Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Opinion: Immigration will help Canada rebuild better, but only if the country does its best.

Opinion: Immigration will help Canada rebuild better, but only if the country does its best.

Finance Minister Christia Freeland, who can be seen here with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, hinted that Canada needs to focus on growth and competitiveness once it emerges from the pandemic.BLAIR GABLE / Reuters

In her economic and financial report, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland hinted at what to expect from the federal government’s 2022 budget. “Once we get out of COVID-19, our national goal should be to focus on growth and competitiveness,” she said.

Getting Canada out of its economic woes will not be easy. The obstacles holding the country back in the face of the pandemic, including a shortage of skilled workers, a worsening investment climate and an aging population, are still there. In fact, the pandemic has only added new challenges such as supply chain disruptions and rising inflation.

At best, most economists in the public and private sectors expect real GDP to grow at a modest 2 percent per year over the next three decades. They warn that jobs, government services and, ultimately, Canadians’ quality of life will be at risk if policymakers do not take bold action to stimulate economic activity.

To break out of this 2% trap, we need the same holistic approach that Canadians have used to combat COVID-19. There will be no quick fixes or silver bullet solutions. Improving Canada’s economic outlook will require leadership, collaboration, and above all, ambition.

Part of the solution lies in the Canadian immigration system. Immigration has always been a source of growth and economic dynamism. And when it comes to innovation and entrepreneurship, immigrants outnumber them by far.

According to the Business Development Bank of Canada, immigrants are more than twice as likely to be in business as their Canadian peers. Data from Statistics Canada shows that immigrant-owned businesses are also more likely to be innovative in doing business.

Perhaps you shouldn’t be surprised. Many immigrants, by definition, take the risk of leaving their home country of origin to settle in Canada in search of opportunities.

Hanif Joshagani is one such budding entrepreneur. He spent 12 years in refugee camps in Iraq before settling in Canada. In 2016, Mr. Joshagani co-founded Symend, one of Canada’s fastest growing businesses, which uses data-driven analytics to help consumers avoid default on their accounts.

Or take the Basiri brothers: Meti, Massy and Martin. Growing up in Iran, they came to Canada as students. In 2015, they co-founded ApplyBoard, now a multi-billion dollar company that operates the world’s largest recruiting portal for international students.

As politicians chart an economic recovery in 2022, they must count on immigrants – our most adventurous population – as leaders. There are three ways to do it:

Support immigrants in their quest for success: Immigrants continue to face hurdles when it comes to starting a business, raising capital, and complying with government regulations and programs. Moreover, organizations that help entrepreneurs are not always equipped to meet the specific needs of immigrants. To help newcomers succeed, we can tailor existing support programs or create new ones based on the newcomers’ unique financial and technical needs.

Place your bet on high potential newbies: In recent years, the federal government has taken several steps to bring Canada’s immigration system in line with the demands of a growing economy. For example, Global Talent Stream has helped fast-growing employers attract high-quality new recruits. However, there are currently no ready-made immigration paths for aspiring entrepreneurs in Canada. We can fill this gap by establishing a streamlined application process for high potential immigrants, improving existing programs such as the Start-up Visa Program, and recognizing self-employment as a qualifying work experience for permanent residency.

Keep Canada Attractive: Although Canada is one of the most attractive destinations for foreign talent, its reputation has suffered in recent years. In the global race for workers, Canada cannot afford complacency. We must continually strive to create and maintain an environment that can attract and retain the best talent. This means improving key aspects of Canada’s entrepreneurship ecosystem, such as the availability of risk capital, R&D funding, and university support. It also means ensuring that our immigration system is as client-oriented as possible by simplifying administrative requirements and reducing processing times.

Canada is a land of opportunity. Thousands of immigrants make this country their new home every year. But obstacles to unlocking the full potential of this entrepreneurial population remain. By working together to remove these barriers, we can position Canada for sustainable economic recovery by unleashing the exceptional energy, skills and ideas of immigrants.

Lisa Lalande is the CEO of the Century Initiative. Goldie Haider is the CEO of the Business Council of Canada.

Nation World News Desk
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