Canadian immigration ministers agree on multi-year PNP levels plan

Good initiative. Now the haggling over multi-year levels can begin :).

Seriously, same planning logic that led feds to multi-year planning to assist settlement agencies and others also applies at the provincial level:

The Forum of Ministers Responsible (FMRI) for Immigration met in Saint John, New Brunswick on July 28 to discuss a host of major immigration policy issues.

Topics on the agenda included Canada’s Immigration Levels Plan, a more agile economic immigration system, regional economic immigration, settlement, and refugees resettlement.

The big takeaway is that Canada’s immigration ministers agreed to develop a multi-year Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) allocation plan. Currently, even though Canada sets its permanent residence targets over a three-year period, PNP allocations are determined on an annual basis. Moving forward, the ministers agreed that PNP allocation targets will also be set on a three-year basis. The ministers agreed to determine the multi-year PNP plan by March 31, 2023.

The FMRI is comprised of Canada’s federal, provincial, and territorial immigration ministers. They meet each year to discuss immigration issues of national importance. The FMRI is a decision-making body with the goal of supporting a flexible, timely, and effective immigration system for Canada.

Canada’s Immigration Minister Sean Fraser added in the post-meeting press conference that there is no certainty at the moment on the precise numbers on the increased PNP allocations for each province and territory. The reason, he said, is the federal government needs to have follow-up conversations with provinces and territories to ensure they have the settlement capacity necessary to welcome more newcomers.

The rationale for a multi-year PNP plan is similar to why Canada re-introduced a multi-year Immigration Levels Plan back in 2017. The rationale for the Immigration Levels Plan 2018-2020, and subsequent plans, has been to allow stakeholders including government, the settlement sector, and employers the ability to plan in advance for higher immigration levels. Canada is now guided by the Immigration Levels Plan 2022-2024 and Minister Fraser is set to table the 2023-2025 plan by November 1st of this year.

At present, Canada’s PNP targets over a three-year period are contained in the levels plan. However, each province and territory’s PNP allocation is set on an annual basis. The federal immigration minister sends a letter to their provincial and territorial counterparts each year with their respective allocation, typically in the first quarter of the calendar year.

However, the country’s immigration ministers have now agreed that by the end of March 2023, the federal minister will inform each province and territory of their PNP allocation over a three-year period. This will allow each province and territory to plan ahead, including identifying how to best use their allocation to achieve their economic development goals, as well as to identify what operational steps they need to take to be able to process PNP applications as efficiently as possible. As a province or territory’s PNP allocation increases, they need to ensure they have enough staff and the requisite technology in place to process higher PNP volumes within their service standards.

The PNP has grown in prominence since it was introduced in 1998 to promote a broader distribution of immigration across Canada. Prior to its introduction, most immigrants settled in Ontario, Quebec, and British Columbia, which made it challenging for the Atlantic and Prairie provinces to support their economic development through immigration. The PNP only contributed to about 400 new immigrant arrivals in 1999, but it is now set to welcome over 80,000 new immigrants in 2022 and over 90,000 by 2024. The PNP, next to the federal Express Entry system, is among the two major pathways for economic class immigrants to land in Canada.

The post-meeting press release noted the immigration ministers also discussed assisting Afghan refugees, supporting Ukrainians, improving application processing times, taking steps to strengthen public support for immigration in Canada, among other topics.

Source: Canadian immigration ministers agree on multi-year PNP levels plan

Congress Can’t Solve Immigration. Maybe the States Can.

Seeing more arguments in US media regarding providing a role for states in selecting immigrants, citing Canada’s Provincial Nominee Program as a model. Given the political dynamics, hard to see this getting much traction as presume there would need to be legislative authority for such a change:

“A moral failing and a national shame.” During his 2020 campaign, that was how Joe Biden characterized America’s immigration policies in the Trump era. On his first day in office, the new president announced an ambitious reform. The U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 would include a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. It would raise caps on legal immigration. It would increase aid for Central America. It touched all the progressive erogenous zones.

And it was dead on arrival. “It’s such a progressive wish list that it’s almost counterproductive,” a pro-immigration lobbyist told me. By summer, the reform effort had stalled, migrants were flooding the border, the Democrats were divided, and the Republicans were demagoguing. Just like always.

