TORONTO - Have a seat at the Irving Family (of companies) Boardroom table, in New Brunswick, Canada’s only Constitutionally Bilingual province. It is about 14% the size of France with only about 1% of that country’s population: circa 750, 000 (about the size of the Italian-Canadian population in the GTHA).
The Chair says the enterprise has a bright future ahead: resources galore, “assets to burn”, underutilized capacity, supportive social and civic infrastructure and shipbuilding contracts for the next two generations.
Problem? No people; worse, it has a declining population. Unlike as in other provinces, immigration is not filling the void. No workers, no skilled tradespeople. Provincial school systems throughout Canada are notoriously inept at creating a culture that validates and produces tradespeople.
The Economy cannot be sustained. Opportunities will be missed. The cycle will worsen. But the Federal bureaucracy seems fixated “process” – how to make an aimless system function more efficiently. An impossible and pointless task, as far as the Irving business model is concerned.
For Irving, immigration is all economics; “process”, policy, regulations be damned. Waiting for someone to apply and the meet the criteria some “think tank” in the depths of Ottawa considers to be in the “Canadian interests” has not worked.
A better model is to “recruit and retain”. It is not new, much less ground-breaking. It formed the basis for Immigration policy from the birth of Confederation onward. It is how the country “was built and populated”.
The Canadian Pacific Railway, the Canadian National, mining companies, steel manufacturers, bridge builders, agricultural developers and infrastructure project managers, and so on were partners with governments to find and employ human resources needed to turn Canada into what it is today.
If it worked for them, why can’t it work for Irving, so goes the reasoning. Step aside federal government; ditto the Provincial Nominee Program; forget the language proficiency test. The company will decide if the worker can produce.
Irving is recruiting in Italian, Spanish, Polish and Dutch. The concept of “substitutive evaluation” as a legislative authority to permit the placing to one side the language requirement as a condition for permanent residency is now alive and well. But it is being applied by the Employer rather than by a faceless bureaucrat removed from the “need”.
The government has, de facto, accepted that the employer has a better grip on the concept of supply and demand locally. One can only conclude that Irving must have some heavy clout around the Cabinet table to convince the Government to step aside and concern itself with security issues related to Immigration while Business takes care of the rest.
In Ontario, meanwhile, where the number and wealth of both Businesses and Unions are more abundant, no one is stepping up to the plate in their (and the country’s) own long term interests.