Will fed immigration policy stymie NB growth potential?

Jason Kenney, a man for whom I have considerable respect as he almost singlehandedly rebuilt the Tory profile within Canada’s immigrant community, was tweeting gleefully away from his visit to Saskatchewan this weekend.

He tweets were filled with warnings about the shortage of labour in SK and that employers were telling him that this was the biggest barrier to growth facing the province.

He cited examples of SK companies who had used the TFW program to bring in workers and successful transfer them to permanent immigrant status.

It’s all good.

The interesting thing is that when federal officials came to Moncton last year they also heard about the labour shortage and the barrier to growth from the inability to find workers.

A message that was primarily ignored because New Brunswick has a high unemployment rate, a low participation rate and 37,000 people (give or take) as chronic users of the EI program.

My questions are simple.  Who should decide questions of ‘labour shortage’ and how much of the onus to force people to work should rest with employers?

I am growing increasingly convinced that tightening immigration – long delays to TFW LMOs, clamping down on immigration streams, etc. will hold back New Brunswick’s economic growth potential – and I further maintain it could be an even bigger problem in places like Moncton than SK or AB.

That, of course, is heresy and I will be mocked from Saskatoon to Red Deer but consider these points:

1) The Alberta market can afford to make major adjustments to salary levels.  It’s not always pretty but wages have risen substantially – across most industries and occupations – and profit levels remain above the national average for most industries.   In other words, Alberta has dealt with shortages with significant increases in wages.  Employers are not happy about that – I talked to over a dozen last fall – but it remains a fact.

I am not convinced that New Brunswick could handle substantial increases in wages as a response to tightening labour markets and as an incentive to move people to full time, full year work.

I am also not convinced there is easily alignment – skills, motivation and geography – between the ‘unemployed’ in New Brunswick and the available jobs now and the potential available jobs over the next 5-10 years.

The feds may believe that tightening immigration will force locals to work and employers to hire – even if it is a clunky and frustrating process.

I am starting to believe that could be a gamble that may not pay off.

I come back to my point about onus.  If an employer has exhausted – through a good faith effort – attempts to hire locally and needs to attract international workers – why should the feds arbitrarily say “no, work harder to get locals”?  Why not make that same statement in Saskatchewan? There were 58,000 people who claimed EI income in 2011 across Saskatchewan.  Why shouldn’t those malcontents be forced to take jobs in Estevan’s energy sector?

As the din of laughter dies down – I realize there is no comparison to the EI usage in NB and SK but I still think it is worth reflect back on my point about onus.

There are obviously thousands and thousands of SKers that work and then collect EI.  They could, in theory, be told to work in all the 10s of thousands of available jobs that, to the delight of Kenney – are being filled by TFWs and new immigrants.




1 thought on “Will fed immigration policy stymie NB growth potential?

  1. Come on Dave, you didn’t even correct your typos in this ill thought out blog. Jason Kenney? I’m still laughing! The feds making it tougher to bring in TFW?? Come on, the only reason there was a pause in that is because it was discovered that industry is using it to REPLACE workers. In the last budget the feds made it even easier to bring in temporary workers, local firms don’t even have to advertise locally for jobs anymore. So where do you get the crazy idea that the feds are ‘tightening up’? Good grief, they have made it easier than ever!

    As for the worker shortage, that was debunked by the last study done by Toronto Dominion. The employers who typically have a hard time finding workers, are the same ones that have a hard time keeping them. On our local morning show was an interview with a guy who owns a fast growing local group of cafe and bakeries. They are basically the same as Tim Hortons, with the same prices. The exception is that his STARTING salary is $16 per hour. That’s right, SIXTEEN DOLLARS per hour. He said he virtually never needs to advertise because his workers won’t leave him for love or (f) money.

    Thats especially true in the resource industry. People are not stupid, without high salaries what person wants to get a job wrecking the earth? I know two guys who USED to go out west each winter to work, but say that now employers out there are basically ignoring WHMIS and accidents are more common than ever.

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