Printed and Published by Nova Scotia Hansard Reporting Services
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT COMMITTEE
Ms. Diana Whalen (Chairman)
Mr. Brooke Taylor
Mr. William Dooks
Ms. Judy Streatch
Mr. Howard Epstein
Mr. Charles Parker
Ms. Marilyn More
Mr. Wayne Gaudet
Mr. Harold Theriault
[Mr. Howard Epstein was replaced by Mr. Kevin Deveaux.]
[Mr. Wayne Gaudet was replaced by Mr. Stephen McNeil.]
Mrs. Darlene Henry
Legislative Committee Clerk
Nova Scotia Office of Immigration
Ms. Elizabeth Mills, Executive Director
Metropolitan Immigrant Settlement Association
Ms. Claudette Legault, Executive Director
Ms. Gerry Mills, Executive Director,
Halifax Immigrant Learning Centre
HALIFAX, TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 21, 2006
STANDING COMMITTEE ON ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
Ms. Diana Whalen
MADAM CHAIRMAN: It's just a little bit after 9:00 a.m., so I think we'll start the meeting although we're still waiting for a couple of members who I'm sure will join us in the next little while. I'd like to welcome our guests who are from MISA and from the Office of Immigration. I'm Diana Whalen, the new chair of this committee. I welcome you today. I'm going to start the meeting by having the members introduce themselves, if we could just go around the table. Maybe we should start with Mr. Dooks.
[The committee members introduced themselves.]
MADAM CHAIRMAN: I'd like to welcome you here today. Welcome to our guests. We usually begin, of course, with a presentation from you. Perhaps just before you begin, you might like to introduce yourselves, and the staff and people you have with you.
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: Good morning, my name is Elizabeth Mills, executive director of the Office of Immigration. I'd like to introduce my staff. Carmelle d'Entremont is our director of programs. She joined our staff in mid-September 2005. Donna MacDonald is our communications director. She has been on staff since last April, but will soon be returning to her previous post at Communications Nova Scotia. She is replaced by Mary Anna Jollymore, from CNS.
MS. CLAUDETTE LEGAULT: My name is Claudette Legault, executive director of MISA. I've asked my colleague, Gerry Mills, executive director of the Halifax Immigrant Learning Centre to join me, because many of the initiatives I'm going to talk about are a result of a partnership with the Halifax Immigrant Learning Centre.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Would you like to begin?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: I'd very much like to thank you all for inviting us to present this morning. It's a great opportunity for us to talk about the progress that the Office of Immigration has made in just one year of operation. We just celebrated our first anniversary. I think most of you would have received a copy of our News and Views, but if you haven't, I have some extra copies with us. Thank you very much.
I know that we have limited time, so I'm going to focus my discussion on the three areas that you had requested. One is a brief overview of the progress that's been made to date, second is an update on the Nova Scotia Nominee Program, and the third is a report on the fees review. That's the focus of my discussion this morning.
You have a copy of a presentation. We thought rather than depend on equipment that's not always that reliable, we would just hand that out, and I would walk you through the slides, if that's okay. You're all aware of the demographics that really drove the establishment of the Office of Immigration. If we hadn't proceeded, I think, with immigration as one of the tools to deal with population decline and aging population, Nova Scotia, certainly rural Nova Scotia, would be suffering from significant population decline, if these trends continue.
So, we undertook to do consultations around the province. That happened in 2004, and resulted in an immigration strategy which was released on January 26, 2005. The strategy is based on the consultation input we received, as well as the solid research we did. It is a multi-year plan, a five-year plan, and 2005 was year one of that plan.
I'm proud to say that we've accomplished a lot in that first year. The foundation for the organization is well in place. We have legislation that gives us legislative authority to make spending decisions and to do programming. We also have established the office. We have 12 full-time staff now in place. We have a staff person assigned from Communications Nova Scotia, as I indicated. One of the things that I'm most proud of is that we have a very diverse multilingual office. We have five languages spoken in our office, English, French, Arabic, Criot and Bengali. It's quite interesting to have such a diverse staff. The other thing I'm very proud of is it's a very young staff, a very young group of people in our office. They're very dedicated and committed, and they're highly qualified, as well.
This year we provided $1.5 million in settlement funding. We funded everything that was funded in previous years, through Education and Economic Development, and we expanded our funding to include new programming and also some outreach programming in rural Nova Scotia. We're very proud that we were able to do that. We provided some developmental grants to organizations that traditionally have not been settlement organizations, in order that there's increased capacity in rural Nova Scotia for welcoming immigrants.
Just some examples of some of the expanded programs, the Halifax Public Library Tutoring Program was able to be expanded, and also in partnership with HILC and MISA, we were able to support an expansion in enhanced language training. Some new programs: Kings County Learning Association, we provided a developmental grant; the Centre for Diverse Visible Cultures, Accent Reduction; and MISA Outreach and Community Capacity programming. We're very happy about that.
One thing I'm very proud about, and I'd like to correct the record, is that our immigration numbers are actually up in 2005. The numbers are up in 2005 by 8 per cent, so we actually have 1,927 people who have landed in Nova Scotia. That's up over 2004, which is up over 2005. One of the handouts I have for you is a copy of CIC's official report with those preliminary 2005 numbers. This is good news. We reversed the trend. It was a downward trend, and now it's starting to slowly move up. One of the things I would like to say, as well, is that Citizenship and Immigration Canada credits much of the growth to the Nova Scotia Nominee Program, and you'll see that when you look at the CIC charts.
The second area I would like to talk about is the Nova Scotia Nominee Program and some of the progress that has taken place there. As you may know, the program began in 2003. As any new program is introduced, it's slow to take off, but I'm very proud to say that the program has really picked up in popularity; 2005 saw a doubling in the number of applications and a doubling of the approvals. In fact, you may know that Citizenship and Immigration Canada imposed a limit of 200 nomination certificates on us. We renegotiated that cap last year, and we actually exceeded the 300 negotiated number. We're hopeful that we'll be able to negotiate an upward cap this year, or even a removal. That's what we're working on now.
Four hundred and forty-three families were nominated since 2003. So, in total, 443 families. We've conducted consultations to develop a new stream, family business category, and I'll talk about that in a minute, and we've also launched an independent fee review. Just as a matter of interest, nominees are coming from 55 countries, and they have settled in 48 communities in Nova Scotia.
One of the things we learned as a result of our strategy consultations is that success is not just about increasing the number of people coming to the province, the real measure of success is how many people will stay. As you may know, our retention numbers were very poor. We were second lowest in Canada; second to Newfoundland. So we have a lot to do to improve our retention numbers.
Our entire Nominee Program categories are designed with this in mind. What we really need to do is be very responsible when we invite nominees to come to this province. We want to make sure that they have a good chance of success and they have a good chance of being able to stay here, especially because we are still dealing with a 200 cap. So any nominations that we make, we want to make sure they are made to people who will be very
successful in the province. So the nominee categories are really designed with jobs and retention in mind.
We have three streams, as you may know; the skilled worker stream, the economic stream and the community-identified stream. All of these categories are really intended to support economic success and community contacts, community networks, community establishment.
These programs have been very successful to date and we are very pleased with the uptake that is taking place on all of the programs. We know that we have some work to do with businesses, with Nova Scotia employers, to encourage greater uptake in the skilled worker category, so a great deal of our work in the coming year will be focused on working with the employers to demystify that process. It is a very complicated process so we want to streamline where we can, work with Citizenship and Immigration Canada and Service Canada, as well, to try to demystify the process.
We are expanding our Nominee Program. Three new categories will be introduced. We have completed our consultations on the family business category and I am very pleased to tell you that there is solid support for the introduction of this new category. The category will have two important ingredients. We know from our research that these are the ingredients for success. First of all, that there will be family and supports here for them when they come; and, secondly, they will have a job.
Most people make a decision to locate to a region of the country because they have family and friends there but they can only stay if they have meaningful employment. So the family business category has both of those ingredients and we have a great deal of interest, even though we haven't started the program yet, we have a great deal of interest in it.
The entrepreneurial program, as you may know, we did a feasibility study, or actually, Economic Development did a feasibility study on this. We are looking at some of the tools that will be required to make sure that the assistance will be there to entrepreneurs when they come so that they will be successful. Once we have established those tools, most likely we will work with the existing organizations, such as business development organizations, rural regional development organizations, the business advisory centres and so on.
The international students, you may know that we were the first province in Canada that signed an agreement with the Government of Canada for students to work off campus. We are waiting for the Parliament to be reconvened and for that budget item to be considered by Parliament. This is an important pillar in the establishment of that stream. We are very much looking forward to it. That will provide international students in school the opportunity to get labour force attachment and a good opportunity for jobs after they graduate. We have surpassed our current targets, as I have said, and we are proposing to raise and even eliminate that target.
As I mentioned earlier, I wanted to talk a few minutes about the independent fee review. As you recall, this was a commitment in the immigration strategy and it is now underway. A private company has been contracted to provide that service. There was an independent RFP process to select that company. We want to make sure that the fees are competitive, that they are affordable and that it's balanced with the interests of taxpayers.
One of the things that you may say is that it is very difficult to really understand what immigrants actually pay in the form of fees because there are different layers of fees that they pay. It's very important that we get at the root of that and a good understanding of what is reasonable.
Priorities for next year. We want to continue with the development of our partnerships. I think the first two months of my job - starting last March, I'm almost a year now on the job - was meeting with organizations and building partnerships. Some of you may have attended our open house on November 9th. We had over 300 people in attendance. I was very delighted with that because it's a reflection of the partnerships that we have been successful in establishing. This will only work through those partnerships. So today, with MISA and HILC, and other organizations here today, really shows how we are able to work well together.
We are certainly coming forward with a budget request this year to Cabinet, looking at the funding needs of the organizations. We want to streamline our funding process. Last year, I think, the budget was approved somewhere around April/May. We had until September to make our funding decisions. In that short period of time we had to design the funding criteria, the funding process, we had to call for proposals, we had to do the assessments, we had to meet with some organizations, we had to do the recommendations, get approvals and so on.
We have some streamlining to do and we have already done some consultations with the service-providing organizations and have some good ideas for improvement. We see this as an ongoing process of continuous improvement. We are working with Citizenship and Immigration Canada. You may know that the settlement formula is now being renegotiated. We are working with our community partners to see what our position is on that. We are also working on an Atlantic basis to support the need for increased settlement funding for service-providing organizations.
