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Also available is my new eBook, "How To Immigrate To Canada In The Family Class: The Authoritative Guide Including Québec And Super Visa Opportunities". Get it at Amazon or the other e-retailers noted above.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Holiday blues

Just spent my first holiday in 4-years without her. Not really looking forward to December right now. We had great Christmastimes together, even with the strain of travel and separation. Our first year together we happened on a Santa taking pictures and thought, why not? It's a happy picture of a happy time. New Years were always together there or here, and though we could rarely stay awake, especially if we were on West Coast time, we still shared the hope of the year to come together. I miss even being able to look forward to that now.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Minister Joe Volpe will Fix You

Immigration Minister Announces Significant Investment in Fixing Canada's Immigration System

Well here I am celebrating another American Thanksgiving Day and what do I read in the RSS feed from the government of Canada but this holiday offering. Immigration Minister Joe Volpe plans to put $700 million CDN over the next five-years into fixing the chronic problems within his ministry.

The goal of this spending is to decrease the huge backlog of applicants as well as fund programs to evaluate and fast-track those applicants who have job skills Canada is looking for.

Of course, the government and business probably have differing ideas of the profile of those skilled populations. The press release specifically mentions "...moving to actively recruit those who best meet Canada’s labour market needs—such as temporary foreign workers and international students already in Canada..." Which seems to imply those who would populate the lower levels of the labor market (temporary farm workers and entry level professional services), rather than the "Skilled Worker" class - where Canada is by all reports in desparate need of talent.

Perhaps this indicates the political nature of this announcement. It surely couldn't offend anyone: backlog of applicants gets cleared up, labour needs are addressed, but no current citizen's job is threatened. Brilliant!

Let's hope now that this plan is on the table, that should another government inherit the leadership in the coming election, they will still choose to follow through on the core ideas it represents.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

A clear night before the snowfall

The forecast says snow, but there hasn't been a sign of it all day...This is a panorama taken over time using the remote-controlled web cam on top of Panorama and composited in Photoshop. Click on the image to see the full-sized version.

From "Experience the breathtaking view from Panorama's restaurant patio, atop the Manulife Centre at Bloor and Bay Sts., and change the scene with full pan, tilt and zoom controls. "

Monday, November 21, 2005

Millions into Ontario immigration - a few years from now

The Globe and Mail: Ottawa putting millions into Ontario immigration

Let's hope this isn't just another pre-election bartering tool, but the Liberals are finally stepping up to cut a deal with Ontario to help with the expenses associated with new immigrants. Everyone in the government is well aware that of all the Provinces, Ontario is the number one destination for new immigrants to Canada, and Toronto is the primary destination within Ontario.

The only big issue with this announcement is the time it's going to take to implement. Minister Volpe says 5-years. That means only a fraction of the 625,000 immigrants to Ontario over the next 5-years will benefit from this boost in spending.

Provincial Conservative immigration critic Frank Klees also argued the impact of Monday's announcement will be too slow in coming.

"Why has this minister signed an agreement that's going to take five years to phase in," he said.

"It's couched with waffle words that mean nothing to the fathers and the mothers who are desperate today for an opportunity to earn an income and to work in their professions."

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Hockey Night

I love Saturday nights. On Saturday nights, even from Seattle, I feel connected to home. Why? Because Saturday night is Hockey Night in Canada!

The CBC shows a double-header each weekend during hockey season, hosted by Ron McLean, with the pre-game show starting at 3:30pm on the West Coast and games running on to the post-game ends around 10pm. It's a lot of fun to watch the games. I get together with my brother and we cheer on the Maple Leafs (who are fortunate enough to get on many weekends), and depending on who else is playing, we may be at odds. Still - it's a fun night that I look forward to each week.

On Hockey Night, I feel connected to my adopted Canada. I know all over that country to the north that many folks are gathered, just like me and my brother to watch and cheer. We hope Matts scores, we hope Ty wins whatever fight he gets into, we scream at Eddie to "STAY IN THE NET!"

Hockey is an amazing sport. The greatest sport, if you ask me. I can skate, barely, and when you know how difficult simply skating can be, then you really appreciate hockey for what it is. These players are moving at 15-20mph (convert that into kilometers if you must), keeping a small frozen disc moving between them , getting hit, stopping and turning on a dime, and trying to place it within one of five holes that the goalie may or may not make available.

