Kenney promises real action on recognising foreign credentials, introduction of fairness legislation
EDMONTON, AB (February 26, 2019): Alberta has always been a magnet for immigration, and Albertans have benefitted enormously from the skills and entrepreneurial drive that newcomers have brought with them.
But too many immigrants arrive with great hopes and skills that Canada needs, only to become trapped in survival jobs because it can take years for Canadian businesses and professional licensing bodies to recognize the credentials they earned elsewhere.
“This ‘doctors-driving-taxis’ syndrome is an enormous waste of potential,” United Conservative Leader Jason Kenney said today. “New immigrants with university degrees are four times more likely to be unemployed than university grads born in Canada, causing great stress for many immigrant families. The Conference Board of Canada estimates that the underemployment of immigrants is costing the Canadian economy up to $12.7 billion annually, and billions of dollars in tax revenues for governments.”
Kenney announced that a United Conservative government will implement an ambitious action plan to knock down unfair barriers to the full economic inclusion of new Albertans, while maintaining Alberta’s high professional standards.
“We will implement our Fairness for Newcomers Action Plan to work with trade and professional licensing bodies to streamline, simplify and accelerate foreign credential recognition. Our goal is that applicants for licensure will have a clear answer in six months or less.”
Kenney added that under the Fairness for Newcomers Action Plan, regulatory bodies that placed unreasonable barriers to credential recognition would be called out and held accountable.
“We will pass a Fair Access to Regulated Professions and Trades Act based on a similar Ontario law, to ensure that regulated professions assess credentials with transparency, objectivity, impartiality and fairness.”
“To show that fairness for newcomers is a serious priority, I will host a Premier’s Summit on Fairness for Newcomers,” Kenney said. “We will invite all of Alberta’s professional and trade regulators, together with immigrants, employers, and settlement agencies to develop a strategy for Alberta to have the fastest and fairest assessment of foreign credentials and education in Canada.”
“We’ll be putting foreign-credential recognition on the agenda of the First Ministers Meeting. We need faster action on the Pan-Canadian Framework for the Assessment and Recognition of Foreign Qualifications, which is the national effort to get regulatory bodies across Canada to harmonize their credentialing procedures.”
The UCP Fairness for Newcomers Plan will have a budget of $2.5 million, a coordinating office, and oversight from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Immigration. The office will also:
- Create an Alberta Government Mentorship for Newcomers Program, modelled on a similar federal program, to match immigrant professionals with mentors in the public service who can help to guide them through the process of credential recognition and finding employment at their skill level.
- Support and expand the work of the International Qualifications Assessment Service (created by a previous Progressive Conservative government) that assesses foreign degrees against the Canadian post-secondary standard.
- Work with non-profit groups such as Windmill Microlending (formerly the Alberta Immigrant Access Fund) to expand access to low-interest loans to immigrant professionals who need bridge financing to upgrade their skills and pay for certification exams.
- Support the work of immigrant settlement agencies to offer skills upgrading to underemployed foreign professionals.
- Work with the federal government to offer pre-arrival orientation to foreign nationals selected for permanent residency in Alberta to encourage them to apply for credential recognition and educational assessments before they arrive in Canada.
Kenney described large scale underemployment of immigrants as a moral issue.
“It simply isn’t right to invite people to leave the high paying professions in their countries of origin, only to end up working in survival jobs while their skills deteriorate,” Kenney said. “This is an immoral waste of human potential, and creates great heartache, shame, and stress for too many new Alberta families. They simply deserve a fair shot at contributing fully to our society.”
Said Kenney, “The Fairness for Newcomers Action Plan will be the most ambitious effort by any provincial government to remove unfair barriers to full integration into the labour market. Making the most of talented new Albertans will be a key part of our plan to renew the Alberta Advantage, and get our economy back to work.”