One of the issues that we deal with daily is the problem with processing - very complicated, very difficult. Unfortunately, it's not our jurisdiction so we can't do anything directly, but the minister, along with all of the other provincial and territorial ministers have continued to lobby the federal government to make improvements in this area. Much has been started at the official level to improve processing times.
Key to our success and key to the success of immigrants is that businesses, employers and unions are engaged in this process. We know that immigrants want to stay. The ones who have had to leave have been surveyed as to why they've had to leave and most have said that they would have preferred the option to be able to stay here but if they can't work in their fields and they can't support their families, then they are unable to stay.
Our key priority in the coming year and beyond will be to work with employers and unions to see what those barriers are and to see what our role as a provincial government is to help overcome those barriers, and to demystify the process as much as we possibly can for employers. That is critical.
We need to identify skill needs. The issue of international qualifications has been discussed many times. It's very complex. There is a federal committee with, I think, 15 departments represented on it that has been working for some time on this initiative. I know that MISA and other community organizations are working with professional organizations and regulatory bodies, along with ourselves, to see if we can begin to crack that nut. Certainly, we want to look at ourselves as a provincial organization in our hiring practices, but other employers as well and their hiring practices. There may be systemic barriers which are preventing hiring of immigrants and young people to our workforce.
I'm sorry if I took a lot of time but I want to thank you very much for your attention. I also want to thank the community organizations that are really doing the work on this. We are providing the policy, we are providing some of the direction but we are doing that with the input that we receive from them. They are really on the ground providing the direct services. I thank those organizations that are so hard at work and doing such a tremendous job.
I also implore you to be involved in this process because we have to be welcoming to immigrants that come. You are all leaders in your communities and, I think, have an important role in engaging immigrants and welcoming them, also, in promoting Nova Scotia as a good destination and, also, in your efforts to work with your local businesses to challenge them so that they are truly involved with immigration.
Thank you very much. This has been a good opportunity and I look forward to questions.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: I'm wondering, does MISA have any opening comments?
MS. LEGAULT: Yes, please.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Yes, I thought you did, so we'll hear your presentation, Ms. Legault.
MS. LEGAULT: Thank you very much, Madam Chairman, for the invitation and the opportunity to make a presentation to the committee. I am the Director of MISA, the Metropolitan Immigrant Settlement Association. We are community-based and our mission is to welcome newcomers to Nova Scotia. We try to provide a range of services that help them in their efforts to integrate. More and more, we are offering those services in partnership with others.
In November 2003, I had an opportunity to address this committee. It was about the Provincial Nominee Program and, also, I guess, the potential of immigration for the province. As Elizabeth said, a lot has happened in that time, so I appreciate the opportunity to share a few of the successes over the last two years and, also, some of the challenges.
In terms of the Provincial Nominee Program, when I reread what I said two years ago, I think those comments still hold true. At that time we talked about the need for the program to be flexible, engage stakeholders, be clear, transparent and accountable, and consider the aspects of integration and retention throughout. I think at that point we talked about how it's not just important to get them here, but it's important that they integrate into the social, economic and cultural fabric of Nova Scotia.
We're well aware that the Office of Immigration inherited the PNP as it was originally designed. We also know that it's going to take some time to modify it to better meet the objectives of the provincial immigration strategy. So we really applaud the efforts of the office to introduce the family business stream, and also to evaluate and review the fee structure. I think both of those initiatives speak to some of the concerns we raised last time, and they're very positive steps that I think will help us maximize the PNP.
I hope that with the review and also the evaluation that it's important to look at how the other provinces are using their PNPs, because we all pretty much have the same streams, and to make sure that we're getting the maximum return on the investment that we're making. We have to compete with the other provinces, so that's very important. We still think the PNP is an important plank in the Nova Scotia Immigration Strategy, and we're committed to working to support the individuals and families coming to Nova Scotia through this mechanism. If someone who comes to Nova Scotia through the PNP is integrated and happy, we all gain. But if they come and they don't stay and they're not settled, then we all lose.
A few comments on the immigration strategy and the Office of Immigration. In the past we used to get our money, as Elizabeth said, from the Department of Economic Development and also various streams within the Department of Education. There was a lot of support for our programming there, but it was difficult to do any forward planning, because a lot of it was at the end of the fiscal year, there would be some leftover money. It was never really a priority in either, but when it could be slipped in, it was slipped in. So
while there was kind of creative and supportive individuals and programs within those departments, again, the medium- and long-term planning was almost impossible.
With the immigration strategy and the Office of Immigration, it's making it so much easier to coordinate and consolidate the programming that we've been doing in support of immigrants for many years, and ensure that the programming we do supports the vision of the province in relation to the strategy. So the Office of Immigration, as Elizabeth said, has only been around for one year, and not even fully staffed for less than three months, but already we've been able to see greater agility and flexibility having all the responsibilities for immigration centralized. That's made it much easier to plan and work together to achieve those objectives.
One area in particular that always rings true is the amount of money that we've been able to leverage federally in support of the provincial immigration strategy with the Office of Immigration and provincial funding. The money - the chart on the bottom of Page 2 - is for new innovative programs, and they are targeted for those immigrants who already have a certain degree of English and who already have certain skills. In all the programs we have partnered with the Halifax Immigrant Learning Centre, they provide the language part, we provide the employment and labour market access. So the enhanced language training, in the first year, the provincial government committed that amount of money. The federal partner was Citizenship and Immigration Canada, but it was money based from the previous budgets and centralized in Ottawa. It wasn't part of our regular allocation.
This year we're continuing with that program, but in the first year some of the focus was particularly around health professionals, health language and also orientation programs, because we had so many doctors, nurses and health professionals. This year, we've pulled out that health component and have managed to access federal funding through Health Canada to continue to support that for the next five years. Again, that goes back to the money from the province in 2005-06. The on-line employment workshops, we access money from the Office of Learning Technologies. So with the provincial commitment, we were able to access those additional federal dollars. There's a lot more that we can access through the rural secretariat, through ACOA. We do have funding from ACOA, which we had before, but it isn't even mentioned here. It doesn't come from the Immigration stream.
I think those have been particularly exciting, and show how being able work across the jurisdictions is going to help us meet those targets, and having the immigration strategy and the office, and having NGOs on the ground who kind of know what the needs are, we've been able to very quickly put together the proposals and have been quite successful.
Those programs that are mentioned there are also important, because they deal with distance settlement services. I know a number of you come from outside the HRM, and so this is an important area. The provincial immigration strategy and PNP is attempting to ensure that the benefits of immigration are shared across communities outside the HRM, and
as a settlement organization, our role is related to settlement and integration services. Even though, currently, I think in 2004, 77 per cent of immigrants still settled in the HRM, we've tried to look at how we deliver our services here and how those can be more accessible outside.
To that end, the funding that we received from the province and then leveraged federally has been to build some of the infrastructure and test some of the models that will allow that to happen. So, by March of this year, we'll be having one of the three pre-employment workshops currently offered at MISA available electronically on-line, and by September 2006, two other workshops will be available. This will allow newcomers to access workshops on orientation to the work culture, interview skills and job search from wherever they live in the province, and also, as important, for some of the PNP nominees, before they get here. These have been developed in partnership with the Nova Scotia Community College, and again funded by the office and the Office of Learning Technologies.
But the most exciting new development is the piloting of video-conferencing ESL, using the Nova Scotia Community College network of campuses. Again, that's this new money for the higher level services that has allowed that. I'm going to call on Gerry Mills to talk about that. This is groundbreaking news.
MS. GERRY MILLS: It's groundbreaking news because it's the first time it has ever been done in Canada. We're looking across the world and seeing where it has been done before. We wondered whether we could actually provide language training via video-conferencing. Can you actually teach language via video-conferencing?
Our first class was last night. So I actually have something to report. We had six students in Kentville, we had three in Truro, and six in Halifax. We provided quite high language, communication and networking language for those clients in those centres, in co-operation with Nova Scotia Community College. They have the infrastructure and they have the geography to be able to cross the province. One of the reasons we can do it in Nova Scotia is that that's true, whereas most other provinces can't. I think Saskatchewan is the only other one that could actually say that, that there's one community college and it covers the province.
It is groundbreaking. It is going to be an opportunity for people - the one doctor in Digby, the one nurse in Sydney, the two engineers in Truro - to be able to take advantage of some of the language training, the higher-level language training, that we're already delivering, and it's actually going to cost no more money to be able to do this, because the infrastructure is already there.
The two engineers in Digby, or the two doctors in Digby, are not going to be able to access - you're never going to be able to set up a program for 15 doctors down in Digby. It's
not going to happen. But to use the skills, the experience that we have and the infrastructure that the community college has, we can actually deliver this. It's pretty exciting, and I have some very excited staff members right now who delivered the first training program.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Thank you, that's great. Claudette, our time is getting a little short. We're at 9:30 a.m., so if I could just ask you to go a little quicker so we can get to the questions. I have some people waiting to speak.
MS. LEGAULT: Okay. It's just that we are continuing our discussions with the community college to look at what else we can use this technology for, including support to the francophone communities that expressed interest, because they are going to get francophone immigrants who are going to need some English. So, again, the Collège de l'Acadie and Université Sainte-Anne are possible partners in that.
I will leave the part on Professional Qualifications Recognition because, as Elizabeth said, it's very complicated. But just to say again, through these programs and the partnerships, we are making great progress around that. We are able to come to the table with the capacity to say what the pathways are for a professional to be able to practice in their field. Gerry and HILC can provide some of the bridge language; we can provide some mentors, some additional pre-employment programs. I think in the next year or two we will be able to see some real breakthroughs through all of that.
Elizabeth did want me to mention one thing, which is to not leave you with the impression that we only receive $248,000 from the province. We receive more than that. I only put this down to show the federal monies that it would pull down and all of this is new programming. We did receive the regular amount that we had from the Department of Education and the Economic Development Department from previous years.
