Canada's Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, John McCallum is touting Canada as the go to place for Asians, especially Filipinos and Chinese nationals, saying the country needs them.
On a recent tour of China and the Philippines, the minister said that before he can 'substantially increase' Canada's immigration levels beyond record levels, he will have to take his plan to cabinet and convince Canadians it's the right thing to do.
Pointing to an aging population and looming labour shortages, McCallum made the pitch in Manila during a speech to the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines, the CBC and Manila media reported.
The Trudeau government is already seeking to admit between 280,000 and 305,000 new permanent residents in 2016 — a record increase from the 260,000 to 285,000 newcomers the previous Conservative government had planned to welcome by the end of 2015.
In Manila, McCallum promised to cut the processing time of the applications of sponsored spouses, partners, and children, given that it is "way too long" at present.
The usual two years will be shortened to reunite families more swiftly, with the target to be announced in the fall.
For Express Entry, which covers experienced professionals, skilled workers, and international students, McCallum placed the processing target at six months. Such "economic immigrants" are given points based on having a job offer, a good education, language skills, and others.
Although this was not a bad system, it could be improved, he said.
One of the improvements involves removing the labor market impact assessment for many of the applicants. Usually, economic immigrants have to prove that no Canadian can do the job that they have been offered. Removing this requirement will make it easier for them to go to Canada.
Another improvement is giving more points to international students since they are "very valuable contributors" to the country and would make "very good Canadians" in the future, McCallum said. Certain other restrictions will also be removed for such applicants. Doing so will bump up the proportion of students going to Canada under Express Entry compared to other applicants.
He added that he was talking to Canadian officials in the Philippines to approach students and encourage them to study in Canadian universities, instead. Thus, they will have a better chance to work and stay in Canada if they wish.
"Our general desire is to increase the number of immigrants," McCallum said. He added that they wanted to attract "the best and the brightest" from around the globe, making Canada "a better place".
According to McCallum, Canada welcomed more than 50,000 new permanent residents from the Philippines last year – more than any other country. He added that there are over 700,000 Filipinos living in Canada, and that their contribution to society is appreciated.
"It doesn't matter how newcomers first arrive in Canada – as refugees, as family members, or as economic immigrants – we know from decades of experience that they, their children, and their grandchildren, will inevitably make positive contributions to our country," McCallum said.
"Experience shows us that immigrants' contributions to Canada result in jobs, innovation and growth – newcomers tend to be highly motivated to be part of a larger society, to be accepted, and to achieve economic success. With an aging demographic and challenges retaining young people, immigration is becoming critical in certain communities and provinces," he added.
This year, Canada targets to welcome 300,000 immigrants, the largest projection by the government recently.
"This reflects our deep belief that immigration is critical to our country's future," McCallum said. "It also reflects our determination to open Canada's doors to those who want to contribute to our country, and to those in need of our compassion and protection, and to welcome everyone with a smile."
According to a transcript of his remarks obtained by CBC News, Canada seeks to double visa offices in China to attract more high-skilled workers.
Earlier, McCallum was in Beijing, where he sought to open more offices where Chinese can apply for visas, in the hope of attracting more high-skilled workers.
He is also reviewing what is known as a labour market impact assessment (LMIA) — a document all employers need to hire foreign nationals over Canadian workers — and could do away with it in some instances.
Businesses have said it is the biggest flaw with express entry, a requirement the previous government borrowed from the temporary foreign worker program.
"Now, we have to convince Canadians of this. But I think it's a good idea."
The Liberal government also tasked a parliamentary committee with a review of the controversial foreign worker program, but Parliament adjourned before the report was tabled. It will now be made public in the fall.
McCallum, who worked as a chief economist at one of Canada's Big Five banks and a professor of economics before he entered politics, also acknowledged he has his work cut out for him.
"Not every Canadian will agree. But I think with our mindset of welcoming newcomers in the beginning, with the facts of the labour shortages, aging population, we have a good case to make, and I think we will be able to convince a higher proportion of Canadians that this is the right way for Canada to go."
Published under arrangement with the Asian Pacific Post