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Canada: budget adds to “long-term competitiveness”

Canada’s 2022 budget is largely “aligning with college and institute priorities” and they will have a “key role to play”, but few measures are “directly targeted” at the postsecondary sector, stakeholders have said.

In a key move for international students, the Canadian government will be providing $385.7m to facilitate a "timely and efficient" immigration system. Photo: Pexels

Few measures are “directly targeted” at the postsecondary sector

In a key move for international students, the Canadian government will be providing CAD$385.7 million to “facilitate the timely and efficient entry of a growing number of visitors, workers and students” over the next five years.

“The new budget commitments will contribute to the long-term competitiveness of Canada’s immigration system,” Universities Canada president Paul Davidson told The PIE News.

“We look forward to working with the government on the implementation of these commitments to ensure international students benefit from timely and accurate visa processing,” he added.

“The new budget commitments will contribute to long-term competitiveness”

While post-secondary is not a major focus of the budget, announced April 7, CICan does concede that colleges and institutes are receiving measures that are encouraging, including “welcoming students back to Canada”.

“Despite few measures directly targeted at the postsecondary sector, budget 2022 includes many new initiatives on the environment, the labour market, innovation, and economic growth that align well with our members’ priorities,” said CICan’s president and CEO, Denise Amyot.

“It is clear that colleges and institutes will have a key role to play in achieving the government’s objectives, whether it’s stimulating the economy, fostering innovation, achieving net-zero emissions or helping Canadians going through challenging times,” she continued.

The budget outlines what is called the “Immigration Levels Plan”. Among “firm global humanitarian commitments” and “helping reunited family members with their loved ones”, it also promises to “continue to be home to the talents of those already in Canada” – including international students.

“International students will play a critical role in Canada’s social and economy recovery post-Covid, and over the long-term,” a representative of the Canadian Bureau of International Education told The PIE.

“We are hopeful that this [$385.7m] investment will help to streamline and simplify processes, address current backlog of applications and build towards a future where visitors, workers, and students feel confident in their decisions to make Canada their temporary or permanent home,” they continued.

Including the pledge to resettle at least 40,000 Afghan refugees, the Immigration Levels Plan – which may result in an even stronger Canadian international graduate route to permanent residency – has been promised $2.1 billion over five years and $317.6m in ongoing funding.

The commitment to international students is promising, considering that Canada is the top choice destination for “one in four prospective students”.

CBIE, though, does suggest that access to a “broad range of settlement and wraparound support services is needed”.

“International students would benefit from interventions that seek to deepen community connections and bridge campus and community experiences across the student journey,” the spokesperson said.

Another promising aspect of the budget directly affects institutions themselves and their domestic student cohorts – as the Canada Student Grants amount will be doubled until next July, and interest of Canada Student Loans will have interest waived through to March.

“What’s missing is a renewed commitment to discovery research in the face of increasing global competition”

Additionally, Davidson pointed to the fact that while “important commitments” have been made in the realm of scholarships and the like, it has not yet gone far enough in terms of keeping up with the rest of the world.

“Budget 2022 makes some important commitments including investments in scholarships and fellowships for promising black student researchers, new Canada Excellence Research Chairs, support to build research security at Canadian Universities and funding to support commercialisation.

“That said, what’s missing is a renewed commitment to discovery research in the face of increasing global competition, and investments to enable universities to tackle the challenges of climate change,” he noted.

CICan also agreed with this stance, urging the government to look at the infrastructure footprint of the “686 college campuses” which should also have been taken into account when looking at the country’s “green infrastructure investments”.

It also mentioned that the new funding made available for research security, as Davidson mentioned, was a “pleasing” development – and “coupled with last year’s investments” into the College and Community Innovation Program, research partnerships will be strengthened as a result.

While the want for international talent is still a priority, CBIE did relent that it is not always in the best interests to try and recruit constantly.

“Not all international students who apply to Canadian institutions plan to remain after completing their studies – nor is this a desirable outcome for Canada or source countries.

“A balanced approach will help to ensure we are not poaching talent from vulnerable or less resilient countries who desperately need to preserve and grow their human capital,” the CBIE representative added.

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