Alberta Requests Federal Permission For More Economic Immigrants

citizenship canadaThe province of Alberta says it needs more foreign workers, and as a result it is asking the federal government to raise the number of immigrants it can sponsor for permanent residency.

Alberta’s Job Minister Ric McIver recently sent a letter to Canada’s Citizenship & Immigration Minister Chris Alexander requesting that the federal government lift the cap on the number of ‘provincial nominees’ that Alberta could request as economic immigrants. In his letter, McIver said that–by 2023–Alberta will likely need an additional 96,000 workers to fill “skilled and good-paying jobs.”

McIver said that rather having the federal government assign the number of economic immigrants, the actual number the province can sponsor should be based on the needs of the local labor market and regional economic conditions. McIver said that the need for more flexibility in the number of economic immigrants was clearly illustrated this year; Alberta completely filled its quota of 5,500 economic immigrants in 2014, and that number did not meet the province’s labor market demand.

Under the provincial nominee program, each province is allowed to ‘nominate’ skilled and semi-skilled foreign workers—along with their spouses and dependants—in order to fill available positions; in recent years, Alberta has had Canada’s strongest provincial economy as a result of its booming energy sector. However, under the provincial nominee program, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) must also approve all foreign worker permanent resident applications.

McIver said the current cap on foreign workers doesn’t reflect Alberta’s job market, and that as a result the province finds itself employing “temporary foreign workers” for what are often permanent positions. The Jobs Minister added that lifting the cap on the number of foreign workers his province can employ would help several business sectors, ranging from tourism and ranching to the energy sector.

“If you haven’t got people to feed and water the cattle, then the rancher goes home,” McIver explained. “And if you don’t have someone to wash the dishes, make the beds and wash the floors, then the hotel closes. You can extend that model across a whole bunch of other business models all over Alberta.”

The province of Alberta’s complaints about the caps on ‘economic immigrants’ echoes earlier complaints from one of Canada’s largest employer associations, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB); the CFIB represents thousands of smaller businesses, including many restaurants that often employ lower-paying foreign workers.

Last month, the CFIB registered a complaint with the federal government, calling on Ottawa to replace its Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) with a new visa that would provide permanent residency for lower-paying, entry level foreign workers.