‘Determining our growth:’ Morden, Man., finds hope for future in provincial immigration program

It all began 20 years ago with Manitoba’s provincial nominee program, one of the very first experiments in Canada matching foreign workers with specific job openings.

It’s a fast-track option, allowing provinces and territories to nominate people who want to immigrate to Canada, are interested in settling in a particular province or territory and have the skills, education and work experience to contribute to the economy.

Each province and territory has its own criteria and “streams” — programs targeted to specific groups such as students, business people, skilled workers or semi-skilled workers.

The more points they have, based on their work qualifications, experience and language ability, the faster they move up the queue in the immigration process. A definitive job offer by an employer is a significant benefit.

After being nominated, applicants still have to apply to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada for permanent residence status.

Manitoba’s program remains one of the most successful. It boasts high recruitment and retention rates and accounts for a significant percentage of the province’s population growth.

“We see a program that has specific objectives. It’s met them and it’s one that we can measure as a successful government program,” Winnipeg immigration lawyer Ken Zaifman said last month during a celebration of its 20th anniversary.

Province Program started Total landed nominees Estimated 2017 annual provincial growth* 2017 landed nominees Percentage of 2017 growth from nominee program
Man. 1998 130,000 21,786 9,425 43
B.C. 2001 63,230 59,502** 7,650 13
Alta. 2002 89,979 54,189 6,996 13
N.S. 2003 17,365 6,536 2,735 42
Ont. 2007 27,890 216,727 6,980 3

*Population growth estimates from Statistics Canada

**Source: Province of British Columbia

According to provincial statistics, of the 130,000 immigrants who have settled in Manitoba through the nominee program since 1998, 85 per cent were working within three months and 76 per cent were homeowners within three to five years of their arrival.

In 2012, Morden began a community-driven immigration initiative under the provincial program to attract even more people. Since then, it’s brought 50 families a year to the rural community.

“It’s a win-win situation for us because we get to choose people that our employers want. I believe it’s a win for [the program] because our retention is really good because of the support we give,” Voth said.

With an unemployment rate of just three per cent and a small local labour pool to draw from, Voth said some businesses might be hesitant to invest in the community “but because of our steady flow of people coming in and the fact that we can target skill sets to what they’re looking for, it is a really great incentive for setting up in Morden.”

The city program has been so successful that other communities across the country come to get advice on how to set up their own strategic initiatives inside their provincial nominee programs, Voth said.

It’s more than just the skill set. It’s the work ethic…. That’s a hard thing to find.– Jim Duff, vice-president of manufacturing for ON2 Solutions

The national and international rhetoric around foreign workers taking jobs from Canadians crops up now and then in Morden. Voth and others say they sometimes get asked why they’re recruiting immigrants when there are local people without jobs.

Their answer? Some of these are jobs Canadians don’t want to do while others require skills and experience that can’t be found — or recruited — in the area.

And, Voth said, very few of those who apply are chosen.

“It’s not just an open the doors and anybody comes in. We go through a tough application. We’re picking about five per cent of our applications,” she said.

“We’re picking really good people and I think the success stories of the people that have been coming in speaks a lot for the program and also helps the community to be more comfortable with the program.”

‘It’s the work ethic’

Jim Duff, vice-president of manufacturing for ON2 Solutions, is working with Voth to find up to 200 workers in the next three years. He needs electricians and plumbers to help grow his business of manufacturing oxygen concentrators for hospitals and emergency shelters for mining companies.

Duff has tried to hire local people, but says he can’t find what he needs.

“It’s more than just the skill set. It’s the work ethic. It’s the contribution to the team, the desire to be part of the team. That’s a hard thing to find,” he says.

“Our last interview process, we interviewed a couple of born and raised Canadians and the attitude was shocking, really, when it came down to it. I don’t know how to put that in words but it was a significant difference.”

Duff has talked to the school division and local educational programs to try to train workers, but said he has run into the same problem.

Jim Duff, left, is working with Morden’s immigration program to find up to 200 new employees in the next three years and says foreign workers like Victor Kovtan, right, are helping ON2 Solutions grow and thrive.(Warren Kay/CBC News)

Meanwhile, he’s thrilled with the workers he’s hired through the provincial nominee program and Morden’s strategic initiative.

“I would very honestly say that if we didn’t have these five people, we wouldn’t be where we are now. I don’t even know that we would necessarily be in business. I would say [the foreign workers are] that crucial,” he says.

Source: ‘Determining our growth:’ Morden, Man., finds hope for future in provincial immigration program

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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