategy

The increasing reliance on the International Experience Canada program, the Canadian Experience Class (CEC), and new immigration programs that target foreign nationals with skills in demand in Canada, like the FSTP, for selecting new immigrants, began during Jason Kenney’s tenure as Citizenship and Immigration minister.

The aim of this new direction in immigration selection is to reverse the trend seen of highly educated immigrants arriving in Canada and having difficulty integrating into the economy, resulting in a growing employment and income gap between new immigrants and the general population.

By choosing applicants from countries more similar in language and economic structure to Canada, those who have Canadian work experience, and those who are certified to work in their vocation in Canada, the immigration ministry hopes new immigrants can immediately start contributing to the Canadian economy at the same rates as native born Canadians.

For his part, Kenney, who is now the Minister of Employment and Social Development, welcomed another one of the first successful applicants of the FSTP, Paul Lyttle, who is working as an electrician for Calgary-based Unitech Electrical Contracting Inc.

He promoted the program as a positive for the Canadian economy.

“The new Federal Skilled Trades Program is a significant improvement to Canada’s immigration system which, for too long, had not been open to in-demand skilled workers. Immigrants like Paul are set for success and I am pleased that this new Program will enable him, and others like him, to contribute skills to our economy on a permanent basis,” he said.

Canada to Encourage Irish Immigration at Jobs Expo Dublin and Jobs Expo Cork

A street in Dublin, Ireland. Thousands of Irish job seekers are expected at the job expos being held in Dublin and Cork on September 6, 7 and 10 (Jean Housen)

At least seven Canadian companies will have a presence at this year’s Jobs Expo Dublin and Jobs Expo Cork, where they will promote the country as an ideal destination for Ireland’s skilled workers to find work and to settle.

The job expo, which is scheduled for Friday September 6th and Saturday 7th in Dublin, and Tuesday September 10th in Cork, will attract thousands from across Ireland seeking to assess the employment opportunities being offered. Dozens of companies from around the world will be manning booths at the event.

With Ireland now back in recession, immigration to Canada is becoming an increasingly attractive option for the country’s workers, whose skills, including English fluency and many with skilled trades qualifications, are well matched for Canada’s economy.

Among Canadian firms present at the expo will be CICS Immigration Consulting, which will be holding seminars on immigration to Canada in Dublin on Friday September 6th from 3pm – 3.45pm and in Cork on Tuesday September 10th from 5pm – 5.45pm.

Canadian immigration consultant and CICS principal Alex Khadempour will detail the main routes through which Irish workers can obtain work permits and permanent residency in Canada and provide a layout of the Canadian labour market and what immigrants might expect to encounter when they arrive in the country.

The job expo will run from 11am to 4pm in the Croke Park Conference Centre in Dublin and from 12pm to 6pm in the Silver Springs Moran Hotel in Cork.

Alberta Temporary Foreign Worker Pilot Extended

Pipe and steamfitters are one of the occupations eligible for the Alberta pilot program for temporary foreign workers

The provincial government of Alberta has announced that the Alberta Occupation-Specific Pilot for temporary foreign workers will be extended for another year, to July 31 2014.

The pilot started in June 2011 and allows qualifying foreign nationals to receive special one or two-year work permits that allow them to work for an employer without the employer being required to have a Labour Market Opinion (LMO) from Services Canada.

This allows the temporary foreign worker to move freely between employers as long as they are working in the approved occupation.

The list of qualifying occupations for the pilot was expanded in July 2012 to include welders, heavy duty equipment mechanics, ironworkers, millwright and industrial mechanics, carpenters and estimators.

The skilled trades added were those deemed to be in high demand in Alberta’s economy, particularly in its bustling energy sector which has faced a shortage of skilled labour in recent years.

Increase in US Oil Production Threatens Canada’s Oil Sands

An oil rig in Northern British Columbia. The oil and gas industry is vital to the economy of Western Canadian provinces

Canadian energy producers exported over $120 billion worth of energy products in 2011, which constituted over 25 percent of the $462 billion worth of goods/services exported from Canada that year.

The sizeable contribution made by the oil and gas sector to Canada’s export revenue helped shore up the value of the Canadian dollar, which enhanced Canadians’ purchasing power internationally and helped raise the average household wealth of Canadians above that of Americans for the first time in history.

Canada’s natural resource wealth, in particular in energy resources, has also given it the best economic performance among the G8 countries over the last several years, and allowed it to better weather the economic decline following the bursting of the global credit bubble in 2008.

The exceptionalism of Canada among the developed world faces a threat from an unexpected source though: increasing shale oil production in the US.

