Ontario needs stronger voice in immigration, McNaughton says

Pre-negotiation starting position. Higher national levels provide federal government with room to meet or partially meet Ontario’s demands:

Ontario needs more autonomy in immigration to ensure newcomers meet the economic needs of the province, Labour, Immigration, Training, and Skills Development Minister Monte McNaughton says.

The province is seeking more control as it negotiates a new federal-Ontario immigration agreement this fall, similar to the deal with Quebec, with the goal of filling an estimated 340,000 job vacancies, he said.

“Over the last 18 months, we’ve reprioritized the immigrants that Ontario needs, so skilled trades workers and health-care workers are the professionals that we’re prioritizing through the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program (OINP),” McNaughton said Saturday. “But as it stands today, the federal government only gives us 9,000 newcomers to select out of 125,000 that come to Ontario every year.”

Given its population, Ontario has a disproportionately small voice in choosing newcomers compared to other Canadian jurisdictions, he said.

As a first step, the federal government should immediately double the number of newcomers through OINP to 18,000 a year, he said.

McNaughton said he has already reached out to his counterparts in other parts of the county to determine common ground and goals before approaching the federal government at a joint meeting at the end of the month.

“That’s how Ontario and Canada was built over the last 155 years, by bringing in newcomers with the right skills to build the future of our country,” McNaughton said. “And that’s exactly what we’re asking for from the federal government.”

Being free to choose newcomers based on their skill sets means a better match with the labour market and more success for new immigrants, he said.

“Only 25% of immigrants today that are here in Ontario are actually working in fields that they’ve studied,” he said.

The Doug Ford government has been set on its labour and immigration agenda for several years, becoming the first government in Canada to recognize all foreign credentials outside health care, he said.

Ontario has now opened all its training programs as widely as possible including to newcomers, people on social assistance and those with criminal backgrounds, he said.

“My message is if you have the skills and want to work, Ontario needs you,” McNaughton said.

A substantial time lag in the federal immigration approval process remains a challenge with some applicants waiting years, he said.

Ontario has offered its own resources to accelerate the process, he said.

“I just can’t press enough of the federal government to give us more of a say, to speed up the process and ensure that we’re bringing in immigrants with the right skills to build the future of Ontario,” McNaughton said.

Source: Ontario needs stronger voice in immigration, McNaughton says

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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