Nova Scotia Premier to Press for End to Diplomat Strike Citing Visa Delays

Nova Scotia Premier Darrel Dexter says Atlantic Canada is being harmed economically by the strike of foreign service officers (Government of Nova Scotia)

Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter says the strike by Canadian foreign service officers is hurting Canadian provinces by delaying the processing of student visas.

International students studying in Canada provide a significant economic boost to communities across the country, including several in Nova Scotia, through the spending money they bring with them.

A report done last year by University of British Columbia President Stephen Toope for the Canadian Council of Chief Executives found that international students contribute $6.5 billion a year to the Canadian economy.

Dexter warned that this could be jeopardized by the foreign service officers strike, as universities in the U.S. will be more appealing to students wishing to study abroad if they are unable to get their Canadian student visas quickly:

“If you’ve got five universities on your radar and two of them are in Canada and three are in the United States and you get your visa into the United States in three days then when you are trying to plan for the future if you have to wait two months before you know if you’re even going to get a student visa it makes it a heck of a lot more likely you are you going to choose one of the three options in the U.S.”

Strike action by the Professional Association of Foreign Service Officers (PAFSO) is affecting the processing of visa applications in 12 foreign missions, including those in Tokyo, Hong Kong, Seoul, Jakarta, Bangkok, Washington, Delhi, Chandigarh, Bogota, and Sao Paolo.

The premier says the provinces should urge the federal government to escalate the labour dispute in order to resolve it, which most likely would lead to a court ordered end to the strike.

Nova Scotia Looking to Increase Immigration to Province

Halifax harbour at night. Nova Scotia’s premier is hoping to boost the province’s economy by inviting more skilled immigrants to the province and encouraging them to settle

Nova Scotia, one of Canada’s Maritime provinces, is seeking to increase the number of skilled immigrants that settle in the province, according to a new provincial strategy announced earlier this year.

The Maritimes region of Canada, which includes Nova Scotia, has suffered from chronic economic malaise over the last two decades, with the highest unemployment rates, the fastest aging population, and the lowest population growth rates of any region in the country.

Attracting skilled immigrants is seen as one way to address the critical skills shortage facing the region and reversing the looming population contraction.

Immigrant worker controversy

The use of immigrants and temporary foreign workers by the Maritime provinces to meet labour shortages has met some controversy however, as the region has the largest pool of unemployed workers in the country relative to its population.

Reforms by the federal government to the Employment Insurance system in 2012 were designed in part to reduce the reliance of seasonal workers in resource sectors in the Maritimes on EI for the portion of the year when they’re off work, in order to encourage more of the region’s population to work year round.

Still, the governments of the Maritime provinces continue to insist that skilled immigrants are an important tool for alleviating their demographic problems and bringing economic vitality to the region.

Nova Scotia Nominee Program

Nova Scotia has been pressing the federal government in recent years to increase the number of immigrants it allows it to nominate annually through the Nova Scotia Nominee Program (NSNP), and as a result has seen its cap increase by 200 nominees, to a total of 700, in 2012.

The increase in its cap is not as fast as the provincial government would like, so it has been looking for ways to maximize the number of nominations it has available to it.

In a strategy announcement published in late February, the Nova Scotia government said that the international graduate stream of the NSNP would be eliminated, and foreign graduates seeking to apply for permanent residency through it would be redirected to the post-graduate stream of the federal Canadian Experience Class (CEC).

The province says this will allow it to nominate more skilled workers using the spots freed up by moving the foreign graduate nominees to the federal program, and increase the total number of immigrants it invites to the province.

The Nova Scotia government also notes that skilled worker nominees are more likely to bring their families to Canada with them, thereby further increasing the population boost that the redirection of international graduates to the CEC will provide to the province.

Federal Gov of Canada Increases Nova Scotia’s Immigration Nominee Quota

Nova Scotia will be able to nominate 700 applicants and their families for immigration to Canada in 2012 after the cap for its Provincial Nominee Program was increased by 200

Nova Scotia’s provincial government announced yesterday that the federal government has increased the province’s immigrant nominee cap by 200, to 700 nominations in 2012.

“It will help us address existing and expected labour shortages,” said Marilyn More, the provincial minister responsible for Nova Scotia’s Office of Immigration. She said that the province would push for further increases of its Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) quota.

PNPs allow Canadian provinces and territories to nominate individuals who they deem as likely to contribute to their economy for immigration to Canada. The first PNP was created for Manitoba in 1998, and quickly expanded to all other provinces.

The federal government, which has jurisdiction over immigration in Canada, caps the number of individuals each province can nominate for Canadian permanent residence each year, but that number has steadily increased, amid repeated appeals by provincial premiers for expansions of their PNPs, which they say allow them to select the immigrants that best meet their provinces’ unique economic needs.

While the federal government has indicated it would continue to expand the PNPs, it has also expressed concern about the standards some provincial government use when nominating individuals. In July, it instituted minimum language requirements for PNP applicants in low/semi-skilled occupations.

Under the new language rules, applicants in occupations that are classified as NOC Skill Level C or D must prove English or French proficiency of at least Canadian Language Benchmarks (CLB)/Niveaux de compétence linguistique canadiens (NCLC) 4, in all categories: listening, speaking, reading and writing.

The required International English Language Test System (IELTS) test scores to meet CLB 4 are 4.0, 4.5, 3.5, and 4.0 for listening, speaking, reading and writing, respectively.