The Nova Scotia Legislature

The House resumed on:
September 21, 2017.

 

 

 

HANSARD

 

NOVA SCOTIA HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY

 

 

COMMITTEE

 

ON

 

PUBLIC ACCOUNTS

 

 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

 

LEGISLATIVE CHAMBER

 

 

 

 

 

Department of Labour and Advanced Education

Nova Scotia Office of Immigration

 

 

 

 

 

 

Printed and Published by Nova Scotia Hansard Reporting Services


 

Public Accounts Committee

 

Hon. Keith Colwell, Chairman

Mr. Howard Epstein, Vice-Chairman

Mr. Clarrie MacKinnon

Mr. Gary Ramey

Mr. Mat Whynott

Mr. Brian Skabar

Mr. Andrew Younger

Mr. Chuck Porter

Mr. Allan MacMaster

 

[Mr. Leonard Preyra replaced Mr. Howard Epstein]

[Mr. Gary Burrill replaced Mr. Clarrie MacKinnon]

[Hon. Christopher d’Entremont replaced Mr. Allan MacMaster]

 

 

 

In Attendance:

 

Mrs. Darlene Henry

Legislative Committee Clerk

 

Mr. Alan Horgan

Deputy Auditor General

 

Ms. Karen Kinley

Legislative Counsel

 

 

WITNESSES

 

Department of Labour and Advanced Education

 

Ms. Sandra McKenzie, Deputy Minister

Ms. Elizabeth Mills, Executive Director, Office of Immigration

Mr. Frank Dunn, Associate Deputy Minister of Education

Ms. Diane Gordon, Manager, RPL & Labour Mobility with Adult Education

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HALIFAX, WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 22, 2012

 

STANDING COMMITTEE ON PUBLIC ACCOUNTS

 

9:30 A.M.

 

CHAIRMAN

Hon. Keith Colwell

 

VICE-CHAIRMAN

Mr. Howard Epstein

 

MR. CHAIRMAN: I’d like to call the meeting to order. I’d first like to start by having everybody introduce themselves. I will start with Mr. Ramey.

 

[The committee members and witnesses introduced themselves.]

 

MR. CHAIRMAN: Good morning everyone. Before we start, Mr. Younger, you would like to do an introduction.

 

MR. ANDREW YOUNGER: Just very briefly. In the west gallery today I just thought we’d welcome my wife Katia and my son, Declan who are celebrating Shambhala Day today. They are on their way to the Discovery Centre.

 

MR. CHAIRMAN: Good morning and welcome. With that, I would like to ask the deputy minister if she would make a presentation to our committee.

 

MS. SANDRA MCKENZIE: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, thank you for having us here today. With me this morning is Elizabeth Mills - we’ve just gone through the introductions - Frank Dunn, now the Associate Deputy Minister of Education and continues to provide financial services for the Department of Labour and Advanced Education and Diane Gordon. She has the longest title of anybody at the table but is responsible for management of prior learning and labour mobility within the department.

 

 

1


 

We are very pleased to be here this morning to discuss immigration in Nova Scotia. The province’s new immigration strategy, Welcome Home to Nova Scotia, is the most comprehensive and focused plan ever. Our goal is to increase immigration by 2020, welcoming a total of 7,200 new Nova Scotians and increasing our retention rate to 70 per cent. It complements our workforce strategy and jobsHere by targeting international workers with the technical skills and international contacts the province needs to become more innovative, productive and competitive - and keeping them here.

 

We are extremely pleased with the improvement in our retention rate. In the 1996-2001 census period, Nova Scotia’s retention rate was only 37 per cent. We have increased the retention rate for immigrants to more than 68 per cent and expect that number to go even higher. We are very proud of the excellent work of our immigrant-serving organizations. In 2011-12 we allocated $2.8 million in settlement grants and an additional $2.2 million in labour market agreement monies.

 

We have expanded our Navigator Program to all areas of the province, in partnership with the Nova Scotia Association of Regional Development Authorities. Navigators help newcomers access the services and programs they need to settle and stay. They are valuable resources for rural areas. We are working closely with Immigrant Settlement and Integration Services, regional economic development agencies and La Fédération acadienne de la Nouvelle Écosse in the development and implementation of Nova Scotia Start. This is a new initiative where settlement efforts begin even before the immigrant arrives. Immigrants receive information on employment and settlement planning before they move. This helps prepare them both professionally and personally to successfully settle in Nova Scotia. Already there are 16 clients registered with Nova Scotia.

 

While immigration is a shared federal-provincial jurisdiction, the Government of Canada has the lion’s share of responsibility. Only the federal government can grant permission for any foreign national to enter Canada. Nova Scotia, like all provinces and territories, has an agreement with Citizenship and Immigration Canada - or CIC - that allows us to nominate foreign nationals who meet our labour market needs. Provincial nominee programs are a substream of the federal economic class and at the end of the day it is the Government of Canada that makes the final decision on all applicants.

 

At the Nova Scotia Office of Immigration, we have been able to improve the processing time for our nominee applications from several months down to one month. In 2010 Nova Scotia nominated 500 immigrants, the highest number since the Office of Immigration was established in 2005. Our allocation for 2011 was also 500. Near year end, CIC reallocated excess nominations from slippage of one of the provinces and one of the territories, which allowed us to make 25 additional nominations, so we actually nominated 525 in 2011. We - like all the other provinces and territories - have been capped again in 2012 at our 2010 level, which remains at 500.

 

While the determination of levels is a national issue, we are looking at ways to increase the number of immigrants coming to our province, through promotion of all the federal streams. Last year we undertook an independent evaluation of our Nominee Program. Part of that evaluation includes interviews with more than 450 immigrants who came here through the Nominee Program between July 2006 and December 2007. Interviews were conducted with about 100 employers. The results will be available soon but I’d like to share with you just a few preliminary statistics: 89 per cent of the provincial nominees interviewed were still working for the same employer as when they arrived; 96 per cent were satisfied with their experience with the Nova Scotia Nominee Program; and 90 per cent of the employers were satisfied with the Nominee Program. I think you’ll agree that these are encouraging indicators.

 

The Office of Immigration has increased efforts to attract and recruit immigrants to Nova Scotia. We are partners in the Canadian Immigrant Integration Program with offices in the United Kingdom, India, the Philippines and in China. We have recently participated in immigration fairs in Paris, Belgium, Boston, Ireland and, just last week, Scotland. We have a new and improved Web site as part of our enhanced marketing. All of this is being done through partnerships and by leveraging or combining resources and funds. As part of the government’s jobsHere plan to grow the economy, our Immigration Strategy will help us to attract, and keep, innovative immigrants to Nova Scotia. Immigration has become more important as the province deals with demographic challenges of an aging population and a shrinking workforce.

 

In closing, I commend our staff for their commitment and dedication, and we would be happy to answer your questions. I’d just like to let everyone know that I’ve been three and a half weeks in this portfolio and as much as people have tried to cram all of the facts and statistics into my head, in many cases I will be directing on to the more than capable staff that I have flanking either side of me. I know that they’re in 100 per cent support mode and everyone knows that’s where the detailed answers are, so thank you very much and we’ll get on with it.

 

MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you very much. The first round of questioning will be for 20 minutes and we’ll start with Mr. Younger.

 

MR. ANDREW YOUNGER: Thank you for the presentation. Don’t worry, we don’t all expect you to be an expert after three weeks or probably even three years, because immigration is a complicated issue. I will be surprised if you will find anybody in the room today who would suggest that immigration isn’t critically important to the future of Nova Scotia, particularly in light of declining young population numbers and the need to address tax rolls, and all that sort of thing, to fund future education and health care costs.

 

I do want to just start right in and talk about the reputation of the program and whether it’s warranted or not and how that impact is. I will start by tabling an article. There are about 200 copies here since I know last week a few people got reprimanded by you, Mr. Chairman, for not having enough. So I will table those; I think there’s enough for everybody here. It’s an article from February 7th from The Globe and Mail, which talks about the federal government’s plan to tighten up rules around immigration strategy.

When you get it, I’ll draw your attention to the first page, which talks about provincial nominee programs. Here we are, a couple of years after the Tory scandal on immigration issues and we have, “But its record is far spottier out east: Incarnations of the program in Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick have been beset by allegations of corruption, scathing auditors-general reports and multimillion-dollar settlements paid to immigrants claiming they’d been bamboozled by misleading claims.”

 

Now that’s obviously appearing on-line and in a national paper and whether that is a fair reflection of the current Nominee Program or not, it strikes me that means we are still impacting negatively our reputation for immigrants in Nova Scotia, and I’m wondering how we’re dealing with that and how much of an impact there is. Obviously it’s still appearing - even from federal Conservative ministers - referring to Nova Scotia and some of the Atlantic ones as problematic.

 

I guess there are a couple of parts here and we’ll try to go through them. Is that negatively impacting your ability to draw immigrants? The second part to that is, is that hampering your efforts to negotiate with the federal government to increase the cap?

 

MS. MCKENZIE: I am going to pass to Elizabeth in a minute. I know this article because Elizabeth flagged it for me almost immediately when Minister Kenney made the comments. I’d like to just say that Minister Kenney needs a better briefing. Also, in the results statistics, he was making reference to a lumped-together Atlantic Canada, and clearly Nova Scotia is having more success in its Nominee Program than they are having in some of the other Atlantic Provinces.

 

I’m going to turn it over to Elizabeth. We are at our cap; we could use more space than the 500 that we’re currently being held to and I would think that would speak to the success of the program. In addition, the program is being primarily used for highly-skilled workers and not some of the other workers who may come in under nominee programs in other provinces, particularly in the West. So I’m going to turn it over to Elizabeth to specifically address Minister Kenney’s assertions.

 

MR. CHAIRMAN: Ms. Mills.