I guess, just in conclusion, a lot has been accomplished. It's a long-term process and so I don't think we can measure our successes in just two years. We are committed to continuing to work with the province in achieving the immigration strategy objectives. As Elizabeth said about renegotiating the federal settlement dollars, we need to have some advocacy and presence at the federal level to ensure that Nova Scotia is not left behind when new federal monies are being allocated to Ontario, which already receives three times more per immigrants than we do. Thank you.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Well, thank you very much. I'm going to go straight to the questions. We have a couple of people already. I will begin with the honourable member for Eastern Shore.
MR. WILLIAM DOOKS: Thank you very much. There are a couple of questions this morning. From the time a nominee is identified, how long does the process take before that person is actually relocated to a community in Nova Scotia?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: It depends on where the nominee is coming from, which country, but on average it's nine to 12 months.
MR. DOOKS: Why would it take longer from one country to another?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: Sometimes it takes longer for police checks and health checks to be done. An immigrant might have spent time in different countries around the world, so wherever they've been, if they have been there for more than - I think it's a week . . .
MR. DOOKS: So approximately a year . . .
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: That's right. That's one of the things we are very proud of, the processing time, because that's compared to two years - 24 months - on the federal, and more than that.
MR. DOOKS: Okay. So someone from the province or the organization identifies a nominee, however that happens, and then goes through the process. And do you now make a recommendation to the federal level of government to say, hey, this person is bona fide, we want this person to set up residency in Nova Scotia, and once you do that, is the process of immigration quicker? All the time we hear stories about those people who are not able to get in because of technicalities. Because the province is now involved, is that a stronger tool to help that person actually go through the federal process?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: Absolutely. We do the file review and we issue a certificate to the federal government. Once that certificate is issued, the due diligence is expected to be largely done. The federal government still does a review of the file but it would take much more time if they were doing it from the front end, all the way through. So their piece still remains with police and health checks and, also, they make the final decision.
MR. DOOKS: How much cash does an immigrant have to put up to come through the process?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: It varies according to the categories that they come in. If they have a permanent job offer and they have the means to support themselves, we are not concerned about their net worth. But if they come in under the economic category, then they have to have a minimum net worth of $300,000. Community-identified, again, we are concerned that they are able to support themselves, but we're have less concerned that they would have a big net worth.
MR. DOOKS: If a nominee is selected and approved, and if the nominee has a family, of course the family is allowed to locate as well?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: That's correct.
MR. DOOKS: If a mom and dad should happen to have a child that's disabled, how does that reflect on the whole process, or is that on the federal?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: Yes, when the federal government does their health checks, they would look at the health situation of each of the family members, including the child. If they determine that there would be a significant health cost, social service cost to the Government of Canada and the province that they're going to, they may reject that family. We've had situations, however, where the province has said that they didn't feel they would be a large cost on the provincial purse and we made a recommendation to that effect.
MR. DOOKS: It's unfortunate. Another question. The RDAs. Of course you have a relationship with the RDAs. How are they doing, working with your office in identifying people? That's a little bit of a different program. They help sponsor someone, do they not?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: Well, not really sponsor. The third category that we have is community-identified. That's for individuals who have roots in communities. We have established a partnership with the regional development authorities and FANE to identify potential nominees to us. These are individuals who have long-standing roots in those communities. It works very well for us because the regional development authorities are at the ground level. They know their community needs, they know the people in those communities and we are very confident in the recommendations they make to us.
I would answer your question to say that some of the regional development authorities are more active than others because they have been doing it a little bit longer. It's a very complicated area. You really have to understand the IRPA regulations. There is a responsibility on our office to provide some training and orientation for the RDAs so that they can be better equipped to assist.
I am also very pleased to say that every single funding request from the RDAs that came in last year was approved. So we have a good, solid relationship and we also have a project that we are doing with FANE as well.
MR. DOOKS: Okay, thank you. If I was to call you later would you be able to supply me with stats telling me how many people have moved to the Eastern Shore through this program?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: Yes, I would.
MR. DOOKS: Thank you. In saying that, what mechanism do you have within the department, and I know you touched on it lightly, but representing a very rural area - one part of my constituency is sort of a suburban type of thing but one is very rural - of course, there's a decline in population there. You spoke a little bit about identifying rural communities. Do you have someone appointed who focuses on rural communities with declining population? And it must be somewhat difficult to place someone there because if it's declining it probably doesn't have the resources there to support someone in new business coming in. How are you handling communities that are already experiencing a decline in population? With the decline in population, of course, economic growth dies along with it. Is there someone who's targeting that and saying, hey, this person should go there because this business would regenerate growth?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: Well, we're really working through the regional development authorities. Those are our local roots.
MR. DOOKS: That's how you do that?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: Yes. But the reality is that 80 per cent of immigrants pick urban centres to live. Our numbers are actually a little better than that. We have more people selecting rural numbers than 20 per cent. That's why we decided that we would provide some support to those regional development authorities. I'm just going to give you a couple of examples.
We have a project with the Strait-Highlands RDA. There is DIMA that we are working with in Isle Madame. They have identified employers in that area who are suffering from skill shortages. They're doing some research now and what we want to do is work with them to see how we can help them meet those skill shortages. That would be an example.
MR. DOOKS: Yes, that's a good point. In our trades, construction, so on and so forth, we're finding it very difficult now to employ people who have experience in trades. Let's not just focus on the doctors, engineers or the lawyers, but also remember that part of the whole economic engine of Nova Scotia would not necessarily only be professional tradespeople, but labourers are needed as well.
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: Exactly.
MR. DOOKS: I guess you've answered the questions. I would just like to thank you for what you're doing.
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: Thank you, Bill.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Kevin Deveaux, the honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.
MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: I want to say, Bill, it's very hard for lawyers to get into this country. Very rarely do we allow lawyers to immigrate. That's a good news story, I think.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: I should say I'm looking at 10 minutes for the speakers, because we are a little late today.
MR. DEVEAUX: I want to thank both of you for coming, and your staff. I appreciate it. I want to start by saying, particularly the Office of Immigration, Elizabeth, you guys are doing a wonderful job.
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: Thank you.
MR. DEVEAUX: I think since you have taken responsibility for the program I have seen a lot of positive changes, both in how Nova Scotians are being educated and also in how the program is working. I wanted to start with putting that on the record. I also want to talk about the Nominee Program, and I also want to talk specifically about the contract between Cornwallis Financial and the government. I've seen it but it's been a while. When was the contract signed, was it 2003?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: December 2002, and it became operational in July 2003.
MR. DEVEAUX: So the contract is for five years, is it?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: It's five years with the option to renew for two.
MR. DEVEAUX: And the renewal is at the option of Cornwallis, is that correct?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: That's correct. It's really unless there's a breach of contract on either party.
MR. DEVEAUX: The contract was untendered, I believe. Is that right?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: There were three proposals that were presented - unsolicited proposals that came forward. That was done with Economic Development, so I'm not entirely sure of all of the details, but I do know that three unsolicited proposals came forward. One withdrew and so it was down to two.
MR. DEVEAUX: The Department of Economic Development is the one that originally was in charge of immigration, and therefore they're the ones that entered into this agreement with Cornwallis.
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: I just want to clarify. Economic Development was in charge of the Nominee Program, but official responsibility for immigration was with the Department of Education.
MR. DEVEAUX: Now the economic class immigrants, Cornwallis has been set up in such a way that if you want to come in under that class you have to provide $100,000 as part of a mentoring program to specific corporations, businesses in Nova Scotia, correct?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: The nominee gets to select the business that they're going to work with, and they are approved Nova Scotia businesses, but yes, you are correct.
MR. DEVEAUX: So there's a limited list of businesses that are approved?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: It is limited but it is growing.
MR. DEVEAUX: And who ensures that they're approved for this list?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: There's a committee with a representative from the Office of Immigration, Carmelle d'Entremont; from Economic Development; from Nova Scotia Business Inc.; and Cornwallis assists.
MR. DEVEAUX: Is it approved by the committee, or is it an Order in Council?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: It's approved by the committee, and there are criteria that . . .
MR. DEVEAUX: How many people are on the committee?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: Four.
MR. DEVEAUX: So one from Office, one from Cornwallis, one from Economic Development, and who is the fourth one?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: Michael Mailman from Cornwallis.
MR. DEVEAUX: So one from Cornwallis?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: Correct.
MR. DEVEAUX: One from Economic Development?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: Right.
MR. DEVEAUX: One from the Office of Immigration?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: Oh, NSBI.
MR. DEVEAUX: Nova Scotia Business Inc.
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: Right, Fred Terrio.
MR. DEVEAUX: How are they chosen? You mentioned criteria, and I'm just trying to get a sense of what the criteria are. I do understand they have to be expanding their business, I believe. Is that correct?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: It has to be a Nova Scotia business, it has to have five employees or more, it has to be a going concern, and it has to be willing to provide that mentorship, Canadian work experience, hand holding, to the nominee. So they have to provide a job description and a commitment that they will provide that orientation.
MR. DEVEAUX: You're renegotiating the Nominee Program right now, is that correct, with the federal government? The MOU.
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: We are renegotiating the limits. Our contract with the Government of Canada comes up in 2007, and we will be doing an evaluation before that time. Right now we're trying to negotiate to remove the cap.
MR. DEVEAUX: The cap on how many can come in?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: Correct.
MR. DEVEAUX: But next year will be when you're renegotiating the parameters?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: Correct.
MR. DEVEAUX: Because you've mentioned three new categories, so don't you need to renegotiate the agreements in order to . . .
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: No, not really. As long as the categories are consistent with the regulations, the Nominee Program for all of the provinces are guided by the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. As long as those streams and the criteria do not violate those regulations, we have the approval, we have the okay to go ahead.
MR. DEVEAUX: Under Cornwallis - my understanding of how it works is they have agents throughout the world, and that if you're interested in coming, they will work with you,
and then they're forwarded to Cornwallis here and then on through to the Office of Immigration. How many agents does Cornwallis have? Do we know - a ballpark?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: I can't remember the last number, but it was well over 300, maybe 400 or 500.
MR. DEVEAUX: Do we know how many of those are in African countries?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: No, I don't, but I can find that out for you.
MR. DEVEAUX: Do we know how many are in francophone countries?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: I can find that out for you, as well. I don't have the breakdown, I'm sorry.