In the "new" NHL, it's fast and it's fluid and it all adds up to equal a blast to watch.

One day I'll enjoy a game at the ACC. But that'll be , like I have learned to say about the Leaf's playoff hopes - next year...

(p.s. The Leafs won tonight!)

Friday, November 18, 2005

Tick, tock, and Ka-ching

I was thinking the other night that, much to my surprise, time still is flying by. It wont be very long until I'll have to get serious again about getting all my documents together to prepare for my submission to CIC. One of the big decisions I have to make is whether to engage an immigration lawyer or not. Fankly, the last time around my ex and I worked with two of them, and they were less than sensational. One was a joke and the second really didn't prepare us for what would turn out to be the key issues of our case when it came down to it. So I'm really thinking carefully about it this time around. It's expensive for one thing...$3-5000 CDN on average. And it's difficult - more difficult now for me to work with a lawyer in Toronto that I'll not be seeing throughout most of the process.

Other expenses are coming soon too - need lots of cash in the bank ($10K CDN) because there isn't any support for skilled workers coming in...$400+ US for medical exams - again...and if I'm landed, another $1000 CDN landing tax.

So time to earn and time to save, because time to spend is coming soon. The clock is ticking.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Too heavy - let's have some fun

I noticed the blog was getting a little too heavy, so I thought today that I'd share some places with you to have fun in Toronto, if you're so inclined. At least these are places where I have had fun there.

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St. Lawrence Market on a Saturday morning (92 Front Street East). Be sure and check out the cheese shop! Yum.

Nathan Phillips Square in the Winter (100 Queen St. W.). Bring your skates and trip around the ice. Get some fries and poutine from the van on Queen Street W. when you get cold.

Toronto Eaton Centre
anytime at all (The Centre is bordered by Dundas Street (north), Yonge Street (east), Queen Street (south), and Bay Street (west). Conveniently located on both the subway (TTC) and PATH system). If you like to shop - and who doesn't sometimes - there is more to see at Eaton Centre than you can shake a fist at. And there's always a good people watching show going on at Dundas Square.

PATH - "PATH is downtown Toronto's underground walkway linking 27 kilometres of shopping, services and entertainment. Follow PATH and you'll reach your downtown destination easily in weatherproof comfort." This place is fun to get lost in - though you're never really lost. Nice weird shops to discover on a winter day.

The Entertainment District (bordered by Queen Street W., Younge Street, Lakeshore Blvd. and Spadina Ave.) Go on, see a show! There's always something cooking at night. The district is so big, there HAS to be!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Sad use of political power

I just came across this article in the Star from a few days back. It's a sad example of politicians and their impact on people they will never meet.

That anyone who doesn't understand the human toll of their power over the lives of others is put in a position of authority is a sad injustice. I know this isn't unique to Canada. It's just sad.

Spite takes human toll
2005-11-11 20:35:37 [Editorials]
It would be a shame if even one woman were to miss her Canadian grandchild's first steps just because six opposition MPs on the Commons immigration committee felt like delivering a slap on the wrist to Immigration Minister Joe Volpe.

Funds for the landed, not for the limboed

Some details have been presented regarding the Liberal plan to pump $1.3B into immigration programs, and it turns out that these funds will be directed toward "settlement services" with literally not a single dime going to clear up the backlog of 700,000 awaiting the glacial progress of the CIC, according to an article published in yesterday's Toronto Star ($5B boost for workforce 2005-11-15 00:47:45).

If it wasn't clear that the Liberals are "buying votes with the people's money," then the application of these funds to the problems of immigrants proposed by Goodale and Martin should help us understand. None of this money is going to help fix chronic problems with the CIC. It is all going toward those that are already landed in Canada. I'm imagining a number of those that would benfit would be individuals who, after struggling for years to integrate into the population and job markets, are actually citizens who actually vote.

Get it? "Vote Liberal, we help."

In the meantime, there are still families that are separated, skilled workers who can't get in and business visitors who can't get more than 30-seconds of an official's time.

"But Goodale's mini-budget offers no funding to tackle the chronic problems that face the immigration system now, such as a backlog of 700,000 people caught in limbo abroad, waiting to come to Canada.

Those problems are a "work in progress," an immigration department official said yesterday.

