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Canada's Immigration Minister Jason Kenney speaks during a news conference in Ottawa on June 29, 2012. (CHRIS WATTIE/Reuters)
Canada's Immigration Minister Jason Kenney speaks during a news conference in Ottawa on June 29, 2012. (CHRIS WATTIE/Reuters)

Globe Editorial

Ottawa’s temporary halt on skilled worker applicants is needed Add to ...

No government in recent memory has so swiftly and deliberately re-made Canada’s immigration program. For the most part, the reforms are overdue and welcome.

The latest change, announced June 28 by Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, is a temporary halt on applications for skilled workers without arranged employment.

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While this six-month moratorium will understandably frustrate prospective newcomers who were about to complete their paperwork, it is a good measure overall, and will help ensure talented, educated newcomers get the jobs they need to succeed in their adopted homeland.

It simply doesn’t make sense for the government to continue accepting applications while it is designing a new selection model, as Mr. Kenney has undertaken to do. He wants to allow Canadian employers to choose potential job candidates from a pool of pre-screened immigrants. This will boost employment rates and income levels, both of which have lagged behind for more recent cohorts of immigrants. He also aims to focus the selection model more on youth, language ability and work experience, all changes economist Arthur Sweetman called “sensible.”

In the meantime, there are still 463,000 prospective newcomers in the queue. To address this backlog, the government has proposed to eliminate the 280,000 applications filed before 2008, return the money, and encourage people to apply again under the new system.

This backlog elimination initiative is disappointing to many, and has been challenged in Federal court. However, the ultimate goal -- to modernize a cumbersome immigration system and match it better to Canada’s labour market needs -- is laudable. “It is suddenly a lot harder to get into Canada,” notes Sergio Karas, an immigration lawyer. “However, people who are already here as temporary workers or students can still apply and so can those with job offers and under the provincial nominee programs.”

Other countries, such as Australia and New Zealand have already moved in a similar direction. Canada is still committed to fulfilling its annual immigration target of 280,000. But there is simply no point stockpiling yet more people in a dysfunctional system that cannot deliver timely results.

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