Come to Canada! But only if you've got a job
Stories of Canada looking to poach British citizens are wildly exaggerated. We're only interested in professionals who can help us dig up oil
Heather Mallick guardian.co.uk, Wednesday July 2, 2008
I beg your pardon? Alberta. It's a western province of Canada. The Rockies? Edmonton? Calgary, had the Olympics in 1988? A variety of scenic spots named after various homely minor Royals of the Victorian era?
I know what will ring British bells. The tar sands. Alberta has oil, sadly mixed up with tar deep below the ground and extracting it will destroy water and land for generations to come, but never mind. Oil is the most-wanted fluid on earth next to water. Alberta has it, billions of dollars are rolling in and Alberta wants you to have a share because there aren't enough Canadians to get the muck out of the earth.
The province's minister of employment and immigration, an amiable farmer named Hector Goudreau, has been prowling the UK trying to lure what he sees as under-respected, underpaid, over-mortgaged Brits to come to sunny Alberta. The Mail on Sunday called his trip "one of the most audacious raids since Australia poached a million Britons – known as the £10 Poms after the fare they paid – in the 1950s and 1960s." It really thinks Brits wish to trade one country's high prices and dire schools and hospitals for another's.
But the Mail has it wrong, no surprises there, because it takes Goudreau at his word. Alberta wants skilled immigrants. If you can pick your way through the management jargon favoured by the province's government-is-a-business websites, they mean doctors, teachers, nurses and oilfield techies who already have a firm job offer. Interestingly, as of today, only nurses are listed in the "skilled immigrants wanted" section.
Alberta welcomed 14,000 foreigners in 2000, 20,000 in 2006 and claims it wants 50,000 this year, but it is by no means clear what they would do.
The official provincial website only has 100 job postings at the moment, a lot of them for hotel maids and short-order cooks. This means the temporary workers plan, which is desperate by definition.
Marina Lewycka just wrote a novel, Two Caravans, about the miseries of foreign strawberry pickers in Dover. Change strawberries to black goop and you have a recipe for suffering. The Alberta boom means huge prices for crap housing (so no change there, Londoners) and you'll have an intense earning experience accompanied by the Canadian winter, loneliness without your family, a taste of alcoholism, and a flight back home when the tar runs out.
I'm not sure if Britons are interested in Canadian motives, but our country is going through weird changes. The pro-immigrant federal Liberal party was voted out in favour of the profoundly anti-immigrant Conservatives. They and the provincial Alberta government compete to see who can be more rightwing. So I have doubts about the fast-track skilled immigrants program, which is intrinsically whim-based and a good way to conceal racist immigration rules.
I just received a sad email from an American immigrant who says moving to newly conservative Canada is like seeing a cool band from your youth. But when you get to the reunion concert, it's only the drummer and the bass player from the original band.
I'm sure Hector Goudreau means well. He was deputy mayor of Falher, population 1,109, the "honey capital of Canada". It has a giant bee on a stick. I suspect this was his first international trip, beyond that trip to Montana to buy seeds. A John Prescott without the sophistication and success with the ladies, he's in Britain because he thinks it's packed with white cockneys longing to clean Calgary's chimneys, guv.
If the NHS really feels its resentful junior doctors are going to be raided by colonials with oil, it should know that Canada has plenty of foreign-trained doctors who cannot get accreditation here and who are driving taxis with an understandable sense of grievance. I suspect they would move to Alberta with pleasure, being first in line and all.
So it's not all blue skies. Have your job offer framed and ready when you arrive at the border.
About this articleClose This article was first published on guardian.co.uk on Wednesday July 02 2008. It was last updated at 19:30 on July 02 2008.