For the country, as well as for immigrants and their families and employers, the cost of our never-ending immigration crisis has been very high. Among its consequences was the presidency of Donald Trump, who could not have reached the White House without the disruptive energy that immigration unleashed. In fact, if you had to pick a date when America launched itself toward Trumpism, June 28, 2007, would be a good choice.

Immigration was on the floor of the Senate. A bipartisan coalition had revived what was then—and still is—the logical compromise: stricter controls at the borders and at job sites, more legal immigration (especially of skilled workers), and a path to citizenship. Had the compromise passed, “it would have changed the politics,” Jim Kolbe, who was then a House Republican representing an Arizona border district, recently told me. “It would have been seen as putting the immigration issue behind us.”

Instead, the bill failed, badly. A disappointed Mitch McConnell, then the Senate minority leader, said, “I had hoped for a bipartisan accomplishment, and what we got was a bipartisan defeat.”

Before 2007, immigration had been a controversial issue but also a normal one—susceptible to bargaining and compromise. Congress had passed major reform under President Ronald Reagan in 1986, and then a series of tune-ups in the ’90s. After 2007, paralysis set in. For conservatives, the stalemate became emblematic of the country’s inability to secure its borders and enforce its laws. For liberals, it was emblematic of the country’s inability to deal humanely with millions of immigrants. And for moderates, it was a symbol of congressional incompetence. According to the Pew Research Center, two-thirds of the public wants a pathway to citizenship and better border control. “Everyone knows what has to be done,” Kolbe told me, “but no one has the will to do it.”

This dispute has now inflamed our whole body politic. “I think the immigration debate is a bigger problem for the country than any of the failures of the immigration system,” Yuval Levin of the American Enterprise Institute told me. In other words, the country needs a resolution to the political crisis around immigration at least as much as it needs a solution to the policy mess. As long as voters believe Washington is too incompetent and venal to handle immigration, they will not trust it to do anything else, and the door will stay open to demagogues and nihilists.

So now what? Plan A, comprehensive progressive reform, will not work. Plan B, comprehensive conservative reform, will not work. Plan C, compromise, should work but has failed time and again. That leaves Plans D, E, and F: piecemeal reforms for groups such as “Dreamers” and farmworkers, and the kinds of patchwork changes that congressional Democrats were seeking to include in their budget-reconciliation package this fall. They may be the best we can do.

But there is one piecemeal proposal that deserves special attention. I think of it as Plan Z, because it reframes the whole problem.

In 2019, representative John Curtis, a Republican from Utah, introduced what he called the State-Sponsored Visa Pilot Program Act. It would have allowed a new avenue for immigration by authorizing states to sponsor people for three-year, renewable work visas. The bill found no co-sponsors and never came up for debate, but Curtis told me he intends to reintroduce it in the current Congress.

Delegating immigration authority to the states is not a new concept; Senator Ron Johnson, a Republican from Wisconsin, introduced a similar plan in 2017. According to Alex Nowrasteh of the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, bills seeking authority to issue work visas have been introduced in 11 state legislatures since 2008, and three such bills have been voted into law. But the federal government has ignored them.

One problem is that people just can’t get their mind around letting someone other than the federal government decide who comes and stays. You can’t have individual states picking immigrants for the whole country! What about security? What about fairness? Could a conservative state discriminate on the grounds of, say, race or religion?

But the idea is not really that dramatic. This proposal wouldn’t encroach on the existing federal systems for visas, refugees, or family reunification. Any state-sponsored work permits would be in addition to the current number. The federal government would still vet the applications and control permanent residency and citizenship. Federal law and the Constitution would still forbid discrimination.

When I asked Mitch Daniels, the president of Purdue University, in Indiana, and a former Republican governor of the state, whether policy makers there would participate in such a program, he replied with a prompt yes. “The one thing” keeping Indiana from economic competitiveness, he said, “is that we don’t have enough people with the right skills.” Besides, he added, universities and businesses can already sponsor immigrants for visas; why shouldn’t states have the same authority?

how would state-sponsored visas work? In Curtis’s 2019 version, every state would have the option of sponsoring 5,000 work visas a year, plus an additional allotment based on its population, up to a nationwide total of 500,000. No state would be obligated to sponsor anyone, so states could shut their doors if they chose to. They could favor tech workers, farmworkers, family members; they could even use their visas to temporarily legalize undocumented workers already living there. The only requirements would be that the visas couldn’t be employer-specific (so bosses couldn’t use them to blackmail workers with deportation threats) and that the immigrants holding them live and work in the state that sponsored them.

