Provinces call for more control over immigration to tackle labor shortages

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Citing a nationwide labor shortage, several provincial immigration ministers say they want more control over the immigration process and have sent a letter to their federal counterpart calling for change.

Ministers from Ontario, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba are calling on Sean Fraser, Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, to allow their provinces to select more immigrants “with the skills they need most” in a letter sent on Tuesday evening.

“We need the ability to respond to the rapidly changing needs of specific areas and communities, with a flexible system that we can adapt to changing economic and humanitarian needs,” the letter said.

Ahead of a meeting with Fraser and their fellow immigration ministers in Saint John, New Brunswick, they say Canada needs to do more to attract and retain workers, especially in the skilled trades. They say the provinces should be allowed to recruit workers and provide them with good local jobs.

The letter says provinces know their local economies best and can choose newcomers to Canada who have “the best chance of success.”

“We are facing a global race for talent as people around the world search for a better place to build a life for themselves and their families.”

Of the 198,085 people who immigrated to Ontario last year, the province was allowed to select 9,000, or about 4.5 per cent, under the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program, which “recognizes and nominates people for permanent residence who have the skills and experience Ontario’s economy needs. “, according to the ministry.

Monte McNaughton, Ontario’s Minister of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development, told CBC Toronto the province wants the federal government to double its allocation to select 18,000 skilled immigrants out of the 211,000 who will come. in Ontario this year.

He received a raise of 700.

According to data provided by the Ontario Ministry of Labour, most of the four provinces with the highest immigration numbers in 2021 had similarly low percentages of immigrants they were allowed to select. Alberta received 15% of its 39,950 immigrants and British Columbia 9.3% of its 69,270 newcomers.

The only exception was Quebec, which selected 55.8% of its 50,170 immigrants.

McNaughton said other provincial ministers “are in the same boat” when it comes to labor shortages, but the most serious challenge is in Ontario, where 378,000 jobs go unfilled. He said the province is focusing on two sectors: health care and skilled trades.

“So it makes more sense for the provinces, particularly Ontario, to have a say in which skilled immigrants we need to fill these jobs,” he said.

Multiple pathways to permanent residency

In June, Fraser announced that the federal government was working to create a faster path for temporary workers to obtain permanent resident status.

For eight months during the COVID-19 restrictions last year, the federal government gave 90,000 essential workers, frontline healthcare workers and international students a fast-track to permanent residency.

The federal government offers several pathways to permanent residency that are generally designed to attract and retain a skilled workforce. An example is the Atlantic Immigration Program for skilled workers and international graduates from Canadian schools who wish to live in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island or Newfoundland. Newfoundland and Labrador.

The program was piloted in 2017 and became permanent this year.

Nova Scotia was able to welcome over 1,500 more immigrants this year through the Atlantic Immigration Program and its Provincial Nominee Program. However, it still faces a labor shortage in the skilled trades.

Ahead of a meeting with federal Immigration Minister Sean Fraser, several of his provincial counterparts said Canada needed to do more to attract and retain skilled workers. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

McNaughton said Ontario processes applications under the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program within 90 days, while the federal government takes up to 42 months in some cases. He also said the province was the first to recognize international credentials for certain professions.

“So if you’re an engineer, if you’re an architect, or if you’re in the skilled trades, we’ve now eliminated Canadian work experience and really simplified the language testing requirements,” he said.

“So we want to make sure that new Canadians who are here in Ontario are already working in fields that they have studied.”

McNaughton said Ontario wants to make sure it fills the skills gap in the province, while supporting immigrants going through other streams, like family reunification or as refugees.

“Immigration is not a silver bullet, but it is a key part of the solution to filling labor shortages.”

McNaughton said the labor shortage contributes to the high cost of living for Canadians. He spoke of an “imminent crisis”, with one in three people in the trades over the age of 55.

“I think this is the biggest economic challenge we face as a province and as a country.”

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