MR. DEVEAUX: My concern is just that in some ways Cornwallis - and I want to make it clear, this is not reflective of your office and what you're doing. Cornwallis is a venture capitalist organization, and in many ways - and if I do recall I saw a partial list, I think, about a year ago. It's very heavy with Eastern Asia and with the Gulf states. It seemed to be as much a way to get money brought in to certain Nova Scotia companies through Cornwallis and the Nominee Program as much as it was to the benefit of Nova Scotia finding the right people to come here.
I ask that question because we do have communities in this province, francophone communities - you mentioned Isle Madame or Cheticamp or even in the Halifax area, where we have demands - and I'm not clear how much Cornwallis is ensuring the interests of Nova Scotia, whether francophone or anglophone, and how much more interested they are in ensuring they can meet a business in Nova Scotia with someone who has $100,000 in another part of the world. How do we guarantee that Cornwallis is meeting the interests of Nova Scotians and not just their own pecuniary interests?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: Well, first of all, they are a venture capital company, they may have that arm, but they have been doing immigration for 18 years. They have a lot of experience in immigration itself. We have established a partnership with FANE, and we are going on immigration fairs to Paris and Nice coming up. In partnership with FANE, they came along with us last year, as well. As you may know, we published all our materials in French and English, so we're very proud of that.
In terms of how do we oversee that the interests of Nova Scotia are met, I just want to say that when the Office of Immigration was formed, and as a result of the strategy, our orientation is very much on Nova Scotia, the interests of the Province of Nova Scotia and on
the ability of the nominees to be successful. We, as an Office of Immigration, have an important oversight and accountability responsibility in this area. I think that as a government office, we have to be monitoring that. Cornwallis is a business that we've contracted to provide some services to us, but the responsibility for the programming is ours.
MR. DEVEAUX: But if their agents are predominantly in countries that are East Asian or Gulf States or other areas, I have no doubt that the people who they're bringing forward as economic nominees meet the interests of Nova Scotia, but I would suggest there's a much broader pool of people out there that maybe are not being looked at or do not have an opportunity, because they may not have the agents out there for an opportunity to actually come in contact with.
I guess my other question - I need clarification on this. Cornwallis does the economic, do they also do the skilled worker nominee program?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: They do, and the community identified. However, I want to make it clear that the skilled worker is a business-driven, employer-driven stream, so it's not about agents. It's about the fact that an employer is unable to fill that position here, and they've gone abroad farther, to identify the qualified individual. The other category, as well, is community identified, and that's also not agent-driven, that's community-driven. That's the local regional development authorities and FANE, for example, that would identify potential nominees to their communities. So it's not all driven by agents. I want to be clear on that.
MR. DEVEAUX: With regard to the skilled worker, if ABC Inc. in Middleton wanted to expand, and it needed skilled workers it couldn't find here, it goes out and finds someone in South Africa or in the Czech Republic, they basically have to do that work, and then they come to Cornwallis and say we found someone, can you help us get them here as soon as possible?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: They have to make a permanent job offer, and once they make that permanent job offer, then the individual, the applicant is encouraged to provide copies of all their documents. Cornwallis helps with that file preparation. If a document is missing or if it's incorrectly filled out, and if it were to go straight on to Citizenship and Immigration Canada, it would get put at the bottom of the 700,000 queue that now exists. So the fact that they make sure that that file is fully complete and is accurately done really helps to expedite the time.
Once that file is complete, then it comes to us. One of the streamlining policies that we've implemented this year is that we're no longer going to require a mandatory interview for skilled workers, because if the employer has already done the interview and done the reference checks and it's clear that that individual has the skills, the experience, the qualifications and the language to do the job, who are we to second guess that?
Unless there is a reason that we might want to do the interview, we've decided to forgo that mandatory interview. Also, because it's very difficult, sometimes, for those immigrants to get a visitor's visa, that causes delays and even refusals. So I think that will help to streamline the process even further.
MR. DEVEAUX: A quick last question, temporary worker permits - they don't come under the Nominee Program?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: No, they don't. Service Canada provides a labour market opinion to Citizenship and Immigration Canada, and then CIC issues the temporary work permit.
MR. DEVEAUX: Is there usually a backlog in getting those, if you're from another country, if you wanted to come here? I know it's a new area, where it has become more common, you come in on a temporary, six months, see if it fits for you and for the employer, and then if it does, maybe you can translate it into something more permanent, which seems like a reasonable way of doing it. I was wondering, as a province, whether our office or the Nominee Program can be utilized to make that more popular?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: Okay. The first question is about timing. I'm glad you asked that question. We are doing a presentation on the 23rd in Port Hawkesbury with EDS. EDS employs a number of temporary foreign workers. So we're dealing with Service Canada and CIC. What I learned is that on average it takes 15 days for Service Canada to do a labour market opinion, and then another 24 days for CIC to issue the permit.
MR. DEVEAUX: Is that a reasonable amount of time, do you think?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: It's much better than it was. I think they are streamlining all the time. On your second question, is there an opportunity for us to look at rolling over temporary foreign workers under the Nominee Program, the answer is absolutely yes. One of the reasons why we're going to EDS, a number of these temporary foreign workers were post-grads who have been working two years off-campus, and now they're interested in becoming permanent residents. We're working in partnership with CIC and Service Canada.
MR. DEVEAUX: Thank you, Elizabeth, I appreciate your time.
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: Thank you, Kevin.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: The honourable member for Pictou West.
MR. CHARLES PARKER: Madam Chairman, a good presentation so far. I have a few questions, as well. I think I'll follow up on my colleague's questions around the Nominee Program. I guess one concern that I have with it, in talking to people in my
community, is around the cost of the economic immigrant to come here. I just wanted to clarify what the actual cost is. There's $100,000 that they pay, and I guess my first question is who do they pay that to, or where does that $100,000 go?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: It goes to a trust fund until the nominee is matched to a business of their choice. Once they are, the money is paid in two instalments to the business. One at the beginning and then one at the midway point.
MR. PARKER: The total $100,000 is paid in two instalments to . . .
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: Correct. To the business mentor.
MR. PARKER: There's also a fee, I see in the notes here, of $30,500. Is that the amount that Cornwallis receives?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: Of that, $10,000 goes to Cornwallis for file preparation, worldwide marketing and a business match; $20,000 goes in the form of commissions to the agent; $500 comes to the province for our file assessment, review, interview and decision.
MR. PARKER: It's $10,000 to Cornwallis; $20,000 to the agent who works for Cornwallis?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: Well, they don't work directly for Cornwallis.
MR. PARKER: They're associated with them. And $500 to the province.
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: Correct.
MR. PARKER: So the total cost to an immigrant coming to our province is $130,500.
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: Correct.
MR. PARKER: And this study that you're doing, then, those fees are under review?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: Correct.
MR. PARKER: Who is it that is doing the study?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: Halifax Global is the name of the company.
MR. PARKER: And I see they're going to report by March 10th, is it?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: I think it might be a little bit later, because they're doing interviews of nominees and businesses and employers. I think they were having some difficulty in scheduling some of those appointments. It will be shortly thereafter.
MR. PARKER: What I'm hearing is that immigrants who are already here and maybe some businesses out there feel that's too much money, $130,500. Are you hearing that?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: Halifax Global has invited citizens and businesses to make written comments, and we have identified a number of employers who have made comments to us that we've encouraged Halifax Global to contact and interview. So, we're waiting for the results of that study.
MR. PARKER: Have you heard any indication from anybody who has been prevented from coming or not able to come because of the fee?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: No, in fact it's a very popular program. The input we get from nominees is that they really appreciate that opportunity to get Canadian work experience. It's very difficult for immigrants to get that first foot in the door, to get the Canadian work experience and to get the business mentorship. We have a number of applicants already that are waiting, waiting to be interviewed, waiting for their applications to be completed. It's a been a very popular program.
MR. PARKER: Again, I'm just passing along what I'm hearing in my community, that there's some feeling that it's too expensive to the person coming in.
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: I appreciate your comments.
MR. PARKER: Now the money that goes to the business, the $100,000 in two allotments, $20,000 of that he or she pays back to the worker?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: That's correct, and it's a minimum of $20,000. In some cases the nominee has negotiated for a higher amount.
MR. PARKER: Okay, so it could be more.
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: It's a minimum of $20,000.
MR. PARKER: So the employer is left with $80,000, or less, depending on what they pay the immigrant. It's not a bad deal for the business in many ways, is it?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: There are costs associated for the business. The business has to invest in providing that mentorship time, in providing orientation to business in Nova Scotia. We have some very good feedback from TARA, which is one of our participating
business mentors. I've asked them to provide me with a sense of what's really involved, what's the cost involved with providing that service. There's a lot of hand holding. I will say, too, that employers, especially small- and medium-sized businesses are reluctant to take on an immigrant worker because they don't have the time to really give for that sort of mentorship and hand holding. I think you have to realize that there are some costs associated to the business.
Certainly there are opportunities, and not just from the funds that are provided, but also because immigrants provide those international contacts the wherewithal to help with international marketing, with doing business around the world.
MR. PARKER: This fee review that's being done by Halifax Global, is it because there has been concern over the cost to the immigrant? Will it be likely that it will go down or up or stay the same?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: The reason for doing the fee review is as a result of the input we've received in our consultations when we did the development of the strategy. Claudette actually referred, a moment ago, to the input that MISA gave, but others as well. The advice was to review the fee structure and to see that it is competitive, and that it's providing value for immigrants. That's what has been initiated, and we're going to wait and see. I don't really want to prejudge the results, but we'll wait and see what the results are and what the recommendations are.
MR. PARKER: Again, from what I'm hearing I guess there's a hope that it will go down, because they feel it's too much. Another thing I wanted to ask you about was the immigrants who come here, I don't know who they are, as the MLA for my area, and I guess I'm not able to get those names. In some ways it would be nice to sort of send them a letter of welcome or go by and shake their hand and welcome them to our community. Is there some reason we're not able to get those names or contact information for them?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: It's only for the purposes of confidentiality. If we have approval from the nominees to give them your names, then we have no problem in doing that. In fact it would be wonderful if you would provide them with letters of welcome and welcome them to your community.
MR. PARKER: I'd certainly like to do that, but so far I have not been able to get that information. They probably don't know me, so they're not going to say I'd like to get a letter from the MLA. How is it we can make that contact?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: Who have you asked, who have you tried to get the information from?
MR. PARKER: I've talked to my RDA in Pictou County.