 

MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: Has it hurt our reputation? Well, I guess the biggest measure of that is whether or not our applications have dried up and they haven’t. We are abroad; we are promoting Nova Scotia as an immigration destination not just through our Nova Scotia Nominee Program, but through all of the streams. I would say, however, that I’m very disappointed that this continues to haunt us. It has been since July 1, 2006, when we shut down this program, but we have lived with the consequences ever since. We have important lessons learned from what we have experienced, and we will make sure that we integrate those lessons learned into improving every day the program integrity of our existing Nova Scotia Nominee Program and also future programs.

Whether or not it has hurt us and will hurt us in our negotiations with the cap, Deputy Minister McKenzie referred to a comment that Minister Kenney said, and basically he was talking about business immigration streams through provincial nominee programs. What he said was that according to the national evaluation results of provincial nominee programs, business stream immigrants who come through provincial nominee programs do not do as well as those who come through the skilled-worker streams and other streams of nominee programs. Then he went on to comment that there had been problems, particularly in Atlantic Canada, with those streams, and that is correct. Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia have all experienced difficulties with business streams so we have lessons learned.

 

What we’re very proud about is that our existing streams are doing very well. Deputy Minister McKenzie referred to our own evaluation of our Nominee Program and we see that our retention rates are really going in the right direction; the tax-filer information supports that. Immigrants who are coming through our Nominee Program are working in Nova Scotia, living in Nova Scotia and contributing to the tax base, so we’re very proud of the improvements we’ve made to our Nominee Program. And certainly hard lessons, but we will incorporate the lessons learned from the previous situation.

 

MR. YOUNGER: Listen, I agree with you that here we have a program that was shut down, as you noted, on July 1, 2006 - and this is sort of exactly the shame of this - then we have, as the deputy mentioned, a federal minister who - you’re probably right - is poorly briefed on the situation, then we have national news and, of course, now the way things go, they go around the world. This all originating from the fact the previous Tory Government, when Jamie Baillie was chief of staff, signed an untendered contract - probably also under bad advice or no advice, it’s unclear - that allowed this to happen.

 

The deputy had mentioned that we have hit the cap of 500 which is good, except I think everybody here would agree - and I think the Premier has said this, as well, in fairness - that we want that cap to be higher. You have a federal minister who is probably the guy who could raise that cap for us, who thinks that Nova Scotia has a corrupt program or perhaps has more recently had a corrupt program than what is currently accurate. Does the impression that the federal minister has impact the government’s ability to try to get a higher cap? You’re right that we have 500, but we’re not going to solve our immigration issues with 500 people coming in a year. I would hope we all agree that we need to significantly raise that number.

 

MS. MILLS: Let me just clarify that there is a cap on all provinces and territories, so the cap is just not on Nova Scotia. I just want to explain a little bit, the federal government sets the levels each year through Parliament and the levels have been between 240,000 and 265,000 immigrants who come as permanent residents to Canada every year. That bottom line is made up of all of the streams, so the federal skilled-worker stream, the federal business streams, live-in caregivers, provincial nominees and humanitarian, compassionate refugee program and family reunification. Each and every one of those substreams has a cap, it’s not just provincial nominee programs.

What has happened in the last number of years is that nominee programs have grown exponentially, so there has been great growth across the country in nominee programs. The trade-off that the federal government has made was to lower the federal skilled worker stream numbers. The bottom line didn’t change but they made a trade-off, so fewer federal skilled workers were being processed, to allow for that growth in the Nominee Program.

 

Subsequent to that, the wait lists for those federal skilled workers in the queue has grown. So the federal minister is looking at a situation where he needs to expedite the processing time for the federal skilled workers. Their processing time is up to four years at the moment. What he said is, we’re going to cap these other streams in order to allow us to catch up on the federal skilled workers stream.

 

Now this is important to Nova Scotia because our landings are actually declining in the last three years. Part of the reason is that Nova Scotia was getting a good percentage of federal skilled workers, so we want the processing of the federal skilled workers class to proceed exponentially as well but we also feel that the overall bottom line needs to be increased to allow for more room for nominee programs across the country to grow.

 

MR. YOUNGER: Thank you, I appreciate that clarification. I do understand that the federal government sets the cap and then there is a cap per province. I think the issue is – there’s a lot of issues but one of the big issues - of course is, on a per capita basis, I think Saskatchewan is often used as the example, Saskatchewan or Manitoba, we would like to have a similar access to numbers that Manitoba does. I understand there’s this overall cap and that probably means that Manitoba would have to take less, unless the federal government increases the numbers.

 

That’s my concern, which sort of leads into another issue, which is that in 2012 - the year we are in now - the number of nomination certificates that I understand from the report that you want to issue, is actually not aligned with the number on the cap. So you conceivably have a strategy that says, we want X number, which is 250 more than the federal government is going to allow you to have. How do you address that issue? It is somewhat outside of your control but it’s also a strategy that people are going to look to you to have achieved.

 

MS. MILLS: Yes, you’re quite right. We have an immigration strategy that says that we need to nominate 750 foreign nationals and their families in the coming year and more and more in subsequent years. So yes, it is a great concern that we are continuing to be capped at 500.

 

Our strategy, though, is focused not just on negotiating with the federal government to lift or increase that amount, we also need to look at all of the other streams. The deputy minister spoke about the fact that last year there was slippage from other provincial nominee programs that allowed us to do 25 cap.

 

We are also talking to the federal government - and by “we” I mean all the provinces and territories - about that inventory of federal skilled workers who are in the queue. We’re looking at offering to do some processing of those federal skilled workers. Remember that I mentioned before that our numbers are declining in that category, so if we can actually help with some of those that are in the queue that are destined to Nova Scotia, I think that will help as well.

 

The other area is the Canadian Experience Class. Now our Nominee Program last year was 500. One-third of that, 167, were international graduates. Those international graduates could possibly qualify through the Canadian Experience Class. That will give us head room, if we help those applicants apply through the Canadian Experience Class, it would, in fact, give us the 167 head room in the Nominee Program. We are looking at how we can help those applicants, those international graduates, apply through the Canadian Experience Class, how we can help them with their application process so it can be processed in an expedited way, in the same way that the Nova Scotia Nominee Program is.

 

We’ve had some discussions with the federal deputy minister about this. Sandra spoke a couple of weeks ago with him about that. We think that this is a very good strategy. It will get us at least 167 more and I think we’ll get more through the federal skilled worker stream. We’ve been told by the feds that if we help to process the federal skilled workers in the queue they won’t subtract that from the 500 - that will be in addition to.

 

MR. YOUNGER: That sounds like an option. I probably won’t get to it in this round, but maybe in the next round we’ll get to a more detailed discussion about the Canadian Experience Class because having spoken to a number of people - especially in the university sector - there is an issue around the decline in university funding from this government and the impact that they believe that may have on the recruitment of international students. I’ll be interested to know - hopefully we’ll have time to get to that later on this morning, to discuss what the impact of that might be on that class.

 

You’ve talked a lot about the federal skilled workers and I think we all understand that a lot of the immigration that we do receive ends up coming to the metro area. I’m not sure that’s terribly surprising. It happens in B.C. in Vancouver; it happens to Montreal and Toronto, but Nova Scotia is obviously suffering from a rural de-population issue and a fairly significant one. I would suggest if you look at the latest Statistics Canada numbers - and not that we want to turn away immigrants, regardless of where they may wish to locate. What are you putting in place to try and attract qualified and skilled immigrants to our rural areas?

 

Let me just preface it by saying - just in case I run out of time - that I do understand that there are a variety of skills we’d be looking for in rural areas. In one example, I know that in the agriculture class - I noticed that’s not what it’s actually called - there was only one certificate issued last year. That’s obviously only one. Not everybody going to rural areas is in agriculture, I do understand that, but it just strikes me as a glaring example of a challenge we’re having in that area.

MS. MILLS: Let me just talk a little bit about historical context here. Prior to the Nominee Program existing in Nova Scotia, about 85 per cent of all immigrants were settling in HRM. In 2010, that number changed to about 74 or 75 per cent. So about 74 per cent of immigrants are settling in HRM, but the others are going outside HRM. The main reason for that has been our partnership that we’ve had since 2005 with the regional development authorities. Those regional development authorities are helping to identify foreign nationals who meet their labour market and economic development needs in their communities. They’re working with them to help them settle as well. That number - our Community-Identified stream - continues to grow every year as a result of the good work of the RDAs. It’s not enough and we have a lot more to go for sure, but the other equation too is that there needs to be job opportunities and economic development opportunities for immigrants no matter where they settle. We need to partner with employers in those communities as well to identify current and future demands for workers.

 

Just on the agri-food, if I could answer that - the Agri-Food Sector is a brand new stream and it’s a pilot. It just opened last year and we nominated our first farmer that year. This is a new stream. It’s meant to attract young, skilled farmers and their families to Nova Scotia to purchase farms and to get into the agri-food sector, so it’s new. We’re partnering with the Department of Agriculture in marketing and we’ve been doing recruitment with them in the U.K. and other countries in the world, and we think that sector will develop quite a bit. The Department of Agriculture has done some really good research and perspectives on available farms and on the sector, so that we have good information to bring abroad to talk to young farmers who might be interested in purchasing a farm here.

 

MR. YOUNGER: I may come back to that agri-food one in a bit because there were a couple of things that you raised in your comments. One of them that bothers me is bringing over skilled workers and their ability to actually work here. I’m sure everybody can tell a story like this but the irony of being here today is that last week I had a taxi ride from a guy who is a trained doctor in the Middle East. We’ve all heard stories like this and whether I’ve spoken to people who have law degrees from India - there’s a lady who lives in my riding who was the chief prosecutor for one of the states in India. She came here and she wasn’t allowed to work as a lawyer unless she basically did a whole new law degree at Dal.

 

I understand there are going to be some qualification issues but are we doing anything to streamline those issues? I mean a doctor is the obvious one when we go back to this rural issue, but there are a lot of these skilled workers who we could be bringing in. They arrived and all of a sudden they can’t work in their chosen field.

