Economy

by Ng Weng Hoong in Vancouver, British Columbia

British Columbia Finance Minister Mike de Jong’s recent visit to Malaysia yielded a Facebook photo-op with Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak and a misreported story that state energy firm Petronas and its five Asian partners would begin construction of their US$36 billion liquefied natural gas (LNG) project in northern BC this September.

In the reporting of de Jong’s press conference, Malaysian news agency Bernama did not make clear that the project must first receive Ottawa’s environmental approval, due sometime between September and December, before the Petronas-led Pacific NorthWest (PNW) LNG – not the British Columbia government – can make its final investment decision.

The BC finance minister’s comment, “may have been taken out of context,” in the Bernama story, said de Jong’s spokesperson, Jamie Edwardson, in an e-mail to New Canadian Media. Edwardson underlined the importance of the environmental assessment process before the project can go ahead.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Where the $7,900 trip delivered immediate value was in giving [Mike] de Jong and his chief of staff a front-row feel of Malaysia’s increasingly turbulent politics and weakening economy.[/quote]

Where the $7,900 trip delivered immediate value was in giving de Jong and his chief of staff a front-row feel of Malaysia’s increasingly turbulent politics and weakening economy, which analysts say could seriously delay, or even halt, Petronas’s proposed high-cost venture to process and liquefy natural gas in Canada for export to Asia.

De Jong left for Putrajaya on July 25, four days after the British Columbia legislature passed what Premier Christy Clark called a history-making Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) Project Agreements Act to entice PNW to invest another $30 billion to build a gas processing plant near Prince Rupert – a network of pipelines, support infrastructure and field development work. In order to feed the proposed LNG plant on Lelu Island, Petronas – PNW’s 62 per cent owner – has already invested US$5.9 billion through its 2012 takeover of Calgary-based Progress Energy for its rich gas reserves.

After an eight-day debate, the BC Liberal government passed Bill 30 to give the consortium a 25-year guarantee on costs related to royalty rates, tax credits and carbon emissions.

A difficult decision for Petronas

While the opposition New Democrats, supported by the Green Party and other critics, denounced the new act as a ‘sell-out’, Kong Ho Meng, a senior oil and gas analyst at UOB Kay Hian Securities in Kuala Lumpur, says the terms may not fully reflect investor risk in such a high-risk greenfield project.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“In addition to high tax rates, oil and gas companies face strong environmental and Aboriginal opposition. These hurdles are making it difficult for Petronas to make the final investment decision.” - Kong Ho Meng, senior oil and gas analyst[/quote]

“The perception in Malaysia is that Canada is expensive for business,” Kong told New Canadian Media. “In addition to high tax rates, oil and gas companies face strong environmental and Aboriginal opposition. These hurdles are making it difficult for Petronas to make the final investment decision.”

Citing ExxonMobil, Shell and Chevron, Kong explains the oil and gas industry is in retreat now as it faces the prospects of low prices and high operating costs for the next few years. Shell and Chevron have announced large job cuts following a sharp plunge in the latest quarterly profits.

“Today’s oil price downturn could last for several years, and Shell’s planning assumptions reflect today’s market realities. The company has to be resilient in today’s oil price environment,” Shell’s CEO Ben van Beurden said last week.

Kong said Petronas faces the same predicament as the majors, but is under greater pressure as a state-owned firm to invest locally and to reduce capital expenditures for projects abroad.

He added that as the unofficial national bank for the commodities-dependent Malaysian economy, Petronas has the additional role of protecting the country’s financial stability. Most Malaysians have painful memories of how speculators destabilized their country by crashing the economy and currency during the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997-98.

History repeating itself

Memories of the crisis have returned to haunt the country in recent months as a major financial scandal involving Prime Minister Najib in an alleged theft of US$700 million of state funds has left his supporters and opponents digging in for a drawn out struggle.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Amid the latest power struggle, the Malaysian ringgit plunged to a 17-year low of 3.85 against the US dollar as investors took money out of the country.[/quote]

Shortly after meeting the BC finance minister to discuss the LNG project and economic matters, Najib fired Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, along with four cabinet ministers and the attorney general, for trying to investigate the alleged theft.

The bitter fall-out between the two top leaders mirrors the 1998 clash that led then Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad to order the arrest of his former deputy, Anwar Ibrahim. Malaysia has not recovered from that clash.

Amid the latest power struggle, the Malaysian ringgit plunged to a 17-year low of 3.85 against the US dollar as investors took money out of the country (also referred to as capital flight).

The Islamic State’s entry into Malaysia is a new source of threat to the country’s political stability, as is the rising tension between the country’s Muslim majority and minorities of other religions.

As happened during the last two major financial crises in 1998 and 2008, Malaysia’s foreign exchange reserves quickly fell below the psychological US$100 billion level.

“Capital flight is a huge concern now,” said Kong. This could influence Petronas’s decision on the PNW project, as the investment will require a massive outflow of funds from Malaysia just when the ringgit needs to be defended.

Diminished prospects for BC LNG projects

If the LNG markets remain depressed, Kong said Petronas may have to shelve its Canadian venture to focus on its natural gas projects in the eastern Malaysian state of Sarawak and an oil refinery-petrochemical complex in Johor state.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“We see the project as challenged given the economics and current oversupply in the LNG market, which may last for several years given the amount of new supply either recently built or currently under construction.” - Andrew Grant, Carbon Tracker Initiative[/quote]

On the Canadian front, BC’s proposed 20 LNG projects, including PNW, have diminished prospects as a result of the prolonged weakness in oil and gas prices, and the increase in supplies from other parts of the world, according to three separate studies by the London-based Carbon Tracker Initiative (CTI), the International Energy Agency and the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies.

