Canadian immigrants are underemployed, and the Ontario Liberals think they have a solution: Help employers hire immigrants so they can get Canadian work experience. It may be well-meaning, but it is ultimately an inefficient and divisive policy.
The proposal would give $10,000 to employers to defray costs associated with training and mentorship needed to achieve Ontario certification. It’s focused on regulated professions – jobs in fields such as accounting, law, teaching, engineering, forestry and early childhood education.
It doesn’t create much in the way of new capacity. Primarily, it reallocates capacity, away from one group of Ontarians and to a group of immigrant Ontarians. Without an expensive new bureaucracy to assess whether the credit is indeed being used for training and mentorship (will the Liberals send inspectors to every job site?), it is open to abuse. That the Liberals haven’t produced any paper on this promise, beyond one line in their campaign platform, suggests that it is not well thought-out.
Segmenting out classes of workers in this way does little to improve the province’s economy. And it does much to damage intercultural relations. “Canadian experience” isn’t just for immigrants – it’s a line on the résumé that everyone craves, and should have the right to compete for on equal terms.
The Progressive Conservative Party’s plan is stronger, in that it rewards something more tangible (English or French language training, through a wage credit for employers who hire new Canadians enrolled in language programs). At the same time, their fear-mongering – calling beneficiaries of their plan “newcomers” but labelling beneficiaries of the Liberal plan “foreigners” – is unbecoming and similarly divisive.
All the while, Ontario needs a more aggressive policy. A 2006 Statistics Canada study found that fewer than one in four foreign-educated immigrants was working in the field for which they trained. Meanwhile, the bodies that certify and regulate professionals have been slow to adapt: Only four regulators have reduced their Canadian experience requirements in the four years since the Liberals supposedly reformed the system. Perhaps government policy should tackle this problem, rather than create a new and divisive tax credit.