AN URBAN ECONOMY must be dynamic to attract and secure foreign workers, particularly in difficult economic times, when the barriers to their admittance to Canada is understandably higher. It would be difficult to argue that attracting foreign workers is a requirement for economic development, but it does seem that those communities that are experiencing the greatest economic growth will attract and secure a larger than average share of foreign workers.
There is good reason to assume this. As Human Resources and Skills Development Canada indicates on its website, foreign workers cannot be admitted to Canada unless there is a favourable assessment of “the impact the foreign worker would have on Canada’s labour market or, in other words, how the offer of employment would likely affect Canadian jobs”. In broad strokes, to hire a foreign worker, it must be shown that there is a job for the worker to do that no Canadian is willing, locally available or able to do. Often this means the employer is doing something new or special. It is these types of employers that create a vibrant urban community.
According to recently released government figures, in 2010 a total of 157 foreign workers entered Canada to settle in Kingston, Ontario. What does this figure reveal about how the Kingston economy is faring relative to other places in Canada?
First, it should be noted that Kingston’s 157 new foreign workers are a tiny share of the 66,287 who settled in Ontario in 2010, nearly half of whom found work in Toronto. Naturally bigger cities attract more foreign workers than smaller ones, as there are more employers and more employment opportunities there. Of particular interest, then, is how Kingston’s figures compare to those of other Ontario cities of relatively similar size. In this regard it should be noted that, while the somewhat smaller centres of Guelph (380 new foreign workers) and Sarnia (339) posted substantially higher numbers than Kingston, the bigger cities of Greater Sudbury (130) and Barrie (137) did not fare as well.
Overall, the figures reveal proportionately more opportunities for foreign workers in major urban areas, with more than half of the total for Canada settling just in the five metropolitan areas of Toronto (30,425), Vancouver (25,532), Montreal (21,704), Calgary (8,196) and Edmonton (5,356). As a major urban centre, Ottawa-Gatineau (3,203 in Ontario and Quebec) is lagging behind substantially, relative to its population. Growth-oriented centres like Kitchener (859), Saskatoon (893) and Moncton (319) are punching beyond their weight class but, on the other hand, when it comes to attracting foreign workers, Thunder Bay (154) and Trois-Rivières (155) have some work to do.
In Kingston another 81 foreign workers arrived in the first half of 2011, about ten per cent less than during the corresponding period in 2010. During these same six months the number of new foreign workers settling in each of Ontario as a whole and Canada as a whole have substantially increased year over year. Relatively speaking, then, foreign workers are finding fewer opportunities in Kingston than they did last year, although they are finding more opportunities than before in Ontario and in Canada.
If there is truth to the notion that the settlement of new foreign workers in a city is a reflection of a dynamic urban economy, then Kingston’s economy falls somewhere in the lower part of the middle of Canada’s metropolitan areas of comparable size. While that may not be a reason for self-immolation, it is certainly no reason for congratulations either, particularly based on the trend revealed by the statistics cited for the first half of 2011.
Given the development of the Canadian Experience Class and the Post-Graduation Work Permit programs, it is clear that the direction of Canadian immigration policy is to draw a larger and larger share of our immigrants from the pool of those temporary residents first admitted to Canada as students and workers. Therefore, it is reasonable to conclude that the more foreign workers that settle in a community, the more permanent residents will be there eventually. Keeping an eye on the number of foreign workers coming to town would seem to be prudent in growth-oriented communities.
The figures cited above come from Statistics Canada, the keeper of Canadian government statistics. Citizenship and Immigration Canada has recently released datasets respecting immigration trends that have been collected by Statistics Canada. The release comes about as part of the Government of Canada’s Open Data Pilot, a project by which it seeks to improve the ability of the public to find, download and use government data.