Canadian Monthly Economic Growth Accelerates to 0.3% on Oil Output Increase

Canadian economic growth accelerated in April on the back of an increase in oil and gas extraction

Canadian economic growth rose to 0.3 percent in April, from 0.1 percent in March, due mostly to an increase in oil and gas output and support activities for the industry, according to a report released by Statistics Canada today.

The gross value of mining, oil and gas extraction increased 2.7 percent in April after maintenance-linked slowdowns in production in February and March.

The Canadian dollar rose 1.3 percent against the US dollar on the economic growth data and news of an agreement reached by EU leaders to provide more bailout money to the troubled banks and governments of Spain and Italy and to create a euro-wide supervisory body for European banks.

Commodity-export reliant countries in particular, like Australia and Canada, are expected to benefit in the short term from the easing of concerns of an EU meltdown.

Federal Government to Place Moratorium on New Skilled Worker and Investor Immigrant Applications

Tradespeople like welders will be given greater preference in the revamped Federal Skilled Worker program after the moratorium on the program is lifted

Postmedia News has reported that the federal government is going to place a moratorium on accepting new applications for permanent residence under the Federal Skilled Worker and Federal Immigrant Investor programs, which were set to begin accepting applications for the year on July 1st.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) plans on revamping both programs to maximize their contribution to the Canadian economy, create a faster application review process and deal with the backlog of applications that have not been processed, before restarting the program, which it expects to do by January 2013.

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has previously said that the Federal Immigrant Investor program’s $800,000 minimum investment requirement for applicants, which was increased from $400,000 in 2010, is still too low, and that the type of investment should be changed from the current no-interest five year loan to a permanent investment into the Canadian economy.

Last year, the 700 applicant annual quota for the investor program was filled in 30 minutes, with wealthy foreigners chartering private planes to be the first to submit their applications to the Sydney, Nova Scotia intake office. Mr. Kenney says that given the demand, the federal government will be able to increase the price of permanent residency status in Canada for wealthy foreigners.

The revamped Federal Skilled Worker program meanwhile is expected to get a new stream for skilled tradespeople which will replace formal education requirements with a requirement for applicants to be skilled in trades that are in demand in the Canadian economy, particularly in the resource sectors.


Conservative Government Introduces ‘Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act’

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney last week introduced legislation to speed up the deportation of foreign criminals from Canada. Under current laws, some refugee claimants who have been convicted of crimes have been able to delay their deportation for years through repeated appeals of removal orders, while receiving welfare and other government benefits during their time in Canada.

The new legislation, the ‘Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act’, would:

  • eliminate the right of convicted criminals who have been sentenced to more than six months in prison to file an appeal of a removal order to the Immigration Appeal Division
  • eliminate the right of foreign nationals who have been found by the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada to have committed serious security, human rights, and international rights violations, or had involvement with organized crime, to appeal for refugee status under “Humanitarian and Compassionate” provisions
  • make foreign nationals who have family members who have been found by the federal government to be inadmissible to visit Canada on grounds of security, human or international rights violations, or organized criminality, also inadmissible to visit Canada, even if travelling without that family member

In 2010, the Conservative government briefly barred George Galloway, an anti-war British MP, pictured above, from entering Canada (David Hunt from Warwickshire, UK)

The legislation would also give the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration the discretion to wave inadmissibility restrictions for an individual, and to deny temporary resident status to foreign nationals who have not been found inadmissible to visit Canada due to security, human or international rights violations, or organized criminality, based on public policy considerations.

In 2010, the Conservative government attempted to prevent George Galloway, an anti-war British MP, from entering Canada, based on accusations that he supported terrorism. The discretionary powers granted by the new legislation would codify the ability of the federal government to prevent particular foreign nationals who meet all legislated eligibility requirements for visiting Canada from entering the country.