 

MS. MILLS: I’m going to talk about part of it and then perhaps my colleague, Ms. Gordon, will speak about the other part. You are absolutely correct, there have been professionals who come to Canada and they are highly skilled, highly experienced individuals in their home country. But their qualifications are not recognized here, either by the regulatory bodies or by employers. Some of them come in non-regulated fields as well.

What I will say is that some of those individuals likely came through the Federal Skilled Worker stream or they may have come through our previous stream of the Nominee Program, the economic stream. We’ve certainly tightened all of that up, so that with our Nominee Program more than 80 per cent of all of the people who come through our streams actually have a permanent, full-time job in Nova Scotia for which they are qualified to work.

 

The federal government is looking at the Federal Skilled Worker stream and is looking at who qualifies and is actually now introducing a pre-assessment requirement. What that means is that the foreign national under the Federal Skilled Worker stream will first have to do a pre-assessment abroad to determine whether or not their actual credentials and experience would qualify them to apply to be licensured in Canada. That will give a good sense of whether or not those individuals might be able to get credentials here.

 

That’s it on the screening side and on the selection side. Changes are coming on the federal side and certainly with their nominee program we are not recruiting doctors . . .

 

MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. The time for the Liberal caucus has expired. Mr. d’Entremont.

 

HON. CHRISTOPHER D’ENTREMONT: Thank you very much, and I know I’ll get back to that one later on but we’ll sort of run off on another stream of questioning for just a little bit.

 

In the Sunday ChronicleHerald, of course they have The Nova Scotian that comes out. It had a wonderful presentation on immigration and immigration turnaround, and I thought there were some really interesting comments within it. I’m just going to bring into sort of the second page of that and I’m going to show you how I’m getting to my point. “Today, Nova Scotia has the oldest population in Atlantic Canada. By 2019, the province’s working age population - those from 18 to 64 - is expected to shrink by 36,000. Business leaders have long complained they can’t find enough skilled workers to fill jobs.”

 

We know that our birth rate isn’t very high so we’re not going to be able to do very well on that 36,000. Of course the alternative is to increase immigration in the province. What’s our target for the province to try to get those 36,000 souls to work in our workforce?

 

MS. MCKENZIE: Elizabeth is going to speak directly to the immigration piece of it. We have recently released a workforce strategy which really details how we plan to begin to address the population challenge. One of the primary drivers for the creation of the jobsHere strategy was recognizing that in order for Nova Scotia businesses to compete in an age of a declining population, we would need to focus primarily on productivity, competitiveness, companies being more global and on the workforce.

 

Within the workforce the strategy is looking at a multi-pronged approach to addressing that very issue, which would include retention of youth, making sure that we’ve lined up what people are studying with the opportunities from an economic perspective; making sure that groups that have tended to be multi-barriered from joining the workforce are fully engaged in the workforce and also extending - from an older worker’s perspective - the amount of time that people stay in the workforce. In addition, we’d be looking at immigrants as being one of the sources of that future workforce. It’s a multi-pronged approach; it won’t just come from immigration. With that, I’ll turn it back over to Elizabeth.

 

MS. MILLS: Thank you for bringing this article forward. I’m pleased because it is a very positive article and it reflects what has happened in the last five years and that is that more immigrants are coming to Nova Scotia and more of them are staying. If you actually look at the numbers, over the last five years we’ve had about 12,000 immigrants come to Nova Scotia and if you think about the out-migration, this is counterbalancing that our population certainly would be less than it is, except for immigration.

 

As Deputy McKenzie said, immigration is not going to be the sole answer, but it will be a very important one because who we are focusing on through our provincial nominee programs and through our immigration program across Canada are young skilled workers and their families, so we want that to help with our demographic problem.

 

The other thing I’d like to say is that with regard to the comment about employers saying that they aren’t able to meet their labour market needs at the moment, we have prepared a business case to the federal government to demonstrate our need for more immigrants and for more skilled workers. What we have identified is that at the moment, the demand is actually meeting the supply, but that will start to change quite rapidly. By 2013, it will change; by 2014 it becomes a big gap. That is what we are bringing forward to the federal government - the business case demonstrating what our actual needs will be. That is factoring in helping those that are already in Nova Scotia develop their skills to meet the labour market needs, and that is helping to attract people back home to meet labour market needs with the deficit showing the gap we will need to fill through immigration.

 

MR. D’ENTREMONT: I look at this as being a good story for us. Yet, if we look at the numbers, they’re still not very good. I mean, if you’re saying that only 0.9 per cent, which is up from 0.6 per cent for the previous period, it’s not a huge growth. It’s little tiny bites of trying to eat up that big elephant of a problem. If you look at the 36,000 number, we’re still a fair amount short and it’s not just the workforce, in my mind. It’s having those people in our communities providing a whole bunch of other services and volunteerism and all the other things that make our communities good and bright.

 

The next part is, if we look at other jurisdictions in the country, some jurisdictions are doing far better than what we are and said, listen, we need to have a population that’s more than a million. In Nova Scotia’s case we’ve been at, what, 990,000 and change for so long and we’ve got to get over that million-person mark for this province to continue to grow and survive for the long term.

 

I know that our Leader, our Party, has talked a lot about immigration and trying to get that cap removed and get to a better number. I know Jamie has had the opportunity a number of times to meet with Mr. Kenney and say, we need to work on this one, we need to get further on that. I’m just wondering what other jurisdictions - I’m going to talk about Manitoba in a moment, but in your discussions with other provinces among your table, where have we gone to try to say, we’ve got to do better than what we’re doing today?

 

MS. MCKENZIE: Again, I’m going to go broad and Elizabeth is going to speak to the specific.

 

MR. D’ENTREMONT: That’s working fine.

 

MS. MCKENZIE: I’m going to borrow a phrase from the Irvings, related to the response. The immigrants come and Nova Scotians return home for economic opportunity and we see a horizon of economic opportunity and that’s why there is such a pressing need to have the discussion about immigration, but it’s also a pressing need to have a discussion about the workforce into the future. So when I say I want to quote Irving, their strategy is: grow them at home, bring them home, make it home.

 

That sort of three-pronged approach is really what we’re talking and the “make it home” is about the Immigration Strategy being successful. Those numbers that you’re seeing were at a time when there was an economic downturn and people would not necessarily have chosen Nova Scotia as the place that they were interested in immigrating. They’re seeing greater opportunity now and that’s why the pressure is upward on the numbers.

 

MR. CHAIRMAN: Ms. Mills.

 

MS. MILLS: Thank you. So how do we compare with other provinces on attracting immigration? I just wanted to say that, first of all, provincial nominee programs were originally identified as a need because immigrants were selecting Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver; they still select those centres. Provincial nominee programs were put in place so that other regions could also attract immigrants. There was a pilot undertaken, and Manitoba, New Brunswick, I think maybe Saskatchewan, were part of the original pilot. Those provinces have been doing provincial nominee programs six, 10 years before us. They have developed a lot of expertise and have been very generous with their learnings and very helpful to us.

 

We attend immigration fairs, along with the other provinces and along with the Government of Canada. It’s very interesting when you sit beside the Alberta booth and the Nova Scotia booth, and you see Alberta has many employers with them and they have job offers. Prospective immigrants are looking for that, they’re looking to see where the opportunities are if they come to this country. The opportunity for them to go and meet one-on-one with an employer and present their resumé and be interviewed and then be offered a job is quite an amazing call for those people.

 

For us to go to an immigration fair and say Nova Scotia is a wonderful place to live, come and be with us, is not going to be very successful. One of the lessons we have learned is that we need employers with us, we need employers with real job offers. Recently, in fact just last week, we were in Scotland. I’ve been talking to my staff who were on that mission and it was a very successful mission. We’ve been told sort of day by day of different job offers that were being made and the employers are now checking reference checks.

 

As employers hit the wall and are not able to fill their jobs with qualified Nova Scotians, then they will be coming with us more and more on those fairs. That will result in more and more success. That’s really what we’ve learned from our other colleagues across the country.

 

The other thing we’ve learned from them, as well, is that we must invest in helping immigrants settle and we must invest in welcoming them and making sure that they feel the Nova Scotia society and workforce is open to them. In that regard, we’ve invested a considerable amount of money in settlement. Before the Office of Immigration was created, there was less than $500,000 in government aid-based budget going to settlement; today there’s $5.1 million going to settlement. That’s from the Province of Nova Scotia. The federal government has gone from $2.1 million to $7 million in settlement funding, in that same time period. So I think that augers and demonstrates why we’re doing so much better with our retention.

 

MR. D’ENTREMONT: When we look at the amount of people attracted since 2010, if we compare Nova Scotia - what, 2,000 or 2,500 folks - versus 15,000 for Manitoba, is it an issue of availability of workforce or availability of work? Or is it that they’re better at targeting culturally similar societies? What goes into that kind of gap? I know they’ve targeted more and worked hard more, but you figure we could be somewhere in the middle there.

 

MS. MILLS: It’s probably a combination of all those things but, first and foremost, it’s historic. They’ve been doing this for 10 years more than we have, so they’re at 15,000, we’re at 2,500. Also, they developed the internal staff capacity and the resources within their department many years ago. In fact, when they took on immigration, they actually negotiated with the federal government to have a devolved agreement, so there were actually devolved federal resources to get them going and build up to capacity.

 

For sure, their economy is booming and there are lots of job opportunities for people there. It’s a situation of critical mass - the more successful you start to become, the more known you become in a positive way and the more desirable your location becomes. There are lots of lessons learned from Manitoba and as I said, they’ve been very generous with us with their lessons learned. We compete to some degree, but it’s a very supportive co-operation that happens and certainly, because Manitoba is a small province they have been very helpful with us. Their cap is 5,000 and ours is 500 and that’s historic because they were 10 years ahead of us.