And while the document talks about the need for more immigrants — federal Liberals have mused about boosting Canada's annual target to 320,000 a year — there's no extra money earmarked to open Canada's doors any wider."

Get it now? Goodale and Martin's plan are simply ploys to gain votes as far as I can see. Where is the leadership on immigration issues and their value to Canada? This is exactly something the Prime Minister should be addressing or at least insisting that Immigration Minister Joe Volpe develop an agenda for.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Election money for immigration

It's clear that a federal election is in the making in Ottawa with the announcement of $97 billion dollars to be returned to Canadian taxpayers over 5-years according to Finance Minister Ralph Goodale, with an immediate cut in tax rates to individuals earning under $35K from 16% to 15%. And there's more - $1.3b in aid for new immigrants too!

But of course...only if the Liberals are re-elected.

It's interesting that this money was "found" in the Federal Budget on the eve of an election...It seems like a sweet late Fall carrot dangled in front of those with something to gain from the Liberal agenda. Include those businesses that would benefit from corporate tax breaks and it looks like you'd have to be, well, a critical thinker to vote for any party but the Liberals.

But ask yourself, Canadian voters - where was this accounting throughout the Liberal's agenda over Paul Martin's term? Why now? Clearly, this play for your wallets is a play for your votes.

The Liberals have a pretty poor record with overall fiscal management, especially in light of Gomery. While I have to applaud a government that will take no more than it needs and work to return the rest, I have to wonder, when I hear so much about improvements needed in access to healthcare and other federal programs (including an understaffed CIC), why the taxes collected wouldn't go to these much needed improvements.

I do hope that despite which party ends up in power after the next election, that programs are supported and new ones created that will assist immigrants. The $1.3B Goodale wants to pump into immigration would certainly be welcome - by me and 700,000 others who reportedly want to eventually make Canada their home.

It will be interesting to see if Canadians vote for their wallets or for their country and each other's best interests (whatever they determine those are) come January.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Condo go Boom!

Ever since I started making plans to come to Canada, there has been a condo building boom going on in Toronto. I haven't known the city I love without construction cranes. My ex told me you had to be careful in buying into new construction - there wasn't enough labor to build them half the time and occupancy that should occur in a couple years would drag on to 3, 4...or never at all as the developer went insovent and took your deposit with him to Cuba. Scary.

Now that I have a little time on my hands, I'm sort of glad for all the activity of this frenzied market. From what I can tell, there's a lot of speculation in the market and a lot of overbuilding. Sure, all of us new Torontonians are going to need housing, but come on - not at $500K a pop. Not when we're (stereotype) driving taxis while you consider our credientials!

But good old basic economics tells us is that where there is supply in excess of demand; prices drop.

So come on housing bubble - BURST! But not until I'm ready to come to town.

If you're looking for a place, check out the MLS for Toronto Central. I have my own preloaded for a nice price pocket. You also might want to check out the hilarious Brad Lamb (masterful self-promoter and "King of the Lofts"). His team are actually some pretty cool people (personal experience).

Though...when I think of it...I just might rent.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Things to do for those who are waiting

Any of you who are readers here will know that I've been in this immigration process for awhile now. And due to the change in my situation, I will have to get used to waiting some more, unfortunately. But they do say good things come to those that wait, that Toronto wasn't built in a day, and that patience is a virtue. So I keep all that in mind. This is a change that will, once made, last the rest of my days, and tomorrow will come, and it's not like there isn't a lot to do in preparation, as well as ways to keep the energy up.

With that in mind, I thought I'd share a few ideas with you on how to spend the idle time while Buffalo or whatever CIC office you are dealing with is working on your file.

Getting ready to relocate? Then do yourself a favor and pare down now. Sure you can take it with you to your new Canadian home - but do you really need it? I have a rule that says if I haven't used it in a year and it's not for an emergency, then I bet someone else could get some use out of it. Donate, garage sale, heck - I did pretty well on eBay even with some stuff. The idea here is to enter your new life with just the things you need. You'll have years to accumulate the things you don't!

Study your new home. There is a lot to learn about Canadian history, current events and culture and many resources to help. Read books on Canada, read online newspapers and watch webcasts (as I'm Toronto bound, I read the Star and Globe and Mail, but I also watch CBC Toronto, the "Canada Now" evening news segment)...Heck, I even subscribe to a couple magazines. The idea here is to begin to become conversant in your new home and society. This is one of my favorite ways to pass time.

