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Alberta government considering immigration changes during pandemic

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Premier Jason Kenney says changes are coming to Alberta’s immigration practices as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Although the government won’t yet release details, the premier said the province can accommodate fewer newcomers as a result of global travel restrictions and Alberta’s economic crisis. He made the comments during a Facebook live video question and answer session on Wednesday night.

He said the government will push Alberta employers to “do everything they possibly can to look within Alberta to the huge and growing number of unemployed people” when hiring.

A formal policy announcement should come within weeks, a government spokesperson said Thursday.

However, immigration lawyers cautioned any rapid changes to immigration rules could have unintended consequences.

Although business prospects are rough right now, Calgary lawyer Evelyn Ackah said they will bounce back. When they do, they’re going to need immigrants to do the jobs Canadians just won’t do, she said.

Few Canadians apply for jobs in slaughterhouses or at fast-food restaurants, lawyers say.

Evelyn Ackah is a Calgary lawyer and founder of Ackah Business Immigration Law. (Submitted by Evelyn Ackah)

Ackah said as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, prospective immigrants are contacting her from China and India. They’re interested in buying and running businesses in Canada. Those job creators are who the province should be attracting, she said.

“Quick changes, boom boom boom, they have long repercussions and it takes a long time to resolve, and so, I really want to not let this crisis change the direction and the trajectory of immigration’s process,” she said.

Limited provincial control

With immigration being federal jurisdiction, there are limited steps Alberta’s government could take to curtail newcomers, said Megan Dawson, a partner at McCuaig Durocher in Edmonton.

The Alberta Immigrant Nominee Program allows the provincial government to select immigrants who are already working temporarily in Alberta to apply for permanent resident status if their skills and education fill an economic need in the province.

It’s a joint program with the federal and provincial government. In 2019, the province sponsored 6,000 immigrants through the program. From January 2015 to March 2020, nearly 50,000 people came to Alberta through the program, said Adrienne South, press secretary to the minister of labour and immigration.

The nominated immigrants are a fraction of the more than 232,000 people who became Canadian permanent residents during the same time period and intended to live in Alberta.

The federal government controls the admission of temporary foreign workers, refugees and other express entry newcomers, Dawson said.

Employers must often recruit workers with specialized knowledge and skills when people with the right training can’t be found in the province, she said.

Those economic immigrants often train Albertans and help companies create new jobs for locals, she said.

Alberta has a list of workers it doesn’t need, including teachers, actors, athletes and real estate agents. Dawson said the province could potentially expand that list of categories.

“There already are safeguards in place to show, that we did our best to hire Canadians for this job first,” she said.

“I think the ramifications could be potentially unintended or unexpected in a negative sense for some Alberta businesses if they’re not able to staff their business with foreign workers.” 

Pandemic slowed immigration process

Although the provincial immigrant nominee is still accepting applications, the lawyers say the pandemic has made the bureaucracy of immigration more difficult.

Ackah said some temporary workers in the midst of applying for permanent residency have been laid off, which could affect their eligibility.

Government programs have been accommodating and allowed extensions while applicants seek jobs in their fields, she said.

Other people ready to come to Canada can’t find flights or cross borders due to travel restrictions.

Dawson said offices that process visas and collect biometric data, such as fingerprints, are also closed.

“There’s essentially a large pause button on people trying,” she said.

According to Statistics Canada, the proportion of Alberta’s population consisting of immigrants more than doubled between 2001 and 2016. During the last census in 2016, nearly 24 per cent of people living in Alberta were immigrants.

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This essential worker’s child-care costs have almost tripled during COVID-19

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A Halifax-area veterinarian says she’s spending nearly three times the amount of money on child care during COVID-19, and she wants the province to step up and help essential workers who are struggling financially.

Nova Scotia is the only province in Canada that hasn’t kept regulated child-care centres open for essential workers. Despite a promise by the premier in early May to reassess that approach, Dr. Lindsay MacNeil said she’s still waiting.

“There’s really not a lot of help for that and by not a lot, I guess I mean none,” MacNeil, who works at Metro Animal Emergency Clinic in Dartmouth, N.S., told CBC’s Maritime Noon on Monday.

MacNeil is a single parent and said she’s working extra shifts to afford to pay for a babysitter to care for her three-year-old daughter.

Before COVID-19, she said she spent about $800 a month at a licensed daycare, and a full-time babysitter who comes to her home now costs her about $2,200 a month.

MacNeil worries essential workers are having to choose between work and making sure their kids are looked after. (Dr. Lindsay MacNeil)

“It’s really made me kind of have to sit down and really watch what we’re spending on,” MacNeil said. “Having it almost triple is a big hit to take during anytime, especially when there’s already a lot of stressors happening.”

MacNeil was able to find a babysitter on Kijiji who was willing to only work with her family, and she said she’s thankful she was able to find someone she trusts.

The province initially suggested parents who needed to work could still use unregulated child-care operations, which have remained open, but MacNeil said those spots filled up quickly.

“So there’s really nobody else that I can rely on,” she said. “And there are a number of people that I can think of in my life that are experiencing this and I can only imagine there are even more.”