 

MR. D’ENTREMONT: I also look at what they’re doing when it comes to settlement offices. Can you explain how their settlement office system works because you’re probably a little more aware of it as it is? It’s not just one little settlement office in one centre, they’ve got a number of them around the province that I think do two things: to welcome that immigrant, but it’s also to work in the community to make sure the community welcomes the immigrant. I think the challenge we have here and I’ve heard it a lot of times - when we have a higher unemployment rate, people say, let’s get Nova Scotians jobs first and then let’s worry about that later, but I think everything has to work together in order for this to work. How does their settlement program work and do they have a number of offices around their province?

 

MS. MILLS: It wouldn’t be a surprise to you, I’m sure, that most of the immigrants to Manitoba actually do go to Winnipeg. They do have a program called Manitoba Start Program and we’ve modelled our Nova Scotia Start Program after that. That program actually is again centered in Winnipeg so that the newcomer first goes to Winnipeg and gets orientation and gets the settlement programming support and then referrals to various organizations. They have, however, involved a number of communities outside Winnipeg and they fund settlement organizations outside Winnipeg in the same way we fund settlement organizations. As I said earlier, they were able to actually leverage the federal money that goes to settlement and they were able to influence or decide actually where that money was going to go. In most provinces, except for Québec, Manitoba and B.C., it’s the federal government who makes that decision and our federal money for settlement in Nova Scotia is about $7 million, whereas it’s many, many more millions in Manitoba. So they have significant federal resources that they’ve been able to directly influence.

 

That said, we know we have a lot to do in helping rural communities and communities outside of HRM and that is why we entered into a new agreement this year with the Nova Scotia Association of Regional Development Authorities, to expand our navigation services across the province; we put $300,000 into that. We also negotiated with our federal colleagues who put in a similar amount and ACOA and Enterprise Cape Breton have also put in money. What we’re doing is building capacity outside HRM for more navigation services. We also provide language programming outside HRM. ISIS, through our Nova Scotia Start Program has partnered with FANE and with the RDAs to help with the settlement programming outside HRM. So it’s a different model, but I think we’re certainly putting a lot more investment in those areas.

 

To answer your question about balancing against the need of unemployed Nova Scotians and the need for immigrants, I will say that the Government of Canada and the Government of Nova Scotia’s policy is that jobs should first be available to unemployed Nova Scotians who are qualified for those jobs, so that is the Government of Canada’s policy, it’s also our policy. That is why an employer is required to get what’s called a labour market opinion to demonstrate that they’ve actually exhausted all means to recruit and hire a skilled Nova Scotian first. Once they have identified that they are not able to find a qualified candidate in Nova Scotia, that allows us the ability to work with employers to help recruit foreign nationals through our Nominee Program. Many of them first come as temporary foreign workers and work in those jobs. That gives the employer an opportunity to test them through their probationary period - usually six months - whether or not the employer is happy with their performance and wanting to give them a permanent job offer. It also gives the temporary foreign worker an opportunity to see whether or not they like the employer and whether or not they like Nova Scotia as a place to live. So quite a few of our nominations are actually what we call “flips” - temporary foreign workers who have been working for a Nova Scotia employer and now have a permanent, full-time job offer to stay with that employer.

 

MR. D’ENTREMONT: How much time do I have left?

 

MR. CHAIRMAN: You have two minutes.

 

MR. D’ENTREMONT: Okay, well, I was going to go back to foreign workers but I’ll talk about that in my next round because I think that’s an interesting avenue, rather than the Nominee Program.

 

We know the federal government - I mean Minister Kenney, we’ve seen that article that said he intends to reform Canada’s immigration system this year. How active has the department been in making sure that Minister Kenney is aware of Nova Scotia’s requirements and hopes?

 

MS. MILLS: Well, Nova Scotia has been the PT Secretariat on immigration for the last two years, so that has given us quite a close proximity to senior federal officials and the minister. The Premier of Nova Scotia has actually been to see Minister Kenney, has had meetings with Minister Kenney to discuss this issue. He has met with his colleagues in Atlantic Canada, through the Council of Atlantic Premiers. They have written to Minister Kenney and the Prime Minister.

 

The Council of the Federation has raised this issue, as well, and it has been brought forward to the Prime Minister. As we know, I think our Premier will be the head of the Council of the Federation, starting in the summer of this year. That will give us a great opportunity, as well, to further bring this matter forward.

 

There was a recent federal-provincial deputy ministers’ meeting on the topic in Ottawa and there will soon be a ministers’ meeting in Ottawa to discuss this matter. So what it really will boil down to is that each of the provinces and territories has a solid business case to demonstrate that immigration is needed and counter any misperceptions that unemployment is too high and that we have to put a lid on increasing numbers until that changes, so it’s the business case.

 

MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. Mr. d’Entremont’s time has expired. Mr. Preyra.

 

MR. LEONARD PREYRA: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Ms. McKenzie, welcome to your new post as Deputy Minister of Labour and Advanced Education, and Immigration. I can say certainly where the province is today, there can be no greater investment of time and energy; our hopes and aspirations as a province really rest on the work of the Department of Labour and Advanced Education, and Immigration, and our ability to sort of meet the economic development needs and goals of the province. So I congratulate you on your appointment and wish you good luck in everything you do to make this province economically stronger.

 

Ms. Mills, I don’t know if you remember but the first time we met was in this room. You were the person who was on the hot seat, responding to a scathing report from the Office of the Auditor General, and I was the Opposition Critic at the time. Those were very traumatic times and I must commend you on being there at that time and, in effect, not blowing the whistle but certainly raising questions about that particular stream and helping us to clean up that mess. I thank you for staying through that very difficult time and for doing what you’re doing in the Office of Immigration.

 

I also want to commend the department on hitting and exceeding the target again this year - we seem to hit it earlier and earlier every year - improving our retention quite significantly since that period, and also for cutting down our processing time. Those used to be the big complaints - people are coming here and leaving, people are taking a long time to get processed - and the department has made huge strides in that. I want to thank you and, through you, the members of the department. I should also declare a conflict; I’m the ministerial assistant for the Office of Immigration. I’ve worked very closely on some of this and it has been a real pleasure.

 

I do want to follow up on a couple of questions that were asked earlier, in particular about the reputation of the Nova Scotia Nominee Program. As you correctly pointed out, the issue was about a particular stream, but it wasn’t so much about the business stream and we do need entrepreneurial immigrants. We are working very closely with the business community. For example, you referred to the agri-food initiative to try to develop new products. You referred to partnerships where you have succession issues - for example, new businesses, established businesses that need new people to succeed and also mentorships with business. I wonder if you can talk a little bit about the business side of the stream and what initiatives we’re taking to recruit and keep entrepreneurial people and provide mentorships for people who are interested in working with entrepreneurial organizations.

 

MS. MILLS: First of all, I just want to point out that immigrants by nature are entrepreneurial. They leave their home countries behind, they risk everything to start anew, they take all their investment and they come to a new country and a new province and start over. Many of them tell me, personally, that failure is not an option for them. They are here to make a better life for themselves and their families. Many of them come as professionals through the Federal Skilled Worker stream and may not be successful in finding employment. When that happens, they often themselves start their own businesses and they hire Canadians and they often bring family members over as well.

 

We are very proud of the programs that the Office of Immigration has been funding and other federal government departments and provincial government departments have been funding. For example, ISIS offers business development assistance, training for entrepreneurs. We know that there is a program that started with the Department of Economic and Rural Development and Tourism, and the Office of Immigration, in co-operation with the credit unions for small business loans for immigrant entrepreneurs and that program has been very successful. There is a whole variety of programs that are available for immigrants.

 

One of the things that we’re looking at now is looking at those immigrants that are coming through federal streams - federal business streams, self-employed streams, investor streams - to see how we can attract more of those individuals to Nova Scotia. Again, we won’t be using our nomination certificates; we’ll be working hard to attract those who are destined here. The deputy minister spoke about the Canadian Immigration Information Program abroad and that is one of the vehicles that we’ll be working on.

 

With regard to the economic stream and the business component of that stream, we have some lessons learned from that initiative. We know that there is a high risk with business streams - not just that occurred in Nova Scotia or in Atlantic Canada - but across the country; this is referred to in the national evaluation of provincial Nominee Programs. We are looking at different models that exist for entrepreneur business streams across the country and we’re looking at where they are working better than others and what lessons learned we could adapt from that experience.

 

With regard to the agri-food sector, we’re very excited. I think this is sort of dipping our toe in the water, as it were, but we’re doing it in partnership with the Department of Agriculture. They have the expertise in this area; they know where potential land is available or will become available, and they have the expertise to help newcomers do the research they need to make decisions about where they’re going to invest in Nova Scotia. There is a lot to be done in this area.

 

There is risk in business streams, but we know that many immigrants who have come here over the years have been very successful in business and are very prominent Nova Scotians today. Because of that success, they have brought a lot of wealth to this province and helped with job creation as well.

 

MR. PREYRA: I also have some questions about credentials. Everyone who speaks about immigration talks about the experience they’ve had with people who are over-qualified and under-employed, and essentially it comes down to a question of credentials. I wonder if you can speak to initiatives that have been undertaken both at the federal and provincial levels and among the business community itself and the self-regulating professions in addressing those questions about how we assess credentials. I know you talked a little bit about pre-landing information as well. I agree with critics who have said that it’s kind of inhumane to admit people here under one category in recognition of their skills and then when they come here say, we’re not going to recognize the skills. What are we doing to correct some of those injustices?

 

MR. CHAIRMAN: Ms. Gordon.

 

MS. DIANE GORDON: Okay, well the first thing is when we talk about recognizing credentials, what the federal stream does is they give you points for how much education you have. So individuals who have come to the country in the past generally have higher education levels because that’s what they are let in for, right? What the federal government didn’t do was it didn’t talk to anybody else about how we get those individuals to work. Each province has given responsibility for regulating a profession or a trade - well not always outside, but to a regulatory authority who sets those standards of practice and those standards of practice are there to protect the public. One of the reasons why our government gives that authority away is because we need to protect the public.

