Conservative Leader Stephen Harper brought his campaign to the Greater Toronto Area this morning with an announcement aimed at helping new Canadians get their foreign credentials recognized so they can find work in their chosen professions.
- Analysis: Leaders' tours offer a glimpse at campaign strategies
- Trudeau accuses Mulcair of 'austerity'; Harper urges sticking to his plan
- Poll Tracker: See how the parties are doing
Harper announced new money for the Foreign Credential Recognition Loan program during a visit to a Markham, Ont., manufacturing plant.
"When doctors are driving taxis and engineers are waiting tables, Canada can do better and Canada must do better," Harper said.
The federal government introduced the loan program in 2011 as a pilot project. It was made permanent just this year, when the budget put aside $35 million for it over five years.
Harper promised Thursday to offer 20,000 more loans to immigrants wanting to get their credentials recognized, adding $8 million a year over the next five years to more than double the program.
He also promised to work with the provinces and territories to cut the time it takes for that recognition, from one year to 60 days for high-demand jobs.
According to Statistics Canada, 36 per cent of immigrants encounter financial barriers to getting their foreign credentials recognized. Fees can range from $100 to $25,000 and can include money for retraining to a Canadian standard, fees to write exams or licensing costs.
Harper argued that many new Canadians lack a credit history to get a loan from a regular bank, which is why the loan program was started as a pilot project in 2011.
Professionals affected range from physicians to those who work in the Red Seal trades, which include dozens of professions that have a set of nationally recognized standards, such as electricians, engineers and plumbers.
In the afternoon, Harper will hold a rally in Hamilton before returning to Ottawa.