The Other Immigration Shoe Drops

by Reihan Salam

The Harper government has announced a new initiative that makes a great deal of sense for the Canadian economy, and that capitalizes on the U.S. failure to modernize our immigration laws to increase skilled immigration, both in absolute terms and as a share of the total authorized influx. Tobi Cohen of PostMedia News reports:

Canada is looking to poach Silicon Valley’s intrepid foreign up-and-comers as it launches a “first of its kind in the world” program that will grant immediate permanent residency to qualifying entrepreneurs starting April 1.

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said Thursday he will head down to America’s technology heartland once the program is in place to begin recruiting the “thousands of super bright young foreign nationals,” often from Asia, who are working at technology start-ups on temporary visas and may have to go home before they’ve been able to obtain their coveted U.S. Green Card.

“We see the bright, young, international tech developers in the U.S. who are stuck on temporary visas as an immediate market, if you will, for this program,” he said.

The icing on the cake comes a bit later:

A similar start-up visa for entrepreneurs was introduced in the U.S. nearly two years ago but has been stalled in Congress. Kenney said it’s an opportunity for Canada to get ahead of the pack because even countries with similar programs don’t offer the perk of immediate permanent residency – a “risk” he’s prepared to take even though not all entrepreneurs are successful.

“We don’t want to penalize people if they don’t succeed on their first start-up, we want to encourage them to make Canada their new home, to contribute in the long-term their human capital to Canada,” he said.

Note that the various startup visa proposals in the U.S. tend to impose somewhat more involved, difficult-to-enforce requirements. 

This is a wise course of action not just for Canada, but for the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC). One of more interesting aspects of Canadian politics is that modern Canadian national identity is often identified, particularly among Canadian intellectuals, with the cosmopolitan, social-democratic ideology associated with Pierre Trudeau, Canada’s charismatic, polarizing, and profoundly influential Liberal premier for much of the period from the late 1960s to the mid-1980s. Canada’s older national identity, rooted in its British and (complicatedly) French heritage, has been given short shrift in part due to the enormous demographic and cultural changes that occurred during the Trudeau years and after. At the heart of this post-Trudeau national narrative is the notion that Canada is deeply different from the U.S., and one of the most potent attacks on Canadian conservatives is that they are Americans in disguise.

And so it seems wise that the CPC burnish its nationalist credentials by, for example, taking a tough stance on Arctic sovereignty and demonstrating a desire to “leapfrog” over a U.S. economy that seems, to at least some foreigners, increasingly overregulated, sclerotic, and dysfunctional. This won’t necessarily be pleasant for U.S. conservatives of a nationalist bent, like myself, but the threat of robust competition can be a powerful driver of reform. The Canadians are, in my view, doing the U.S. a favor.

I’ll add that California’s climate is a real draw, but Canada’s biggest cities have their appeal.  

The Agenda

NRO’s domestic-policy blog, by Reihan Salam.