 

Our regulatory authorities in the past have usually given credentials in a regular stream - the kids go into university and then they come out and they have their examinations and they do practice periods if necessary. So our regulatory authorities were ill-prepared to deal with new immigrants and new ways of taking a look at foreign credentials and the abilities that a person has gained through practice in their home country.

 

Across the country we’re working on this issue. Nova Scotia in specific has put in legislation along with Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec; in Nova Scotia, it is the Fair Registration Practices Act. It is different in other provinces and how that is employed in other provinces is different, but here meeting the same standard as in other provinces, it is to ensure that regulatory authorities have registration practices that are transparent, objective, impartial and procedurally fair. Basically it means that if you go through a stream and you are a born Canadian or you come from a different province or if you come from a different country, everyone is treated the same.

 

In doing that and in putting this legislation in place, what we have is a communication that happens with our regulators, to ensure that they are doing that, to ensure that the information they give to individuals who want to come to this country or who want to be within that occupation have clear and understandable information and that it happens in a timely manner.

 

When Nova Scotia was putting this legislation together, they actually had the regulatory bodies and the immigrant settlement associations and the Office of Immigration sitting at the table and trying to figure out what is best going to serve both the regulatory authorities so they keep the standards that they have, but as well as the immigrants coming to this province, as well as not just from outside of the country but from other provinces as well, so that we get that labour mobility.

We continue right now to work with the regulatory authorities to ensure that they meet the standards of this Fair Registration Practices Act in a collegial way. We know that they are not really well prepared for this, we’re helping to give them some tools. We have some funding to help to give them those tools. There are some national programs with the pan-Canadian framework so all across the country there are processes in place that are working towards helping this. One of those things is to create a competency standard framework for the professions, so that you cannot just assess the credential, which we’re getting better at, but also assessing the competency of that individual.

 

Various occupations throughout the country have been doing that on a national level, some occupations here in Nova Scotia are doing that here. In a way, it’s one of the reasons why we have those two pieces in my title - Recognition of Prior Learning and Labour Mobility. What helps our immigrants coming through and having their skills recognized and those processes that we put in place also helps Canadian-born and our Nova Scotian population.

 

I’m going to add one little bit more piece here. Though an agreement with the federal government in their pan-Canadian framework for recognition of international qualifications, we have about $400,000 per year to give to regulatory authorities or our multi-stakeholder partnerships to be able to do some competency frameworks, pre-arrival self-assessments for individuals who want to come to this country, to see if they meet the standards of the regulator. We also have about $1.2 million a year in recognition of prior learning funding so it doesn’t have to be geared toward - the immigrant population is geared to recognize the prior learning of any individual which helps both Canadian-born and immigrant populations to have their skills and knowledge recognized towards a credential.

 

MR. PREYRA: I also had a question about rural Nova Scotia and Cape Breton. I think there was a question earlier about getting only one person in rural Nova Scotia, and I think Ms. Mills corrected some of that, but I did want to give the department an opportunity to say a little more about that. I think there is a sense that we have to do more to develop the skills of our local populations, particularly where there’s high unemployment and literacy and numeracy. Since we have the deputy minister here I thought it might be a good time to point that out and also bring people back - “repatriate” if I can use that word - to Nova Scotia so that the immigration part of that is one stream of a larger workforce strategy.

 

But I did have a question for rural Nova Scotia. Certainly, in my constituency at the farmers’ market, I see a great number of farmers and people working in agriculture who are immigrants, who are starting their new business, so I know it’s more than one. I would like you to say a little bit more about what’s happening in rural Nova Scotia to attract people there and to help people once they get there to navigate their way through. Certainly I think there isn’t a critical mass in certain communities and rural Nova Scotians are bending over backwards to try to attract people, but if you don’t have members of that community they don’t feel as much at home. I’m wondering what is being done to help people navigate, adjust, and settle in rural Nova Scotia and Cape Breton?

MS. MILLS: Just let me clarify that the one that came through agri-food, that’s referred to as one that we nominated through our agri-food sector, but there are many more immigrants in Nova Scotia who are farmers throughout the province and have come through other streams and other means.

 

What are we doing to assist with the attraction of immigrants to areas outside HRM and how are we helping the settle is the question? We have, as I said, developed a partnership with the regional development authorities and that partnership started some five years ago. Over time we’ve built that partnership, strengthened it, and through our recent program with the regional development authorities of Nova Scotia we’ve built up our capacity. So we now have federal players partnering with us to support that.

 

What we do when we go on our immigration fairs, before that we talk to the regional development authorities about the labour shortages in their communities and the economic development needs. The way that we actually recruit employers to come with us is by means of the regional development authorities; they work with the employers in their local communities to identify who is in need and how to go about doing that. Oftentimes when we go abroad and we bring jobs and employers with us, those have been identified through the local regional development authorities.

 

As I mentioned earlier, the Nova Scotia Nominee Program itself has a stream that is meant to encourage immigrants to select communities outside of HRM. This is the community-identified stream and that stream has grown considerably over the last five years and I think would be the reason why the settlement of less than 15 per cent outside HRM has grown to 25 per cent in that time period. So as one of the members indicated, the numbers are small but they are growing in the right direction.

 

Immigrants will select communities where they see opportunities for jobs or where they see opportunities for businesses. As I talked to you earlier, we are in conversations with ACOA and other agencies about succession management planning. We know that there are a number of small- and medium-sized businesses in Nova Scotia and Atlantic Canada wherein the owner will be retiring and looking for the opportunity to sell their businesses. We think there will be good opportunity here and one of the members mentioned that as well. There is a need for businesses and services to be operated outside HRM in local communities, so those communities continue to be vibrant and healthy.

 

MR. PREYRA: I believe I have time for one more question. I’m going to ask about the future. There is a great deal of talk about Nova Scotia’s economic development. Everyone knows about Ships Start Here and Muskrat Falls and investments in tidal and wind energy. There are issues relating to developing particular clusters; for example, oceans research and Immunovaccine and a whole range of things. The future looks very bright and I’m wondering what the Office of Immigration and the Department of Labour and Advanced Education are doing to, in fact, identify and be strategic about what sectors to target and in which pools of population do we cast our nets - both in terms of region and, in particular, sectors of the economy?

MS. MCKENZIE: Having recently come from the Department of Economic and Rural Development and Tourism - and I have a good knowledge of the growth sectors but interestingly there has been very close work with the Department of Labour and Advanced Education in terms of for each of those sectors that you’ve identified: oceans, now the undertaking for information and communications technology in aerospace, close work being done with the workforce group at the Department of Labour and Advanced Education to make sure that we’re identifying what the skill sets are and projections for workforce requirements into the future.

 

Of course we’ve already done that with the oceans tech that you’ve identified and also close work with Irving to identify what that group is, but also, of course, with any of the large investments, so what are the requirements going to be for the Michelins into the future; what are the requirements going to be for DSTN and other large investments, but also working with small business to identify what those needs will be as well by understanding our full workforce; working closely with the universities and the community college; working closely with the Office of Immigration which is intrinsically linked by being a part of the workforce strategy, which nests inside the economic strategy of the province. The idea is that we’re able to make sure that we’re doing that long-term workforce planning; making sure that we’re working with communities to encourage them through programming to join training that may prepare them to join those jobs; looking outside of Nova Scotia to attract Nova Scotians home and other people.

 

MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. Mr. Preyra’s time has expired. The next round of questioning will be for 15 minutes. Mr. Younger.

 

MR. YOUNGER: I want to talk a little bit about how these plans are reviewed. What makes me think about that is that a number of things that you’ve all brought up today in terms of looking at what streams are successful, what ones aren’t and how we get people to settle. It’s funny actually because earlier today when I was doing the introductions, I mentioned that it was Shambhala Day and it just occurred to me that one of the largest immigrant groups for a period of time was actually from the U.S. - the Shambhala Buddhist community as the entire Buddhist community moved its world centre to a location actually in the south end of Halifax. Now, that’s obviously very metro-centric, but it points to the idea that - well actually, it’s not, I guess, now that I think about it because there is Gampo Abbey in Cape Breton and there’s another place down on the South Shore. It points to what the member for Halifax Citadel-Sable Island was talking about a little bit earlier, which was this idea around cultural groups being drawn to areas where there are other people and that’s obviously an example of that.

 

I’d like to start by asking, when you’re working with the federal government and reviewing your own strategy, how do you assess the relative success in different areas - not only in terms of the streams, but in terms of various cultural identities?

 

MS. MILLS: We have an agreement with the Government of Canada that requires us to conduct an evaluation of our programs. In the actual agreement, a number of measures are identified as indicators of success so we have to track those indicators and we have to report on whether or not we’ve been successful.

 

The deputy minister referred to our evaluation. We completed an evaluation of our Nova Scotia Nominee Program. It’s actually in two phases. We have an evaluation of our economic stream, the now defunct stream; and we also have an evaluation of our existing streams. We’ve looked at measures such as retention, program integrity, we’ve looked at processing times, as the member referred to, so a number of indicators that the federal government has identified and we have also identified. We have to report on that on a regular basis and we’re required to do those types of evaluations.

 

With regard to your question about ethnocultural communities, you’re absolutely right. We’ve done some research which identifies the main reasons why immigrants choose to settle in certain parts of the country. The first reason is that there is a job opportunity or an economic development opportunity for them. The second reason is that they have friends and family there. The third reason is that there’s access to language and settlement programming, and that’s national research that has happened.

 

We work closely with a number of ethnocultural communities, including the Shambhala community, I might tell you, and are recruiting people through work that the Shambhala community has done. If I can take a minute, I’ll just talk a little bit about that. The Shambhala community has organized various committees and they have identified individuals abroad who would meet the criteria and would be successful in coming to Canada. They’ve set up working committees to help those individuals find jobs before they come, help them when they arrive with their settlement, with transportation, with housing, with friendships and with integration into the community. We’ve actually used our community-identified stream to nominate people through that means.

