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Ask Tito Mike by Michael Scott  

Pandemic undermined landings in 2020,

but times are changing

by Michael Scott

The coronavirus pandemic has impacted us all in a negative way. We watch and wait for each day to find out if protocols have changed, what the infection rate is in the province, and how many deaths have been attributed to the virus. The United States has surpassed 500,000 deaths in just over a year and we are all aware of our personal and collective vulnerability. Immigration is not immune and the numbers of newcomers being admitted to Canada has been negatively impacted by travel bans, quarantines, service disruptions, processing delays, and a loss of confidence. Canada just recently announced a two-month restriction on non-essential air travel from all countries round the world, except a one-month ban for similar air travel from the United States.

The pandemic is the major cause for the drop in immigration to Canada in 2020. The 2019-2021 Immigration Levels Plan projected continued optimism and increased numbers. The federal government targeted 341,000 arrivals in 2020, possibly going up as high as 360,000. Let the good times roll, but something intervened. The pandemic arrived on our shores and the immigration numbers plummeted. The numbers are in, and Canada welcomed just over 184,000 or 54 per cent of the projected target. The numbers were distributed across the provinces but the arrival patterns were not changed. Ontario’s numbers fell by almost 50 per cent to 83,000 newcomers but it was still the top province of choice, followed by British Columbia, Quebec, Alberta and then Manitoba. Our province received 4.7 per cent of the actual arrivals compared with 5.5 per cent in 2019.

The impact of the coronavirus on immigration numbers is even more dramatic when we examine arrivals over the years from 2017 compared with the sharp decline in 2020.

In 2017 Canada welcomed 286,510 newcomers and this number increased to 321,055 in 2018 and a record 341,180 in 2019. Things were looking great but then the pandemic and the number of arrivals in Canada fell to 184,370.

Ontario welcomed 111,955 in 2017 and the number increased to 137,435 in 2018 and 153,340 in 2019. Once again numbers were rising and expectations growing for the following year. Then reality struck and 82,850 newcomers landed in Ontario in 2020.

Manitoba numbers show the same pattern of continued growth and then the drop. In 2017 Manitoba welcomed 14,705 newcomers and the number increased to 15,230 in 2018 and up again to 18,905 in 2019. This was the high point before the fall to 8,620 in 2020. This pattern explains not only changes in service delivery for newcomers being cut but also the serious reduction in new workers in the Canadian economy.

The Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Marco Mendicino, spoke optimistically about increasing arrivals to 401,000 in 2021 to compensate for the low level of arrivals in 2020. Things are changing and the availability of vaccines is one step towards controlling the coronavirus. Canada needs immigration in order to sustain our economic growth and recovery from the pandemic. You can see positive changes in programs to help international foreign students to get permanent residence status or visitors being able to apply for work permits from inside Canada. The country needs to attract newcomers.

Canada set a new standard for inviting skilled worker applicants from the Express Entry pool on February 13, 2021 when 27,332 candidates were invited to apply for permanent residence. The candidates came primarily from the Canadian Experience Class (CEC) and IRCC estimated that roughly 90 per cent were present in the country. Minister Mendicino explained that based on early indicators, Canada was about 40 per cent ahead of the year to date target, which implies that the country may exceed the 401,000 target. The country is not alone and the united States, under a new administration, are also projecting growth and recovery of their economy. Express Entry appears to be the primary engine of growth but we also need to be aware of the provincial nominee programs such as MPNP, which are picking up the pace of nominations.

The COVID pandemic has affected all aspects of our lives in Canada. We are aware of friends and family who have tested positive, or have been hospitalized and yes even some you have died as a result of the virus. It is a dangerous time for us all and countries around the world, including Canada and the Philippines, have taken extreme measures to control the movements of travelers, instituted quarantines and taken steps that impact negatively on immigration.

We can also count on federal immigration efficiencies to speed up family sponsorship arrivals in 2021. Last year was deadly for many reasons but there is reason to hope with several vaccines available and others signs of economic recovery in the air. The country needs more immigration and we can look forward to faster processing and greater flexibility in programs as a way to meet and hopefully surpass the target of 401,000 arrivals for 2021. Canada historically is a country built on immigration and this reality will not change soon. This outlook is one many of us share with Minister Mendicino, who is doing his best to make it happen.

Michael Scott is a Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant (RCIC, R525678) who has 30 years of experience with Immigration Canada and the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program. He currently works as a licensed consultant with Immigration Connexion International Ltd. Contact him at 204-691-1166 or 204-227-0292. E-mail: mscott.ici@gmail.com.

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