Kenney pushes for more skilled immigrants to 'grow the economy'

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney happened to ride in the same elevator in a downtown building Friday with local entrepreneurial success story Ron Mundi.

And Kenney said Mundi - who bought and sold a half dozen hotels here and now owns the Coast Kamloops in Aberdeen - is the kind of immigrant the Conservative government wants to see more of in Canada as it shifts away from bringing in family members of those already here.

"The focus will be on economic immigrants who can help grow the economy," Kenney told reporters.

"I was just in the elevator with one of those folks (Mundi) who came to Canada like 20 years ago and he now owns millions of dollars of hotels in Canada. He started with nothing and now he's a huge entrepreneur. Those are the kinds of people we need."

Kenney was in Kamloops Friday meeting with local business representatives seeking input on the federal budget. He also toured the Ord Road Sikh temple and met with members of the Kamloops Sikh Cultural Society.

Pav Gill, secretary for the society, said members agree with the Conservative government's shift toward skilled immigrants.

"As a business owner I feel it's important we try and get the best. If they bring a skill set with them, it's better for our economy and country."

Gill said members are also satisfied with assurances from Kenney that sponsoring family members will still be possible as well as details on a crackdown of bogus marriages involving immigrants from Southeast Asia.

Kenney also met with representatives from TRU World. The immigration minister said the country is becoming home to an increasing number of foreign students - the Canadian experience class - who graduate and choose to remain here.

"It was slow starting…. (But) now we've had our ten thousandth foreign student on a fast-track basis."

A new class has also been created for PhD graduates who complete degrees here.

Kenney, who met with local business representatives in a round table session, said focus of the budget will be on economic growth and job creation.

And he echoed recent comments from Prime Minister Stephen Harper warning budget cuts are coming.

"We have to get to a balanced budget. There's going to be appropriate fiscal restraint… To be honest there's been very large growth in federal spending in the past few years."

Peter Aylen, past president of the Kamloops Chamber of Commerce, said members recognize lack of spending room.

"We've got a big deficit and it doesn't look like that's going to change. But there's things we can do to generate a little more economic development."

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