CTI’s analyst, Andrew Grant, said he believes Petronas wants to press ahead with the PNW project, but faces increasing financial and economic constraints.

“We see the project as challenged given the economics and current oversupply in the LNG market, which may last for several years given the amount of new supply either recently built or currently under construction,” Grant told New Canadian Media.

According to CTI’s financial modeling, the PNW project will not be needed in the 2015-35 period, undermining BC’s hopes for building a future LNG economy.

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Wednesday, 05 August 2015 16:32

'Millionaire Visa' Less Appealing to Investors

Written by

by Carlos Tello (@SegunDoviaje) in Vancouver, British Columbia

“Would you give two million dollars with no monitoring, no oversight, no control; and hope to see your money in 15 years? Would you do that with your family's money?”

That’s what immigration lawyer Richard Kurland said when asked about the lack of interest in Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s latest immigration program targeting investors.

The program Kurland was referring to is called the Immigrant Investor Venture Capital (IIVC) pilot program. Under it, investors are required to have a personal net worth of C$10 million or more, and make a non-guaranteed investment of C$2 million over approximately 15 years.

When the program was announced last January, the federal government said that it would accept up to 500 applications, and give a maximum of 60 permanent-resident visas.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Zool Suleman believes that, by imposing tougher requirements, Canada’s new investor program has ended up being perceived as less appealing than other programs around the world.[/quote]

But through a Freedom of Information request, Kurland learned that the government only received six applications as of June 8.

“There’s a design flaw in that particular system,” Kurland said in an interview with New Canadian Media. “Essentially, the public servants built a mousetrap that couldn't catch mice.”

According to Kurland, the flaw is the lack of control investors have over the investment. The $2 million go to the Immigrant Investor Venture Capital fund, which is invested in “innovative Canadian start-ups with high growth potential,” according to the program’s website.

When contacted by New Canadian Media, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) didn't confirm the exact number of applications it received. “While we have received a number of applications, very few were complete or met the requirements,” reads their emailed statement.

The government is still receiving applications for the program. The deadline to apply is December 30.

Is the new program too expensive and risky?

Zool Suleman, an immigration laywer based in Vancouver, believes that the previous immigrant investor program, which ran from 1986 until 2014, had earned a reputation among investors as being a safe pathway to Canadian residency and a passport. The new program, in contrast, is seen as too expensive and risky.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]CIC argues that the new program not only efficiently targets investors who will contribute to Canadian society, but also ensures that they will properly support the country’s economy and work in the best interest of Canadians.[/quote]

Under the former Immigrant Investor Program (IIP), applicants had to invest C$800,000 in Canada’s economy in the form of a repayable loan. The applicant’s net worth had to be at least C$1.6 million. The IIP, which was often criticized as being a way for millionaires to buy their way into Canada, was put on hold in 2012 due to a backlog in applications, and was killed two years later.

“It seems that in the new program redesign, the emphasis was in putting money at risk,” Suleman said. “And the marketplaces said: ‘We don't want to put our money into a pool which we have no control over, and over which we have no guarantee.’”

Another big difference between the old program and the new one is the language requirement. The old one didn’t have one, but the new one requires applicants to take a language test to prove their proficiency in English or French.

Suleman believes that, by imposing tougher requirements, Canada’s new investor program has ended up being perceived as less appealing than other programs around the world.

Malta’s program, for example, requires a contribution of 650,000 from the applicant, in case he or she doesn’t have a family; payment of a due diligence fee; a commitment to remain in the country for a period of at least five years; and an additional investment of 150,000. Successful applicants become citizens of the European Union.

“Venture investor immigration funds work in a very competitive environment,” Suleman said. “Money will go where they can get the best passport and the safest lifestyle at the cheapest price.”

In order to make the new Canadian program more appealing for foreign investors, Suleman believes it needs to be reshaped.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]For the New Democratic Party’s Citizen and Immigration Critic Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe, programs that give priority access to residency to rich investors  – like the Immigrant Investor Venture Capital pilot – are unfair to other professionals with much-needed skills who are trying to immigrate to the country.[/quote]

“I think that the one thing the Canadian government can learn from this is that if you make it too hard, you will succeed in deterring investor immigration to Canada,” he said. “I think they need to rethink the program. That's really what needs to happen.”

CIC: We aren't going back

But CIC believes the new investors program is fair for both the foreign investors and Canadians. In the emailed statement CIC sent to New Canadian Media, they said that the program seeks to “ensure that we attract immigrant investors who are able to make a significant investment in Canadian venture capital and who will better integrate into our society.”

The objective of the program is to stimulate Canada’s economy and promote growth by funding start-ups across Canada. The Immigrant Investor Venture Capital fund will be managed by the investment arm of the Business Development Bank of Canada and other fund managers.

CIC argues that the new program not only efficiently targets investors who will contribute to Canadian society, but also ensures that they will properly support the country’s economy and work in the best interest of Canadians.

“We want investors to choose Canada for the right reasons: we want them to settle in our country and contribute to our economy,” reads the statement. “We will not lower our standards or consider going back to a program similar to [the previous one].”

But for the New Democratic Party’s Citizen and Immigration Critic Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe, programs that give priority access to residency to rich investors  – like the Immigrant Investor Venture Capital pilot – are unfair to other professionals with much-needed skills who are trying to immigrate to the country.

