Those seeking an expat life in Canada should be encouraged by the fact that 40% of small businesses in Canada said they are struggling to find the skilled personnel that they need.

Labour shortages are a major issue, according to a survey by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) which also found that they have by and large retained the same employment level during the recession, with nearly all of the net job losses in the recession occurring in big business.

The CFIB’s Business Barometer shows a slow but steady increase in business optimism and it is expected skills and labour shortages will again become an important public policy issue.

The organisation is also concerned that some proposed changes to visa could make it less useful for smaller businesses and limit the time a temporary foreign worker could stay in Canada.

A recent Manpower survey found that Canada has one of the most acute labour shortages in the industrialized world, with only Mexico feeling the pinch more. According to Canadian employers, the top positions they are having the most difficulty finding candidates include sales representatives, customer services, engineers, drivers, mechanics, chefs, electricians and nurses.

Labour market consultant Rick Miner, president of Toronto’s Seneca College told as recent conference that severe labour shortages will coincide with a surplus of jobs requiring skills and educational attainment that, without major adaptation, won’t be available in the labour force.

By 2031, 80% of all new jobs will require skilled workers with more than a high school education, up from 65% today and immigration will not be sufficient to address the imbalance.

Meanwhile Montreal’s chamber of commerce has blamed poor governance for being behind a failure to attract immigrants which is affecting business growth.

The city also only attracts 35,000 immigrants per year in contrast to the 100,000 per year who settle in Toronto. This has been attributed in part to the language barrier migrants might experience in Montreal, and that moving to English speaking provinces is easier for many foreigners.

The study group, co-chaired by economist Marcel Côté and by former deputy minister Claude Séguin, found a high degree of fragmentation and overlap among the bodies entrusted with governing the Montreal region, from public transport to economic development.

This has translated into a low level of private investment, poor productivity growth and lagging educational performance. To improve the economic growth of Montreal, the study has recommended priority for infrastructure investments in the metro area and an improvement among the agencies charged with developing the Montreal economy.