Canadians Choosing to Live in Urban Cores – Report

High density neighbourhood in Downtown Vancouver. A new report says Canadians are choosing the shorter commute times and proximity to work offered by residences in city cores over larger houses in the suburbs (photo credit: Guilhem Vellut from Vancouver, Canada)

Canadians are increasingly preferring downtown living over life in suburbia, according to a new report on Canada’s real estate market.

Issued jointly by PricewaterhouseCoopers and the Urban Land Institute (ULI), the annual report aims to track trends in the country’s real estate market, and has identified the growing preference for urban living as a major shift that will shape Canadian cities.

The emerging trend toward living in the urban core is accompanying greater construction of high density mixed-use development which can include residential, retail, office and hotel units under one roof.

The report cites a declining tolerance for long commutes among Canadians, as well as municipal policy to encourage intensification in city cores over an expansion of their suburbs, as the major forces behind the growing trend.

It warns that the reverse migration to city cores could spell trouble for commercial real estate in the suburbs. An expansion by American firms in Canada, amid a strengthening U.S. economy, could counteract this drop in demand for suburban office space, the report says.

Canada to make both Irish and UK temporary skilled workers a priority in 2014 through the IEC program

Ireland has had a difficult last six years. The Celtic Tiger Economy refers to the economy of the Republic of Ireland between 1995 and 2000, a period of rapid real economic growth fuelled by foreign direct investment, and a subsequent property price bubble which rendered the real economy uncompetitive. The Irish economy expanded at an average rate of 9.4% between 1995 and 2000 and continued to grow at an average rate of 5.9% during the following decade until 2008, when it fell into recession. Since 2008, many Irish youth have been looking for opportunities abroad.

Irish national youth speak good English, are well educated by world renowned universities, come highly skilled and can easily assimilate into developed economies in countries such as Canada. Traditionally, Irish Nationals have come to Canada via the IEC (International Experience Canada) Program, which has been continuously upping their quota of Irish visas extended every year. The working holiday visa under IEC has worked well in the past. The Program has served as a two year work experience open permit for foreign nationals between the ages of 18 and 30. It is understood that at the end of a working holiday visa, that the foreign national return to their home country, and be in possession of a departure ticket as well as the needed travel funds and medical insurance to ensure their stay is fully covered. A participation fee of CDN$150 is also payable at time of application.

The IEC Program – History and growth

The highly anticipated opening of the IEC Program on March 13, 2014 was capped at its maximum quota (3,850 applicants) within 7 minutes. We anticipate a second round shortly; however, it is proving challenging for applicants to successfully obtain their visa through this program as demand for the program outweighs current resource levels to run the program.

This year’s IEC Program made a further 2,500 work permits available to Irish Nationals who already have a secured job offer in Canada, and an additional 500 work permits were issued to Irish foreign nationals who were willing to do a cooperative educational program as part of their Post-Secondary studies to gain international work experience in their field. And these current quotas of work permits are expected to grow.

Canada needs highly skilled workers and wants to attract them to fill temporary skilled labour shortages specifically in the western provinces. Canada has recently renewed a commitment to Ireland to extend the open permit after several visits to Ireland by Minister of Citizenship & Immigration in 2012 and praised Irish apprenticeship programs for their certification standards. The Calgary Economic Development has just sent a delegation of 6 companies to Dublin’s Working Abroad Expo Recruitment Fair (March 22-March 30, 2014) in order to recruit skilled labour to fill Alberta’s current shortages.

Trade agreement set-up between Canada and the UK and Ireland

Canada wants to do even more to attract skilled labour from Ireland and the United Kingdom. On March 14, 2014, it was announced by CIC that a new international study will be launched, in an effort to help British and Irish tradespeople assess their skills against Canadian trades criteria, fully supported by CIC. In other words, streamlining the foreign credential recognition process for people coming from these countries is a high priority for the Canadian Government. The ACCC (Association of Canadian Community Colleges) and the UK NARIC (United Kingdom National Recognition Information Centre) have signed an agreement to work together for mutual recognition of skills, competencies and certifications. Both organizations will work with employers as part of the CIC-funded Canadian Immigrant Integration Program, which provides settlement and integration services to newcomers in Canada. Specifically, the organizations will be concentrating on the following areas of international competency which are in high demand across Canada:

  1. Heavy Duty Equipment Technician
  2. Construction Electrician
  3. Welder
  4. Carpenter
  5. Steamfitter/Pipefitter
  6. Plumber
  7. Machinist
  8. Industrial Mechanic (Millwright)
  9. Powerline Technician

As well, electronic tools are currently being developed, and UK NARIC expects to have an electronic guide published that will feature all the provincial and territorial apprenticeship authorities, which will be a “textbook” to be used by employers, workers, and trade associations in order to assess credentials quickly and fast-track the process for a foreign national to obtain their trade certification. This program intends to assist the Federal Skilled Trades Program applicants under the Federal Stream, in creating an international partnership and streamlined process of integration into the Canadian economy.