“It’s not fair to foreign caregivers, for example, who, because of huge backlogs, have to wait years for residency,” she said in an emailed statement. “Government must work with communities, provinces and experts to find a proper and fair solution.”

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by Jane Lytvynenko (@JaneLytv) in Kiev, Ukraine

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk and Stephen Harper signed a free-trade agreement between the two countries Tuesday. Meeting in Chelsea, Quebec, the two politicians solidified the deal which is largely seen as a political gesture of goodwill from Canada while Ukraine faces a war with Russia and a nation-wide recession.

The finalization of the free trade agreement comes months before a federal election campaign is set to begin in Canada. Over 1.2 million Canadians of Ukrainian descent live in the country, making for the largest diaspora in the world outside of Ukraine itself.

The agreement will drop nearly all tariffs on Ukrainian imports and 86 per cent of tariffs on Canadian goods. Five years in the making, both Ukrainian and Canadian politicians are excited about the support.

This is increasing economic opportunity for Canadians and Ukrainians and the ability to create jobs in both our countries,said Harper during the announcement.

This is a step toward helping Ukrainians realize the future that they want,he said. Ukrainians do not want a future based on oppression and a Soviet past. Ukrainians want a Western future, a future of prosperity and democracy. In completing this trade agreement we are taking one small step in competing that transition.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Ive never noticed Canadian products here before. I would buy them to show my support if I knew.[/quote]

Politically, the deal is meant to be a gesture to Russia and the rest of the world of Canadas faith that Ukraine can clean up corruption and get back on its feet. But Ukrainians are not as optimistic about the agreement, which is yet to be implemented. Speaking to New Canadian Media in the streets of Kiev, Ukraines capital, many were unsure about concrete benefits of the agreement.

Small, but symbolic

You could say its a small step forward but its a symbolic one. I doubt it will make a difference,” said Oleg Sokolov. He said he understood the political significance on top of the other help Canada already provides to Ukraine but does not know what, if any, benefits it will bring.

Its an interesting situation but I dont know which of our products will interest Canada,” said Sokolov.

Canada will get duty-free access to meats, grains, canola oil, processed foods and animal feeds, according to the press release issued by the Canadian government. In turn, Ukraine will benefit from forestry and industrial goods, and fish products which have grown in price since the annexation of Crimea.

Political significance

The negotiations for the agreement began in 2010.

This deal has been in the works for longer than our government has been ruling,” said Egor, who works for a financial institution in Kiev and asked his last name not be published. It has a political significance and Im glad Canada is still helping Ukraine but I dont know if it will affect day-to-day life. I guess we will have to wait and see.

The Canadian PMO says trade between two countries averaged $347 million in 201113. It is expected to increase by 19 per cent as a result of the deal and Ukraine could see an additional $23.7 million in exports. Ukraines current annual GDP is $181.71 billion.

The potential increase in the amount of trade did not impress Sokolov, who said he is in the know about Ukrainian business.

It would be a good number for a company but when it comes to a country, that's a very small number [of trade],” he said. When put in the context of Ukraines GDP, that number does not make a difference.

Ukrainians also wonder whether they have products that interest Canada on a larger scale and where the projected 19 per cent grown will come from during time of war.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]The agreement will drop nearly all tariffs on Ukrainian imports and 86 per cent of tariffs on Canadian goods.[/quote]

Canadas a big country and have their own products and trades, Im not sure what Ukraine has to offer,” said Lyudmila Mihailik. Ive never noticed Canadian products here before. I would buy them to show my support if I knew.

The trade agreement is the latest of Canadian measures helping Ukraine. Earlier this year Canada provided a $200 million low-interest loan to Ukraine for a total of $400 million in financial help over the last two years. Its aim is to help stabilize the country, which is about $50 billion in debt. Canada also provided non-lethal military supplies to Ukraine and participated in the training of its new police force.


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by Craig Wong

There is a divide in business confidence across the country as low oil prices weigh on the outlook for some regions more than others, according to the latest reading from the Bank of Canada.

The summer edition of the central bank’s business outlook survey suggests businesses on the Prairies expect sales to slow over the next 12 months as the oil price shock spreads across other sectors.

However, the Bank of Canada says the story isn’t the same across the country.

“Similar to the past two surveys, the low commodity price environment is driving the divergence in firms’ outlook: on the one hand firms in the energy producing regions and those that are part of the energy supply chain continue to face tough market conditions,” the report said.

“On the other hand, domestic demand is strengthening in regions that are less exposed to the energy sector.”

Boosting non-energy sectors

Overall, the survey said more firms reported sales growth than sales drops over the last 12 months, but the margin shrank compared with earlier surveys. As well, the balance of opinion among companies that expect sales to grow over the next 12 months improved modestly.

The results of the survey of senior management at about 100 companies between May 15 and June 10 were released Monday, ahead of the Bank of Canada’s interest rate announcement next week.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Stronger U.S. economic growth and a lower Canadian dollar should help lift the non-energy sectors.[/quote]

The central bank is widely expected to cut its expectations for growth in the second quarter following a pullback by the economy in April, however its plan for interest rates is less clear.

“With rate cut speculation heating up ahead of next week’s policy announcement, the modest improvement and the upbeat tone for Central Canada and manufacturing slightly lower the odds of a move,” BMO senior economist Benjamin Reitzes said of the outlook survey.

“Recall that governor (Stephen) Poloz pays particular attention to this type of survey and the positives coming from non-energy sectors could stay his hand for now.”

Stronger U.S. economic growth and a lower Canadian dollar should help lift the non-energy sectors.

