The new federal budget for 2021 was released on April 19. Ambitiously named "Budget 2021: A Recovery Plan for Jobs, Growth, and Resilience", the plan clearly sets its sights on post COVID-19 economic recovery. As was already signalled by the Honourable Marco E. L. Mendicino, Canadian Minister of Immigration, in October of last year when he tabled an ambitious Immigration plan at Parliament outlining goals for the coming three years, a substantial part of the federal economic growth strategy relies on economic immigration.
For those who like cold hard numbers: Almost $430 million over 5 years will be spent on development and delivery of an enterprise-wide digital platform that will gradually replace the legacy Case Management System. This is Canada's delivery on a promise to revamp the system the Minister himself referred to as "retro" so that it can position itself as a top destination for global talent. Service Canada is to be a recipient of nearly $50 million over 3 years in support of community-based organizations in the provision of migrant worker-centric programs and services (i.e., on-arrival orientation and assistance in emergency and at-risk situations). IRCC will receive $55 million over 3 years for employer audits, ensuring that temporary foreign workers have appropriate wages and working conditions. Another $6 million will go to open work permit service delivery for vulnerable workers; $15 million to support pilot programs for racialized newcomer women and finally – welcome news to all who have had to make this phone call - $74 million over 3 years to maintain enhanced capacity and service standards within the Client Support Center to ensure timely support by phone and email for inquiries related to IRCC services.
In addition to this, we can expect proposed changes to the governing Immigration legislation, the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, which will aim to improve IRCC's ability to identify candidates who meet Canada's labour market needs and wish to become permanent residents through the Express Entry system.
What these investments aim to do is rectify some of the damage inflicted by COVID-19. Immigration creates jobs and continues to be a key factor in Canada's economic growth. However, the pandemic has had a negative effect both on the economy, and the personal circumstances of newcomers, particularly low wage workers, young people, women, and racialized immigrants. The 2021 budget seems aimed at the right points. On one hand, Canada is positioning itself as the most desirable destination for immigration by creating a modern and efficient immigration process. In many ways however, that is the easiest part of the strategy. Ensuring that the newcomers have the right circumstances in place to achieve their best potential once they are here, is a much more challenging objective. The current plan seems to be making moves in the right direction on all counts.
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