Thanks very much for having me.
I'm going to be covering two topics today. One is parents and grandparents. The other is business immigration. I'm choosing those because they're somewhat controversial.
Many Canadians support economic immigration. They have an understanding of our obligations for humanitarian classes, but are bewildered by why so many parents and grandparents are being approved. They say things such as the last 10 years of somebody's life is where 80% of our health care costs rise, or that they're just here to collect old age security or the guaranteed income supplement.
Those of us working in immigration realize how important this category is for many families in Canada. We're aware of the cohesiveness it brings to immigrant families whose lives feel weaker and less stable without the support of their parents.
We also suspect that it leads to far better economic outcomes, due to things like reduced reliance on subsidized day care, large transfers of monies from parents to their children, more stable marriages and generally less reliance on social services—perhaps even allowing families to have more children, thereby reducing the need for more immigration to support job growth.
The world is much wealthier now, and the old Indian couple you see walking around the community may have sold their family farm and transferred half a million dollars to their Canadian children. The Chinese couple shopping with their grandchild in the supermarket looking earnestly for bargains may have sold a house in Shanghai for a million, and brought all of their money to Canada.
I travel to China a great deal. When I am there, I often go for a walk in the park in the morning. It could be any park, anywhere in China. In each and every park there are thousands of elderly Chinese who gather in the mornings. They're all doing amazing exercises and activities. They're singing, dancing, doing tai chi, weight training, and on and on. They all eat healthily and have good mobility.
When I go to a food court in any mall in Canada, I see hundreds of unhealthy Canadians drinking litres of sugar-filled soft drinks to wash down their plates of burgers and poutine. I note the absence of elderly immigrants consuming the same things. If they are at the food court, they are generally talking and socializing. If they are eating, it is with care and attention to what they consume.
Are these older people coming to Canada to take advantage of our health care system? The real truth is that our health care system is not that good, and is only ranked 30th by the World Health Organization. I know many Chinese who regularly go back to China for health care treatment. I don't know many who have immigrated to Canada for our health care system.
Many Canadians are not aware that parents who are sponsored by their children are not able to claim old age security for their first 10 years in Canada, and 20 years for the guaranteed income supplement. Of course, unless they work in Canada, they don't qualify for the Canada pension plan. That means the costs of their care must be borne by themselves and their children. By having these parents and grandparents come to Canada, they add to the lives of the whole family.
I also suspect that they have a net positive economic impact. How much, I really don't know. They bring money, buy goods and services, have overseas pensions and reduce social services costs for their children.
I would love the Canadian government to analyze the effects, costs, and economic benefits of parents and grandparents. I think that if we were to analyze it, the results would be truly astounding. Parents and grandparents have a very different demographic impact on our society. They won't be having more children and their main purpose in life is simply to support their children here in Canada.
If we don't undertake an analysis based on facts, many Canadians will continue to not appreciate this important group of immigrants. Maybe the results will be different than I expect, and maybe they are a drain on our health and social systems. I doubt it, and I suspect all of you do, as well.
Please consider undertaking an economic analysis of this group. It will help the national discussion greatly and lead to greater acceptance of grandparents and parents in Canada. Such an analysis of economic data will add to the unity of our country and allow any government to develop better immigration policies.
I've been involved in business immigration for 20 years. When I was first hired by the Manitoba government, my job was to attract overseas investment to the province. I quickly discovered that most foreign direct investment to Canada came to invest in natural resources or in large manufacturing sectors in the Golden Horseshoe. Unfortunately, Manitoba has less than the national average of natural resources and doesn't have a city of several million to attract large manufacturers.
I was also tasked with managing the business immigration program, which was effectively handing out business cards and asking immigrants to come to Manitoba. At that time, there was a federal entrepreneur program. In a good year, Manitoba might get four business immigrants. This led us to decide to try a different approach.
We launched the Manitoba provincial nominee program for business in 2000. It was the first business immigration program under the nominee program. From the moment we launched the program, there were hundreds of business immigrants wanting to move to Manitoba. It has truly transformed our province, with hundreds of new businesses being started.
A subsequent program went to Saskatchewan and did the same thing there, and they have enjoyed similar or even more success.
Under Minister Kenney, the federal government effectively stopped their business immigration programs, both the entrepreneur program and the investor stream. Minister Kenney was able to obtain tax filings for a cohort of live-in caregivers and found that they actually paid more income tax than the federal immigrant investors did. Based on this result, he correctly closed down the program.
Sadly, the Quebec immigrant investor program continues to this day, with about 1,750 families per year being approved. It has three major faults. One is that very few of the approved applicants actually establish a business in Canada or in Quebec. Two, they pay very little income tax. Three, Quebec is effectively selecting immigrants for B.C. and Ontario, which is outside of their agreement with the Government of Canada. They are allowed to select Quebec immigrants but not immigrants from out of province. Estimates are that less than 10% of Quebec investors actually settle in Quebec.
I would encourage this committee to look at the abuses of this program. It is not a program that should be supported based on any analysis.
I'm here to advocate for real business immigration programs—both entrepreneur programs and investors. Most provinces have started entrepreneur programs with varying degrees of success. The most successful ones allow business people to come to Canada under a work permit, establish a business, and then obtain immigration once the business has been operational for six months. The process is working, and I would encourage the federal government to consider launching a similar national program. If it is done well, it would create thousands of new companies and tens of thousands of new jobs.
Similarly, the Quebec investor program needs to be wound down like the federal investor program was. In their place should be a real investor program, where applicants would invest $1 million in real risk capital placed into privately run investment funds. These funds could be used to invest in the private sector, non-public companies in Canada, or in private-public partnerships, particularly those that have a social benefit.
This idea came to my attention from Olivia Chow, who is advocating for the establishment of a federal investor stream with some of the money being used for social development. This idea is worth considering. In my opinion, there is an appetite for about 3,000 of these kinds of visas per year for investors. If the required hold period was for seven years, and the risk capital per person was $1 million, it would effectively raise $21 billion in private sector investment over this time frame. That's a lot of private sector investment for Canada. All of these applicants would be screened to an even higher standard than our skilled workers.
A local politician in Manitoba recently asked me what I thought of business immigrants being “fast-tracked” into Manitoba. I laughed when he asked, as business immigrants to Manitoba or anywhere else in Canada need to provide at least five times more documents, take two to three times longer to process, and only get work permits when they've established a business. This process takes at least four years—not much of a fast track compared to the express entry, which is supposed to take about six months.