Make contacts. Even if you don't know a lot of people in Canada, you can make friends via the Net - email penpals, for instance, that can answer questions for you and give you valuable advice. In addition, if you are a professional, make contacts with employers and with professional groups. This will help you hit the ground running when it comes to securing employment - not the easiest chore for a new immigrant in Canada, according to many of the reports in the press.

Those three area should keep you out of trouble, but if they don't and you are restless, I can think of one other thing you can do while you wait....

Start a blog!

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Employment pressures and opportunities

Naomi Carniol, Business Reporter with the Toronto Sun has posted an intersting article on the state of employment in Canada in October - Pushing "full employment" . It's heartening to see a convergence of need and policy as appears to be happening now. Unemployment in Canada is reportedly at a 30-year low and employers are crying out for skilled labor: the government is responding by increasing the number of immigrants it will welcome. I hope the govenment will not simply up the ticker, but also work with those firms in need of skilled labor to help bring the best and brightest to Canada.

And on a personal note - I hope I'm one of them!

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

A Texan asked "Why?"

I'm not a Republican. I'm not a Democrat. I'm not a Liberal. I'm not a Conservative. I'm not NDP nor Bloc Québécois. I'm just me. And I love Texas.

I love Texas because it's really unimaginably big. I love Texas because I spent a lot of weeks there working with nice people. And I love Texas because I still have friends there.

One of those friends called me tonight. She was driving in East Texas on her way from one small town to another smaller town. She knows all about the disintegration of my relationship and the sorrow and loss. She's great to me. As we spoke about the future, I said, "You know, come April, I'm going for it - I'm getting back in line to immigrate to Canada."

There was a pause, followed by a long, Texas-style, "Whhhhhyyyyyyyy?"

Good question. And my response was something like this...

"It's not a matter of having my significant other there anymore, obviously. What it's about now, is that over the years, I've come to love and appreciate Cananda. I love Toronto. Now I know Canada isn't perfect, but there is an alignment with my pace of life and my values that is non-existent in the US. I believe we should all accept and take care of each other. I believe that we are all in this together. I believe in tollerance. I believe in peace. I think Canada, as a nation, believes in those things too - even if they aren't perfectly realized.

"In addition, I have skills that Canada can use. American firms have a track record of using people up and then tossing them off. I've made millions for firms here, but there is no sense of appreciation, and no safety net. This is a country of "Economic Darwinists" - Americans believe in survival of the richest. If you don't have money, you DESERVE to be poor. Tough...get a job, bum. Good for the few at the top of the pile. The rest of us are simply widgets to be used. This is experience talking. I know that I won't have a safety net in Canada either - not until I become a citizen (God willing) - but at least there isn't an illusion there.

"I want to live in a country that seeks to balance individual opportunity and social responsibility. I want to live in a country that seeks to make the world a better place.

Canada hasn't welcomed me yet - in fact, it's been difficult. But I still believe in Canada."

My friend from Texas said - "Oh....I get it. That makes sense."

It does if you dare to dream of a better life than this.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Run to the border

Canada urges U.S. to 'take time' on border IDs
2005-10-31 19:01:54 [National]
OTTAWA — Canada urged the United States on today to "take the time to get it right" in developing new border identification requirements, cautioning it to not throw the baby out with the bathwater in its bid for tighter security.

Ahh - you gotta love the voice of reason. And once again, that voice is Canadian. You may remember me writing about the U.S. Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) in blogs gone by. This is the brainchild of reactionary breaucrats who believe that making every Canadian who enters the US have some sort of passport is a great way to promote cross border coorperation and security.

Of course, "Only 23 per cent of Americans and 40 per cent of Canadians have passports, and obtaining one is costly and can take weeks." That's great for the budgets of the US Consulate, I guess - but for everyday Americans and everyday Canadians, it's a burden and an expense.

Canada is asking the US to hold off until a reasonable policy is developed around cross border security and ID requirements - one that doesn't impede tourism or trade.

Myself? I'm all for opening the borders of North America - one great big travel and work zone, from Canada to Mexico. If you have any typical form of ID, you are welcome to enter and if you can find a job, you can work. Oh wait - that's GOTTA be too complicated!

Still - leaders do have until 2008 to do something that illustrates real leadership.