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Change immigration system to attract more skilled trades: RESCON

October 19, 2022  By Don Horne

The Residential Construction Council of Ontario (RESCON) is calling on Ottawa to substantially reform the immigration system to allow more foreign-trained skilled trades workers to come to the country, introduce significant changes to stimulate housing supply, and provide financial help so municipalities can improve and expand critical infrastructure projects.

“We must have a sustainable workforce to build the 1.5 million new homes that are needed in the next 10 years,” says RESCON president Richard Lyall. “The industry will need more than 100,000 additional workers by the end of the decade across all sectors of construction. Domestic training and hiring alone will not offset these shortages. We must attract more trades from other countries.”

RESCON outlined its position on the three issues in a federal pre-budget submission sent recently to the Standing Committee on Finance. The submission details crucial steps to ensure housing supply and affordability issues are addressed and outlines specific actions that should be taken by government.

On immigration, RESCON wants the government to grant greater autonomy to Ontario and establish a separate program stream for skilled construction workers. This would allow Ontario to identify eligible skilled workers and speed-up review and approvals of their residency applications.

The immigration system has disproportionately favoured applicants with formal education, certificates, language skills and financial resources. Voluntary trades in residential construction don’t require formal certificates, so foreign workers who are looking to come to Canada often don’t qualify.

RESCON is also requesting that the government unlock unused federally owned land and create incentive-based tax programs to spur housing supply. Specifically, RESCON is recommending that construction of residential buildings be exempt from HST, and the government re-establish programs that eliminate taxes on profits of housing projects if the funds are reinvested into new ones.

Meanwhile, RESCON is urging the government to be ready to work with the province to provide municipalities with additional financial help to fill budget funding gaps caused by the pandemic so that work on critical infrastructure projects like public transportation and road building can continue.

Canada presently has the lowest amount of housing per capita and the highest cost of housing in the G7. Lack of supply has made housing – both rental and ownership – unaffordable for many in Ontario.

“Demand for housing in Ontario is not going away,” says Lyall. “If we are to build enough homes for our growing population, it is crucial that we take steps to welcome more immigrants with construction skills to Canada and help the industry reach that goal. The steps outlined by RESCON will ensure we have the necessary labour and incentivize builders to build the much-needed housing.”

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