What to do if you want to immigrate to Canada

If you are currently a tradesperson from Ireland or the United Kingdom, you want to ensure that you know which program you wish to apply for to immigrate to Canada. As mentioned before, there is the IEC Program but it quickly reaches its cap, preventing further applicants from applying. If you have a job offer, you can apply for a work permit to come to Canada. If you meet the area of skills needed across Canada in the Trades, then the Federal Skilled Trades Program may be a good fit. There are other Federal Programs and Provincial Programs which also may be considered such as the Canadian Experience Class Program, the Provincial Nominee Programs, as well as special projects (Pilot Projects). Before applying, consider talking to either a trusted advisor or an immigration expert that can advise you on the best program for you. It is vital to do your research into Canadian culture, to look at foreign credential recognition as the first order of business, and to consider the expense of immigrating to a new country as a temporary worker. For skilled workers already in Canada, you will want to ensure that you have started additional applications working towards permanent residency status should you wish to stay in Canada.

Some final considerations

As the Federal Government continues to develop strategies to attract temporary foreign workers and to meet the economic demands of Canadian industry, it is abundantly clear that good sources of workers are coming from Ireland and the UK due to their adaptability and skills. As the IEC Program has reached its quota since launching in March 2014, many Canadian employers may not successfully recruit their temporary workers this year. Demand is high and is only expected to grow. But again, there are other options available to these employers and workers, should they wish to avail of other immigration programs on offer in either of the Federal or Provincial programs. And CICS Immigration can certainly help in assessing your eligibility in looking at other immigration avenues to pursue. 

Canada Ranks 5th in World Ranking of Economic Freedom, US Falls to 18th

Canada is now ranked as having the freest economy in North America, thirteen places ahead of the United States, the historic symbol of economic freedom in the world (NASA/GSFC)

Canada tied Australia for fifth freest economy in the world in the Fraser Institute’s annual Economic Freedom of the World report, released yesterday. Canada improved its position by one spot while the US saw its ranking drop by ten spots from last year’s index.

The Fraser Institute’s economic freedom index scores countries’ degree of economic freedom by five criteria:

  1. Size of Government- a measure of how much government spends as a percentage of GDP, how much of the economy is directed by government-managed firms rather than the private sector, and income and payroll tax rates.
  2. Legal System and Property Rights- the extent to which private property ownership rights are protected and contracts are enforced by an independent judiciary and impartial court system.
  3. Sound Money- how well a country’s central bank maintains a low and stable inflation rate, and the freedom of people in a country to user alternative currencies and foreign bank accounts.
  4. Freedom to Trade Internationally- the degree of freedom people in a country enjoy from international trade barriers set up by their governments.
  5. Regulation- the extent of freedom from government restrictions on mutually voluntary activities. Countries with fewer regulations like minimum wage restrictions, dismissal regulations, and mandatory acceptance of collective bargaining requests score higher in this area.

The economic data used in the index is from 2010, as that is the most recent comprehensive data available, and comes from external sources like the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and the World Economic Forum.

For the sixteenth year in a row, Hong Kong and Singapore ranked first and second place in the index. The two East Asian economies have the lowest levels of government spending in the industrialized world, at approximately half that of Canada as a percentage of GDP, and the fewest restrictions on trade, labour and business activities of any of the 144 countries and territories included in the index.

Like most industrialized countries, Canada received a low score in the Size of Government component, ranking 73rd in the world, due to high levels of government spending and high marginal tax rates, but ranked near the top of the index in the areas of Legal System and Property Rights (12th), and Regulation (6th), thanks to a strong rule of law providing secure rights to property, and few regulatory barriers in credit markets and on labour and business activities.

The US’s overall ranking suffered due to an increase in government spending, and a reduction in its scores in the areas of Rule of Law and Freedom to Trade Internationally.

Canadians 2nd Most Optimistic About Economy After Brazilians in New Poll

A view of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil's largest city. Brazilians were on average the most optimistic about their country's economy outlook of the nationalities polled in a recent survey of 13 countries (Ramon)

The results of a new poll commissioned by the International Trade Union Confederation show Canadians behind only Brazilians as the most optimistic citizens of any of the thirteen countries included in the poll.

