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Spring

There’s a lot to get through this month! Let’s start with some economic news. Latest results show better than expected economic figures in Canada with growth across manufacturing, wholesale trade, the retail sector, construction, mining, and oil and gas.

Innovation and job creation are the watch words right now with federal and Ontario liberals announcing new projects and dispensing big sums of money this week. More IT and engineering jobs could be on the horizon in Windsor and Ottawa with huge government investment in research and engineering. Meanwhile, Ontario is establishing the futuristic-sounding Vector Institute, a centre for AI research. I’m pleased that some money is coming to Northern Ontario too with an engineering and sciences research centre in the works at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay.

Express entry

On to Express Entry and yes, it’s being tweaked again.  They aren’t huge changes compared with last year’s. This time the emphasis is on adaptability factors such as language and family, with the aim of bringing in more French speakers to strengthen Francophone minority communities in Canada.

Currently, you can score up to 136 points for your first official language and up to 24 for the second. This won’t change, but as of  June 6th you’ll qualify for extra points if you have “strong French language skills” plus ability in English. This will be judged via the standardized language tests that all Express Entry candidates have to complete. If your French is assessed at intermediate level or better and you have basic level English you can gain an extra 15 points. Those French skills combined with intermediate level or higher English? That can net you up to 30 extra points.

Another change–and somewhere simpler to follow–if you (or your spouse) have a sibling who is already a permanent resident or citizen in Canada, you’ll gain an extra 15 points. Your sibling must be 18 or older.

Finally, if you’re applying to immigrate but don’t have a job offer or provincial nomination, you’re no longer required to set up a Job Bank account. This will become voluntary.

The number of Invitations To Apply (ITAs) issued in the latest Express Entry draw was down on the previous one–3749 compared to 3884, and the points requirements went up slightly to 441 from 434. But overall, total ITAs are up by over 50% for the first 3 months of this year as compared to last–a very positive sign.

Canadian flag

Atlantic Canada

New Brunswick perhaps isn’t always top of mind when deciding where to settle in Canada but it’s definitely out to attract more immigrants. The province and the federal government have just signed the first ever Canada-New Brunswick immigration agreement. The aim is to bring in more skilled workers to address their labour shortages, and they are especially keen to attract French speakers.

In fact, there is a strong push to bring in more immigrants to all four of Canada’s Atlantic provinces and IRCC is reporting strong employer interest in the Atlantic Immigration Pilot program.

Ontario

In other news, Ontario is expanding its Immigrant Nominee Program (OINP) with the number of nominees increasing this year to 6000. If you work in ICT you’ll be interested to know that a quarter of Ontario provincial nominees are working in this field. Although things have perhaps declined a little from the Blackberry/RIM heyday, the IT sector is still thriving especially in the Kitchener-Waterloo region.

If you want to get an idea of what Ontario’s top public sector employees are earning, take a look at the annual “sunshine list” published on Friday. It lists the salaries of all public sector workers who earn more than $100k. As salaries surge higher with inflation, there’s much debate as to whether the 100k threshold is meaningful anymore. But it’s still interesting to browse and see the types of jobs in there. And if you live in Ontario, it’s fun to be nosy and look up people that you know :-) The list is no longer just directors and managers but also teachers (elementary and secondary), professors, registered nurses, firefighters, IT team leads, and police constables.

And finally…

And speaking of sunshine (did you like that link? :-) ), it’s the time of year when Canadians are done with winter and looking ahead to spring. Spring is officially here, although it’s been a little difficult to tell. Sunday and Monday were hazardous with freezing rain. My yard was an ice rink and I had to battle my way into my frozen canvas portable garage with little icicles flying everywhere. Thankfully I didn’t slip on the ice, but I know many people who weren’t so lucky. Since then, temperatures are up, and a lot of snow has melted. I’m sure the barbecues and patio furniture have already been wheeled out in Canadian Tire, and apparently a few people have already been spotted wearing T-shirts :-)

It’s the May long weekend, the beginning of cottage/camping/boating season, and for once the weather has cooperated! Everything is greening up here and there’s plenty of wildlife out and about in my garden: a grouse, fox, and rabbits (and blackflies… ). Not to mention the squirrel that’s found a way into the house more than once. We’re still trying to work out where it’s getting in.

