Expert Roundtable Submits Report on Immigration to Ontario Government

Julia Deans, chair of the 13-member roundtable on immigration strategy, presenting the panel’s report to Ontario Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Charles Sousa (Government of Ontario)

A 13-member expert roundtable, appointed seven months ago by the government of Ontario to advise the province on the development of a provincial immigration strategy, submitted its report yesterday, and it includes 32 recommendations for the province.

The key recommendations of the report are:

    • Aiming to increase the proportion of economic class immigrants, meaning those who immigrate through skilled worker and business immigration programs, to 65-70 percent. The report notes that the percentage of economic class immigrants has fallen from over 64 percent in 2001, to 52 percent today, while the proportion of family and refugee class immigrants has increased. Immigrants in the latter categories are more likely to face problems integrating into Ontario’s labour market than economic class immigrants.
    • Increasing Ontario’s total immigration levels to 135,000 people a year, or one percent of Ontario’s population, to alleviate the decline in the province’s working-age population, which the roundtable expects will put pressure on the provincial government’s budget.
    • Shifting the focus of immigration selection to human capital and away from immediate labour needs, due to evidence showing that an immigrant’s level of human capital, meaning their skills, education and language proficiency, is the best predictor of earnings growth and employability.
    • Ontario continuing to rely on the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP) as the main source of economic immigration to the province, and recommending that the federal government eliminate the Federal Skilled Worker Class’ priority occupations list.
    • Recommending that the federal government delegate immigration selection for the purposes of responding to specific occupational shortages to Provincial Nominee Programs (PNP) run by provinces. In line with this recommendation, encouraging the federal government to increase the quota for Ontario’s PNP from current 1,000 to 5,000 people per year.
    • Reducing the amount of low-skilled temporary foreign workers that it allows in the province for extended periods, as it depresses wages by giving Canadian employers a below-market wage alternative to hiring Canadians.
    • Shifting the focus of the temporary foreign worker program to bringing in high skilled and skilled trades workers on a temporary basis to fill immediate skills and labour shortages, rather than to provide low-wage labour to businesses for extended periods.
    • The province working with the federal government in designing the Expression of Interest (EOI) model of immigration which the federal government has recently announced that it intends to implement. This model, which is currently in use in New Zealand, adds a preliminary application phase whereby those seeking to immigrate to Canada submit an EOI that contains their personal information to the Canadian government, and immigration authorities invite the most promising EOI applicants to submit a full application along with proof of qualifications.
    • To enable the government of Ontario to play a bigger role in immigration selection, codifying the province’s immigration strategy and regulations through legislation. The report suggests that a provincial governing framework for immigration might become a prerequisite for the the federal government agreeing to allow provinces to have a bigger role in the immigration selection process.

The report is likely to be influential because of Ontario’s importance to Canada, as the country’s most populous province and the destination of over 35 percent of Canada’s immigrants.

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