How would the plan prevent immigrants from moving out of state? Each state would be required to report where its visa holders live and work, and if it couldn’t account for them, it would lose visas the next year. States that administered their programs well would be rewarded with more visas.

In any case, immigrants who settle into jobs and communities are not all that inclined to move. In Canada, which has allowed its provinces to sponsor immigrants since 1996 and which does not restrict where visa holders reside, more than 80 percent of them stay put for more than 10 years. “The vast majority,” a government report on the program said in 2017, “have become established economically, with high employment rates and earnings that increase over time.”

Even if this system isn’t perfect, the politics would be healthier than at present, when the federal government is making decisions, or nondecisions, and the states have no voice. “We’ve been so wrapped around the axle on immigration law and policy for so long that it might be very constructive to look at it through a different lens,” Janet Napolitano, a former governor of Arizona and secretary of homeland security in the Obama administration, told me. “Maybe it avoids some of the hard lines that both sides have drawn.”

State-sponsored immigration is not a cure-all. It would not remedy Congress’s deficiencies or resolve difficult questions about border control, asylum, or citizenship. What it would do is make American communities feel that they have some influence. It might dispel the rancid air that has suffocated reform. And it might begin to free our national politics from the curse of immigration gridlock.

Jonathan Rauch is a contributing writer at The Atlantic and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. He is the author of The Constitution of Knowledge: A Defense of Truth.

Source: Congress Can’t Solve Immigration. Maybe the States Can.

Alberta government considering immigration changes during pandemic

Will be interesting to see what changes he proposes with respect to Alberta’s Provincial Nominee Program as well as how he informs the overall debate around post-pandemic immigration policy:

Premier Jason Kenney says changes are coming to Alberta’s immigration practices as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Although the government won’t yet release details, the premier said the province can accommodate fewer newcomers as a result of global travel restrictions and Alberta’s economic crisis. He made the comments during a Facebook live video question and answer session on Wednesday night.

He said the government will push Alberta employers to “do everything they possibly can to look within Alberta to the huge and growing number of unemployed people” when hiring.

A formal policy announcement should come within weeks, a government spokesperson said Thursday.

However, immigration lawyers cautioned any rapid changes to immigration rules could have unintended consequences.

Although business prospects are rough right now, Calgary lawyer Evelyn Ackah said they will bounce back. When they do, they’re going to need immigrants to do the jobs Canadians just won’t do, she said.

Few Canadians apply for jobs in slaughterhouses or at fast-food restaurants, lawyers say.

Ackah said as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, prospective immigrants are contacting her from China and India. They’re interested in buying and running businesses in Canada. Those job creators are who the province should be attracting, she said.

“Quick changes, boom boom boom, they have long repercussions and it takes a long time to resolve, and so, I really want to not let this crisis change the direction and the trajectory of immigration’s process,” she said.

Limited provincial control

With immigration being federal jurisdiction, there are limited steps Alberta’s government could take to curtail newcomers, said Megan Dawson, a partner at McCuaig Durocher in Edmonton.

The Alberta Immigrant Nominee Program allows the provincial government to select immigrants who are already working temporarily in Alberta to apply for permanent resident status if their skills and education fill an economic need in the province.

It’s a joint program with the federal and provincial government. In 2019, the province sponsored 6,000 immigrants through the program. From January 2015 to March 2020, nearly 50,000 people came to Alberta through the program, said Adrienne South, press secretary to the minister of labour and immigration.

The nominated immigrants are a fraction of the more than 232,000 people who became Canadian permanent residents during the same time period and intended to live in Alberta.

The federal government controls the admission of temporary foreign workers, refugees and other express entry newcomers, Dawson said.

Employers must often recruit workers with specialized knowledge and skills when people with the right training can’t be found in the province, she said.

