Ottawa’s new immigration program sparks talent pool debate

June 28, 2017

By Tyler Orton, Business in Vancouver |

When Marty Reed moved from San Francisco to Vancouver in 2015, getting a work permit was a “pretty straightforward” exercise for the venture capital veteran.

“It was all the other stuff that was an absolute nightmare. Health care to education to banking,” said the CEO of Evok Innovations, a $100 million clean-tech fund backed by the BC Cleantech CEO Alliance, Cenovus Energy (TSX:CVE) and Suncor Energy (TSX:SU).

As Ottawa rolls out a two-year pilot program designed to speed up immigration for highly skilled foreign workers, Reed said the government’s Global Skills Strategy should take a big-picture approach to attracting global talent.

“It’s the ticket, but it’s not the overall package. More importantly, are we providing global talent an attractive market to come to in terms of total quality of life?” he said.

“The challenge for government is this issue doesn’t fall under one ministry. The minister of immigration can’t address challenges in the banking system that make it very difficult for a person like me to come into the country.”

The Global Talent Stream pilot launched June 12 as part of the temporary foreign workers program, which came under fire in 2014 over abuses in the fast-food industry.

Meanwhile, tech companies desperate for highly skilled workers to help fill in the talent gaps in cities like Vancouver or Toronto faced waits of up to a year while going through onerous labour market impact assessments (LMIA). Ottawa is promising the pilot will process 80% of work permit applications within 10 business days. Employers will have to pay $1,000 per position.

Immigration lawyer Kelly Goldthorpe of Toronto’s Green and Spiegel LLP said it now appears “the pendulum is swinging the other direction from how difficult it used to be to get LMIA applications” approved.

“Companies have often sort of complained about how long it took to bring in global talent,” she said in a webinar the day of the program’s launch.

“They face issues with having workers face six to 12 months’ wait time for processing their documents.”

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