Ontario to ask Ottawa to help more PSWs immigrate

Of note:

The Ford government will be closely watching the shakeup of Justin Trudeau’s cabinet on Tuesday to see which Liberal MP takes over immigration.

That’s because whoever it is will largely determine the success of Ontario’s ambitious plan to fix its beleaguered system of long-term care.

The Progressive Conservative (PC) government’s plan is three-pronged: to pass legislation strengthening care standards in nursing homes; to spend $2.7 billion for 30,000 new beds; and to spend another $4.9 billion to hire 27,000 full-time workers.

But meeting the most expensive objective requires migrants, which in turn depends on Ottawa’s willingness to give Ontario the control it wants over jobs that tend to attract foreigners to the province.

“Ontario generally … is working with Ottawa for more flexibility (over) our immigration,” Ontario’s Long-Term Care Minister Rod Phillips said at an event hosted by the Canadian Club of Toronto last week.

“If we’re going to get those 27,000 people … there’s no way we get there without providing pathways.”

Before the last Parliament dissolved in August, Phillips spoke to Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland about attracting more migrants to work as nurses and personal support workers (PSWs), he said.

The PCs plan to resume those discussions sometime after Tuesday, when the prime minister either renames Marco Mendicino as his minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, or appoints someone else.

The PCs want more autonomy in running the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program (OINP), and for Ottawa to let it accept more immigrants through the program each year, said Monte McNaughton, Ontario’s minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development, last week.

A source close to McNaughton told iPolitics the PCs want to double the 8,900 immigrants Ontario accepts each year through the OINP, which is open to foreign workers, international students, and other would-be migrants who work jobs the Ontario and federal governments categorize as in need.

A foreigner who applies to the OINP has to be nominated for permanent residence by the provincial government, and his or her application must be approved by Ottawa.

In 2018, there were 56,000 full-time-equivalent positions in Ontario’s long-term-care sector, and 58 per cent of them were PSWs.

The 27,000 full-time-equivalent positions the PCs want to add over the next four years include 17,000 PSWs, according to comments made by Phillips that were reported by the Ottawa Citizen.

Currently, the OINP doesn’t consider PSWs “skilled workers,” thereby disqualifying them from most of the program’s streams. They can only qualify through the OINP’s “in-demand skills” stream, which has other complicating requirements, including that the applicant already has a job lined up in Ontario that pays more than the provincial average for the position, and that the applicant recently had a job in the same field in Ontario.

Many sectors in Ontario are short workers; government officials say 290,000 jobs are unfilled.

To attempt to fill them, McNaughton announced last week that the Ontario government will introduce a bill making it easier for people trained in certain professions outside Canada to become licensed in Ontario. While the bill would cover jobs in law, accounting, architecture, engineering, and plumbing, it wouldn’t apply to licensed health-care workers, however.

The PCs are interested in exploring similar legislation for immigrant health-care workers, but the sector’s complexity precludes them from McNaughton’s bill, said a source close to the minister.

Trudeau’s government shares some of the PCs’ goals for immigration and long-term care. During the federal election campaign, the Liberals promised to train 50,000 PSWs in Canada and raise their wages to $25/hour. Their platform also included promises to reform economic-immigration programs and to recognize more foreign job credentials.

While she’s in favour of classifying PSWs in a way that makes it easier for them to immigrate, it’s just “one piece of the puzzle” of filling the sector’s staff shortage, Donna Duncan, CEO of the Ontario Long Term Care Association, told iPolitics.

The group represents 70 per cent of the province’s nursing homes, including those which are private, not-for-profit, and municipally run.

Source: Ontario to ask Ottawa to help more PSWs immigrate

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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