By Tara Carman And Peter O'Neil, Vancouver Sun | Link to Article
B.C.'s jobs minister is still hopeful the federal government will allow the province to hand-pick an increased number of skilled immigrants, despite the Citizenship and Immigration minister's refusal Wednesday to grant a similar request to Alberta.
The provincial nominee program allows provinces to choose skilled immigrants who are best qualified to meet shortages in the regional labour market. Pat Bell said he asked federal Immigration Minister Jason Kenney for an increase in B.C.'s allotment to 10,000 from the current 3,500, but said in an interview late Thursday he has yet to receive an official response.
"I've had some good discussions with (Minister Kenney) and I know that he knows how concerned I am about it," Bell said. "We are well under our Prairie province counterparts in terms of our existing numbers, so I think it is fair and reasonable that if anyone were to receive an uplift - and I think there is a little bit of room in the federal system - that it would be B.C."
Citizenship and Immigration Canada spokeswoman Johanne Nadeau was unable to confirm that B.C. had even asked Ottawa for an increase in the number of provincial nominee immigrants, but noted that this province admitted 4,900 in 2010, an eightfold increase over the 600 admitted in 2004.
Kenney on Wednesday denied Alberta's request to increase that province's cap of provincially selected immigrants to 10,000 per year from 5,000, citing "quality control" and "integrity" problems.
Kenney also warned that continued massive growth in the program would eventually eliminate Ottawa's role in immigrant selection, leading to a "balkanized" system.
If B.C. is also turned down by Ottawa, Bell said it would restrict this province's ability to recruit the workers needed to address labour shortages.
"I just actually met with some folks today in my constituency office in Prince George who are having a very, very difficult time recruiting forest professionals ... and technicians and there is a significant surplus developing in Europe right now of those specific skills. They were hoping that we could help them through the PNP pro-gram," he said.
Kenney didn't offer much hope for B.C.
"I would hope that [Alberta] would be grateful for the massive increase in provincial selection of immigration that we have facilitated," Kenney said Wednesday, There are concerns about the provinces' handling of the provincial nominee program, he said.
"There are quality control problems, there are certain integrity problems."
While he didn't identify specific provinces doing poor selection work, he said one western province nominated 19 people from the same family.
"I'm aware of people coming in for job offers that were actually fake. I'm concerned that some of the provinces have no minimum benchmark for language proficiency, which is the single most important factor for economic success and integration.
"Our bottom line is, we want to work with the provinces to tighten up the program before further expanding it."