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: Well, if you contact our office, then we would have to contact the nominees to make sure they're okay, under FOIPOP, and if they're okay with that, I'm sure we would be happy . . .
MR. PARKER: I think it would be a nice thing . . .
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: I think it would be a lovely thing.
MR. PARKER: . . . to be able to welcome them to our community. I have a little bit more time, Madam Chairman. Not far from my community, in Tatamagouche, there's a family, in fact there's a couple of families right now, American entrepreneurs who have come here, have set up businesses and are doing well; Chuck and Annette Hunziker, one of those families, they're just running into a whole lot of red tape. They're being told that they're not welcome, they're not going to be able to stay. In fact just this last week they were told the same thing again, even after review. Good people who create jobs are welcome in their community. Are you working with any families like that, to try to get them through the red tape so that they can stay here, can create jobs?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: I will just speak to this one situation first. They applied under the Federal Entrepreneur Program, and the criteria and requirements under the legislation and regulations are very, very stringent. They have had to have been successful in business in their home country before coming and they have to prove a profit for the two years that they would have operated here. There are also a number of other requirements, so it's very stringent.
This is the beauty of the Nominee Program. It offers a great deal more flexibility. The regulations that guide the Provincial Nominee Program under IRPA are much less stringent. So, yes, we do look at providing those families and others with a better option, more flexibility.
Carmelle has actually done some follow-up directly on this particular case, where we talk to the local regional development authority to see whether or not they might be interested in making a nomination through community-identified. We also talk to the family to see whether or not they might look at that option. The latest, as I understand it, is the MP for that area had interceded, so I'm not sure if more progress has been made on our part but we certainly have provided that option to them.
MR. PARKER: Would they have the option to transfer to the Provincial Nominee Program?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: You don't transfer, you stop your application under one stream and start under another. An applicant could keep two streams going simultaneously but then they incur fees related to that. But if they have already been rejected under the federal stream anyway, they would discontinue that application and then apply under the Nova Scotia Nominee Program.
MR. PARKER: It just seems like they're ideal candidates to be here, to add to our economy in Nova Scotia. It would be a darn shame to lose them. There must be some way we can help them.
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: Well, as I've said, we've spoken to the family and we've also contacted the local regional development authority and provided them with the option.
MR. PARKER: Okay, thank you.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: The honourable member for Chester-St. Margaret's.
MS. JUDY STREATCH: Thank you very much, Madam Chairman. Good morning to my colleagues and congratulations to you in your new position. I apologize for being late. We moved into a new house this weekend and I'm still trying to figure out where everything is. Thank you very much for the presentation. It's very interesting. I have a couple of quick questions and a couple of quick comments.
To my honourable colleague across the way, you can likely get the names from your Member of Parliament. Federally, they do have the names and they are able to send out letters of welcome. You might want to try contacting your federal Member of Parliament. He might be able to assist you with some names.
To the ESL video link, that sounds very exciting. Congratulations on that. As a classroom teacher of language for 15 years, I applaud the program. It makes me a little nervous. I don't want to think that my colleagues are going to be put out of a job by video links but I understand that this is a great program. That's very exciting. Congratulations.
I met last evening with the Lunenburg County Christmas Tree Producers' Association. A couple of discussions ensued and one, specifically, regarding seasonal workers. We do have a challenge here in Nova Scotia in our seasonal industries and, in particular, the Christmas tree producers' struggle to find workers. Last year, I understand - and I am going to simply relate to you what was told to me and then I would like to know if that's, indeed, the case, and if it is the case, how can we remedy it.
As it was explained to me, the Christmas tree producers had contacted the Office of Immigration and understood that there would be potentially 80 individuals who would be available to come provide seasonal work during the Christmas tree season. As the season got
closer and closer around the November time period, they contacted the office again and were told that, indeed, the workers had decided that since they could collect social assistance for a year, they wouldn't be interested in working with the Christmas tree producers. So I'm wondering if that is the case and if it is, how could we remedy that so that the seasonal work shortage can be adjusted?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: I would bet that that call was not to the Office of Immigration. I would bet it was to Citizenship and Immigration Canada. The reason for my bet is that I have been here since March - we only opened in January but I've been here since March - and I haven't had any correspondence with the Christmas tree producers.
The reason it would be to Citizenship and Immigration is that our mandate relates to those people who are interested in becoming permanent residents of Nova Scotia. What you're referring to are temporary workers and seasonal workers. That would be Service Canada and CIC, so I don't think the call would have come to us.
MS. STREATCH: So even though that's not your department, would that be the policy . . .
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: Or jurisdiction.
MS. STREATCH: Or jurisdiction. Would that be the policy that would exist, that someone coming here would be eligible for social assistance for a year's period and, therefore, if they were to take work in a seasonal industry, would that jeopardize their social assistance?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: I don't know the answer to that question but I would be happy to find it.
MS. STREATCH: Okay, I respect that, thank you. The fourth situation - and, again, it's a federal policy, I believe - I'm wondering if one of you might know the answer. It's a public case, it was in the newspapers, it was one of my constituents so I know that I can speak of it and not break any confidentiality. She is a divorced woman who is living in my riding. She was required to produce medical history for her children, and her ex-husband has custody. The ex-husband would not comply. Would that policy be the same for a man who had children living outside of the country as it is for the mother who has children living outside of the country?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: You're quite right, this is also federal jurisdiction. But the answer to your question is that if one of the parents has full legal custody of the child, then a medical is not required. But if the full legal custody has not been sorted out, then a medical is required. The reason is that if that parent who has immigrated to Nova Scotia
successfully decides then that they want to bring their child over, they could. The answer is, once legal custody is resolved, it doesn't matter if it's for a male or female parent.
MS. STREATCH: Okay, thank you.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Thank you very much. I will call on the member for Annapolis.
MR. STEPHEN MCNEIL: Thank you, Madam Chair, and thank you for the presentation. I, too, apologize for being late. I didn't move into a new house. (Laughter) You had mentioned around the fee structure, the timeline and that it's going to be delayed. How long?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: Oh, a week or two. It's just making sure that the interviews are all done.
MR. MCNEIL: Under that review, a doctor now who is immigrating into this country needs to go through a process of having certification. It's like a $5,550 fee, I think, which is the most expensive in the country. Is that part of this review? Will that fee be reviewed at the same time?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: All of the fees that are under the Nova Scotia Nominee Program will be reviewed. I think you might be referring to the College of Physicians and Surgeons program. Is that what you're referring to?
MR. MCNEIL: Yes.
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: That's a separate program wherein they assess the credentials of an internationally-trained medical professional.
MR. MCNEIL: Correct.
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: That is not under our Nominee Program. You should know that any international doctor who is being tested to become fully accredited here would pay fees no matter where they are. I think those fees are comparable that the college would charge.
MR. MCNEIL: I don't know if they're comparable. You are correct that they would pay wherever they are. I think we are near the top of the country in terms of provinces. For immigration issues, do you have a contact in all the government departments in the province?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: The provincial government departments, yes.
MR. MCNEIL: Right, who would deal with immigration issues.
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: Yes.
MR. MCNEIL: Has anyone from the Department of Health asked you how this would affect bringing doctors into the country, in terms of the fee? Is that an issue? Would they, perhaps, maybe end up going to some other province?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: We've had doctors who have been nominated through the skilled worker program and their nominations are done through the local district health authorities. They provide jobs. So, no, I haven't had the Department of Health or any district health authorities say yet that the fees were an impediment. Certainly, they have been invited to provide input.
MR. MCNEIL: Under the skilled workers program you had mentioned that many of the nominees who come into the province, the majority of them come into metro?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: No, 80 per cent of all immigrants around the world select urban centres.
MR. MCNEIL: How are we doing?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: That's true, most do come to metro.
MR. MCNEIL: Under the skilled worker program, are you promoting this to rural areas? Who is promoting it to the businesses in rural Nova Scotia, I guess, is my question?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: Through the regional development authorities, we are helping to promote it to local businesses. I mentioned a moment ago that I will be in Port Hawkesbury on the 23rd. We're working with a local employer in that area. The Strait-Highlands Regional Development Agency has identified labour force needs in that area, as has Isle Madame. So we're working through the local regional development authorities.
One thing we plan to do as a result of our joint presentation with Service Canada and CIC is to put together a bit of a module which we then could take across the province and through the local regional development authorities have them organize information sessions with local employers. That's a priority for the coming year. We'll see how well we do on Thursday.
MR. MCNEIL: In western Nova Scotia, there is no regional development authority. Who have you been talking to for the last six months, eight months?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: The Kings Community Economic Development Agency and the South West Shore Development Authority have been dealing with community-identified immigrants who are in that area.
MR. MCNEIL: Don't make the mistake that government makes, the Valley doesn't stop at Kings County and start again in Yarmouth. There's a section from Kings County that goes all the way to Yarmouth which includes the Counties of Annapolis, Digby, Clare. There's nobody there. Do you have contact with anybody there?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: Well, we have contact through those regional development authorities I just mentioned.
MR. MCNEIL: But they don't represent that area. The Western Valley Development Authority, which used to exist, is now defunct. The government is trying to deal with that. There's nobody. So who's picking up the pieces?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: What's happened is that people who are interested in those areas, to be immigrated through community-identified, have contacted the regional development association, Holly Boston, and she, in turn, has referred it to one of the operating regional development authorities. But you're quite right, we're really anxious and looking forward to new organizations starting up in that area.
MR. MCNEIL: Perfect. Thank you very much.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Ms. Marilyn More.
MS. MARILYN MORE: Like my colleagues, I want to commend you for all the work that has been done to date. I'm curious to know, in terms of the Nominee Program and the business mentors, is there anything preventing a non-profit economic development organization or one of the community business corporations or a community settlement program from applying to be on that list of a business mentor?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: Currently the criteria are focused on private sector businesses. The reason is that we're hoping this provides the nominee with an opportunity to learn about that sector, the sector that they are currently working in in their home country and want to continue to work with in Nova Scotia, and/or that there's a job opportunity for them at the end of the six-month period. Until now we haven't expanded to the not-for-profit sector.
However, I will tell you that we have had nominees who have come and looked at the list and said, look, there are no businesses here that are in my sector that I'm interested in. So we've been proactive in going out to identify potential companies that could qualify to encourage them to provide that business mentorship opportunity for that individual. But it's
really focused on for-profit because nominees need to be able to work beyond the six-month period, they need to have a job or they need to be able to start a business in their area.