“The bank’s confidence in improvement outside the energy sector will be key to its assessment of whether or not further easing in monetary policy will be required in the second half of 2015,” RBC economist Josh Nye wrote.

Labour shortages growing less intense

In terms of spending on machinery and equipment, the central bank survey points to a moderate increase in investment spending over the next year.

However, there are distinct regional differences, with plans to increase spending more prevalent in Central Canada and the manufacturing sector. Energy-related regions and sectors expect to continue to see a decrease in spending.

A lower dollar is also affecting investment decisions as some businesses suggest they plan to restrain spending as a result of higher costs for imported machinery and equipment. Others, which benefit from higher margins on U.S.-dollar denominated sales, plan to use the profits to increase investment.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Meanwhile, the Bank of Canada report also found plans to hire staff have improved in areas less affected by energy prices with the overall balance of opinion on hiring over the next 12 months improving.[/quote]

The outlook compared with a survey by Statistics Canada on Monday that suggested capital spending this year on non-residential construction and machinery and equipment is expected to slip 4.9 per cent to $251.8 billion compared with 2014.

Spending by the mining, quarrying and oil and gas extraction sector is expected to fall 18.7 per cent to $67.9 billion.

Meanwhile, the Bank of Canada report also found plans to hire staff have improved in areas less affected by energy prices with the overall balance of opinion on hiring over the next 12 months improving.

The number of firms reporting labour shortages that are hurting their ability to meet demand remains low and labour shortages are generally less intense than a year ago.

The Bank of Canada’s Senior Loan Officer Survey, which was also released Monday, suggested that overall business-lending conditions were broadly unchanged in the second quarter with a tightening in the oil and gas sector.


Published in Partnership with iPolitics.ca

by Themrise Khan in Ottawa, Ontario

Canada’s immigration landscape has seen several changes over the last decade, shifting the demographics of its provinces and cities.

The number of immigrants to Canada continues to increase, and newcomers are choosing cities beyond the conventional to make their home. What does this mean for Canadian cities, particularly, its scenic and quiet capital?

New Canadian Media sat down for a rapid fire round of questions with Ottawa Mayor, Jim Watson, to get some sound bites on what makes, or could make, Ottawa a more welcoming city. The conversation came at a fitting time, given that this week marks Welcoming Ottawa Week (WOW) – the third annual weeklong series of dialogues, events and activities meant to offer genuine hospitality to the city’s newcomers.

Small Town Charm

In a time of stiff competition for resources among provinces, what makes a smaller city like Ottawa more attractive for newcomers in comparison to larger cities like Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver?

According to Mayor Watson, a stable economy, an intelligent workforce, high quality of life and physical proximity to the federal government – not withstanding that the government has downsized substantially – are the city’s greatest assets.

“Ottawa-Gatineau offers the best of both worlds, small town charm and [it] is not as congested as other cities. I came from Toronto and found it very overwhelming there,” said Watson. “I wish we could do something about the weather,” he added, smilingly at one of the city’s only drawbacks from his perspective.

A Need for Immigrants

Several changes have occurred in Canada recently including reduction in funding to settlement services, tightening of immigration rules and procedures, the introduction of anti-terror act Bill C-51 and events like the Parliament Hill shooting, all of which have possible implications for newcomers to Canada. Could these deter immigrants from coming to Ottawa?

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“If the government is making immigration more difficult that is outside our jurisdiction, but we will still need to attract more immigrants into the economy.”[/quote]

On the changes in immigrations rules, the mayor said it is hard to tell right now. “If the government is making immigration more difficult that is outside our jurisdiction, but we will still need to attract more immigrants into the economy. We need to reinvigorate the workforce with people from abroad because we are not producing enough children.”

The settlement sector has also seen substantial cuts over the last few years, which has affected the work of many frontline immigrant-serving organizations providing vital social services to newcomers, including in Ottawa.

However, as the mayor explained, “This is a federal issue and we have a pretty specific mandate under the Municipal Act with no funds [allocated for it]. But this is where we need new Canadians to come forward and push the candidates for where they stand on this issue.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“We have really matured as a multicultural community over the last few years. Today when I visit a school it’s like walking into the United Nations.”[/quote]

And that means tapping into the city’s image as a thriving, diverse metropolis. “We have really matured as a multicultural community over the last few years. Today when I visit a school it’s like walking into the United Nations,” Watson said. “There are dozens of different languages and a high quality environment.”

Adding to Ottawa’s draw for newcomers, the mayor cited examples of people like billionaire tech investor, Sir Terry Mathews, who could live anywhere in the world, but chose Ottawa, as well as new entrepreneurs like Tobias Lütke, founder of Shopify, who “originally came here from Germany, fell in love with the city and now has 400 employees and a billion dollar empire in Ottawa.”

Strength in Diversity

It could be argued that too much diversity in a small space could lead to problems, but Mayor Watson feels otherwise. “We need to see our diversity as a strength and sell that as an asset to companies who may want to relocate here,” he said, furthering the discussion on making Ottawa more attractive for business.

Fair enough, but what about several recent reports from major Canadian banks that claim job quality has fallen to its lowest level in more than two decades? Ottawa’s three largest industries in terms of employment are the federal government (public service jobs), the high tech industry and tourism,” Watson responded.

“The first two of those tend to have quality jobs and fair compensation. [In Ottawa] we tend to have more knowledge-based employment rather than a manufacturing base, so we don’t have the same kind of problems we have seen in other provinces and cities, which have a heavy manufacturing base.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“We need young people and their energy and they need to believe in government. We also need to burrow into multicultural communities to get them more involved.”[/quote]

On the issue of trying to engage more racialized youth in entering politics, municipal or federal, Mayor Watson said that trying to get any Canadian interested in politics is a challenge.

