By Adrian Morrow and Anna Mehler Paperny
Toronto — The struggle for suburban ridings whose rightward turns helped determine the outcome of last spring’s federal vote heated up a day before the Ontario provincial election campaign officially kicks off, with the Liberals and Progressive Conservatives taking sharply different tacks to court new Canadians.
Liberal Leader Dalton McGuinty pledged to offer tax incentives for businesses to employ skilled immigrants. Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak dismissed the policy as a “handout” that patronizes those it aims to help, before coming under attack from former conservative leader John Tory for “stirring” fear the Liberals would disadvantage non-immigrant workers.
While new Canadians and their advocates were receptive to Grit promises of greater assistance entering the job market, employers were more tepid, with some expressing skepticism such a program would bear fruit.
The Liberal plan would make businesses eligible for a tax credit of $10,000 for each immigrant hired in professions such as accounting, law, engineering and architecture.
The unemployment rate for those who have been in this country five years or less is twice that of Canadian-born workers, a gaping disparity that is even worse for the best-educated immigrants.
“Newcomers come to Canada, and every time they look for a job, they’re asked, ‘Do you have any Canadian experience?’ And when they don’t have any, they end up doing all this labour work or jobs not related to their profession,” said Brampton resident Jagdish Grewal, 44, publisher and editor of the Punjabi Post, who emigrated from India.
Elizabeth McIsaac, executive director of the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council, compared the Liberals’ idea to the province’s “second career” retraining program for people who lost their jobs during the recession. “That was a targeted approach. It wasn’t to the exclusion of other people,” she said. “This is not saying we’re excluding other Ontarians. This is saying there’s a group of people in Ontario who need particular help to get into the labour market.”