MS. MORE: Aside from the public services that the non-profit sector provides, it's actually one of the larger employers in the province. I'd like to suggest that there actually is a future in working for the non-profit sector. I really think this might be something that needs to be considered, because not only would they provide the mentoring experience but that could lead or transition into a good paying job.
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: Thank you for that suggestion. I also want to point out that we have community-identified nominees who are in fact doing volunteer work and working in not-for-profit organizations in their communities.
MS. MORE: My other question, you touched on it several times, and I just want to get a little more detail. It's important for the strategy to succeed; if it succeeds, it has to be done across various levels of government, including school boards, so I'll say the four levels of government. I'm just wondering to what degree you're seeing the kind of collaboration and coordination to date.
The one issue that I'm concerned about is funding for English as a second language within the school system. I'm not up to date on this, but the last I understood, for example, the Halifax Regional School Board, which has the most extensive programming, as far as I understand, has to cover that out of their supplementary funding. I'm just wondering, is there any priority to having the funding formula for school boards absorb some of those costs or at least recognize them so that rural school boards would be able to have similar ESL programs for immigrant families?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: I'm delighted that you asked this question, because I have some up-to-date information. The amount of $250,000 was approved in our budget, in the Office of Immigration budget, for ESL in schools in 2005-06. The Department of Education approved an additional $100,000. So in total, $350,000 was distributed among five school boards in Nova Scotia. The other three school boards indicated that they had no need for ESL at this time, because it was based on the number of students in the classroom. So I'm very happy to say that funding has been provided to each of the remaining school boards.
Each was given a base of $5,000, and then the balance was allocated on the basis of the number of students requiring ESL. So the Halifax region received $304,000; Annapolis Valley received $16,000; Cape Breton-Victoria, $11,500; Chignecto-Central, $10,800; and South Shore, $6,300. This is based on the number of students.
On the question of supplementary funding - Kevin is whispering to you, I think I can guess what it is - was whether or not the City of Halifax was withdrawing their portion of supplementary funding. What we have been told is that, no, this is additional money that will be used to buy additional ESL teaching.
MS. MORE: Do you know the extent of the combined financial resources, or how well that's going to meet the current ESL need in this area?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: In the Halifax region?
MS. MORE: Yes.
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: No, I don't, but I would be happy to get that information for you.
MS. MORE: That would be very useful. That is excellent news. I'm really pleased. I know when the presentation on the strategy was given to the various caucuses, perhaps a year ago, that was a big concern. I'm really pleased to see that the government has acted on it, and hopefully there will be increases in the future to reflect the growing immigration population.
I was very interested when my colleague brought up the two situations in Tatamagouche, because I spent a couple of days there just at the end of last week. Quite frankly it's the buzz of the community. It was amazing how many people had mentioned that particular situation to me. Thank you for that information. I'm sure we'll make sure those families get some encouragement to perhaps apply for the Nominee Program. It would really help with this red tape problem that they've run into. Good work, and thank you.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: The honourable member for Digby-Annapolis.
MR. HAROLD THERIAULT: Thank you for your presentation. It was very interesting, quite a complex situation, the whole thing of immigration. Mr. McNeil mentioned there's no RDA in the western part of the province. I think there will be later on. I believe it's being worked on. You mentioned that the MLAs should get involved. You didn't explain too much there. I know I've been involved. I've been involved with nightmare situations with immigrants. I had a call, just before I got here last night, about a person having quite a problem.
You mentioned you need $300,000 to even apply to come into this. You spoke about out-migration. Well, out-migration of the people in rural Nova Scotia, it's labourers. They're going to Alberta - they're getting $10 an hour here, they're going to Alberta for $20, $30. How would you ever replace these labourers? Christmas trees were mentioned. There are road builders, forestry, fishery, truckers, construction - you could go on and on all day.
They're all leaving. Who in another country, a person like that, would have $300,000 in their pocket to come to a place like Canada to work in the labour force?
[10:20 a.m. Mr. Brooke Taylor took the Chair.]
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: I apologize if I left you with that impression, because there are three categories. Only one category requires a net worth of $300,000. The other two categories, and the one that you would speak of as skilled workers, do not require a net worth of $300,000. We don't look to that. What we look to is, do they have a permanent job offer? If there are employers in your area who are looking for workers in those fields, and there's a permanent job offer, then we would look at those applications. I just want to be very clear, and for the record, only one stream has a minimum net worth of $300,000.
MR. THERIAULT: You mentioned how MLAs could get involved. Could you elaborate a little more on that?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: Absolutely. As MLAs, you represent your communities, and you are called upon to make speaking engagements all over the province, you have an opportunity to meet with your community members, with your constituents. You have an opportunity to meet with local businesses, so I would really encourage you to promote immigration as an option for them to fill positions that they have available. I would encourage you to promote the importance of immigration to Nova Scotia, and I would encourage you to work with your communities so that communities are welcoming.
We talked earlier about doctors. Well, we have international doctors who have gone to rural communities in Nova Scotia, and those doctors have families. Well, if the doctor is going to stay in Nova Scotia, the spouse and the children of that doctor need to feel welcome. You have an important role within your communities, with those organizations in those communities to encourage people to open their doors, to really welcome immigrants. It's more than just about hospitality, it's about really engaging them in community activities.
MR. THERIAULT: Could an MLA sponsor an immigrant?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: Not under the Nova Scotia Nominee Program, but under the federal system there are opportunities for groups to sponsor refugees. I could certainly provide you with more information on that.
MR. THERIAULT: Do you know anything about the immigration of Ireland? Has Nova Scotia ever studied that, or Canada?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: Well, we have a guest here who might be able to give us more information. Other than to say that my father was born in Ireland and I considered immigrating there myself not that long ago - perhaps you could say something.
MR. THERIAULT: They're doing very well with it there. Very well. Could you speak a little on it? (Interruptions)
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: I do know that. Things are really booming in Ireland right now.
MR. THERIAULT: Big time.
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: EU money, I think. (Interruptions)
MR. CHAIRMAN: The honourable member for Halifax Clayton Park.
MS. DIANA WHALEN: I think this is an area we're all very interested in. I think all Parties supported the founding of your office, and a lot has happened this year. We're really excited to see the co-operation going across all stakeholders with your office, and the coordination you're able to provide. It has also really put immigration on the map in terms of our agenda and everybody paying more attention to it. I think it's important, given the out-migration and the concerns we have with population.
I have a number of questions, some of them relate to some peculiarities that I've noticed with constituent issues that have come up and a few others on other areas. I'd like to just hit a couple of quick ones. On this family business category, we've had a number of people that I have spoken to who want to sponsor family members to come in and work in restaurants. One was in Clare. They did all the HRDC stuff to advertise across the country, well, nobody wanted to come and be a Lebanese cook in Clare. So they wanted to bring somebody in. I had one in my area which was for a Chinese cook. The difficulty was the credentialing again on cooking - had you gone to a recognized cooking school, and do you have papers to show that you're truly a cook? - even though they met the criteria of the employer, which was their family member. Will this be addressed in this new category you're coming up with?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: You're absolutely right, the federal stream is much stricter. I know the family business stream under the Nominee Program will have greater flexibility. We want to make sure that the individual is capable of doing the job, they may not be a registered cook but we want to make sure that they are capable of doing that job, that it's a bona fide job, that salaries and working conditions are according to the industry, and that the individual has basic language skills. I think that might be one of the other issues, too. Sometimes cooks come and the family member believes that they don't need to speak English, but to be fully settled and integrate in Nova Scotia, the immigrant would need to speak English or French.
MS. WHALEN: Maybe I'll question you on that. Some provinces don't even test the language ability under their Provincial Nominee Programs. Do we do this in every case, in every category?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: Most provinces do require language. What they say is, and I just checked that last night, language sufficient to be able to work. I think that's very important. We know from the research that immigrants are not able to stay if they can't work. So they have to be able to work, and they have to be able to settle. If you go to Ontario, for example, it's much easier for the immigrant to be absorbed into a culture and perhaps survive in their language, not so in Nova Scotia.
MS. WHALEN: I accept that, and I think you do need some standards, but I would like to see some of that rigidity taken out of the family business.
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: Well, we say basic.
MS. WHALEN: Basic is good. On people who are currently living in Nova Scotia, and perhaps that comes back to the temporary permits that were referred to earlier, but I had a resident who lives in Nova Scotia, has bought a house in the riding, works at a university, and decides now after a couple of years here that he would like to make this permanent. He's being asked for $2,000, through the Nominee Program, if he chooses the Nominee Program, I guess for settlement services. Well, he doesn't need settlement services. Is there a fee, or is there a program, or is there a way for a person who is here now who wants to become permanent?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: I'm not familiar with the $2,000 fee. So I don't think that would be under the Nova Scotia Nominee Program. Yes, if that individual has a permanent job offer and meets all the criteria, then we would encourage them to put in an application. Now they can do it either through the federal stream or through the nominee stream. There's a fee differential.
MS. WHALEN: Maybe what I would just point out here - I'm just reading what I was told - is they said that investigating the provincial nominee scheme, the person was informed that the program was intended for people who live outside the country, but I could use it if I wish. Upon further investigation, it appeared I would have to pay a consulting firm to arrange the entry fees, the bank account, the setting up of a home and school for my children. Well, he has all of that.
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: I would have to investigate that, but that doesn't sound correct. I think what would be required is that the individual would pay fees for their application for their file preparation, not for settlement services.
MS. WHALEN: Well, $2,000 is a different fee anyway than we talked about.
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: It is a different fee.
MS. WHALEN: On the fee structure, we talked about what it is for entrepreneurs coming in under the Provincial Nominee Program, do the skilled workers still pay the $10,000 or the $500 to the province, as well? What is the fee to a skilled worker?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: It's $5,500, of which $500 comes to the province.
MS. WHALEN: So the fee is less if Cornwallis attracts a skilled worker than it is if they attract a business category?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: They don't attract the skilled worker, the employer attracts a skilled worker.
MS. WHALEN: Okay, you clarified that. But they would receive the fee because they process it?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: Because they do the file preparation. We do the processing and we do the assessment and approval - sorry, nomination.
