Minister Michael Chan on The Ontario Perspective on Immigration

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By Denise Hansen *

Immigration was a priority matter during the meeting of Canada’s premiers in Halifax, at the end of 2012. Provincial leaders argued for more control over immigration, urging the federal government to increase immigration quotas allotted to provinces, as well as to allow provinces more flexibility in choosing immigrants selected for the provincial nominee program (PNP).

 Why? Provincial leaders contested they want to be the ones in the driver’s seat when it comes to designing and implementing immigration and settlement programs, rather than relying on the federal government to do so. After all, who knows the local labour shortages and issues related to the provincial economy and immigration better than the provinces themselves? But how would increased provincial involvement in immigration selection change the immigration experience for newcomers?

Canadian Immigrant spoke with Ontario Minister of Immigration Michael Chan to find out how increased provincial leadership in immigration programs would have an effect on policy and people.

How much involvement does Ontario currently have with regards to establishing immigration quotas, selecting immigrants, and defining who qualifies as a skilled worker, matching skills shortages to high-need occupations in Ontario,

Ontario’s control is quite limited. While all provinces assess and process immigrant PNP applications — Canada accepted 38,000 PNP applications in 2011 — Ontario was only granted 1,000 of these applications last year. This is very small compared to the Canadian total [and the fact that] Manitoba received 5,000 of these applications last year, as did Alberta. So we are not happy about the low percentage. Three per cent of Ontario’s economic immigrants come through the PNP, and that is pathetic. We want to draw attention to the low numbers more.

Why should Ontario be granted greater control in selecting immigrants, both generally and via the Ontario PNP?

The federal system is quite confusing. Every day there are new things happening, new changes. The country, as a whole, is trying to look at and understand all these new immigration rules.

The provinces have been asked on many occasions why greater provincial control in selecting immigrants is necessary and our reasoning is that we think we know better. Ontario knows better about what is going on in the province than the federal government. We are able to engage newcomers better. We know more about the sector for skilled workers. Our past experience has also been that we are able to process PNP applications better. We know more about job arrangements and the skills needed in our provinces. For people coming under the PNP in Ontario, it is Ontario that can do a better job at matching immigrants to available employment.

How would increasing provincial influence over immigration alleviate the most common problems faced by immigrants in Ontario today: skills mismatch, unemployment, lack of credential recognition, lack of Canadian experience, lower earnings, and so on?

Our province can offer quite a bit of support to newcomers. We offer language, bridging and settlement programs. And we match jobs to people. People get jobs. Unfortunately, the way things are working now is not the best.

Is it time for a new immigration pact between Ottawa and Ontario?

From 2005 to 2010, there was an agreement: the province would receive $900 million in five years. Instead, we got $200 million in two years. This is not good for newcomers. In order for immigrants to better settle in Ontario, there needs to be funding available for settlement and integration programs. Right now there is no agreement/initiative for this to happen. Ontario works better when we work in harmony with the federal government; our needs are better met. Smaller funding equals lower numbers. While we got help after the first year [of the agreement], immigration is not a one-year deal. It is a long-term deal. We wish that the federal government would understand that.

Also, it is important that the federal government understand that Ontario continues to have the largest numbers of newcomers coming to this province. It is important that the [federal] Minister of Citizenship and Immigration really get that message. Ontario is willing to work with the federal government. The PNP is a good process to attract great newcomers to our province. Pushing the PNP in Ontario is extremely important for us.

[Source: Canadian Immigrant]

JULY 2018

Vol. 12 - No. 12


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