The immigrant imperative: Why Canada can’t afford to continue to waste the skills of newcomers (Guest Commentary)

Attracting and integrating new immigrants into the community, workforce and economy important over next few years
By Gordon Nixon
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 09/18/2006

Immigration has historically been critical to Canada’s growth, yet there has seldom been a time in Canada’s history where immigration has been so important. In the next 20 years, we stand to gain more — or lose more — depending on how we handle immigration over the next few years. We must not only attract, but also improve how well we integrate new immigrants into our communities, our workforce and our economy.

Canada’s standard of living has lagged behind that of the United States for the last 25 years. Our competitive advantage is no longer driven by the resource industry, or by capital assets like plants, equipment and machinery. It is being driven by our ability to tap human capital so we can develop technology, improve productivity and develop creatively.

But Canada is a small nation. Our national birth rate just hit an historic low, and the workforce is aging. Clearly, we are going to have to import talented people to make up the gap, not just for labour intensive jobs, but for all levels. The global war for talent is heating up, and we’ll be going head-to-head with countries like Italy, Spain and Germany, whose birth-rates are falling as dramatically as ours, and whose workforce is also greying as quickly as ours.