As noted in the Edmonton Journal, a recent PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) report projects a substantial increase in global oil supplies as new oil extraction methods like hydraulic fracturing make previously inaccessible shale oil reserves accessible for the first time:

Thanks to such innovations as horizontal drilling and fracking (hydraulic fracturing), the U.S. is currently producing more oil than it has in 20 years. U.S. output now exceeds seven million barrels a day, and that has enabled the world’s biggest oil consuming nation to cut its imports to the lowest level in 16 years.

Since Canada’s crude oil exports are a critical driver of well-paid jobs, royalties, taxes — and ultimately, federal equalization transfers — that’s something that should alarm all Canadians.

Indeed, if current trends continue, the U.S. will overtake Saudi Arabia as the world’s top oil producer by 2017, the International Energy Agency has predicted.

This can threaten Canada’s energy sector due to both global and regional effects. Globally, an increase in oil production would reduce oil prices, and with it, Canada’s oil and gas revenue. Regionally, given ninety percent of Canada’s energy exports are sent to the US, an increase in American oil production would significantly reduce the premium Canadian oil producers receive thanks to the proximity of their major buyers.

The regional effects could be alleviated with the construction of more pipelines capable of transporting the oil produced in the Athabasca oil sands in Northern Alberta to the Pacific Ocean, from where it can be shipped to Asian economies, but projects being proposed at the moment, like the Enbridge pipeline, face political challenges due to ideological and cultural opposition to the oil industry among a sizeable section of the Canadian public.

Economic repercussions

If the global petroleum market progresses as the PwC report predicts, the prosperity of Canada’s Western provinces, which depends to a large part on energy production, would diminish, and federal revenues from oil and gas royalties would decline.

The rapid immigration of skilled trades people to Canada to work in the oil and gas sector would slow, and other developed countries, especially large oil importers like European countries and Japan, would become more attractive destinations for immigrants and international investors.

The net effect for the world would likely be positive, as reduced oil prices increase global economic growth and raise the average of standard of living around the world.

Report Projects Oil Sands to Contribute Trillions to the Canadian Economy

The Deloitte report says pipelines are the most efficient way to transport oil produced in Western Canada

A comprehensive report on the challenges and opportunities of Canada’s oil sands by auditing giant Deloitte projects that the hydrocarbon deposits will contribute an estimated $2.1 trillion to Canada’s GDP over the next 25 years.

The economic benefits of the added wealth include up to $783 billion in extra tax revenues over the period, which will provide a significant boost to local, provincial and federal governments and help them meet the growing costs of providing social services to an ageing population.

In addition to tax revenue, the export revenue generated from oil sands production will fund up to 905,000 jobs a year according to the Deloitte report.

The report cites lack of pipeline infrastructure as a potential limiting factor in the growth of Canada’s energy exports, as oil production is expected to reach current pipeline capacity by 2017.

Oil producers are currently look to use alternative transportation methods, in particular rail transport, to move the oil to international markets once pipeline capacity has been reached, but these solutions are expensive and inefficient in the long run, and the report says more efficient pipeline transportation will be required to fully realize the oil sands’ potential.

The report mentions the Northern Gateway pipeline, the Keystone XL pipeline and the Trans Mountain Expansion (TMX) as three pending infrastructure projects that are critical for providing sufficient conduits for getting Canada’s oil sands production to world markets.

According to Deloitte, the benefits of completing these projects include: 1) reducing up to $131 billions in losses that are currently incurred from Canadian oil being sold at below market prices due to lack of access to world markets, 2) reducing over-reliance on the US market, and 3) getting access to the fastest growing oil consuming regions of the world in India and China.

The biggest challenge in the oil sands development according to the report is the poor public perception of the oil industry in Canada and the hyperbolic nature of the debate surrounding the potential environmental harm of oil pipelines. The report urges a more fact-based debate on the costs and benefits of pipeline construction that avoids broad generalizations and sweeping judgements about environmental criticism, the oil industry, and energy projects.

New Canadian Immigration Program for Skilled Trades Opens

The Federal Skilled Trades Program was launched on Wednesday to acclaim from construction industry leaders

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) officially launched the Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP) on Wednesday, and plans to admit up to 3,000 permanent residents through the program in 2013.

Applicants of the FSTP must meet three general requirements to be eligible for the program:

  • meet the minimum language requirements of the program,
  • have at least two years of full-time work experience (or an equivalent amount of part-time work experience) in an accepted skilled trade within five years of the date of the application,
  • have a Certificate of Qualification or a job offer(s) from up to two Canadian employers that totals at least one year of full time work

Construction industry leaders have welcomed the program, which they say could mitigate the pressing labour shortages they are facing in many of the trades.

“Today’s announcement is good news for the construction industry because the need for workers with trade skills will continue to grow as Alberta’s economy grows,” said Merit Contractors Association in Alberta vice-president Bill Stewart.

