COMMENT: We have encountered an economic dead end on the road to population growth

Brandon Ellis is Senior Policy Director at the Atlantic Chamber of Commerce, a nationally accredited business association representing the network of 90 chambers, 34 business partners and over 16,000 businesses in Atlantic Canada.

By Brandon Ellis

Atlantic Canada’s economy is looking to recover and grow, but is facing challenges because Canada’s immigration system is currently overwhelmed. The backlog of applications has now exceeded 2.4 million and is expected to continue to rise with more than 250,000 influxes in the last month alone. Meanwhile, our unemployment rate has fallen to 5.2% in a labor market that continues to tighten.

An increased level of immigration and a low unemployment rate are generally good news and signs of a growing economy ready to take off. However, with the long processing times and backlogs we are seeing across the country, this has created a recipe for economic gridlock.

Companies are unable to find the talent they need domestically and lack reliable access to workers hoping to arrive overseas. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has been tasked with welcoming a record 1.2 million permanent residents over a three-year period while maintaining current programs and creating new programs to help refugees. They just don’t have the resources to handle the increased volume of requests.

Business investment is also affected. Last week, visa backlogs were cited as the main reason many delegates missed the Collision 2022 tech conference in Toronto, prompting entrepreneurs at the conference to say they would take their businesses to new places. other jurisdictions. They are not alone in this case. Businesses cannot reliably grow or invest in jurisdictions where they cannot find the talent they need — a critical element to Atlantic Canada’s future economic prosperity.

Companies are unable to find the talent they need domestically and lack reliable access to workers hoping to arrive overseas.

Canada’s immigration system is overly complicated with regulations, and the government has set goals that the public service does not have the resources to achieve. It’s frustrating for employers and candidates looking to get here to start the next chapter of their lives.

It may be time to review our immigration system with a focus on both efficiency and simplicity. Canada’s goals to grow our population and support our workforce and businesses are laudable, but the combination of regulatory burden and lack of resources is too much to overcome. Taking steps to cut red tape to ensure employers have access to the workers they need will be essential to recovery from the pandemic and economic growth in Atlantic Canada.

On the road to population growth, now is the time for the government to tackle the huge backlog and allocate the appropriate resources to ensure an efficient system that meets the needs of immigrants and the businesses that want to hire them.

The government has shown that in times of crisis it can overcome bureaucratic entanglements to make programs work, and for an economy ready to recover from two years of lockdown and uncertainty, it should show that political will again.


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