Federal and Ontario Governments to Spend $57 Million to Train Immigrants

Image of Toronto at night. A total of $57 million in funding will be provided by the Ontario provincial government and the federal government for projects in Ontario that assist immigrants in integrating into the Canadian labour market

The Ontario provincial government and the federal government hope to put an end to the adage of the immigrant taxi cab driver with a PhD, by spending a combined $57 million to train new Canadians to gain the credentials necessary to work in their field of study in Canada.

Data emerging over the last few years has shown a growing income gap between recent immigrants and other Canadians which has spurred the federal and several provincial governments to launch a number of initiatives to reverse the situation.

Most notably was the formation of the federal umbrella program, the Foreign Credential Referral Office (FCRO), in 2007 which funds projects run by regulatory bodies, immigrant-serving organizations and other organizations that help recent immigrants and those looking to immigrate to Canada update their foreign credentials to qualify to work in Canada in their vocation.

The $57 million of funding will be a significant expansion of government efforts to help new immigrants integrate into the economy. The federal government will provide $22 million of the funding while the remaining $35 million will come from the government of Ontario. The funds will be allocated to 70 existing and new projects in Ontario to provide “bridge training”, a term that encompasses training, Canadian work experience and assistance in getting licensed or certified to work in Canada, to new immigrants.

Canadian Immigration Official Convicted of Fraud and Breach of Trust

CIC office on Catherine Street in Ottawa where Serré worked (GOOGLE STREET VIEW)

Diane Serré, a former official at Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC), was found guilty of 15 counts of fraud and 12 counts of breach of trust by Ontario Superior Court Justice Catherine Aitken, for using her position at CIC to help 10 immigration applicants with their applications in exchange for gifts and cash remuneration.

The investigation that led to the charges against Serré found that she worked with her esthetician, Vivian Badaan-Dakik, and her husband, Issam Dakik, to find individuals willing to pay for preferential treatment by an official at CIC. Issam Dakik plead guilty to the charges laid against him in connection with the case and was sentenced to 33 months in prison in 2006.

In her 86 page decision, Judge Aitken found that the evidence of Serré’s culpability, which included hundreds of wiretapped conversations between Issam Dakik and Serré, was “absolutely overwhelming”, and determined that she received $25,900 from Dakik as part of the scheme.

Serré’s sentencing hearing will be held on July 27th.

Inflation Drops to 1.2% in May, Reducing Likelihood of Rate Hike

The decline in inflation in May is bullish for short-term housing prices. Housing prices in Canada's major cities have increased significantly over the last five years, which anecdotal evidence suggests is partly due to greater investment in the market by foreign and immigrant investors.

Prices increased 1.2 percent in the 12 months leading up to May, a drop of 0.8 percent from the annual inflation rate in April, according to a report released by Statistics Canada today, a development that could keep interest rates low and help shore up housing prices in the near term.

The slowdown in inflation was due primarily to declines in natural gas and oil prices, smaller price increases for passenger vehicles, and a small decline in women’s clothing prices.

The inflation news could help boost short term housing prices, or forestall what some see as a coming correction in housing prices that are at bubble levels, as it reduces the likelihood that the Bank of Canada will increase interest rates.

The likely repercussions for the housing market are tempered by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s announcement yesterday that the federal government would tighten mortgage rules to reduce what his department sees as housing demand driven by speculation and funded by too much borrowing.

He said that the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), a government owned home mortgage guaranteer that insures 49 percent of Canadian home mortgages, would reduce the maximum term of mortgages it will insure from 30 years to 25 years and no longer insure mortgages for homes worth more than $1 million.

Vancouver Trails Toronto as Canada’s Most Expensive City, but Canada still Cheap on International Stage

Tokyo overtook Luanda, Angola as the world's most expensive city this year

The latest annual Worldwide Cost of Living Survey by human resource firm Mercer places Toronto as Canada’s most expensive city, ahead of Vancouver, for the second year in a row. Both cities are relatively cheap by international standards though, placing 61st and 63rd most expensive in the world, respectively. Ottawa has the lowest cost of living of Canadian cities included in the survey, ranking 115th globally.