Canadian Construction Association president Michael Atkinson had similar praise for the program:

“The Canadian Construction Association is especially pleased to hear today’s announcement that the new federal Skilled Trades Program to be launched on January 2nd, 2013.”

In order to make it easier for skilled trades persons to immigrate to Canada, CIC created the FSTP with no post-secondary education requirements and lower language proficiency requirements than the well-known Federal Skilled Worker Program.

Canadian Immigration Department Finalizes Occupation List for Federal Skilled Trades Program

Welders will be one of the occupations that will be accepted without a 100 application sub-cap under the new Federal Skilled Trade Program (Joe Mabel)

CICS News has learned that Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) has made a final decision on which occupations will be eligible for the new Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP) that is scheduled to open on January 2nd.

CIC is expected to announce that the FSTP will give occupations one of two treatments; Group A occupations will be sub-capped at 100 applications per year for that particular occupation, and Group B occupations will have no sub-cap and will be accepted until the program’s total cap of 3,000 applications has been reached for the year.

Occupations within Group A will be:

  • Contractors and supervisors in electrical trades and
    telecommunications occupations
  • Contractors and supervisors in carpentry trades
  • Contractors and supervisors in other construction trades,
    installers, repairers and servicers
  • Carpenters
  • Contractors and supervisors in mechanic trades
  • Contractors and supervisors for heavy equipment operator
    crews
  • Supervisors in logging and forestry
  • Supervisors in mining and quarrying
  • Contractors and supervisors in oil and gas drilling services
  • Logging machinery operators
  • Agricultural service contractors, farm supervisors and
    specialized livestock workers
  • Supervisors, mineral and metal processing
  • Supervisors in petroleum, gas and chemical processing
    and utilities
  • Supervisors in plastic and rubber products manufacturing
  • Central control and process operators, mineral and metal
    processing
  • Power engineers and power systems operators
  • Water and waste treatment plant operators

Occupations within Group B will be:

  • Machinists and machining and tooling inspectors
  • Sheet metal workers
  • Structural metal and plate work fabricators and fitters
  • Ironworkers
  • Welders and related machine operators
  • Electricians (except industrial and power system)
  • Industrial electricians
  • Power system electricians
  • Electrical power line and cable workers
  • Telecommunications line and cable workers
  • Telecommunications installation and repair workers
  • Plumbers
  • Steamfitters, pipefitters and sprinkler system installers
  • Gas fitters
  • Construction millwrights and industrial mechanics
  • Heavy-duty equipment mechanics
  • Refrigeration and air conditioning mechanics
  • Railway carmen/women
  • Aircraft mechanics and aircraft inspectors
  • Elevator constructors and mechanics
  • Crane operators
  • Drillers and blasters — surface, mining, quarrying and
    construction
  • Water well drillers
  • Underground production and development miners
  • Oil and gas well drillers, servicers, testers and related
    workers
  • Petroleum, gas and chemical process operators

The FSTP is intended to meet labour shortages in Canada’s resource sectors by creating a path to immigration for foreign nationals skilled in high-demand trades like welding and drilling.

Massive Shale Oil Prospect Discovered in Northwest Territories, Could Increase Demand for Foreign Labour

The Canol shale formation ranges from the Mackenzie River, pictured above, in the east, to the MacKenzie Mountains to the West. (David Adamec)

A new shale oil prospect in the Northwest Territories potentially rivals the Bakken formation under Saskatchewan, Montana and North Dakota in its recoverable oil resources.

The Canol shale formation could contain two to three billion barrels of recoverable oil according to David Ramsey, Minister of Industry and Transportation for the Northwest Territories. If the estimates are proven accurate, it would increase Canada’s total proven oil reserves by over one and a half percent, to 182 billion barrels.

The find has the potential to create significant economic opportunity for Northwest Territories communities and those ready to brave Canada’s subarctic north. First Nations communities are hopeful that the development will bring jobs to the region, while also concerned about the damage it could do to the pristine northern wilderness.

Temporary foreign workers could play a big role in the extraction of the new oil find, given oil and gas companies are already not able to meet their labour needs in remote and inhospitable resource basins, ranging from northern Alberta to central Saskatchewan, to oil platforms off the shore of Newfoundland.

Last month, the federal and Alberta provincial governments jointly announced a pilot program to expedite the issuance of work permits to foreign workers skilled in in-demand trades like welding, and the federal government is planning to add a skilled trades stream to the Federal Skilled Workers Program to allow more people with the skills demanded by Canada’s resource sectors to become permanent residents.

Alberta Temporary Worker Program to Expand List of Eligible Occupations

The temporary foreign worker pilot is intended to alleviate the acute labour shortages that natural resource industry hubs like the city of Fort McMurray face (Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo)

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) and the provincial government of Alberta jointly announced this week that the Alberta temporary worker pilot program will be expanded to include more occupations.

