Evidence of meeting #75 for Citizenship and Immigration in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was provinces.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Reint-Jan Dykstra  Director, Canadian Federation of Agriculture
David Campbell  President, Jupia Consultants Inc., As an Individual
Finn Poschmann  President and Chief Executive Officer, Atlantic Provinces Economic Council
Jose Rivera  Executive Director, Refugee and Immigrant Advisory Council
Laurent Martel  Director, Demography Division, Statistics Canada
Clerk of the Committee  Ms. Erica Pereira

9:25 a.m.

Conservative

Bob Saroya Conservative Markham—Unionville, ON

It's just a question.

9:25 a.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

He did not move the motion.

9:25 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Rob Oliphant

You're not moving a motion?

9:25 a.m.

Conservative

Bob Saroya Conservative Markham—Unionville, ON

No.

9:25 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Rob Oliphant

You have four seconds to respond.

9:25 a.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Atlantic Provinces Economic Council

Finn Poschmann

I am sure the committee will make the finest, wisest choice available to it.

9:25 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Rob Oliphant

Ms. Kwan is next.

9:25 a.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Thank you to all the witnesses for your presentations.

What I'm hearing, I think from everybody, is the issue around immigration and the need for immigration for Canada to sustain our economy in a variety of different sectors.

The government is gearing up for November 1 to table the immigration levels numbers we will be expecting next year. I wonder, in this context, if you would agree that we need to increase the immigration levels numbers from our current 300,000 level to a higher level. By way of context, the former minister, John McCallum, had an expert advisory panel that gave him advice, and the advice was that the immigration levels should increase to 450,000 over five years. That was back in 2016.

I wonder if I could get a quick answer from around the table, starting with Mr. Dykstra.

9:30 a.m.

Director, Canadian Federation of Agriculture

Reint-Jan Dykstra

I cannot speak on numbers, but that the immigration levels should increase is a definite yes.

9:30 a.m.

President, Jupia Consultants Inc., As an Individual

David Campbell

I think we need to get there. I'm not sure we need to get there in the very short term, but ultimately the immigration levels in Atlantic Canada need to get up to at least 1% of the population, which is where they are now nationally. I think they're going to have to get closer to 1.5% or maybe 2%, which would require significantly more.

What we're seeing now in the provinces is much more competition for immigration. I'd like to see more thought given to developing those national targets based on regional and local priorities. As I said before, a lot of the small and mid-sized urban centres across the country are starting to feel the challenges associated with the shrinking labour market. You're going to need more immigrants in North Bay, Sarnia, Thunder Bay, and across the country. I think that eventually, in the fairly short term, we're going to have to get to that number of 425,000 or 450,000.

9:30 a.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Thank you very much.

Mr. Poschmann, go ahead.

9:30 a.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Atlantic Provinces Economic Council

Finn Poschmann

Thank you for the question.

The challenge isn't with the particular level or target number but with hitting it. Certainly we would like to see a bigger number, and we would like to see the bigger number achieved.

It's only in recent years that the Atlantic provinces have woken up to the need for immigration. It's good to see some improvement, but we have a very long way to go. Ramping up to 450,000 nationally in the short term would be a challenge, but if we could do it, that would be great.

9:30 a.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Okay. Thank you.

We used to have programs in our Canadian immigration system such as the Canadian experience class, the federal skilled workers class, and the skilled trades class. More and more, over the years, people have veered towards one sector of the immigrant population.

I heard from a variety of different places, including the panel today, that we actually need a full spectrum of low-skilled, medium-skilled, and highly skilled workers to come to Canada. Right now, our immigration system does not reflect that need. It tends to skew towards one area. Hence, we are not meeting the labour demands. In the agriculture industry, for example, people come as temporary foreign workers, but it sounds to me, from what Mr. Dykstra said, that we actually need a pathway for these individuals to come as permanent residents.

I would like the presenters to expand on this a little, in terms of a change in our immigration policy. Should we be changing our immigration policy to reflect that need for a range of workers, as we used to have previously?

Mr. Dykstra, we'll start with you.

9:30 a.m.

Director, Canadian Federation of Agriculture

Reint-Jan Dykstra

Yes, I would agree with that 100%.

It's the same thing that we had when we first came to Canada. In the investor group, you basically were allowed to come in on a somewhat fast-tracked approach. We should do the same thing now with the lower-skilled immigration levels when there is a need for it. We can see there is a significant need for it because of the need for temporary foreign workers.

Yes, I would wholeheartedly concur, but I repeat that it also needs backup in the rural areas from the government so that in the rural areas there is a support system in place for these newcomers.

9:30 a.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Thank you.

I want to build on the question around a support system.