And this week, for the first time since we moved here 11 years ago, we had a visit from a black bear. We’ve seen them before at a safe distance away, but never so close to the house. I instantly had visions of bear claws ripping through screens and destroying my screen room. But no–this bear just ambled around to the front of the house and settled down under the washing line to chew some grass. We watched him for a little while (safely from inside), then my husband figured he’d better yell at the bear to move it on–and it obligingly did so. No return visits–so far…

Our house is in the country and surrounded by crown land. So it’s not that much of a surprise that a bear would find its way into our yard. But with so much new construction taking place on what was previously green space, bear sightings can also be a concern if you live in more built-up areas in town. So it’s good to be aware of some of the “bear wise” basics:

Always clean up your barbecue thoroughly

Keep your garbage stored securely, and only take it to the curb the morning of collection, not the night before.

Don’t leave bird food–or pet food–outside during bear season.

For more information, including what to do if you encounter a bear, read the updated advice on the Ontario government web site. Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources & Forestry no longer traps and relocates bears. So residents here are now instructed to call the police if a bear is displaying threatening behavior. Guidelines vary across the different provinces, but most have similar “Bear Wise” programs, such as Alberta BearSmart.

I’m happy that my screen room stayed intact as I plan on spending plenty of time in there during this beautiful sunny long weekend, as well as visiting Windy Lake Provincial Park. Hopefully I won’t encounter any bears!

Spring may have officially arrived on March 20, but it’s not felt too spring-like here until this week. Now the last stubborn patches of snow have vanished, most of the ice has melted on the lakes, and it looks like warmer temperatures are finally here! So it’s time to start working though the springtime checklist. Always more fun than prepping for winter, here’s a quick run-down of some of the things to consider.

Hopefully you put winter tires on your vehicle. Once the daytime temperature is consistently seven degrees or more, it’s time to switch them out  for summer tires. This is also a good opportunity to book a service and oil change on your vehicle. After negotiating all the new pot holes that appear each spring in Sudbury, our car always needs a bit of TLC. Not sure if your tires are still roadworthy? Canadian Tire has a helpful guide.

It’s time to bring out the lawnmower and put away the snow blower. Follow any recommended maintenance tasks, and if your mower has a battery it’ll need a charge after being stored all winter.

If you have vehicles you use just during summer, you’ll need to add collision coverage back on your insurance policy and check that the batteries are in working order. The May long weekend is traditionally the time to get your “summer toys” back on the road. But we were always impatient to get out in our Corvette or camper van as early as possible! Here we were camping at Killarney Park in March 2010.

Camping at Killarney Park in March 2010

Snow plows can leave your yard looking the worse for wear. Now is the time to remove all the sand off your lawn, or hire someone else to do it if you can. If you have a gravel driveway or yard like I do, the worst spring task is clearing all that gravel that’s  been thrown up onto the grass . Well, maybe not the worst…. I’m a former dog owner after all :-)

You may want to start planning your garden. It’s a little early here for planting, although the temporary garden centres at the grocery stores are almost ready to open up for business. If this is your first year in Canada, it’s a good time to take stock of your new yard and landscape. I’m not much of a gardener, but I like to have a few hanging baskets and pots around the place. If you’re a newbie Canadian gardener, Canadian Gardening is a helpful resource.

Be prepared for the bugs. I’ve already heard our annual frog chorus late at night, so I know the bugs won’t be too long in arriving. Check your supplies of repellent and anti-bite. Deet repellents are the only ones I’ve found to be effective around here, although there’s a wide range of alternatives to try.

Bug free!

If you’re thinking of putting up a gazebo or temporary screen room, now is a good time to work on that. We had a permanent screen room built last year, and I have to say I’m so happy we made that decision. Once the warm temperatures hit, dust down that patio furniture and barbecue (I still don’t have one!), set up your deck for the season, and treat yourself to a well-earned drink.

Cheers!