EDMONTON — The Alberta government wants to ensure that foreign-trained professionals and tradespeople will be dealt with quickly when they seek accreditation to work in the province.
“We will remove unfair barriers while maintaining the high professional standards all Albertans have come to know and expect,” Labour Minister Jason Copping told the legislature Wednesday after tabling proposed legislation.
“We’ve heard from many newcomers who are underemployed and unable to contribute to our economy at their skill level. All too often this is because they are waiting for months, even years, for their credentials to be recognized,” Copping said.
“This not only impacts newcomers to our province, it also hurts our economy.”
Copping’s bill would apply to all professional regulatory organizations in Alberta and would cover doctors, nurses, engineers, lawyers, accountants, architects, pharmacists, dentists, psychologists, paramedics, social workers, veterinarians, and electricians.
It proposes that a fair registration office be set up to work with the organizations and give interim decisions on accreditation within six months.
Final accreditation would come within a reasonable, though as yet undefined, period after that.
Professional bodies could be subject to audits or asked to report on their progress. Not doing so could result in a compliance order and, if that failed, there could be legal action and fines up to $25,000 for an individual and $50,000 for a corporation.
The office would implement a fair practices code mandating timely decisions, clear rules and standards, and access to records.
Manitoba, Ontario and Nova Scotia already have similar laws.
The bill follows through on Kenney’s election campaign promise to ensure that newcomers aren’t left waiting for long periods of time to see if their credentials will be recognized.
He has promised to set aside $2.5 million to create the office.
“Our goal is to get all Albertans back to work,” Kenney said in a news release.
“Too often we hear stories of doctors driving cabs, and we are taking action to make sure newcomer credentials are evaluated and assessed objectively and in a timely manner.”
Kenney has also promised new programs to persuade foreign graduates trained in Alberta to stay and start businesses.
He has said there will be a new visa program to bring in foreign graduates who are trained and educated in the United States, but can’t get immigration status there.
There are also plans for programs to fast-track and encourage immigrant entrepreneurs committed to starting businesses in rural areas.