Mr. Campbell, I think you mentioned it in terms of investment. If you bring in a new population of people, you need to have the infrastructure to support people to integrate into the community and to be successful in the community. Since you touched on that idea, what do you think the government should do in terms of infrastructure in the Atlantic provinces?

9:35 a.m.

President, Jupia Consultants Inc., As an Individual

David Campbell

I'd like them to spend a little more money, not just federal but also provincial and even local. As I said before, it takes a lot more money and a much longer period of time to bring somebody from birth into the labour market than it does to bring an immigrant. If we're talking about the cost, it's going to be a lot less to bring an immigrant in. I don't have a number for you today. I would like to see more money invested in our communities, particularly in areas where the ecosystem for immigration is not that developed, to make sure there is a kick-start there to get this infrastructure in place to support these immigrants as they settle.

To come back to your point, I think there is a difference between large urban centres and the rest of the country. In large urban centres, the immigrant population is distributed across the labour market in service industries, in manufacturing, and in higher-skill areas, but if you look at small urban centres and places like Atlantic Canada, you see that immigrants have historically been clustered in highly skilled occupations and in immigrant investor categories. That's because of family-class immigration, refugees, and all the other categories that have benefited the large urban centres more than the small urban centres.

In a place like Toronto or Vancouver, you'll see immigrants distributed across the labour market, but not in a place like Moncton or Halifax.

9:35 a.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

I want to bring us to the next issue, which is refugees.

We have had previous panels from the Atlantic provinces come in to talk about the desire to increase refugees into the Atlantic provinces as well. In fact, the UNHCR just sent a letter to our committee suggesting a model related to that.

In terms of resettlement of refugees, would it be desirable for the Atlantic provinces to also see an increase in refugee resettlement numbers in those regions?

9:35 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Rob Oliphant

Please be very brief.

9:35 a.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

I will start with Mr. Campbell.

9:35 a.m.

President, Jupia Consultants Inc., As an Individual

David Campbell

Yes, I think so, but remember that they take much more time and effort to integrate into society and into the labour market because they're not coming as economic immigrants. They normally don't have the language skills. They don't have the specific labour market skills per se. I think more refugees would be good for the region, but you have to understand that the time and effort required to integrate them into the labour market will be much greater than for economic immigrants.

9:35 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Rob Oliphant

Thank you.

Ms. Lockhart is next.

October 17th, 2017 / 9:35 a.m.

Liberal

Alaina Lockhart Liberal Fundy Royal, NB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you to all of our witnesses today. You each bring a very interesting perspective to this conversation.

Mr. Dykstra, you mentioned CFA's workforce development plan. Is that something that could be submitted to the committee to include in our evidence? Could you provide that, Mr. Dykstra?

9:35 a.m.

Director, Canadian Federation of Agriculture

9:35 a.m.

Liberal

Alaina Lockhart Liberal Fundy Royal, NB

Okay, great.

I also want to talk to you about succession planning for farms and whether you think there's a role for immigration. We'll use farming as an example, but our other witnesses might want to talk about that as well in the context of other business succession planning.

Could you give me your perspective?

9:35 a.m.

Director, Canadian Federation of Agriculture

Reint-Jan Dykstra

Succession planning takes a long time and usually it does not start on the day you want to move the farm over to the next generation or to a newcomer or to a local. It doesn't matter who. Succession planning starts basically when you start farming and you start thinking about your vision for the future.

When Bethany and I started farming and got married and our first son was born, the idea was that in all likelihood he would inherit the farm unless he wanted to do something different. Then numbers two, three, and four came along, and it became more difficult.

However, at that time you are already making all your plans. This is not a last-moment plan. It's the same thing with all businesses; it is a long-term goal. You have to go with the flow when Minister Morneau makes an announcement that he wants to change the tax system for small businesses. Whether they are incorporated or they are sole proprietorships, it all has an effect. That's why everything needs to be taken into context. If you want to change something, keep in the back of your mind that a lot of people have depended on the system that we had, so consider what the impact will be. That is what we are asking for.

It would be the same thing if I expanded my farm. There would be an impact on the labour force, and I would have to see if I could find enough people locally to do the labour. Unfortunately, just because the labour market is at 10% unemployment does not necessarily mean there is 10% of the labour force available to do my farm work. The real truth is that there might be 2% or maybe 1%, because we have been shipping out our youngsters. I'm sorry to say this, and it may sound a little harsh and it may sound a little more farm-like, but we have shipped them out west left, right, and centre. What we have left are the ones who are less able to do the work that we require them to do.

The numbers are high, and for that reason we should get accustomed to that. We need to bring that into line, basically through population growth, so that the 10% number becomes a smaller percentage of the population.