Crawl Across the Ocean

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Taking a Brick Out of the Wall

Andrew mentions a new bill (pdf) in Ontario designed to make it easier for immigrants with professional training/credentials in their countries of origin to practice in Ontario.

I don't think there are many who would argue against the motive of this bill, but Andrew, and George Jonas (who Andrew quotes), seem to feel that it would be better to do something else, rather than this particular bill. Specifically, Andrew says (and Jonas pretty much says), "introducing new layers of government and red tape is not the solution." and that it would be better if "Professional associations should be encouraged to accept recent immigrants into their trade."

The bill creates the position of Fairness Commissioner, responsible for enforcing compliance with the bill, which basically stipulates that professional associations have to treat immigrants in a fair manner, not putting ridiculous barriers up against them getting accredited in Ontario or subjecting them to unreasonably lengthy/costly/opaque procedural/information barriers.

In addition, the bill sets aside funding for an "Access Centre for Internationally Trained Individuals." According to the government, the Access Centre would:

"- provide information about how to obtain licensure/registration to anyone trained internationally in a regulated profession.
-become a centre of excellence for information and assistance to employers, post-secondary organizations and community agencies on internships and mentorships for newcomers."

Personally, I think it is a pretty good idea and it made me wonder if BC has done or is considering something similar. Here is what I wrote in the comment's at Andrew's site (yes I am too lazy to come up with original content for my blog, so be it)...


What would you suggest they do instead? Encouraging professional associations to change is not an answer, government has being doing that for years, if not decades, you might as well 'encourage' the tobacco companies to not try and convince people to smoke.

Put yourselves in the shoes of a skilled immigrant from overseas - if this bill works as intended, it will mean the creation of a central information repository where you can find out all the requirements needed to gain registration in your field in Ontario.

In addition, in the past a professional organization might have subjected you to absurd qualification requirements (years or repeating courses you have already taken, thousands of dollars in application fees) or rejected your registration application with no reason given, and simply ignored or dragged out to ridiculous lengths any attempt to gain an explanation for or appeal the decision.

Now professional organizations will have a real incentive to ensure that they treat foreign applications in a timely manner, and to tear down some of the unnecessary hoops they've set up for people to jump through, just to protect their own salaries.

There is a certain amount of bureaucracy involved, but from reading the bill it doesn't seem onerous. I imagine the true impact of the bill will most likely be in professional associations being aware that someone is watching them, to ensure that their procedures pass a reasonableness test.

I'm not really sure what the specific objection you and Jonas have, beyond not liking the word 'fair' and not wanting the government to hire someone to enforce the law.

Sometimes it puzzles me that the same people who would be keen to see more policeman hired to enforce a law against, say, trespassing, are dead set against hiring someone to enforce a law which prevents the powerful from enriching themselves at the expense of poor immigrants who could contribute greatly to our society. The former, apparently, is law and order which is good, while the latter is red tape and regulation, which is bad.

It seems like an arbitrary distinction to crack down on those harmful acts which are obvious, while letting slide those which are subtle. Or perhaps it is cracking down on those acts committed by the weak, while letting slide those committed by the powerful. Maybe those two criteria are one and the same. Either way, it doesn't make a lot of sense to me.

For some more commentary on this topic (from an American perspective), I recommend chapter 1 of Dean Baker's freely available online book, 'The Conservative Nanny-State'. Here's a taste:

"In 1997 Congress tightened the licensing rules for foreign doctors entering the country because of concerns by the American Medical Association and other doctors' organizations that the inflow of foreign doctors was driving down their salaries. As a result, the number of foreign medical residents allowed to enter the country each year was cut in half.

For some reason, the editorial boards, political pundits, and trade economists managed to completely ignore this protectionist measure, even though its impact dwarfed the impact of most of the "free trade" trade agreements that they have promoted so vigorously. If free trade in physicians brought doctors’ salaries down to European levels, the savings would be close to $100,000 per doctor, approximately $80 billion a year. This is 10 times as large as standard estimates of the gains from NAFTA.

Most people probably do not realize that the protectionist barriers that keep out foreign professionals are actually quite extensive."


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