Hon. Amina Gerba: Minister, welcome to the Senate. Nearly every one of Canada’s immigration programs requires a job offer, which workers need to have prior to applying for a work visa. It is extremely difficult for foreign workers to get a job offer if they are outside the country. As an employer, I have had to deal with these difficulties myself when trying to recruit qualified foreign employees. However, as you know, minister, there is a major labour shortage in Canada, and immigration is now seen as a solution to this problem.
Minister, what can you do to ensure that the job offer requirement is no longer a barrier to addressing labour shortages in our country?
Hon. Sean Fraser, P.C., M.P., Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship: I have many ideas about how to address the labour shortage and increase the number of permanent and temporary workers in Canada.[English]
On the specific issue that you raise around the need to have a job offer before you can come, I think you have to remember that we’re designing a program to meet the needs of the Canadian economy. There will inevitably be many people who would like to come to Canada that exceeds the capacity of Canada to resettle on a permanent basis.
One of the things we do to monitor the ability to welcome people here in a way that our communities can manage is having our temporary programs be driven by employers. One of the enormous changes I have seen in my own community is extending supports to small- and medium-sized employers who may not have a significant human resources department focused on recruitment and the hiring of foreign nationals to fill gaps if the labour force. It actually teaches them that immigration doesn’t have to be a scary thing. Most of them are so focused on manufacturing the thing that they sell or working on their core line of business that growing their workforce through immigration is a secondary thing that they would like to take on but may not be able to.
In addition, I think we need to continue to look for opportunities to make it easier for people to get here and think about changes to make it easier for spouses of people who are already here so we can promote both family reunification and drive the economy. We are in a really unique moment in time, with the economy running as hot as it is yet still having hundreds of thousands of job vacancies. Anything we can do to pull the levers to actually get workers here more quickly and meet the needs of the Canadian workforce and economy without taking advantage of those workers is essential. I would extend an open invitation, or perhaps a dedicated session would be appropriate, to actually solicit ideas from members of the Senate on how we can more effectively and quickly get workers into Canada to meet the gaps in the labour force.