Those economic immigrants often train Albertans and help companies create new jobs for locals, she said.

Alberta has a list of workers it doesn’t need, including teachers, actors, athletes and real estate agents. Dawson said the province could potentially expand that list of categories.

“There already are safeguards in place to show, that we did our best to hire Canadians for this job first,” she said.

“I think the ramifications could be potentially unintended or unexpected in a negative sense for some Alberta businesses if they’re not able to staff their business with foreign workers.”

Source: Alberta government considering immigration changes during pandemic

Douglas Todd: Is B.C. immigration program a back door for millionaire house buyers?

Interesting questions regarding a possible backdoor.

A question I find also interesting is looking at reported income through tax returns to get a sense of how well these immigrants are doing and whether their capital that allows them to purchase a house is matched by an ongoing income stream (rhetorical question – see Todd: Tax avoidance behind Metro’s disconnect between housing, income where the data suggests it is not):

How did it come to pass that thousands of people who came to Metro Vancouver through a provincial immigration scheme bought pricey houses?

A Statistics Canada report shows 2,370 people who recently arrived in B.C. through a provincial immigration program have bought single-family houses worth an average of $2.38 million in Metro Vancouver, which is $800,000 above the norm for Canadian-born house buyers.

It’s a startling figure, in part because politicians often trumpet how the relatively small provincial immigration programs were created primarily to fine-tune Ottawa’s bulkier immigration policy by pinpointing the right skilled workers for each local labour market.

Given that the emphasis of so-called “provincial nominee programs” is supposed to be on newcomers looking for a job, how have thousands since 2009 been able to quickly buy pricey Metro Vancouver real estate? It’s difficult to get an answer from officialdom. So we’re left to our own devices to figure out this irregular access.

I’m not alone in suggesting one of the last things most young people need in Metro Vancouver’s unaffordable housing market is to be squeezed out by another stream of foreign capital. The B.C. NDP government is among those trying to crack down on this price-inflating phenomenon associated with “satellite families” who buy stately homes.

But the revealing data is there in the particulars of a January Statistics Canada report. Its charts point to the way many families are coming to Metro Vancouver with large amounts of wealth, which they’ve been funnelling into housing.

Chart shows value of Metro Vancouver detached homes bought by recent newcomers under the Provincial Nominee Program and other immigration investor schemes. (Source: Statistics Canada report titled Immigrant Ownership of Residential Properties in Toronto and Vancouver.)

And it’s not only Metro Vancouver’s housing market that has been hit by millionaire migrants entering through provincial immigration programs. So has Greater Toronto’s. The average price of a Toronto house bought by a recent provincial nominee is $1.06 million, according to the StatsCan report, while the average price of a detached house of Canadian-born owners in Toronto is significantly less, $849,000.

And just as in Metro Vancouver, it is the recent newcomers to Toronto from China who have had the most cash to spend on property. Mainland Chinese make up about two of three of the home buyers in each city who arrived through the nominee program.

The StatsCan report, titled Immigrant Ownership of Residential Properties in Toronto and Vancouver, offers only a snapshot of this provincial nominee mansion phenomenon, however. It doesn’t capture the program’s link to condominiums. And it leaves open speculation about causes.

Therefore, many questions remain outstanding about what is going on with provincial nominee programs, questions which are typically paid little heed.

B.C.’s provincial nominee program brought 6,500 newcomers to the province in 2018, a large jump from the 2,600 it  welcomed a decade earlier.

But it is a puzzle how 2,370 provincial nominees since 2009 were able to quickly buy costly houses in Metro Vancouver, especially when the vast majority of such nominees were classified as “workers.”

Only about one per cent of provincial nominees to B.C. — an average of about 80 a year — arrive under the “entrepreneur” category. They are the ones who are worth more than $600,000 and required to invest $200,000 in a B.C. business. It’s common sense to expect many in this tiny group of entrepreneur/investors to arrive in B.C. with capital and to pump part or most of it into real estate.

That is exactly what happened with the federal government’s investor program, which the Conservatives killed in 2014 because so many rich immigrants were snapping up Canadian property but not operating businesses or paying significant income taxes.

