BC tech CEOs call on provincial government to make PNP tech stream permanent


British Columbia-based members of the Council of Canadian Innovators (CCI) have penned a letter to the Government of BC calling upon the province to extend its Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) Tech Pilot, just over a month before it is set to expire.

The program, which was launched four years ago, allows foreign tech workers and international students to receive nominations for permanent residence in Canada and is aimed toward helping tech firms in the province attract and retain qualified talent.

The program, which was launched four years ago, is aimed toward helping tech firms in the province attract and retain talent.

BC’s PNP Tech Pilot is set to expire on June 30. There is currently no official word regarding the future of the program. CCI’s May 20 letter was signed by the organization’s 15 BC members and addressed to Josie Osborne, BC’s minister of municipal affairs. CCI’s BC members include the CEOs of AbCellera, Clio, Klue, and Mogo, all of whom signed the letter.

“On behalf of our members, we are writing to you today to call for the BC Provincial Nominee Program Tech Pilot to be made permanent,” states the letter. “Moreover, our members need certainty on the future of this program.”

Following the release of BC’s 2021 budget in April, which did not address the PNP Tech Pilot’s looming expiration, Benjamin Bergen, CCI’s executive director, called the program “all too important” for BC tech companies, expressing concern about its pending shutdown.

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To date, BC’s PNP Tech Pilot has supported the nomination of over 4,200 tech workers, serving as a fast-tracked, permanent immigration pathway for in-demand foreign workers and international students. Candidates are required to register through one of BC’s immigration streams and possess a qualifying job offer of at least 12 months.

The project was launched in May 2017 following a labour market study from the BC Tech Association that found the biggest issue facing the province’s tech sector was access to talent. It has been extended several times since then.

CCI is a national business council and advocacy organization led by the CEOs of Canadian tech companies. According to a December 2020 CCI survey, nearly 80 percent of CCI’s member company respondents expect to recruit workers from outside of Canada this year to address labour gaps.

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“Since 2017, our member companies have been enthusiastic about this program,” states the letter. “The ease, the timeliness, and the structure of the program, as well as the affordability and the comprehensiveness of the BC PNP Tech Pilot have all combined to benefit technology companies.”

The letter adds, “it is clear that B.C.’s technology sector, and by extension, the province’s prosperity, will suffer if the PNP Tech Pilot expires next month.”

In a May 25 Medium post, Tessa Seager, CCI’s director of government affairs for BC, wrote that COVID-19 “has dramatically changed the competitive landscape for talent,” and in particular for tech firms.

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Seager said the shift to remote work has increased the need for Canadian companies to compete with Silicon Valley for engineers, software developers, technologists, and leaders. “While Canada’s post-secondary institutions and polytechnics produce top-notch talent, Canada still faces a severe domestic shortage of highly skilled experienced talent, forcing companies to look beyond our borders to address their talent needs,” she added.

According to the CCI letter, high-growth tech companies are “poised to be the engine for growth in BC,” and the pending expiration of the PNP tech stream “undermines confidence in [their] future business plans.”

Image source Unsplash. Photo by Mike Benna.

Josh Scott

Josh Scott

Josh Scott is a BetaKit reporter focused on telling in-depth Canadian tech stories and breaking news. His coverage is more complete than his moustache.

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