A legislation proposed Wednesday by the minority Liberal government could grant Ontario more control over immigration and allow it to set targets for attracting skilled workers.
Michael Couteau, Ontario’s Immigration and Citizenship Minister, said that these measures would allow the province to match skilled immigrants to sectors that are experiencing shortages, such as information technology.
The current immigration program in Ontario brings in 100,000 new residents per year. The legislation may raise this number even higher and boost Ontario’s share of skilled immigrants who relocate to Canada, a figure that fell from 65 percent in the 1960s to 45 percent.
“We want a really fair relationship with the federal government to ensure that Ontario can have a little bit more control of its destiny when moving forward with immigration,” Coteau told reporters.
Ontario has long advocated for a greater independence in its immigrant selection process. This is especially relevant in the current economy that has experienced a decline in incomes and a rise in unemployment rates.
The province hopes to bring in a total of 5,000 economic immigrants, almost four times the current amount. This would be done via the provincial nominee program, in which skilled workers are placed in positions that could not be filled by suitable workers in Canada. This pick-and-choose strategy is similar to Quebec’s, which selects workers from a pool of immigrants who have obtained security and medical clearance.
“We need to do the kind of job Quebec has done for 41 years,” stated Michael Prue, an NDP immigration critic.
However, some such as Progressive Conservative MPP Todd Smith believe that the solution lies in boosting Ontario’s economy, which would in turn attract a higher number of immigrants.
“We’ve seen skilled immigrants choosing other jurisdictions and other provinces in North America because there are opportunities,” Smith said.
Only time will tell how successful Ontario will be in attracting more skilled workers and achieving greater economic development.