The world’s three most expensive cities, in descending order, are Tokyo Japan, Luanda Angola, and Osaka Japan. Brazilian cities saw a drop in their place in the rankings due to depreciation of the Brazilian currency, the real, while New Zealand’s Auckland and Wellington, and Australian cities like Sydney, climbed in the rankings as the New Zealand and Australian dollars appreciated.

Mercer says that Canada’s cost of living has been relatively stable over the past several years, with little change in the price of items like rent and food, which is an attractive national quality for multinational corporations looking to place employees abroad.

Federal Government Loses Legal Battle over 900 Cases in Application Backlog

A lawsuit by 900 individuals who sued the federal government for the delay in the processing of their application for permanent residence in Canada succeeded today, as a federal court ruled in their favour. The ruling puts into question the entire wipe-out of the 280,000 Federal Skilled Worker Program backlog.

The federal government’s efforts to wipe out the 280,000 Federal Skilled Worker Program application backlog through legislation had a major setback today, as a court ruled that the government must process the applications of 900 people who sued the federal government for the delay in the processing of their application, and whose applications were among the 280,000 closed as part of the wipe-out.

The presiding judge, Justice Donald Rennie, wrote in his decision that the federal government has the legal right to refuse to process an application, but that once it has begun processing an application, it is obligated to finalize the processing in a timely manner. This opens the door for the remaining 280,000 individuals affected by the legislated wipeout of their application to sue to have their application re-opened and processed.

Justice Rennie also rejected the federal government’s request for appeal, and ordered that the federal government finalize the application of the lead litigant, an IT project manager in China, by October 14th.


Health Workers Associations Lobby against Cuts to Refugee Health Care

Cuts to health care for refugees are hoped to reduce the growth in health care expenditures in Canada

Health workers groups held several rallies across Canadian cities yesterday to protest government cuts to health care programs for refugees.

As part of its deficit reduction program, the federal government is cutting medical services provided at no cost to refugees through the Interim Federal Health Program, limiting free services to emergency health care and treatment of chronic conditions that pose a public health threat, like tuberculosis. The government expects the move will save it $100 million over five years.

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has also indicated that the move was motivated by complaints that refugees receive free dental and eye care from the federal government that Canadian citizens do not.

“Canadians have been telling us they don’t think that smuggled migrants and bogus asylum claimants should be getting better health-care benefits than Canadian seniors and taxpayers. They won’t be getting extras that Canadians don’t get, like dental, eye care, and discretionary pharmaceuticals,” Kenney said in April.

Health workers associations, including the Canadian Medical Association, the Canadian Nursing Association and the Canadian Pharmacists Association, whose members stand to lose tens of millions of dollars in health care work due to the cuts, wrote an open letter to the federal government in May criticizing the cuts.

In the letter they argued that the cuts would shift the cost of treating refugees to other groups like provincial governments, result in complications and higher costs in the future due to refugees not getting early treatment for medical problems, increase the load on emergency departments, and lead to an increase in public health threats from contagious diseases like tuberculosis.

Poll Places Canada as Best Place to be a Woman

A women's day rally in Bangledash

In a poll of 370 gender specialists conducted by Trustlaw, Canada was perceived to be the best G20 country to be a woman, and India the worst.

Factors that put Canada on top include government-guaranteed health care, the fact that 62 percent of university graduates and one third of federally appointed judges are women, and the figure of 75 percent of 15-49 year old females using contraceptives.

Saudi Arabia and India were placed second to last and last, respectively, due to perceived legal discrimination and inadequate protection of rights.

Violence toward women, high rates of child marriage, and a relatively high mortality rate for women during child birth resulted in India’s last place showing, while Saudi Arabia, with higher levels of education and better maternal health outcomes than the much poorer India, received a low ranking due primarily to women’s legal disadvantages in the country like being prohibited from driving and their testimony being given half as much worth as a man’s in court.