 

You might know the Sakyong is a nominee so we’ve been very proud of that effort. We’ve also worked with the Atlantic Jewish Council in the same way. Recently we’re working with the Greek community in that way. The economy in Greece has fallen quite dramatically and there are a number of young, highly-skilled Greek families that are looking to recruit here, so we’re working with the Greek community to help identify some job opportunities. A number of people in the Greek community are business owners themselves and they have job offers to make to young Greek families. So I think there’s a lot more we can do in this regard.

 

The Lebanese community has also been very active. We do have a stream called the family-business stream. In particular, the Lebanese community has identified a number of family members, close relatives who come over and work in their businesses here. I think this is a very good area for us to continue our efforts.

 

With regard to your comments about immigrants from the United States, it is true that our top three source countries to Nova Scotia have been the U.K., the U.S., and China, and that has been the case for some years. What is unique about that is that Nova Scotia is the only province in Canada where the U.S. is among our top three source countries. We do nothing yet to really be strategically recruiting in the United States but I think there’s some good potential, as well, in this area.

 

MR. YOUNGER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. As it happens, my parents are immigrants from the U.K., so they would fit in those top three.

 

You mentioned the evaluation and it’s almost like I should hand you my question sheet, my list of things that came up as I was reading through this, because you’re sort of touching on a few of them here. You do note that we know the federal government completed their evaluation and I just heard you say that the evaluation has been completed - I guess that’s the one that was referred to on Page 23 of the strategy. Is that going to be released?

 

MS. MILLS: Yes, there’s a national evaluation that the Government of Canada did of provincial nominee programs across the country. That study has been released, it is publicly available on their Web site and some articles have been written about that study, and that’s where it says that our retention rate has increased to 68 per cent. The federal government used actual tax-filer information to see who is filing taxes in Nova Scotia.

 

In addition to that, each province and territory is required to do their own evaluations on their own programs on a periodic basis. We do have an evaluation of our Nominee Program completed and yes, it will soon be released.

 

MR. YOUNGER: Thank you very much and that’s good to hear. On Page 12 of the strategy it alludes to the fact that there was a new federal-provincial agreement signed in early 2011 but the one that actually came in the package was the agreement signed by the previous government. I’m just wondering, is that agreement at the point where it can be released or tabled?

 

MS. MILLS: Which page?

 

MR. YOUNGER: Page 12 of the strategy.

 

MS. MILLS: This is a temporary foreign worker agreement. I’m sorry that it’s not in the package; we’ll make it available to you. We signed our agreement in 2007 and the agreement called for an annex agreement on temporary foreign workers, so that agreement was signed in 2011. We’re working with Citizenship and Immigration Canada and with Service Canada to implement the measures in that agreement. One of the areas I think, which will be particularly important to us will be the issue of labour market opinions. Right now, an employer has to do a labour market opinion for every single job that they require. For example, let’s say a company has a big project that they’re undertaking and they need five engineers. Well at the moment, they need to do a labour market opinion for each and every one of those engineers, so this annex agreement would get rid of that process and streamline the process more for the employer on some mega projects that need to be done.

Also, it allows for spouses to get temporary open work permits when they come with temporary foreign workers or with a Canadian, for example, who might marry a foreign national, and the foreign national comes here, this temporary foreign worker agreement would allow the spouse to have an open work permit as well. That’s just a couple of examples of some initiatives in that agreement, but I would be happy to make that available to you.

 

MR. YOUNGER: The other thing that I’m wondering might be provided to the committee at some future point is on Page 7 of the agreement that we received, Clause 3.3, it talks about the Nova Scotia Government providing a multi-year provincial nominee program to the Government of Canada and you’ve talked a lot about that so obviously we know that has happened. It also says that the Government of Nova Scotia will provide comments to Canada’s immigration plan. I think it would be interesting - and obviously that goes back to 2008 - to know what comments, if any, on the Government of Canada’s immigration plan have been submitted since that time. Obviously, we’ve had a change of government in there and it would be not only interesting to know, I think, for all residents of the province what our provincial government is saying to the federal government about the federal immigration strategy, but also whether that has changed from government to government in terms of our position on that. Would that be possible?

 

MS. MILLS: It would be possible and if I could just elaborate on that as well. As the deputy indicated in her remarks, immigration is shared jurisdiction, federal and provincial, but the reality is that the lion’s share of authority rests with the federal government. The federal government is required by law to consult with provinces and territories on certain aspects of immigration, one of which is the levels plan. I would say that the degree to which the federal government has consulted with provinces and territories has considerably improved in the last few years. I mentioned earlier that we are the PT Secretariat for Immigration. Through that process, the federal government, in partnership with the provinces and territories, are developing a new immigration principles and action plan for the country and so considerable work has been undertaken in this regard. The principles for immigration have been defined and specific strategic actions and goals have been set and that has been done in consultation with provinces and territories so there are loads of documentation; I don’t know how much you’re going to want.

 

At the end of the day, one of the areas that we’ve been working hard on is what we call multi-year levels planning and this where the provinces and territories with the Government of Canada have been looking at scenarios for the next three years and instead of doing annual levels planning, setting three-year levels plans. It would be a rolling plan so each year the targets for the years out would become more solidified. It has met with varying degrees of success, I would say. We’d hoped that agreement would be in place before now. It has taken a long time to do that. Part of the reason is that the bottom line isn’t growing and provinces that have been very successful, such as Manitoba, would not be willing to give up any of their 5,000 allocation so that Nova Scotia could get more. So there has been a lot of discussion about really focusing on growing the bottom line and how things move inside of that.

Sometimes we’re a bit surprised, though. We are moving along on multi-year level planning, having good discussions, and then an announcement comes out that differs from what we thought we were working on jointly. So that often relates to what the federal minister is hearing too.

 

Minister Kenney had undertaken consultations across the country with business leaders. In those consultations what he was hearing is that the bottom-line number is about right. So on a political level our government has been lobbying the government to increase the bottom line; on an officials level we’ve been talking and developing a business case. But we also need to engage the business community in that dialogue, they need to be talking, as well, about the need.

 

MR. YOUNGER: Thank you and I appreciate that. I think that’s exactly the issue, I think the public generally understands that there’s a lobbying effort on the cap number, but I know there are a lot of other things that would be discussed and that’s why it’s important.

 

I think I have only a minute or so left, so just one quick question. Of all the Nova Scotia nominee streams, are there currently requests in the queue - and I guess, if so, how many - that would likely be approved but are waiting because of the cap?

 

MS. MILLS: We work on a calendar year for the cap. We just started January 1st so we started with a clean slate and we are busy, busy.

 

MR. YOUNGER: Were there held-over ones from last year, then?

 

MS. MILLS: There were some that were in process. What we do is when we get an application that’s not complete, we write back to the applicant and say that you need to supply this, this and this to us. We put them in a deferred pile until we get those documents in.

 

No, we were able to process right up until December 31st. We worked hard to do that, 525. We have applications in the queue now that we’re dealing with every day, so we have 500 . . .

 

MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. Mr. Younger’s time has expired. Mr. d’Entremont.

 

MR. D’ENTREMONT: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. As I said, when I finished off last time, I wanted to get into a little bit of the foreign worker issue. What is the office’s involvement in helping out with the foreign worker program? Is it more a federal program or is it more a provincial program, or a little bit of both?

 

MS. MILLS: It is definitely more of a federal program. The federal government, through Service Canada, provides a labour market opinion to the employer as to whether or not they can hire a temporary foreign worker. Then the federal government - Multiculturalism, Citizenship and Immigration Canada - provides a temporary work permit to that foreign national so they can come and actually work legally.

 

We are involved. I did say we signed an annex agreement with the federal government which allows us to be more involved than we were. Also, because of the money that this government provided for year-one implementation of the Immigration Strategy, we’ve now provided funding to help temporary foreign workers and their families with settlement when they come. So we are much more involved than we were.

 

We’re very involved with the employers because as they get ready to flip that person from temporary status to permanent status, that’s when the Provincial Nominee Program kicks in. We have some employers that have recruited temporary foreign workers who don’t quite meet the criteria, so we’re working with those employers and with the settlement organizations to make sure that they get the skills they need to meet those levels.

 

MR. CHAIRMAN: Ms. McKenzie.

 

MS. MCKENZIE: I would say that in addition to the immigration side of the house, our labour standards side of the house, of course, is involved, from a temporary foreign worker perspective, in terms of making sure that temporary foreign workers meet the labour standards for the province, including occupational health and safety.

 

MR. D’ENTREMONT: The challenge that we’re hearing - and this is from farmers in the Valley, certain fish plants, and I think the North Shore has a number of temporary Philippine workers - it’s my understanding that when a foreign worker comes to Nova Scotia to work - let’s say blueberries - and they finish the job, and the workers might be needed in Christmas trees, the worker is not able to fill that need. They must go back to the country of origin and reapply It seems like a little bit of a waste of money and time on people’s behalf. I’m just wondering, is there a move afoot to try to maybe streamline that process that you could actually move somebody from a blueberry operation to a Christmas tree operation without them having to do all this other travel?

 

MS. MILLS: I want to clarify that what you’re referring to is called Seasonal Agriculture Workers; it’s a completely different program. With these individuals, there is usually an agreement with the government of their country. If it’s Mexico or Jamaica, there is usually an agreement with the country that streamlines the process to bring in seasonal agriculture workers, so many of these workers come every year and work on the same farms.

 

With regard to your suggestion about streamlining the process so they could stay and work in other sectors, I think that’s a very good suggestion and we could bring it forward to the federal government with regard to seasonal workers. I know that the federal government recently has introduced a lot of good measures and they would certainly be willing to look at any good ideas so I’ll bring this forward. These individuals would likely not qualify to become permanent residents through our Nominee Program unless they have a certain level of education and language ability.

