Federal and provincial initiatives aim to help attract and retain immigrants throughout the province. There have been several key programs that are of particular 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 rural and northern 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. Efforts are being made to connect highly skilled immigrants with jobs in all communities in Ontario whether large urban, rural, small urban, or northern.
- The federal government also established the Temporary Resident to Permanent Resident Pathway. AMO welcomed this expedited path 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 2021, the federal immigration minister’s mandate letter reconfirmed plans to establish a Municipal Nominee Program (MNP), with a goal of spreading the benefits of immigration to smaller communities. AMO recognizes the potential of the MNP to provide municipal governments with greater influence in attracting and retaining immigrants. The federal government has said the MNP will have at least 5,000 spaces available across Canada. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has completed consultations with key stakeholders, including AMO. Decisions are still pending.
Currently, municipalities across Ontario are helping settle refugees fleeing conflict in Ukraine, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. Municipal assistance includes housing and emergency income support.
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 contributes to workforce development in Ontario by attracting and retaining essential professions like health care professionals and skilled tradespeople.
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.