LILLEY: Ford government making right moves to get immigrants in jobs that match their skills

Ford is promising to do more than has been done in years to help newcomers get the jobs they trained for

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It’s the type of thing we’ve been hearing government promise action on for decades, making sure immigrants can have their credentials recognized and get the kind of jobs they’re qualified for. So the big question for the Ford government when they introduced plans for even more changes is what’s different from past promises on this front?

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“I can tell you one thing, it is the commitment,” said MPP Deepak Anand.

Anand is the MPP for Missisaugua-Malton and parliamentary assistant to labour minister Monte McNaughton. He’s also an immigrant from India who came to Canada in January 2015 and experienced this problem first hand.

“Soon after landing, despite having an experience in the engineering field, my life came to a standstill,” Anand said on Thursday morning during a government news conference.

Despite arriving with a chemical engineering degree and work experience, Anand was told he wasn’t qualified in Canada and wouldn’t be allowed to practice.

“Today’s announcement is very heartwarming for me as I have lived through the experience,” Anand said.

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Minister McNaughton put the proposed changes in both personal and economic terms saying new immigrants need easier access to the field they are trained to work in and the province needs jobs to be filled.

“Only 25 percent of these newcomers are working in a job that matches their skills, despite almost 300,000 jobs in Ontario going unfilled and billions lost in productivity,” McNaughton said.

“If we’re going to tackle the generational labour shortage facing Ontario we need everyone participating. Unlocking the full potential of skilled newcomers is crucial to building back a stronger province.”

Just to be clear, the government isn’t proposing to lower the requirements to be a qualified professional or tradesperson in Ontario but they are proposing to eliminate unneeded barriers. Right now, they say there are often requirements to take language testing despite the applicant already having language proficiency or having been tested elsewhere.

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MPP Sheref Sabawy who represents Mississauga—Erin Mills said the proposal will deal with problematic requirements for professionals and skilled tradespeople to have Canadian work experience before they can be licensed.

“It’s like the egg or chicken situation. You need to get two years Canadian experience, but you can’t work in Canada yet,” Sabawy said.

Sabawy came to Canada in the 1990s and said despite his degrees and experience in IT management was not able to have his education or credentials recognized. He’s hoping this legislation, to be introduced next week or shortly thereafter, will fix that.

The changes would cover 13 different professions including engineering, accounting and teachers as well as 23 trades ranging from electrician to plumber, hairstylist to sheet metal worker. It won’t apply to doctors or nurses, something the opposition claimed was an oversight but something the government says they are still working on.

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New Democrat MPP Doly accused the government of trotting out the legislation to distract from what Premier Doug Ford said last Monday.

“I think the timing is very interesting,” Begum said to reporters. “It’s probably his way to scapegoat from his need to apologize.”

When answering questions about support for workers, Ford said that Ontario was short people to fill jobs and that he would be writing to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on the need for more immigrants.

“I just have a criteria,” Ford said. “You come here like every other new Canadian has come here, you work your tail off. If you think you’re coming to collect the dole and sit around, not going to happen, go somewhere else. You want to work. Come here.”

The NDP has spent the week claiming Ford is racist and that his comments were anti-immigrant.

The comments weren’t racist and as for being anti-immigrant, Ford is promising to do more than has been done in years to help newcomers get the jobs they trained for. Actions speak louder than words.

These moves, and a string of others announced by McNaughton over the last week are the kind of changes that actually help workers rather than simply giving politicians photo ops or feel good moments.

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