Despite such unintended consequences, a large entrepreneur program continues to be run by Quebec. It cynically takes millions from thousands of rich would-be immigrants each year, even while most hastily move to Vancouver or Toronto.

Indeed, the January StatsCan report shows the average value of a detached house bought by more than 4,400 millionaire immigrants who came to Metro Vancouver in the past decade under Ottawa’s investor program, and the one operated by Quebec, is $3.2 million. That’s unfortunate enough in regards to fuelling high-end prices, with its trickle-down effect to all housing.

But how is it that the much smaller provincial nominee programs of B.C. and perhaps other provinces are also bringing in thousands of wealthy home buyers headed for Vancouver and Toronto?

A spokeswoman for B.C. Ministry of Jobs, Trade and Technology, which oversees the provincial nominee program, wouldn’t venture a guess. “It is good to see newcomers coming to Canada and being able to invest in their own business and homes,” she said. “We are unable to speculate on the amount of foreign capital they bring into Canada.”

The minister of jobs, trade and technology, Bruce Ralston, also declined to comment until he had a look at the Statistics Canada report. “It’s an area where I’d have to have the facts.”

In the meantime here are a few questions that need to be answered.

Is it possible many of the buyers of Metro Vancouver mansions are coming in not only from B.C.’s nominee program, but from other provincial programs, such as that in Prince Edward Island, which was cancelled last year. It was riddled with fraud and hundreds of would-be immigrants used fake addresses to pretend they lived in P.E.I.

Another question is whether people buying expensive Metro Vancouver properties are coming in through a camouflaged nominee category, such as “skilled worker.”

The top occupations of those coming in the past two years under the B.C. provincial nominee’s “skilled worker” category were restaurant and food service employees, including cooks and kitchen helpers, as well truck drivers and retail managers.

While Ralston said he needs to gather more information before commenting on whether immigrants who buy expensive houses in Metro Vancouver are coming in as truck drivers, food workers or another irregular category, he justifiably noted Attorney General David Eby and Finance Minister Carole James are trying to tackle a related aspect of the housing crisis.

The two major aims of the ministers’ new speculation and vacancy tax are to increase housing supply by reducing the number of empty dwellings and by targeting satellite families, who often buy and live in expensive properties but pay little or no income tax in Canada.

Since thousands of millionaire migrants appear to have found backdoor ways to enter Metro Vancouver’s over-priced housing market through the Provincial Nominee Program, it looks as if this scheme is part of the problem. As such it needs far more scrutiny.

Source: Douglas Todd: Is B.C. immigration program a back door for millionaire house buyers?

Why Canada’s immigration system has been a success, and what Australia can learn from it

Canada and Australia often learn from each other on immigration and related policies (e.g., Express Entry, the point-based system for speeding up the selection process for selecting economic class immigrants) but there are significant differences as this article attests. The author argues that Australia should learn from Canada’s Provincial Nominee Program to diversity where immigrants settle.

Of course, Australian political discourse on immigration is much more polarized, and while Canada is increasing its levels, the current Australian government is reducing them:

Immigration policy will be a critical issue in forthcoming state (Victoria, NSW) and federal elections. The disproportionate impact of immigration on population growth and public infrastructure in Sydney and Melbourne is the key issue.

If we look to the example of another immigrant-friendly country, Canada, however, we can see how giving states and territories a greater role in immigration target setting and selection can help take the pressure off major cities without drastically reducing immigration rates.

Immigration certainly impacts on Australia’s population to a greater degree than most Western nations. Among OECD countries, only Switzerland and Luxembourg have a higher percentage of foreign-born people than Australia.

Today, 28 per cent of the Australian population was born overseas. The key issue for Australia is that immigrants are more likely to live in large cities than smaller cities or regional areas. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 85 per cent of immigrants live in major urban areas, compared to just 64 per cent of Australian-born people.

Indeed, according to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), Sydney is now equal-fourth in the world (with Auckland and Los Angeles) with the highest percentage of foreign-born residents (39 per cent), while Melbourne is not far behind (35 per cent). Nearly two-thirds of residents in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth have at least one parent who was born overseas.

A new state-based approach?