“When I first ran for mayor, there were 20 of us running. In this election there were just about five.” Declining involvement in federal and municipal elections is also a major issue for Watson. “Turnout in last year’s municipal elections was only 40 per cent. Many young people are frustrated and angry and that is not something one wants to see among the youth, especially if they are entering politics.”

His advice is threefold: “First get involved by voting, then get involved in a political campaign and then get your name on a ballot. We need young people and their energy and they need to believe in government. We also need to burrow into multicultural communities to get them more involved.”

Perhaps events such as WOW could eventually move beyond just a series of annual events and act as platform to encourage such engagement. The mayor was happy to entertain this idea, but he felt that it should come more from the grassroots than from the political sector.

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by Paul Rebar (@p_rebar) in Halifax, Nova Scotia

You’ve got it all: degree, credentials, internship, references – everything except, well, an actual job. Given how most job openings aren’t even advertised, it’s daunting to try to reach out and build a network without knowing where to begin.

Enter: the Halifax Partnership’s Connector Program.

Founded in 2009, the Connector Program matches immigrants and recent local and international grads (“connectees”) with employers and community leaders (“connectors”). As of June 2015, it’s helped 556 “connectees” find jobs in Halifax. 

Here’s how it works:

· A connectee is brought in for an initial meeting with a project coordinator. 

· The connectee is then matched with a connector, who he or she meets with to discuss professional background, skills and other relevant info while being informed of Halifax’s job market. 

· The connector refers the connectee to three people in their professional network, who each refer the connectee to three people in their networks, leaving them with no shortage of contacts.    

Check out this video for more detail:

Jump To Gallery

by Joyeeta Dutta Ray (@joeyday20) in Toronto 

They came, they saw, they conquered against all odds. Others went back, defeated.

Don’t be quick to cheer the former and sneer at the latter; more often than not, immigrants to Canada who head back end up making millions elsewhere.

So what’s to blame for their departure? Is it malfunctioning planets, miserable resumes, sub-zero Martian temperatures that take the fun out of job hunting or all of the above?

Statistics Canada says that one in three Canadians leave the country within 20 years of arrival. Yet, close to 50 per cent of the country’s millionaires are reportedly new immigrants or first-generation whiz kids with at least one parent born across the border. 

You have to raise your tuque to them. Only a fraction of this envious lot is partying on inherited wealth. Most of them are self-made successes. How did they do it?

New Canadian Media spoke to five immigrants to Canada to explore the differences between those who stayed, and those who chose to leave. 

Does Higher Education Pay Off Better?

Pranay Sen* says no. A microbiologist who studied at two premier Canadian universities, he followed his parents to Mississauga from South East in 2002. He started off as a junior scientist in a reputable firm. However, within two years he realized there was not much scope for growth.

“Canada could not offer my son better opportunities (in the pharmaceutical industry) whereas [a country in Europe] gave him the break he needed,” explains Pranay’s mother. “Most of his friends remained unemployed, which further discouraged him to linger on here.” Pranay moved to the European country where he continues to make major strides in his career.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]They migrated to Canada from Jakarta in 2005 in search of 'clean air, structured society and affordable international education for our children.' Within a year and a half of puffing oxygen, they returned to Jakarta’s fumes.[/quote]

Many disillusioned souls leave within the first year of arrival. Jay and Christina D’Souza have a similar story. They migrated to Canada from Jakarta in 2005 in search of “clean air, structured society and affordable international education for our children.” Within a year and a half of puffing oxygen, they returned to Jakarta’s fumes. 

The first few days in Canada were decisive. The security guard at their serviced apartment (fully furnished with hotel-like amenities) had more weight in his brains than biceps. He had a PhD in microbiology, but in his three years in Toronto, he never got a break that did justice to his degree. Jay got a job that paid his bills, but it could not give him the lifestyle he left behind.

“It did not appear that people who lived here longer were better off than me. There are exceptions, but our struggle was not worth the effort,” he explains.

When Mags Mano moved to Brampton from Indonesia, Asia was booming, while Canada was hit with the recession. She settled down with her Canadian husband, an immigrant from Iran.

They had every reason to stay on. Mags did well for herself working for the Canadian government, moving on to jointly own an automotive business with her husband. But, in 2014, they gave it all up and headed back to Jakarta.

“The Canadian economy was slowing down in 1990 to ’91, while the other side of the world was booming,” Mano reasons. “We thought it was time to look into more lucrative investment opportunities where the going was good.” For her, the harsh Canadian winter also played villain.

It took her no time to settle down as a senior manager in a relocation company back in her home country.

Can Better Timing Lead to Greater Wealth?

Those who arrived when labour market conditions were favourable seem to have the best reasons to celebrate now. Many own assets worth millions, gained through business enterprises and real estate investment.

For Neerav and Preeti Sharma who migrated from India in 2001, pre-planning did the trick. High levels of pollution wreaked havoc on their daughter’s health. It was time to look for greener pastures.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“You may not start at the top, but hard work rewards well with many opportunities.” - Neerav Sharma[/quote]

Neerav was reluctant to leave his prestigious job in Delhi, so his wife went ahead first. Luckily for her, she found a job, home and enough greenery to have her husband join her soon after.  

“I tapped into the employment resource centres for new immigrants and found my first job in Seneca College (in Toronto),” she says. Preeti continued to build her skills and moved up rapidly. Today, she is Operations & Student Retention Manager in the School of Communications, Media & Design.