MS. WHALEN: So, really, you're saying Cornwallis doesn't put in the effort on that external . . .
MS. MILLS: They don't do the worldwide marketing.
MS. WHALEN: That's right, they're not marketing . . .
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: And neither with community-identified. They don't do - in fact, all of the fees from community-identified currently come to the province.
MS. WHALEN: On the skilled worker, I wanted to ask you, it seems like there's a great delay, you have to have a job offer in your hand and identify a skill gap or a need, and then you have to go through the entire process which could take 12 months or something like that.
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: The average for the whole process is nine to 12 months under our Nominee Program. Under the federal skilled worker program, which you don't necessarily need a job for, that could take 24 months.
MS. WHALEN: My concern is for an employer, are they attracted to this program, because they have a need now, a year from now they've probably filled the job or they've gone out of business or something for a lack of skilled workers.
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: This is an excellent point, and I discussed this yesterday with Service Canada and CIC in preparation for our session with EDS. One thing that we're learning is that - and I think this question was asked over here - many employers are actually bringing them in first as a temporary foreign worker, and once the employer is satisfied they've met the probationary period, the individual is acclimatized to Nova Scotia, is happy with the employer, then they begin the process for permanent residence application.
MS. WHALEN: So that is being promoted, is it? You're explaining that to people?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: Yes.
MS. WHALEN: I think our needs are acute, and we need to get the people here, and a delay like that with a job in hand doesn't cut it, I don't think.
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: As I said earlier, we're introducing some policy changes to streamline the process, so one of the things we've removed is the mandatory interview.
MS. WHALEN: On the international student front, I know there was a lot of expectation a year ago that something would happen here. I have a university in my riding, and there are many others in the province, and they're just so frustrated. They're going to miss another year of not working this Summer, there's nothing in place to allow those students now to work off-campus. We've talked and talked about what an advantage it is having these students here in our country, here in our province, and they want to work. How can we advance that, and what is your office doing? I'm sure you're hearing from a lot of students.
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: As you know, we've had a change in federal government. We have a new federal minister responsible for Citizenship and Immigration Canada. Correspondence has been sent to the federal minister on behalf of the four Atlantic Provinces. After Friday, February 24th, we will have our own new minister. So we'll be corresponding directly with Minister Solberg and we'll be talking about this issue. That's the top priority.
MS. WHALEN: It is a high priority. I'm just happy to hear that, because I know it's a great disappointment to many that that was delayed. I'm glad to hear that. I want to go back to ESL, because it's a major concern for me. I think no matter how much we talk about the need for immigration and what we can do to help immigrants, if we don't provide them the basic language skills, they're just not going to be able to fully integrate, to participate in a welcoming society or anything else. I think a lot of people come here, to Canada, because they want our education system.
I was happy to hear that there was more money this year than I was aware of that had gone into the school boards. That was a good thing to hear. I'm glad that the question was asked. The Halifax Regional School Board, as you know, has the majority of those students who require help. I think up to this point in time we haven't been able to give a sufficient amount of help, particularly for the older children, because even in upper elementary they don't adapt as quickly as the little ones.
In Halifax West High School, there were 80 full-time ESL students last year not integrated into the classroom. Those are older students, they go up to the age of 20 or 21, I think is the oldest they're allowed to stay in the school. So we have a tremendous need right there. I'm wondering if you're in consultation with the Halifax Regional School Board, and have you visited them, and have you been working on a plan?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: The Office of Immigration has not directly consulted with the school boards. It has happened through the Department of Education. The reason why this was new information to me is that the Department of Education had just completed the consultations with the school boards, so it was based on that consultation and on the numbers of students requiring ESL that this allocation was made. I absolutely agree with you, the need for language training for children and adults is imperative. They will not be successful in Nova Scotia if they can't communicate. That's why we're providing significantly more new dollars this past year for enhanced language as well, through HILC and MISA and other organizations, for adults as well as children.
MS. WHALEN: On the adult side, there was recently a session held on literacy in Nova Scotia. They identified three groups that have real literacy problems, and one was our new Canadians.
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: Yes.
MS. WHALEN: I don't think we have a large enough number that it completely influences our overall score, which wasn't good, but it was an area that was identified for extra help. Can you identify the gaps that are there now? I know there was a case recently in the paper where somebody took their citizenship oath and then discovered they were no longer eligible for ESL, which seems rather counterproductive. Are there other gaps like that? Are there things that we should be identifying in the delivery of the program and where the support is?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: I'm going to refer to my agency colleagues, because they live with the gaps every day.
MS. LEGAULT: I'll call on Gerry, because we were just talking about some of those gaps on the way here.
MS. GERRY MILLS: I'm glad you actually brought that up. One of the significant gaps we have right now is at the very low level. There has been a lot of focus recently on employment-related language at the higher levels, the engineers, doctors we were talking about. At the lower level, what we have right now - the profile of the people coming to Nova Scotia under the government-assisted refugees has changed. What we have are people, mostly women, at a literacy level - that's ESL literacy - those people who don't read and write in their first language. That, for us, is a significant issue right now. For the most part, though, the women, very often mothers, very often single - husbands are not with them - if we don't do something for those women right now, and we have a very large waiting list right now to get into the classes - down the road we're going to be reaping that. They're not going to be able to help their kids in the schools, when they're coming home with homework. So that is a significant gap right now.
The other one is child care. If people are going to access language training and they've got children under the age of five, they can't go to language training unless we do something with these little ones. We have limited resources to be able to provide child care for the children while their parents are in language training. So what happens is we may have spots in the language classes for the parents, but we don't have spots for the child care. So they can sit home for a long time. If you have two children under the age of five, I can almost guarantee you that you will not get language training in Nova Scotia. It won't happen because we never have two child care spots at the same time as there is a spot in a language class. That woman - mostly women, of course - will never get language training.
MS. WHALEN: I think that's being seen in some of the communities today, where the parents are not able to integrate into the schools or the PTAs or the initiatives that are going on. So I'd like to suggest that that be a top priority for the office, maybe there's some way to identify a program, identify a service provider, set something up.
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: I think there are a couple of ways that we would approach this. Certainly with our negotiations with the federal government on changing the settlement formula, I think this is the priority area that we need to look at. The links training - this is the very basic language training - is the responsibility of Citizenship and Immigration Canada. We need to make sure that this issue is brought to their attention, that we quantify it, and that we are very united in our approach with them. We've certainly heard this discussed in the other Atlantic Provinces as well.
MS. WHALEN: Just one thing more on that, it is a federal initiative or maybe it's their responsibility, but we've set up our own provincial Office of Immigration, and we want to make this the best place to come in Canada, so we need to supplement and fill in the gaps if the federal government isn't doing it. I guess I'm saying I'm not happy to wait until we get a new arrangement with the federal government.
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: I'll be very happy with your support during budget time, on this discussion.
MS. WHALEN: I'd love to see more money going to the whole initiative, because this was a tentative year, in a sense, you were just starting and setting up an office. We waited anxiously to see how many staff you would be allowed, what your budget would be. Do I have a minute more?
MR. CHAIRMAN: You can take a minute, if it's okay with you, Madam Chairman. (Laughter)
MS. WHALEN: I don't know if you have a list.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I do have some short snappers.
MS. WHALEN: I wanted to ask about the budget particularly, because last year it was a little bit unclear how much was new money and how much was being redirected from other departments, because you had Economic Development, you had Education dollars and so on. Can you tell us, in a figure, how much was new?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: Our total budget was $2.7 million. Of that, under $600,000 was allocated the previous year.
MS. WHALEN: So you're saying you had $2.1 million, roughly, that was new money?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: Correct. And $100,000 of that is fees, revenue fees from the Nominee Program.
MS. WHALEN: That's good. I'll wait my turn.
MR. CHAIRMAN: We move to Mr. Theriault in the short snapper section.
MR. THERIAULT: You mentioned that I personally couldn't nominate somebody. Let's say I go to Ireland - a good place, Ireland, I like Ireland - and meet someone, a good Catholic, a good Protestant, whatever (Interruptions) She comes back to Canada with me. We decide two or three days down the road to get married. (Interruptions) Once I married that person who came back from Ireland with me, to this land, that would nominate her for Canadian citizenship.
[10:40 a.m. Ms. Diana Whalen resumed the Chair.]
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: You would be able to sponsor her under the federal unification program. As a spouse you would be able to sponsor that individual.
MR. THERIAULT: And she could not be sent back out of this country?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: If she doesn't meet the medical or the security, the federal government may not approve her.
MR. THERIAULT: But wouldn't she have to meet that through a church wedding, a religious wedding?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: I don't know about that. I don't know that all the church weddings require medicals, police checks or security checks.
MR. THERIAULT: Yes, but any marriage certificate, the federal government accepts it.
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: Well, it's very complicated but the answer is that if anybody gets married to a foreign national and wishes to sponsor them under the federal program, yes, there is a stream that does that. I have some experience with that and with a family you would know from your area. Erma and Bob Green. Bob married her and he came from Australia.
MR. THERIAULT: Thank you.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.
MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Thank you very much, Madam Chairman, and thank you to our guests for coming in. I just had a question, generally, about the jurisdictional lines between the feds and the province. Is there any area there, Elizabeth, or areas that are still quite blurred, or are you satisfied that the provincial responsibility is clearly delineated? Is there something there that, possibly, we should be working on?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: I think it's very clear who has jurisdiction. The issue is that many of the issues that are brought to our attention - some of the members here talked about nightmares that they hear about. Most of those issues relate to federal processing and the province does not have jurisdiction in this area. As the member here indicated, Members of Parliament have much more influence and have access to information that we as a province would not have access to. So I think the matter of jurisdiction is pretty clear. Most of the jurisdiction rests with the Government of Canada.
MR. TAYLOR: Well, are we doing anything like your office to assist the shortage of apple pickers, for example, tree growers, as Judy mentioned, and Christmas tree growers? Do we have, I guess, the federal department's ear on those profound shortages? I mean, they have been clearly identified, the skill is needed and I'm just wondering - you know, it didn't just happen last year, this has been going on for a number of years. I'm wondering do you see any positive resolution, or any resolution?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: Truthfully, 2005 was our very first year. We've only been fully staffed since November. Our focus in our first year was on getting the organization established and on looking at improvements to the Nominee Program, looking at some policies that we have in place. So we focused first on our partnerships with our service-providing organizations, with funding, and with the area that is clearly our jurisdiction. But that's not to say in the future we won't have a role to play.