 

MR. D’ENTREMONT: I think what we’re seeing - especially talking, again, farmers are probably the largest user of these kinds of workers when the Fall rolls around or even before that, to actually get out there and work in the fields because apparently there seems to be that worker shortage for that kind of employee. I think the questioning is really, how do we make this easier for a farmer or whoever needs that kind of work or how do we make it easier for them to even access because by the sound of it, it’s probably really complicated if you really have to work with the country of origin, working through Citizenship and Immigration Canada and all of those steps. Have you been hearing from these kinds of employers on maybe some of the suggestions to make it easier or has that sort of been an immigrations office?

 

MS. MILLS: To be frank, we haven’t had a lot of discussion on seasonal workers because it has not been our focus and our priority, but I have heard discussions at the federal table and it’s mostly about safety issues; you’ve heard some recent accidents and things like that that have happened. I do believe that the government-to-government agreements have actually streamlined the process and made it simpler for farmers, but I think that there is always room for improvement and if these ideas are brought forward - and certainly brought forward in an organized way by farmers, it’s a fairly well-organized sector - to the federal government, I think that Minister Kenney would probably listen.

 

MR. D’ENTREMONT: I know farmers probably, for the most part, would really like to be able to employ Nova Scotians or Canadians, but they just really can’t do it because of the requirement that you need to have this worker at this particular time to do the work and somebody else is needing somebody to fill that position, whether it’s blueberries or whether it’s vegetables. I was talking to a couple of people in the wine making industry where they need people almost the whole summer where you’re doing cuttings, you’re making sure that the pieces you’re doing - a whole bunch of different projects in order to maintain your vineyard, and some extra people would really come in handy.

 

I’m also wondering, is this an opportunity as well, from a nominee standpoint, that if they’re seeing the agriculture industry in Nova Scotia, they might be interested in it and maybe they’re base workers. I mean, I don’t know what kind of person we’re bringing in, in this particular case, but is there an opportunity there for them to take over agricultural lands and do a little bit more? I think it’s another agricultural stream that maybe we haven’t necessarily looked at. We had one success right now in agriculture. I mean, Nova Scotia is made up by a whole bunch of Dutch that came over 50-odd years ago to set up a dairy farm. Is there an opportunity there for us to piggyback on what’s already happening to try to bring in some more agricultural workers to maybe even move into their own agricultural lands in Nova Scotia?

 

MS. MILLS: For sure, if those agriculture workers have the means to purchase a farm and they have the education level and the wherewithal to do the work, then of course their application would be considered. I do think that there is great potential in the agri-food pilot and I think the work the Department of Agriculture has done on the perspectives is very important. We just open the stream. So immigration is not something that happens quickly, you have to build capacity and you have to start with the marketing and you have efforts that you have to build on. I think we’ll get great success in the future in that sector.

 

If we can attract some young families, and you mentioned the Dutch farmers, I think that’s a great market. We’ve been to the U.K., and there are a lot of people in Scotland, in particular in Wales, who are young people who have no hope of ever purchasing a farm there, the land is just too expensive. They’re really looking at Nova Scotia as a good place to come, so I think there’s good opportunity there, yes.

 

MR. D’ENTREMONT: I think so, too, because we still have lots of fallow land in this province that could be put back into production. We have a number of opportunities, whether it’s through the dairy industry - and I know that the Dutch today are looking at fur production. Right now it’s so expensive to run a fur farm, let’s say in Holland or even in Denmark. You’re also taking from a culturally similar country, to come work for us, to come work in Nova Scotia and actually succeed, because there has been tremendous success in agriculture over time. So I’m hoping that stream continues because I think we have lots of opportunity here in Nova Scotia.

 

I’m going to switch over a little bit to the proposal that you do have for immigration. Qualitative objectives for the federal government to remove the cap for the nomination program itself. What do you think needs to be done - I know it’s probably a broad question, as well, to eat up some time - what’s the next step for the Office of Immigration to get more immigrants in? How do we do it even better over the next few months to a year?

 

MS. MILLS: The deputy minister referred to the research that’s underway on the sectors, the ocean industry sector, the information technology, health sciences, et cetera. What we really need to do is take that research and drill down into it and look at where opportunities are currently and in the future, and then be very strategic in our marketing efforts, in our recruitment efforts. I think that’s really where we need to focus our efforts.

 

One of the reasons our retention is better is that our selection is better. We’ve been recruiting people more strategically to meet our labour market needs. In the past we were recruiting people to come here but maybe there were no prospects for them once they got here. So what’s the next step the Office of Immigration is going to undertake? I think our very next step is to take that research and then work specifically with sector councils and with employers in those industries.

 

We have to build a business case. It has to be specific, it can’t be Nova Scotia is a nice place to come, come and live here. It can’t be that we’re going to see growth in these sectors; it has to be very empirical. That is the only way we’re going to be persuasive with the federal government, and not just Nova Scotia but all the provinces.

 

We’re also working closely with our colleagues in Atlantic Canada. We participate in what’s called an Atlantic Population Table. Through that table one of the things we’ve done is some research in this area, to look at where the strategic markets are. We took those industry sectors that are in the jobsHere strategy and we looked at where there is a supply of workers and potential entrepreneurs in those various industries - so taking that research and then partnering closely with the sector councils, the industry associations, the regulatory bodies, and with the businesses.

 

Somebody mentioned earlier that we’ve gone - it has been a success but it hasn’t been a significant success. I’ve always said that government is not going to create quantum leaps, it is the business community and the union community and the communities that are with us in partnership that will help us make quantum growth. That’s the only way.

 

We’ll make incremental growth, we’ll make improvements, and we’ll plod along but if the economy is not there and if the employers are not ready, willing and able, then I see us being very incrementally moving along.

 

MR. D’ENTREMONT: When we look at the goals of the strategy itself, we see the target of 7,200 immigrants by 2020. Number one, how do we pick that number? It’s going back to my original question of the 36,000-person gap, how did we pick 7,200? Is it just more that’s where the cap is or is it more that’s what we think we can sort of bite away as we’re trying to get the number up?

 

MS. MILLS: In 2005 there was an original immigration strategy and that strategy set a target of 3,600. When our government came into power, they set a target to double that by 2020, so that’s where that comes from.

 

What I want to say, though, is that we didn’t meet the 3,600 target. The reasons we didn’t meet it - there were a number of reasons - one of which was we were paralyzed by the efforts that ensued from the economic stream. We just had to deal with fixing that and with getting on with it. It also had to do with the economy at the time. So is 7,200 the right number? I don’t know if it’s the right number. I think it’s a good number to work towards. I think it’s ambitious but I think that with the statistics and the research that labour market information has provided us, we see that there will be significant needs and that the demand is going to significantly outstrip the supply, starting in 2013.

 

We see that all the ingredients are there now, I think, for us. We have a very optimistic economic viewpoint in sight. I think that as employers get to the situation where they can no longer fill positions with qualified Nova Scotians or qualified Canadians, then they’ll be working hard with us to bring in newcomers as well.

MR. D’ENTREMONT: I just want to compliment the Acadian federation and, of course, the office for the work they do. I mean if we look at where we are culturally in the world, the French speakers settle very well here in Nova Scotia, and I’m hoping that you continue that along and I’m hoping there are a number of other partners you can find in other culturally significant areas to find those settlement opportunities. I think that’s the only way we need to really find the people who want to come here and who integrate here well because we can’t be changing everything in order to try to accommodate them. It’s not enough to settle in Barrington if you’re Muslim and . . .

 

MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. Mr. d’Entremont, your time has expired.

 

At the request of the NDP caucus, the first 10 minutes is going to be for Mr. Preyra and the last five minutes for Mr. Ramey. I will stop Mr. Preyra’s questioning in exactly 10 minutes. (Laughter) Mr. Preyra.

 

MR. PREYRA: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I should add that it’s at Mr. Preyra’s request. I wanted to go back to a couple of questions and one of them was about the Community Identified stream, and I think it may be worth clarifying that it seems to me that historically we’ve defined community very narrowly. I think one of the findings in the list that Ms. Mills talked about was that part of the challenge of settling people was that the spouses and the children often didn’t feel comfortable in the community and we needed to create certain anchors in the community to make sure that spouses and children felt right at home. I think Mr. d’Entremont was alluding to that as well.

 

I think the new strategy speaks to a larger community that might become partners with us in the settlement question. That’s where the question - the Shambhala community, for example, is a community that has thrived here under that umbrella. There have been similar initiatives from the Lebanese and the Greek and the Italian communities, and the Atlantic Jewish Council, the Pride community. There are a number of communities that have offered to become partners with us in recruiting and settling immigrants from diverse communities. It touches on that challenge that we’ve had in settling partners and children and making them feel at home here.

 

I did have a question about the provincial government response to the federal immigration strategy. As you know, the Premier has been very clear on our priorities in immigration. We would like to see the cap raised. Our Office of Immigration hits the cap routinely and we do need 750, if not more, to hit our targets but, more importantly, to meet our economic needs.

 

There has been talk, as you alluded to, about the federal streams and taking more advantage of those streams and partnering with the federal government on that. There have been talks about Nova Scotia’s unique needs, especially coming needs with skilled workers, and also the recognition of credentials and expediting that. So the Nova Scotia Government, as I understand it, has been fairly clear on what our priorities are. Is that a fair statement of the government’s position? I dare say that the relationship is very positive and constructive. I think they’re still in the same office as the Office of Immigration here in Nova Scotia.

 

MS. MILLS: Yes. I’ll just speak to that last point. The Office of Immigration is actually co-located with Multiculturalism, Citizenship and Immigration Canada, so we have an excellent working relationship with the officials at that level. It makes for a very good working relationship to be able to do that.