Neerav arrived in 2003 through a company transfer. He was the only non-white employee in his company then and says he believes it is imperative to have good interpersonal skills and networking abilities to succeed in Canada. “You may not start at the top, but hard work rewards well with many opportunities,” he promises.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Whatever their story, all achievers agree that there is no escaping the struggle in the initial years.[/quote]

For Paul Yee, an executive producer of TV commercials from Hong Kong, investing in real estate was his key to success. He came to Canada for a family reunion and never went back. He worked hard, owned a company, built assets through real estate investment and encourages newcomers to do the same.

Whatever their story, all achievers agree that there is no escaping the struggle in the initial years.

Can We Enrich the Economy by Letting Skilled Immigrants Go?

Canada has the largest number of immigrants per capita in the world. But are they given equal career opportunities as those born here?  

Statistics Canada says that the first four years of the new millennium recorded more out-migrants from Canada than immigrants.

“For the United Kingdom, the emigrant-to-immigrant ratio was 1.6 Canadians leaving for every Briton entering Canada,” the study says. However, the largest ratio was between the United States and Canada, with Canada sending 11.3 emigrants for every U.S. immigrant.

According to a 2012 news report in The Globe and Mail, there is severe lack of skills in the secondary cities of Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario and Atlantic Canada. “This shortage (of people power) is a drag on Canada’s potential to innovate and compete into the future,” says the article.

For a stronger economy and uniform development countrywide, can the federal government afford to lose skilled immigrants to other countries? That remains the million-dollar question.

* Publisher's note: some names in this reporting have been changed to respect the privacy and career prospects of the subjects.

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by Shan Qiao (@dmaomao) in Toronto      

Your name appears as anonymous; future employers can only search your skills.

Canada’s latest job network innovation Magnet aims to connect job seekers to employers based upon skills, preferences and talent needs. Foreign names will no longer be a barrier for immigrants.

Ryerson University founded the not-for-profit social innovation, in partnership with the Ontario Chamber of Commerce. The network was first launched in September last year. After several months’ operation and expansion, the online job search engine aims to supersede giants such as LinkedIn with its unique filtering and matching functions. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Magnet is a way to combat being stereotyped when job seeking. Future employers can only view a person’s skills online. Names will be listed as ‘anonymous’.[/quote]
 
Mark Patterson, the man behind Magnet, wants to let job seekers, especially internationally trained immigrants, know what “meaningful employment” the site will bring. 
 
“One of the most important things is that it is a giant inter-connective network,” said Patterson at yesterday’s Ryerson University public forum titled “Connecting New Immigrants to Employment”.
 
Magnet brings together five critical stakeholder groups in its work, including educational institutes, multi-level governments, the labour market, and the not-for-profit and industry sectors.
 
“It is the biggest community-based [job search engine] in Canada. We have 26 different colleges and universities; over 100 of community organizations in Ontario and across the country,” continued Patterson.
 
What this means to new immigrant job seekers is that when they go to local job settlement agencies such as TRIEC (Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council), they will be encouraged to use Magnet tools and technologies while looking for employers.

Removing Stereotypes 

For individuals like executive director of the Global Diversity Exchange, and keynote speaker at the forum, Ratna Omidvar, who have “strange-sounding” foreign names, Magnet is a way to combat being stereotyped when job seeking. Future employers can only view a person’s skills online. Names will be listed as ‘anonymous’.
 
Omidvar shared some of her early job searching experience in the ’80s after she came to Canada from her home country Iran, as a refugee.
 
“‘Ratna you must change your name. It’s a very strange name. Strange-sounding name has less chance to get a job interview than Brian Smith,’ I was told,” recalled Omidvar, who admitted she considered adopting a “usual” English name, but eventually decided against it, and advised other immigrants against it as well.  
 
“1981 was a very difficulty time in Canada. It was a period of recession, jobs were difficult to find,” cited Omidvar.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“We prefer to hire someone we know from an institution we respect as opposed to taking a risk on talents from overseas.” Ratna Omidbar, Global Diversity Exchange[/quote]
 
Things have not changed too much three decades later, as Omidvar stated that newcomers still experience significant hurdles and bias when it comes to employment. 
 
Omidvar said one reason why stereotypes with names still exist today is, “employers’ unwillingness to take a risk.”

“We prefer to hire someone we know from an institution we respect as opposed to taking a risk on talents from overseas,” she explained.

“One of the reasons why Magnet is successful is because it is a large platform,” she added. “It’s not for one institution. It has many employers who signed to it. Because it focuses on competence and experience as opposed to names and where you came from. It has an added value in overcoming certain institutional barriers and individual barriers.”
 
To date, the Magnet network has 26 university and college partners representing over 700,000 students, 60,000 job seekers, 3,000 employers, over 100 community-based partners and 25 advisory council members composed of leaders from a cross-section of relevant sectors. Magnet boasts that with its specific filtering and matching search engine, chances for employers to find suitable employees or vice versa are much higher.

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Corinne Ceciliaby Corinne Cécilia in Toronto

If you are new to Canada, chances are investing isn’t your main priority as you focus on settling down and addressing basic needs for yourself and your family. Yet, it is safe to assume that you are eager to thrive in this country, and there are several ways in which newcomers can both benefit from and be involved with socially responsible investment.

Join the Responsible Economy

When looking for work, consider careers in the area of the financial industry that are concerned with making the world a better place.

