New findings in economic sustainability could propel the federal Government of Canada to expand and reconfigure its permanent residency programs that focus on business investment and entrepreneur opportunities for foreign nationals. In recent years, Canada’s government has cut back and retired a number of programs including the Federal Immigrant Investor Program (FIIP) and Federal Entrepreneur Program. Reasons for the cutbacks were largely due to political concerns that the programs had minimal benefits and requirements too lax for attracting qualified investors. Provincial Nominee Programs (PNP), on the other hand, have been looking to streamline and improve their regulations, as local populations feel that foreign investors have been an advantage to their communities.
Provinces such as British Columbia claim that business immigration programs have brought over CAD $550 million in investments and more than 1,400 jobs to the area since 2010. In October of 2016, eager locals in New Brunswick partnered with the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce to create an incubator geared towards economic investment from foreign nationals. The pilot program, called Succession Connect, was created specifically to match immigrant entrepreneurs with existing Canadian businesses. With lengthier application processing times for permanent residence applications at the federal government level, New Brunswick’s municipal government argued the delays ultimately cost local Canadian economies thousands of dollars in missed business opportunities.
Today, Fredericton’s Hive Incubator, which operates under the Fredericton Business Immigrant Mentorship Program (BIMP), offers “Boot Camp” workshops that focus on mentoring new immigrants about the culture of Canadian business and practices. For six months, entrepreneurial newcomers to Canada are able to receive guidance on day-to-day business development as well as successfully expand their professional networks throughout the province.
While New Brunswick has taken steps to welcome business-minded individuals to the province, many other Canadian communities have populations nearing retirement and are now looking at foreign investment opportunities to give new life to aging businesses and economies. Recent studies have shown that older generations intend to pass their businesses on to non-relatives as younger Canadian generations have less interest in smaller, local industries. One study in particular revealed that nearly half of all small and mid-sized business owners will retire by 2022, which could spell disaster for the economy if Canadian youth remains apathetic to taking control of existing businesses. In a worst-case scenario, nearly one fourth of retiring business owners would be forced to close shop if a business’ ownership was not passed on to a qualified successor.
Dan Kelly, the chief executive officer for the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, has observed the lack of interest from younger Canadian populations. “What we really need as a country is to ensure that we have proper business immigration strategies that encourage people to come to Canada to own and run their own business.” Where interest is lacking in Canada’s small to mid-sized business sectors, foreign investors can fill the void, a belief held by many advocates seeking to improve and sustain local economies.
However, addressing aging populations in Canadian communities is only part and parcel to a larger concern for government officials. Although many Canadian residency by investment programs are still among the most desirable for foreign investors, countries offering business immigration schemes across the world are raising the bar by shortening application processing times. For Canada, applications are being processed at a significantly higher rate than in European or Caribbean countries. If Canada hopes to remain competitive in the residency by investment market, new federal programs, or changes to existing ones, could help shorten application processing times for future candidates. Supporters of Canada’s business immigration programs have reason to worry that potential investors who can bring their innovation, skills, and knowledge to the table are missing out on Canada—and that Canada is missing out on them.
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