 

Yes, I think the Nova Scotia Government has been extremely clear with the federal government on exactly what our needs are. The first statement of that is that we have a strategy for immigration for Nova Scotia. That strategy fits within a lot larger jobsHere strategy so it’s very rational; it fits very well with the overall plan of the province. One of the things that we have done over and over again is that the Nova Scotia Government has demonstrated to the federal government that we are a real partner at the table. Some provinces do not provide significant settlement funding at all and this government made a policy decision that it was going to provide significant settlement funding and be a full partner at the table. I can tell you that that does mean a lot to Minister Kenney to see that the government is serious about investing in helping people - not just come here for numbers, but actually stay here.

 

There have been many correspondence, meetings and discussions with federal officials and also at the political level. As I mentioned earlier, there will be a ministers’ meeting - federal, provincial, territorial ministers’ - coming up. If that meeting happens before the end of March, that meeting will be co-chaired by Minister More. If it happens after that, it will be co-chaired by the new PT Secretariat Minister. I think Nova Scotia and other provinces and territories have been very clear about what we need, but as I said earlier, part of the communication also has to come from the business community and that communication has to be informed communication. They have to know what they’re asking for and they have to know that it can be achieved.

 

I just want to say that the chamber of commerce has been hosting a series of breakfast meetings with us to talk with employers about this so that there’s a better dialogue about immigration. We know that it’s being discussed in chambers of commerce across the province. Everybody sees the need for immigration, but we don’t always understand exactly what that means and what is required from local communities, from employers, and from settlement organizations and community groups. So we need to develop that dialogue.

 

On March 6th at Pier 21, at the Cunard Centre, there will be a jobs fair, an International Careers Fair. We have a number of employers who are signed up to attend that event and we have a large number of immigrant job seekers who are planning to attend as well. Part of that event will be a luncheon. Minister More will be hosting a luncheon with business leaders and we hope that we can engage the business community in a real meaty discussion on immigration and that that discussion can resonate at the federal level.

 

MR. PREYRA: Thank you for that very thorough answer on that question. I had a follow-up question on Mr. d’Entremont’s - I know he didn’t finish his question but maybe I’ll finish it for him.

 

You made a very clear distinction between seasonal workers and temporary foreign workers, and I wanted to give you a chance to comment on why the federal government has been so careful about seasonal workers and why they’ve, in fact, introduced - not introduced new standards, but raised the bar in terms of the qualifications for people who would like to come to Nova Scotia in terms of language proficiency, credentials, the labour market opinion, and all that. Could you draw that distinction? I know an important part of the strategy is, in fact, to recruit temporary foreign workers and we don’t want to confuse that with the seasonal worker issue.

 

MS. MILLS: I just want to respond to Mr. d’Entremont’s point, if I may.

 

MR. PREYRA: Yes, that’s fine.

 

MS. MILLS: I would agree that FANE and the francophone community have been tremendous in working with us and in helping to recruit French-speaking immigrants, and also welcoming them and helping them settle. This is so true that for a newcomer to come to a community and not know anyone and not have any religious support or not have any community support or not have a welcoming community, it can be very isolating and it doesn’t take long before those individuals leave. So I take your point, I think it’s an excellent point.

 

There is a significant difference between seasonal workers and temporary foreign workers. Seasonal workers are here, they are seasonal agricultural workers, and they usually come, the same ones each year. They come, they work on the farm, for the same farmer each year, and they leave.

 

Temporary foreign workers, the employer is required to do a labour market opinion, they are required to prove to the federal government that they can’t hire a qualified Nova Scotian or a Canadian to fill that vacancy. Many of those temporary foreign workers then, I guess, become offered a permanent, full-time job offer and seek to become permanent.

 

There are a number of improvements that the federal government is introducing and has been introducing over time. One of the things is actually with temporary foreign workers. Now that the federal government is realizing that a significant number of those temporary foreign workers are actually wanting to become permanent and the employers are actually wanting them to become permanent, they are looking at introducing language requirements for temporary foreign workers, to meet that minimum language level.

 

They’re also looking at pre-assessment for those who are applying through permanent means, for language and also for credentialing. The idea is that we don’t have the doctor driving a cab here in Nova Scotia or in any other province in Canada. That individual who is seeking to come here as a permanent resident would first have to pass a language exam. For a doctor to practise it’s a fairly sophisticated language level that they have to pass and they would have to do a pre-assessment to ensure that their qualifications would warrant them or would allow them to practise and to actually meet the criteria to apply for licensure. So if there’s a huge gap, that would be identified in the pre-assessment process, before they would even apply.

 

I think all of this is meant to make sure that those individuals . . .

 

MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. Mr. Ramey.

 

MR. GARY RAMEY: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, for being so diligent about that, I appreciate it. (Laughter) Thank you for coming in this morning, I’ve been listening with interest.

 

I have just a couple of quick questions; my first one is for clarification. Can you just run by me again, quickly, the sectors where we are expecting to have shortages or have shortages currently?

 

MS. MCKENZIE: We have begun with four. The areas that we did the first deep dives on were: the ocean tech sector, which was led by ERDT, in partnership with partners right across and external partners, business representatives; and the financial services sector, which was led by Nova Scotia Business Inc. and obviously with the partners they would have in the private sector, and closely working with Labour and Advanced Education in both cases for information on the workforce. The two that are currently underway are ICT, information and communications technology; and aerospace and defence.

 

MR. RAMEY: Being from Lunenburg County, we’ve had many waves of immigration over the years. The original settlers were from Germany but we had the wave that Mr. d’Entremont talked about, of Dutch folks coming in a number of years ago. We’ve had German and Swiss. We now have a fair number of immigrants from the U.K. We’ve always had Americans - particularly in the 1960s, there was quite a wave of Americans coming in. There has always been a big connection with the United States through summer residents.

 

There were a number of places listed that you had gone to. I know the last one was Scotland - or I believe I had that one right, the last one was Scotland. There were a number of other places named. I’m interested in knowing where you’re planning to go next and why, or do you know that at this point?

 

MS. MILLS: We do know that there are some annual immigration fairs that take place around the world. We participate in those fairs, like other provinces and territories and the Government of Canada. Utrecht is one of the places in the world where there is an annual immigration fair. We go regularly with FANE and the francophone community to Paris and Belgium, Morocco, French countries. The U.K. always has an annual immigration fair and there is also one in Scotland.

 

At the moment we are looking at efforts in the Middle East as well. We know there are a number of immigrants, or potential immigrants, from the Middle East who would like to settle here who have family connections and roots here as well.

 

With regard to the agri-food sector, we are working with the Department of Agriculture and there are agricultural fairs that take place as well around the world and we are piggy-backing our agri-food recruitment efforts with that.

 

MR. RAMEY: Super. The final one - and we may run out of time with this one - it’s regarding something else that I heard go through at one point, it’s regarding ISIS, the Immigrant Settlement and Integration Services, of which I don’t know very much but I was wondering if you could just tell me a little bit about how you work with organizations like that and what the success rate is?

 

MS. MILLS: ISIS is the largest settlement organization in Atlantic Canada and it actually has over 100 employees, so it’s not even a small or medium size employer, it’s a large employer by any employer standards in Nova Scotia. It is a very professional organization. It provides language services, it provides settlement orientation, it provides employment counselling, bridging programs, it works very closely with the regulatory bodies on helping to deal with some of the issues that prevent immigrants from being able to have fair, open access to licensure processes.

 

They hire immigrants, I think they have 50 or 60 languages spoken in their offices. They are providing services outside metro and they work very closely with the regional development authorities, with FANE and with other community organizations around the province. They are well regarded nationally and the way we work with them is that a significant portion of our funding is actually allocated to ISIS because of the tremendous work that they do. They are very innovative; they are the ones that initiated the first pilot with the Canadian Immigration Information Program abroad. They have a program . . .

 

MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. Mr. Ramey’s time has expired.

 

That brings to a conclusion the question part of the meeting today. I would ask Ms. McKenzie if she would like to make any wrap-up comments.

 

MS. MCKENZIE: Well, I guess it would be clear to everyone in the room that I am grateful to the wonderful staff in the Department of Labour and Advanced Education who are doing tremendous work on behalf of all Nova Scotians and the people that we welcome to the province. So my concluding remarks would be that I am a very grateful woman.

 

MR. CHAIRMAN: I would like to thank you for coming today and it was very informative. Indeed, there have been a lot of changes in the Nominee Program since we first had it here in this committee. I can remember it clearly.

 

There were a couple of requests by Mr. Younger. Mr. Younger asked for one particular report which the clerk will contact your office about. Also about the Nova Scotia Government’s comments to the Canadian Immigration Plan which were both committed to and our clerk will be in touch regarding that.

 

We have a few things that we need to talk about. We have a decision from our subcommittee. I will just read this comment: During our subcommittee meeting there were two additional items chosen for the meeting. However, upon request from the Auditor General’s Office it was said that prescription drugs and communicable diseases were in the process of being audited and the Auditor General requested that that not go forward at the meetings.

 

I did check with the members of the subcommittee and they did agree that that was fine.

 

The next subcommittee meeting will be on March 7th to pick further topics. There will be meetings on March 7th and March 28th but in between there will be none because of March break and there will be out-of-town caucuses at that time as well.

 

We have a list of recommendations from the subcommittee and if there are no problems with any of those I would ask for a motion to accept those for the committee.

 

Moved by Mr. Younger. Seconded by Mr. d’Entremont.

 

Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

 

The motion is carried.

 

Those will be put forward. What we talked about before, too, was there may be some scheduling conflict there that the clerk has to deal with, so we may juggle the dates around with the departments, if that’s okay as well.

 

Is it agreed?

 

It is agreed.

 

Okay. Our next meeting will be February 29th and unless there are any other comments or questions - Mr. Younger.

 

MR. YOUNGER: I just wondered if it’s the intent to stay at 9:30 a.m. for the duration of the transit strike.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Yes, I neglected to say that. We will stay at 9:30 a.m. only until the bus strike is over. As soon as the bus strike is over we’ll go back to our regular time.

 

A motion to adjourn is in order.

 

MR. D’ENTREMONT: So moved.

 

MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you. We stand adjourned.

 

[The committee adjourned at 11:26 a.m.]