Initiatives from federal and provincial governments aim to help attract and retain immigrants throughout the province. Recently, there have been key developments that are of interest to municipal governments.
The Government of Canada’s Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot (RNIP), for example, allows participating communities to identify immigrants who want to work and live in smaller regions of Ontario. Thunder Bay, North Bay, Sudbury, Timmins, and Sault Ste. Marie are all participating in the RNIP.
The Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program (OINP) is a joint federal-provincial economic immigration program. Under this program, prospective immigrants with skills and experience targeted by the province may be nominated by Ontario. The OINP allocations have increased since 2020 to 8,350 spots for 2021, and a further 250 nomination spots for temporary foreign workers in intermediate skilled occupations. The provincial government is also taking steps to improve the functioning of the program.
In 2020, the OINP launched a two-year Regional Immigration Pilot. The goal of the pilot is to connect highly skilled immigrants with jobs in rural, small, or medium-sized communities. Municipalities were selected based on several factors, including specific labour challenges. The pilot involves providing targeted education and outreach efforts to local stakeholders, such as employers, economic development organizations, and Chambers of Commerce. As well, 300 nominations are dedicated to individuals with job offers in four participating communities: Chatham-Kent, Cornwall, Quinte West, and Belleville. AMO hopes the pilot will build on its success and become an ongoing program.
The federal government has also recently introduced a new Temporary Resident to Permanent Resident Pathway. AMO welcomed this expedited pathway to permanent residency for newcomers already working in the health care sector or studying in Canada, and also targeted to those who are French speaking.
In 2019, the federal immigration minister’s mandate letter outlined a proposal to establish a Municipal Nominee Program (MNP). Specific details about the MNP have not been released. AMO recognizes the potential of the MNP to provide municipal governments with increased influence over immigrant attraction and retention. The federal government has indicated that the MNP will have at least 5,000 spaces available. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has completed consultations with key stakeholders, including AMO. Decisions are still pending.
Immigration enriches Ontario’s social fabric and promotes diversity and inclusion within our communities. With an aging population, declining birth rates and shortages in skilled workers, immigration will be at the forefront of our future economic sustainability. Immigration can contribute to workforce development in Ontario by attracting and retaining essential professions like healthcare professionals and skilled tradespeople.
After the COVID-19 pandemic temporarily stalled immigration due to travel restrictions, application processing has resumed. Attracting immigrants will remain critical for economic recovery in the near-term and economic prosperity in the long-term.
Municipal governments are looking forward to increased and continued immigration to fill labour shortages in Ontario, especially in rural and northern regions where there is an acute need for workers. As Ontario recovers from the pandemic, the economic benefits of immigration must be dispersed to all regions across the province. Newcomers must also be able to live affordably in our communities. Affordable housing, child care, and other support systems must be within reach for newcomers.