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Canada extends age cut-off for Aussie workers

New rules will up cut off for participants from 30 to 35


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For years, Australian workers have played a vital role in Whistler's labour market, with many granted work visas through the International Experience Canada (IEC) program.

And while historically the cutoff age for participation has been 30 years old, a recent agreement between the governments of Australia and Canada pumps that age limit up by five years, to 35.

The decision is great news, according Whistler Chamber CEO Melissa Pace.

Going from 30 to 35 means that people with more professional experience will be able to qualify, and that's a good thing for Whistler, she added. "I would say that on a positive note—and there's only positives around this—that we may see more professional workers coming here," she said.

There is a "middle management" gap in Whistler, and anything to address it is welcome, she said.

Unlike other countries, Canada does not cap the number of Australian participants in the IEC. Other participating countries have annual quotas, with demand outpacing supply for some countries in recent years. Australia is one of 34 destinations that Canadians can travel to as part of the IEC program.

According to Norman Steinberg, co-chair of the Australia-Canada Economic Leadership Forum (ACELF), any change that allows for more mobility between the two countries is a positive development.

"I think it's a good move, because it allows more people at a very critical time of their careers to spend more time in each country," he said.

With a mission of enhancing dialogue and cooperation between the nations, the ACELF organizes a forum every 18 months that brings together representatives of business and government to discuss issues of concern.

He feels that, in this turbulent era, it's vital that Australia and Canada stand up for their shared values—such as free trade, rule of law, and human rights and civil liberties—and form an even stronger relationship.

"I think we are seeing an unfortunate trend in the world of populist support of governments and a lot of anti-democratic values being espoused in many corners of the world," said Steinberg. "We're also seeing very unfortunate trade protectionism, particularly emanating from the U.S. from President Donald Trump's administration."

Major issues plaguing North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) negotiations only underscore the need for good trade relations between the nations, said Steinberg.

President Trump initially said he just wanted to tweak NAFTA with respect to Canada and, instead, was more concerned with what he thought was an unfair situation with Mexico, said Steinberg. Now, the U.S. appears to have a deal with Mexico "and all his anger is directed to us."

The economic ties between Canada and Australia are significant, with two-way investment valued at around $80 billion.

Steinberg thinks that trade between the countries is poised to grow in the future. Canada's major pension funds are invested in an Australian project, and Australian mining giant Rio Tinto is deeply involved in operations in B.C. and Quebec.

"I think in the future we're going to see continued growth in investment going both ways," said Steinberg.

Going forward, Steinberg said he would like to see more freedom to move between the two countries. While Canada is "very generous" in terms of its immigration program, it could look to something outside of immigration quotas that would allow people to jump between both countries more easily.

"I'm a big believer in freedom of mobility between two countries that are close," he said.

The IEC program originated in 1965 as a cultural exchange between Canada and Germany, and since then more than 200,000 Canadians have taken part.

There are three categories open to participants: Working Holiday (permits that allow participants to work anywhere in their host country in support of their travel); International Co-op (for students looking to gain targeted experience in their field of study; and Young Professionals (an employer-specific work permit that is within their field of study or career path).