The pilot project began in June 2011 and issues special work permits to foreign nationals who meet the program’s requirements, including being qualified in an eligible occupation, which allows them to work temporarily in Alberta in a single occupation without the constraints that typically come with work permits for temporary foreign workers, like requiring a Labour Market Opinion (LMO) from Services Canada to change employers.

The expansion of the program will add the following occupations to the list of approved occupations:

  • Welder
  • Heavy duty equipment mechanic
  • Ironworker
  • Millwright and industrial mechanic
  • Carpenter
  • Estimator

The pilot previously accepted only a single occupation, pipe/steam-fitter.

Alberta faces some of the most severe labour shortages for skilled trades workers in Canada, as companies are unable to find a sufficient number of Canadian residents that are able and willing to work in often remote resource extraction sites like the oil sands in the province’s north.

New Canadian EI Rules Could Affect Number of Work Permits Issued to Foreign Workers

The Harper government is planning to change the federal Employment Insurance program to encourage the long-time unemployed to take available Canadian jobs, which could reduce the demand for foreign workers in Canada’s resource and service industries.

Human Resources Minister Diane Finley announced changes to the EI program on Thursday (Human Resources and Skill Development Canada)

Canadian Immigration Minister Jason Kenney had earlier noted the anomaly of regions of Canada with high unemployment rates being forced to bring in foreigners to fill vacant jobs primarily in the resource sector due to too few Canadians being willing to do them.

The new EI rules could remedy this situation by increasing the incentive for unemployed Canadians to take up resource-sector and menial labour jobs. Minister of Human Resources, Diane Finley, in an announcement introducing the proposed changes, said the purpose of the new rules was to “connect Canadians with available jobs in their local area”.

The changes could also mean that foreign workers could see a drop in demand from Canadian firms for their labour and be less likely to be granted a Canadian work permit.

New Rules Explained

Under the new changes, EI recipients will be divided into three tiers:

  • Long-tenured workers – Canadians who have paid into EI for seven of the preceding ten years and over the preceding five years have collected EI for 35 weeks or less
  • Frequent claimants – Canadians who have had three or more claims and received benefits for more than 60 weeks in the preceding five years
  • Occasional claimants – All other claimants

Long-tenured workers will receive benefits for 18 weeks without having to expand their job search to different occupations. In this period, they will lose their EI benefits if any job that pays at least 90 percent of their previous earnings and is the same occupation as their previous job is available to them and they refuse to take it.

After 18 weeks, they would lose their benefits if there is any job that pays at least 80 percent of their previous earnings and is in a similar industry as their previous job is available to them and they refuse to take it.

Occasional claimants will receive benefits for six weeks without having to expand their job search to different occupations. In this period, they will lose their benefits if any job that pays at least 90 percent of their previous earnings and is the same occupation as their previous job is available tot hem and they refuse to take it.

After six weeks, they would lose their benefits if there is any job that pays at least 80 percent of their previous earnings and is in a similar industry as their previous job is available to them and they refuse to take it. After 18 weeks, they would lose  they would lose their benefits if there is any job in any industry that pays at least 70 percent of their previous earnings available to them and they refuse to take it.

Frequent claimants will receive benefits for six weeks without having to expand their job search to different industries. In this period, they will lose their EI benefits if any job that pays at least 80 percent of their previous earnings and is in a similar industry as their previous job is available to them and they refuse to take it.

After six weeks, they would lose their benefits if there is any job in any industry that pays at least 70 percent of their previous earnings available to them and they refuse to take it.

The new rules also require claimants to travel up to an hour to work an eligible job.

Uncertain Economic Impact

How the proposed changes to EI affect the number of work permits issued will largely depend on how effective they are in encouraging Canadians on EI to find jobs.

Amela Karabegovic, an economist for the Fraser Institute, believes that the changes are relatively minor tinkering and don’t fix the fundamental flaws of the current Employment Insurance model.

In an interview with CICS, Ms. Karabegovic said that the major problem with federal Employment Insurance is that the premiums employers and employees pay are a fixed percentage of income, that isn’t adjusted for risk, making it unlike any other type of insurance.

“The incentives are such that some individuals may over-use it. To give you an example, imagine having car insurance where no matter of how many claims you make, you pay the same premium. Regardless how many accidents you get in, regardless of your age, and so on.

Similarly with Employment Insurance, unless the premiums are adjusted to reflect risk, obviously some individuals are going to over-use it,” Ms. Karabegovic said.

“Instead of making marginal changes, there has to be a more fundamental change in order for the system to work properly, to do what it’s supposed to do which is to provide temporary assistance to those who unexpectedly lost their jobs”.