The poll covered the adult populations of Canada, Brazil, United States, Mexico, France, Germany, Greece, Indonesia, South Africa, Bulgaria, Japan, Belgium, and the United Kingdom, and interviewed 1,000 respondents in each country.

It found Greeks and Japanese the most pessimistic and second most pessimistic. The last place showing for Greece and Japan is unsurprising given Greece’s recent economic crisis, and Japan’s two decade long economic stagnation, mounting national debt, and the widespread destruction caused by the 2011 earthquake, including continuing problems with radiation leakage from the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant.

The majority of people in all but two of the countries said they believe their country is headed in the wrong direction. In the US, only 35 percent were optimistic about the direction their country was headed, far lower than the 61 percent of Canadians who said the same. Among Brazilians, 69 percent of respondents said they were optimistic about the direction their country is headed.

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.

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.


Canada’s Federal Investor Program for Immigrants in Limbo

The size of the loan applicants are required to make under the Federal Immigrant Investor Program increased from $400,000 to $800,000 in 2010, and is expected to increase again in the near future, due to huge demand for Canadian permanent residency status from wealthy individuals abroad.

The Federal Immigrant Investor Program (FIIP), which allows foreign individuals with net worths of more than $1.6 million to become Canadian permanent residents by lending a provincial government $800,000 for five years without interest, is scheduled to start accepting applications in two weeks to fill a new annual quota, but it is still not clear as to whether the federal government will suspend, modify, or allow the program to continue as it is until a new program has been designed to replace it.

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney had previously said that the FIIP should be changed to require applicants to make more active and long-term investments in Canada than the current five year loan requirement, or increase the sum they must lend without interest, given the huge demand for the program and room the government has to increase the investment required under it.

Last year, the program’s quota of 700 was filled in 30 minutes, with some wealthy foreigners chartering private jets to be the first to submit their applications to the Sydney NS office when it started accepting applications.

The Minister said that the size of the investment that the program would require would depend in part on whether the US government renews its investor program in September. If it doesn’t, Canada would see even greater demand for permanent residence from wealthy foreigners, and be able to increase the price by a greater margin.

The recently passed budget bill also grants the Department of Immigration and Citizenship the power to craft its own short term immigration programs, each limited to 2,750 applications per year, to meet the demands of changing economic conditions, and the department is looking to use this new power to create complementary investor programs with alternative requirements for applicants, like making an investment in a Canadian startup.

Canada Rises 3 Spots to 4th Place in Global Peace Index

Image of Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan in July 2002. Canada's ranking in the latest Global Peace Index improved due to a drawdown of the country's combat operations in Afghanistan in 2011.

The Global Peace Index (GPI), an annual ranking of national peacefulness produced by the Institute for Economics and Peace, was released today, and showed Canada rising three places, to 4th place among the 158 nations in the index.

The index evaluates a nation’s GPI score by 23 dimensions of peace, ranging from ‘perceived criminality in society’ to ‘death from external conflict’, and saw most of the world, outside of MENA (Middle East and North Africa), improve its score from last year.

Canada’s position improved due to a decrease in the number of casualties it suffered in the conflict in Afghanistan, as a result of the country withdrawing most of its troops and ending combat operations in Afghanistan in 2011.

Improvements in other countries’ GPI scores were largely due to a decrease in militarization as governments made austerity-driven defence cuts.


More Chinese and Indian Workers have Internet Connections than Canadian Workers

A worker in Shanghai, China

A survey done by staffing and HR firm Randstad has found that Chinese and Indian workers are more likely to have internet connections at work than Canadian workers. The surprising finding found that 93 percent of both Indian and Chinese workers reported having an internet connection at work, compared to 76 percent of Canadian workers.

Smartphone ownership is another category in which Canadian workers are behind their Chinese and Indian counterparts in the survey results. 47 percent of Canadian survey respondents reported privately owning a smartphone, while 84 percent of Chinese workers and 70 percent of Indian workers reported the same.

The exact sampling methodology of the survey is not known, so the results could be due to Chinese and Indian samples not being reflective of the broader labor markets in the respective countries. The sampling data came from established sampling firm, Survey Sampling International, giving some legitimacy to the results.

TIDEL Park, an IT Park in Chennai, India

The results at the very least point to newly emerged segments of the Asian economies that are deeply integrated with the internet and well-equipped with modern information technology.

Vice-president of marketing for Randstad Canada, Stacey Parker, said that possible reasons for the gap between Canadian and Asian survey results are a higher percentage of Canadian employers believing internet connections could distract their workers, and lower internet and mobile costs in Asian countries than in Canada.