The stress that rapid population growth has placed on Melbourne and Sydney has recently become a topic of much debate. This week, Prime Minister Scott Morrison pledged to reduce the annual permanent immigration cap of 190,000. Australia accepted just 162,417 immigrants last year, the lowest level in a decade.

Morrison has also called for a major rethink of the “top-down” approach to immigration in Australia, allowing states and territories to request the number of skilled migrants they’d like to admit each year.

The states and territories currently have a limited ability to nominate applicants for certain skilled visas. But state-nominated and regional visa approvals have fallen in recent years to just over 36,000 last fiscal year following tighter restrictions.

Morrison wants to see a bigger role for states and territories:

This is a blinding piece of common sense, which is: how about states who plan for population growth and the Commonwealth government who sets the migration levels, actually bring this together?

What we can learn from Canada

The Canadian government gave provinces a say in setting targets and selecting economic immigrants – similar to Australia’s skilled migration intake – in the early 1990s. Quebec was first to receive a high degree of autonomy in the process – it was given the right to set its own level and selection criteria for all economic immigrants. (The ability to speak French was a must.)

Quebec was also granted the right to set all of its integration programs, funded by Ottawa every year. The payments reached C$540 million this fiscal year, or C$13,500 for each newcomer.

After Quebec was given this authority, the other Canadian provinces demanded the same. But they received far more limited rights than Quebec. They can nominate the number of economic migrants they need as part of the national immigration target set by the federal government, but they can’t independently set their intake target and selection criteria like Quebec.

While provinces nominate – or in Quebec’s case, decide – annual intakes, all cases are still routed through Ottawa for application integrity testing and vetting for criminality, health and security. Ultimately, final approval rests with Ottawa.

Last year, the Canadian government set an ambitious target of admitting 1 million total immigrants from 2018-2020. The target for next year is 330,000 immigrants, of which about 190,000 will be economic migrants. The remainder will enter under the family reunification category and the refugee, humanitarian and protected category.

About one-third of the economic migrants (61,000) will be admitted through the Provincial Nominee Program. This figure excludes Quebec, which will set its numbers separately.

How the Canadian system encourages rural immigration

Giving the provinces a greater immigration policy role has helped to dramatically shift the settlement of immigrants beyond Canada’s biggest cities.

According to immigration statistics, 34% of economic migrants in 2017 landed in destinations outside Canada’s three most populous provinces, Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia – compared to just 10 per cent in 1997.

After immigrants arrive, the key issue for the provinces is retention, since immigrants can leave at any time. The provinces put a strong emphasis on ensuring that economic migrants receive a strong welcome on arrival and are provided with support programs, including education, access to local migrant community networks and assistance finding a job for those who are not sponsored by employers.

One of the biggest success stories of the Provincial Nominee Program is thinly populated Manitoba, which has added 130,000 migrants since 1998. Ninety per cent have gotten a job within a year of arriving and nearly the same number has ended up staying in Manitoba permanently. New arrivals also express some of the greatest feelings of belonging of all immigrants in western Canada.

Why this could work in Australia

South Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory – as well as other regional and rural areas across Australia – want more immigrants and refugees.

Attracting immigrants to less-populated states is the easy part: those willing to settle outside Sydney and Melbourne can receive more points if they are skilled migrants, possibly making the difference as to whether they come to Australia or not. The key issue is retention.

My fieldwork with refugees in Australia has shown that the majority of these migrants love living in regional communities and have received a warm welcome from locals. Our research also found they are willing to stay in regional areas if they can get jobs there. Another way of encouraging more immigrants to settle in regional areas could be to offer them priority in the family reunion process.

Importantly, Canada also doesn’t politicise immigration policy. Australia should follow Canada’s lead by giving the states a bigger seat at the immigration policy table and resisting the temptation to blame immigration for complex growth problems in our overcrowded cities.

Reducing the immigration intake cap will have no significant impact on reducing congestion or strain on public infrastructure in Sydney and Melbourne, but it could severely constrain economic growth.

The ConversationJock Collins currently receives research funding from the Australian Research Council for one Discovery Project, two Linkage Projects and one Indigenous Discovery Project.

Source: Why Canada’s immigration system has been a success, and what Australia can learn from it

‘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