The 2015 Canadian Responsible Investment Trends Report published by the Responsible Investment Association says, “Canada’s responsible investment (RI) market is experiencing rapid growth. RI refers to the integration of environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) criteria into the selection and management of investments.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Your competitive advantage as a newcomer lies in your foreign language skills and your knowledge of the business/personal finance culture in your home country.[/quote]

According to report data, as of December 31, 2013, assets in Canada being managed, using one or more RI strategies, increased from $600 billion to more than $1 trillion in just two years. The growth represents a 68 per cent increase in RI assets under management.

And don’t worry, you don’t necessarily need to be a financial expert to join this exciting field: there are opportunities in communications, administration, IT, HR and more.

Because the financial industry realizes the growth of its clientele is correlated with increasing immigration trends, it needs to address the diverse needs of new Canadians.

According to Statistics Canada, “[t]he number of foreign-born Canadians could total between 9.8 and 12.5 million, depending on immigration levels. By 2031, nearly half (46 per cent) of Canadians aged 15 and older could be foreign-born, or could have at least one foreign-born parent, up from 39 per cent in 2006.”

Your competitive advantage as a newcomer lies in your foreign language skills and your knowledge of the business/personal finance culture in your home country.

If these types of opportunities are not necessarily what you’re looking for, you may want to consider creating your own company – consider the path of becoming a social entrepreneur. These individuals go beyond the financial bottom line to pursue social, cultural and environmental goals.

According to Meaningful Business – An RBC Paper on Social Entrepreneurs, “Social enterprises are emerging in a broad range of sectors, especially retail, real estate and utilities; and 30 per cent of social enterprises surveyed showed high revenue growth.”

Most banks run special programs designed to help social entrepreneurs achieve their business and ethical goals. There are also initiatives such as the Immigrant Settlement and Integration through Social Enterprise project (ISISE) that are “designed to make the case for Social Enterprise development as an effective model for immigrant settlement and integration.” Learn more about these opportunities with the Canadian CED Network. 

Maximize Your Savings

Once you’ve settled in a new job and learned more about the labour market, it’s time to save for a “rainy day” and to secure some retirement income; you work hard for your money, and you will probably come to the conclusion that you need your money to work hard for you.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"SRI, if approached properly, can actually create positive change in society, as well as having a positive impact on the investors’ financial results."[/quote]

Many Canadian companies offer their employees a Registered Retired Savings Program matching plan whereby you invest in mutual funds hoping for a good return. The problem is, not all mutual funds are socially responsible and, traditionally, fund managers are either unaware of, or not interested in, ethical investment options.

So you may want to research companies such as Ethical Funds and OceanRock Investments Inc., or seek out advice from an expert. The Responsible Investment Association has an interactive map to help you locate a responsible investment adviser.

If this seems too advanced, simply start by educating yourself about personal finance with websites that will help you make better decisions.

A good place to start is Settlement.org, a website that provides newcomers with information and resources to settle in Canada, answering basic questions on investment opportunities

Or you could visit Financial Consumer Agency of Canada, a federal government agency, and www.getsmartaboutmoney.ca, a service provided by the Ontario Securities Commission. Most Canadian banks now have free documentation to help newcomers understand ethical investing and how they can benefit from it.

As explained in CSI Global Education Inc.’s course on Socially Responsible Investment, “SRI has been, and to some extent continues to be, seen as a negative approach to investing. That is, many see it as the process of eliminating ‘bad’ companies from a portfolio. The common belief is that by limiting the choice of available companies, a portfolio’s overall return will suffer.

“The evidence to date tends not to support this view. Consequently, some advisers and mutual fund companies are attempting to move the industry and its perception forward towards the view that SRI, if approached properly, can actually create positive change in society, as well as having a positive impact on the investors’ financial results.”

The SRI sector’s best-kept secrets are innovative social enterprises specialized in renewable energy that provide high-interest returns opportunities by offering community bonds backed by long-term contracts with the province.

You can receive five per cent annual interest for five years by investing in Solar Bonds offered by the provincial co-operative SolarShare...or earn seven per cent each year for seven years by investing in North America’s first zoo-biogas plant, Zooshare, a building located across from the Toronto Zoo.

Sounds too good to be true? Well, experts have told us since the late 1990s that renewable energy will be the biggest investment opportunity in the 21st century: the time to embark is now, and all it takes is a small sum to start your high-return, responsible savings.

Shop Responsibly

Last, but not least, you can contribute to make the world a better place by becoming a discerning consumer.

There is a growing number of companies (such as American Apparel) and coalitions (such as Sweatshop Watch) that work to protect the rights of immigrants who work in North American factories and to eliminate sweatshop conditions in the global garment economy, including factories based in North America.

Companies are also manufacturing environmentally and socially sustainable products. And for all the products we need in everyday life, regardless of our budget, there is a more responsible option available on the market. Ask and you shall find!

Canada’s second annual Responsible Investment Week will take place from June 1 to 5, 2015. RI Week is a week dedicated to education and awareness about responsible investment (RI). 


Corinne Cécilia is the Managing Editor of Maison & Demeure, the sister publication of House & Home. Corinne is passionate about publishing and has worked as a researcher, columnist, writer and editor with Canadian and international magazines and media outlets. An adept of foreign languages and lifelong learning, she was the French editor of Education Canada magazine from 2007 to 2011. Corinne holds a Master’s degree in Anthropology.

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by Carlos Tello (@segundoviaje) in Vancouver

Lack of Canadian work experience and recognition of foreign credentials are the main reasons why skilled immigrants continue to be chronically under employed, a new study by the Panel on Employment Challenges of New Canadians has found.