MR. TAYLOR: Generally, is there one country that submits more applications than others?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: If you look at that handout which I gave you on the numbers of immigrants who actually came in 2005 - and you will see the increase - most of our immigrants are still coming from the U.K. and from the U.S. Under the Nominee Program, more recently, we've had nominees coming, as I said, from 55 countries in the world, so we have had greater diversity through the Nominee Program. But traditionally the U.K. and the U.S. are the main source countries for Nova Scotia.
MR. TAYLOR: Okay, thank you very much.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: I would like to call on Kevin Deveaux.
MR. DEVEAUX: Yes, just a quick question. My colleague, the member for Digby-Annapolis, was raising the issue of someone, maybe a skilled worker - they have choices, and they can come here, they can go to Alberta, they can go to Fort McMurray and make $50 an hour, they can go to Australia. So I mean, in some ways, I think we have a tendency in Canada to think that - and we are one of the most dependent countries and most active countries in immigration but we're not the only ones, and we're not the only jurisdiction in Canada. If you look at the skilled worker class, for example, can you give us some sense of where our fee of $5,500 is compared to other provinces?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: Well, I'll know that after the review.
MR. DEVEAUX: Okay.
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: Let me just comment on your first point. You're absolutely right. Last year I went to the immigration fairs in Europe. We were competing, not
just with other provinces but other countries. Australia is very aggressive in their immigration plan. I didn't see Ireland there but I certainly saw Australia. One of the things I was most impressed with was Alberta was very organized. They came with 3,500 jobs and they came with employers. So people who are inquiring, they want to know where the jobs are.
So where we have to focus our attention is on our labour market needs. We have to do that in partnership with Education and with Service Canada, with HRSDC. For us, the key is, what are the needs, where are the jobs, and working with employers. I'm not sure that we've really hit the wall yet with skill shortages.
MR. DEVEAUX: I mean, I know the fee review will end up looking at this but my understanding of the nine jurisdictions in Canada that have a skilled worker Nominee Program, four of them don't have a fee at all and the rest of them are, maybe, $500 or $800, much lower than ours. I would think that if I was a plumber, carpenter or what have you, IT, and I was from another country, that's going to be a barrier.
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: Yes. We will be looking at that and looking at what options are available, and what recommendations. Once we have the report we will have to do an assessment and decide what our go-forward will be.
MR. DEVEAUX: So that's not locked, but that $5,500 fee - I mean $500 goes to the province but $5,000 goes to Cornwallis - are you not in a contract with Cornwallis and isn't that fee locked into that contract?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: No. The contract says that the Province of Nova Scotia has the ability to set fees or change fees.
MR. DEVEAUX: Okay. So even their portion is . . .
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: There is a contract. We are locked into the contract, yes.
MR. DEVEAUX: Right. But the fee, itself, is not necessarily . . .
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: But the fee is not named in the contract.
MR. DEVEAUX: Okay, thank you.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: The member for Pictou West.
MR. PARKER: Thank you, Madam Chairman. A couple of quick questions. Have you done any work on, what I call, clustering, like, trying to attract similar people to the same area so they feel comfortable with their own kind, people of similar backgrounds, religion, culture, or whatever? I know a number of years ago in my community, a group I was involved with, we sponsored some of the boat people from Vietnam. They were great people, learned English and so on, but in time they left our community because they sort of felt isolated from those of similar background. They went to Toronto and elsewhere in Ontario.
A good example of where this did work was, probably, 50 years ago with the Dutch families that came here to Nova Scotia. They farmed the land, and they had lots of neighbours and friends that could speak their own language, and talk to each other. They integrated very well into our society. Have you done any work in trying to attract people of similar backgrounds to an area where there are already some people like that there?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: What we have started to do is work with the local ethnocultural organizations that exist under MANS, under the Multicultural Association of Nova Scotia. As I said, in the first two months that I was employed in the office, I must have met with over 90 different organizations. A number of these organizations have talked about their role in helping to recruit family members and friends through the family business offer, but also through the other streams of the Nominee Program, and to extend help to them so that they can settle and be successful in the province.
But to your answer, we haven't yet done any clustered recruitment. I know, for example, though, that the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries has been doing some recruitment in the Netherlands to look at inviting farmers to come here to buy farms that are up for sale. I do know that that effort is happening in consultation. But so far we haven't done any clustering, as such.
We've been approached by NSBI to work with them, wherein they are attracting international companies to come to parts of the province, and want to bring over their international management staff and some of their technical workers. So we've had discussions with a number of international firms in that regard. But we're young, we're new and we certainly think that there are lots of great ideas to pursue.
MR. PARKER: I think it might be something that could work and keep people here, retain them once they arrive.
MS. LEGAULT: I know that Truro, through CoRDA, has been trying to look at doing precisely that, bringing in a cluster, but of course they're struggling with all the federal CIC implications. In terms of Nova Scotia's commitment as part of the federal program, every year Nova Scotia accepts between 190 and 200 government-sponsored refugees. We don't really get a say over who comes, but as settlement organizations we've said - for example, there's a growing Latin American community here of the refugees coming in - if you have
some Colombians we'd be happy to take them because the Colombians who are here are happy to help provide some settlement support. So for a couple of years we were able to attract more Colombians than others.
Similarly, there was a group from Uzbekistan, I think, the previous Soviet republic, where there was a group that didn't have family everywhere else in the country, so there was a good chance they would stay, who kind of came over as a group over a period of time. They are living more or less in the neighbourhood, so they've provided some support to each other.
So where we have a say, we try to support them. There may be a group from Somalia, as well, who are coming, in part because the community here has said, oh yes, please send them, we'll help them settle.
MR. PARKER: Do I have time for one more quick question?
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Quickly, because I have one more speaker.
MR. PARKER: Is it the plan of the department to charge a fee to international students who are coming in? I see in the new category that the amount of the proposed fee is to be determined. International students are paying extra tuition or extra costs to be at a university, to my understanding, so in addition to that there's a proposed fee for them?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: We don't have any fees planned yet. Until after we have our fees review, I don't think we'll go forward with establishing any fees. We're waiting to hear back on what happens with the fee review we currently have. In fact, the family-owned business category is ready to go, but we decided not to proceed until the fee review was done.
MR. PARKER: That's a possibility by the sound of things, that it could be a fee.
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: We'll see after the review is done.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: For our last speaker today, the honourable member for Dartmouth South-Portland Valley.
MS. MORE: I'm interested to know if you have any information on the retention rates for the various recruitment categories. Are you finding that one or two sort of outshine the others?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: Well, to do retention, you need to do some longitudinal work. We need to sort of track it over time. The best, most reliable longitudinal data will be through census data, so we'll know, definitively, the answer once the next census is done. We are monitoring where immigrants are going, and whether or not they're landing, we get
landing information from CIC, so we know whether they have arrived in Nova Scotia. We have addresses for quite a number of them.
I would say that for the most part they're coming, they're staying, they're buying houses. For sure we know that from the regional development authorities we can track those individuals in local communities, we can track skilled workers, those who have had a permanent job offer, and we're certainly looking at the economic category very closely.
MS. MORE: Have you done the informal analysis yet, or are you planning to?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: I haven't broken it down by category, but I can tell you that we're reassured from the CIC landings that people are actually arriving.
MS. MORE: I'm just wondering, regarding the business category, if it's just the sort of financial sustainability of the family that's considered or whether there's any attempt in that initial screening by the international agents to sort of match lifestyle so that it might increase the chances that they would actually stay in Nova Scotia. Otherwise, we're just being used as a funnel for the rest of Canada.
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: Thank you for that question, I really appreciate it. Where that screening really takes place is through our office. We do an interview with the economic category. We want to be assured of their intention to come and settle and stay in Nova Scotia, and we also want to be assured of their ability to do so. One of the areas that we look at very closely is language, and this is where the international agents can be of help, because, really, they shouldn't be bringing any candidates to Cornwallis if they don't have any basic language skills. So there's a bit of a pre-screening that can happen at that end, but the responsibility rests in our office when we do the interview, to be assured as much as we can. But as you know, under the Charter of Rights, any one of us or any immigrants can decide to move at any time once they're permanent residents.
MS. MORE: I'm just thinking, though, that another area you might look at is where they originally come from. If you recruit people from large international cities, they're less likely to want to stay in Nova Scotia, but if the agents are out talking to people in smaller communities, that increases the chances. I think there is some of that informal quality of life side of the screening that perhaps could be beefed up a bit to enhance the chances that they would remain in Nova Scotia and that we could mutually benefit from each other.
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: That's a very good point. I think there are other considerations that we need to look at as well, certainly credentials, how easy will it be for them to work in their field, that's something that has to be looked at as well. I think that's a very interesting suggestion, thank you.
MS. MORE: Do you actually have some input into the screening process that the agents use at the grassroots level?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: Absolutely. There are criteria, first of all, basic criteria they must meet. We won't even consider the file if they don't meet those basic criteria. Then we do the interview and determine whether or not this individual, this family is likely to succeed in Nova Scotia.
MS. MORE: But you can add to the entry criteria without changing the contract with Cornwallis?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: The criteria are the responsibility of the Province of Nova Scotia. There's nothing in the contract that talks about criteria.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Again, we thank you so much for coming in. Did you have any closing remarks? We have only two minutes left.
MS. LEGAULT: I look forward to meeting with the committee in two more years, to talk about how far we've come. Thank you for your interest.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: And we are indeed very interested in that. Did you have anything to say, Elizabeth?
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: I thank you very much. It's a great opportunity for me to talk about the Office of Immigration. I'm very impassioned on it, and I think it's great that you all have an interest. I look forward to working with you. I encourage you to contact me, and bring forward some ideas that you have and some suggestions. I think we have a lot to do, but we will only be successful with partnerships.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: With that, just for the members of the committee, our next meeting will be March 7th. We're going to have Composites Atlantic come at that time. We have a tentative meeting set up for March 21st, as you can see on the schedule. Do I have a motion to adjourn?
MR. TAYLOR: So moved.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: We are adjourned.
[The committee adjourned at 11:00 a.m.]