At the beginning of May, Premier Stephen McNeil said his government would evaluate the child-care needs of essential service workers after students at Dalhousie University who were providing child care for health-care workers called on the government to do more.

June 8 reopening uncertain

Licensed daycares have been closed since late March and while the province has set June 8 as a target date to reopen, it’s unclear whether that date will be met.

MacNeil said she’s not advocating that daycares reopen before it’s safe to do so. Rather, she wants the province to provide some form of financial aid to offset the higher costs of daycare.

“I think there’s a lot of people in this position and we’re kind of asking and reaching out and trying to verbalize that this is a concern and we need more support, but it’s falling on deaf ears,” she said.

What the province is doing

In a statement from the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, the province said a group of child-care representatives is working with public health to establish a plan to reopen the licensed child-care sector.

The department also said it’s committed to working with essential workers to address their needs.

“To ensure families are not paying for a service they cannot access, the department directed licensed child-care providers to not charge families fees during this time,” a statement said.

“Unlicensed childcare providers have continued to operate and provide an important service to fill the child-care needs of families during COVID-19, including essential workers.”

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Schools expected to reopen to staff June 1, says English school district

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Newfoundland and Labrador English School District director of education Tony Stack says schools are expected to reopen to teachers next week. File photo. (Peter Cowan/CBC)

Schools in the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District are expected to reopen to teachers next week, according to director of education Tony Stack.

In a memo sent to staff Monday, Stack said the district expects the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development to make the announcement that schools will reopen June 1 to teachers, teaching assistants and secretaries for the remainder of the school year. 

Teachers and staff are expected to close out the current school year by completing transition plans for students, preparing final report cards — which will be issued the week of June 22 — and completing two professional learning courses. 

Teachers are also expected to begin preparation for the next school year. 

“We acknowledge that, at present, public health authorities continue to encourage working from home where possible. I am also aware that some of you have geographical limitations, health concerns, or issues regarding the care of family members that may, wholly or partially, prevent you going into your school,” Stack said.

Stack said staff can continue to work from home, providing they complete the work to close out the school year. 

Home-learning plans will be suspended June 5 to allow teachers time to complete their final tasks and focus on preparing for 2020-21, Stack said. 

Stack said in the memo the school district has been expecting the announcement for some time, adding that custodial staff will play a key role in preparation for next year. 

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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Laurentian Bank renews its partnership with Mackenzie Investments to offer an exclusive series of mutual funds to its personal customers

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MONTREAL, May 25, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Laurentian Bank announced today that is has extended an existing partnership with Mackenzie Investments (Mackenzie) by three years.  The agreement will see Mackenzie continue to provide fund management services for an exclusive series of mutual funds for Laurentian Bank’s personal customers.

“We are very pleased to renew this partnership with Mackenzie Investments. They have been a trusted partner to us over the years and we value their commitment to innovation and solid reputation in the investment community. We’re proud to leverage their expertise to the benefit of our customers by offering a simple, competitive and innovative series of Mackenzie mutual funds,” stated Stéphane Therrien, Executive Vice President, Personal & Commercial Banking of Laurentian Bank and President and Chief Executive Officer of LBC Financial Services.

Since 2012, Laurentian Bank has worked with Mackenzie to provide its customers with an exclusive series of mutual funds. Through this partnership, Laurentian Bank’s personal customers have access to a range of over 60 funds to meet their investment needs.

“Our long-standing partnership with Laurentian Bank is important to us and we’re delighted that we’ll be continuing  to work together to help their customers achieve their financial goals, whether it be the purchase of a home, funding for education or being able to achieve their dream retirement lifestyle,” said Barry McInerney, President & CEO, Mackenzie Investments.  “Mackenzie’s investment management team is committed to providing investors with access to solutions based on performance, choice and innovation.”  

Mutual funds are distributed by LBC Financial Services Inc. (LBCFS), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Laurentian Bank of Canada. Mutual funds offered by LBCFS are part of the Laurentian Bank Group of Funds managed by Mackenzie Investments.

About Laurentian Bank Financial Group

Founded in 1846, Laurentian Bank Financial Group is a diversified financial services provider whose mission is to help its customers improve their financial health. The Laurentian Bank of Canada and its entities are collectively referred to as Laurentian Bank Financial Group (the “Group” or the “Bank”).

With more than 3,200 employees guided by the values of proximity, simplicity and honesty, the Group provides a broad range of advice-based solutions and services to its personal, business and institutional customers. With pan-Canadian activities and a presence in the U.S., the Group is an important player in numerous market segments.

The Group has $44 billion in balance sheet assets and $29 billion in assets under administration.

About Mackenzie Investments

Mackenzie Investments was founded in 1967 and is a leading investment management firm providing investment advisory and related services. With $135.6 billion in assets under management as of April 30, 2020, Mackenzie Investments distributes its investment services through multiple distribution channels to both retail and institutional investors. Mackenzie Investments is a member of the IGM Financial Inc. (TSX: IGM) group of companies. IGM Financial is one of Canada’s premier financial services companies with $159.4 billion in total assets under management as of April 30, 2020. For more information, visit mackenzieinvestments.com.

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