Led by immigrant advocate and social entrepreneur Nick Noorani, the panel met with over 150 organizations involved in the issue of employment for new Canadians and evaluated input from over 600 respondents to an online survey to explore why many skilled immigrants are stuck in survival jobs despite their qualifications.

In addition to issues related to work experience and education, inadequate pre-arrival information, employer bias and cultural shock are also preventing newcomers to find suitable jobs, the study reports.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]2012 study by TD Bank concluded that if immigrant workers were employed at the same level as non-immigrant workers, there would be approximately 370,000 more people working.[/quote]

Immigrants account for nearly half of all PhD holders and 40 per cent of master’s degree recipients in Canada, but many can’t find jobs in the professions for which they trained.

A 2012 study by TD Bank concluded that if immigrant workers were employed at the same level as non-immigrant workers, there would be approximately 370,000 more people working.

According to the Conference Board of Canada, that underutilization of skills costs the Canadian economy between four and six billion dollars a year.

In order to streamline the labour market integration process for new Canadians, the panel’s report has issued six recommendations

  • To require each regulated occupation to develop a single pan-Canadian standard
  • To require regulators to advise newcomers who are unsuccessful in the licensing process in finding an alternative career
  • To foster a shared responsibility among all stakeholders for helping immigrants find jobs
  • To establish an advisory group to monitor progress made in implementing the panel’s recommendations
  • To provide immigrants with information that help them set realistic expectations about job prospects and licensing practices
  • To educate communities on how to increase retention outside large metropolitan areas.

What Migrants Need vs. What Support is Available

One of the questions the panel asked during the online consultation was: “What practices, tools or programs have helped you, before and after you arrived in Canada, to get a job that made full use of your skills and experience?”

Individual respondents, most of them immigrants who have been living in Canada for five years or less, replied that “specific programs targeted at newcomers” was the most helpful support service. “Nothing helped” was the second most common response. (Results shown to the right.)

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][T]here’s a number of challenges and barriers to finding your way in the labour market in a new country.” - Dr. Sylvia Fuller, University of British Columbia[/quote]

Organizations serving newcomers, on the other hand, responded that the most helpful programs for newcomers are “pre-arrival information and support” and “Canadian education/skills gap training”.

For Dr. Sylvia Fuller, an associate professor at University of British Columbia’s department of sociology, the discrepancies shown by the data are not surprising.

“One thing to keep in mind, of course, is that there’s a number of challenges and barriers to finding your way in the labour market in a new country,” she says. “So there isn’t kind of one real ranking, I would say.”

Fuller warns that there might even be significant differences in opinion among immigrants. Variables like their particular situation or the number of years they’ve been living in Canada can influence their views on what services are the most helpful. The report didn’t include specific conclusions regarding this data.

Noorani was unavailable for comment prior to this article’s deadline.

Better Support Services Needed

Experts agree that the panel’s recommendations are good measures to speed up and support job matching for immigrants. But they also warn that the social integration of newcomers needs to be taken into account, as issues like housing or childcare often prevent immigrants from focusing exclusively on job hunting.

“We know from numerous studies that the challenges to labour market integration include the family and life circumstances of the individual,” explains Dr. Peter Hall, an associate professor at Simon Fraser University’s urban studies program. “It would have been good to see even more emphasis on this dimension in the panel’s mandate, and hence in their recommendations.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“If folks are having to work full time at crappy survival jobs and study in the evening, it’s going to take a while to get through the process. And we know that the faster the people go through [it], the better the outcomes.” - Dr. Sylvia Fuller, University of British Columbia[/quote]

Immigrants also need better programs aimed to support them economically while they undergo the process of validating their professional credentials, Fuller argues. The process is often not only costly, but also time-consuming, as many newcomers are forced to undergo some level of training in order to comply with Canadian standards.

“If folks are having to work full time at crappy survival jobs and study in the evening, it’s going to take a while to get through the process,” she says. “And we know that the faster the people go through [it], the better the outcomes.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“Maybe it makes you feel better that you hired somebody that’s a little bit like you, but it doesn’t mean you hired the best person.” - Abraham Asrat, Mosaic British Columbia[/quote]

For Fuller, providing immigrants with funding to navigate through the licensing process and other challenges they face while looking for jobs will also allow more immigrant women to re-attain their professional status.

“Female immigrants are less likely to be able to re-attain their professional status than male immigrants,” she explains. “Part of that is that there tends to be this kind of family survival strategy where folks are taking [turns] to do this, and often the women are more focused on settling the children, or taking on the jobs so that the husband can study; all those kinds of things.”

The Employers’ Responsibility

Abraham Asrat, a manager of employment programs at Mosaic British Columbia, argues that native-born Canadians also have to realize that they play an important role in immigrants’ integration process into the workforce.

Employer bias against foreign credentials and experience is often the reason why newcomers are unable to become employed, he says.

“Employers, they feel like [it] is a risk assessment. ‘Am I going to hire somebody that went to UBC, that I know their education, or am I going to hire somebody that’s just from outside, I don't know the university?’” he says.

“Maybe it makes you feel better that you hired somebody that’s a little bit like you, but it doesn’t mean you hired the best person.”

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New Canadian Media provides nonpartisan news and views representing all Canadian immigrant communities. As part of this endeavour, we re-publish aggregated content from various ethnic media publishers in Canada in an effort to raise the profile of news and commentary from an immigrant perspective. New Canadian Media, however, does not guarantee the accuracy of or endorse the views and opinions contained in content from such other sites. The views expressed on this site are those of the individual writers and commentators, and not necessarily those of New Canadian Media. Copyright © 2019 All rights reserved