Bill 22: blessing or curse?
A recent article by Bill Redecopp has called attention to Bill 22. This legislation is probably something that most of the readers know nothing about. The title of his article tells us all what he thinks of Bill 22: “Small towns try to jump-start immigration: Province’s Bill 22 virtually halted arrival of needed skilled workers” (Winnipeg Free Press, 30 May 2011). His words sound ominous and threatening. Is this legislation a curse or a blessing for Manitoba? The purpose of this review is to introduce you to Bill 22; focus on the fundamental differences between rural and urban immigration; examine some ways to address the changes to immigration outside of large urban centres like Winnipeg; and finally to speak about the possible impact on MPNP as we know it.
The first thing to consider is the legislation passed in 2009. The essential feature of the Worker Recruitment and Protection Act (Bill 22) was to protect immigrant applicants from unscrupulous immigration consultants. There were too many cases of immigrants landing in the province and not having the jobs promised to them. The guiding principle of the legislation is: “the Worker Recruitment and Protection Act strictly prohibits charging fees to people seeking or finding work.” The Act requires consultants (lawyers and licensed immigration consultants) to register first with the Province of Manitoba and stipulates that they cannot act as both immigration agents and job recruiters.
The impact of Bill 22 has been lauded by the Minister of Immigration as an effective way “to put an end to many unethical and illegitimate practices such as workers being charged exorbitant fees” (news release October 2009). The Minister may be correct in terms of short term goals but the Free Press critic is also correct to point out that one impact was to limit all third party interventions by immigration consultants and lawyers, even the ethical effective ones. The direct result has been a decrease in the volume of employer driven applications. There is the example of well-respected consultants, such as Irma Meier of Compass Canada Immigration Services in Morden, who helped bring in many newcomers to small towns like Cartwright. The removal of good consultants from the picture has, in Redecopp’s words, “virtually halted arrival of needed skilled workers.” This source is now drying up and immigration to the province in both rural and urban areas has transitioned into primarily immigration through the family support stream.
The Province of Manitoba is aware of the changes in immigration and is looking for ways to address the shortfall. MPNP has responded to the decrease in employer driven applications in rural areas by introducing a pilot project where rural centres, such as the City of Winkler and RM of Stanley, identify applicants abroad in concert with industry committees. This pilot would ensure that the fundamentals of Bill 22 are maintained and the flow of needed skilled workers is restored. This is an interesting combination of government and the private sector that, hopefully, will have long-term benefits for the province.
What are other possible consequences of the shift in provincial immigration, at least in the rural areas, from employer direct applications to family stream applications? There is a chance that MPNP may have to retool and change it’s focus, which in turn may affect all MPNP applications. Family support stream applications, so useful for applications from the Philippines, should not be characterized as something bad for the Manitoba economy. Family stream applicants, for the record, are also skilled workers with experience needed by the provincial labour market. The Free Press critic must be challenged because some of his fundamental assumptions about the MPNP are misdirected or overstated.
Mr. Redecopp was correct when he stated, “PNP was designed primarily to match skilled foreign workers with provincial employment needs.” However, he is not correct when he implies that this match is only made through the use of employer driven applications in rural Manitoba. Family support stream applications, whether intended for rural or urban destination, are also economic in nature and add much to the provincial economy. MPNP is much wider than just one application stream. MPNP was established in 1998 as an addendum to the 1996 Canada-Manitoba Immigration Agreement: “the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) provides the province with a mechanism to increase the economic benefits of immigration based on economic priorities, labour market conditions and community needs.” Family Stream applications are not sponsorships but part of the economic stream applications. Applicants must demonstrate that they possess the education, work experience, language skills etc. to “increase the economic benefits of immigration” to Manitoba as a whole. In other words these applicants are intended for the labour market and have demonstrated a real potential to add economic value. This is something that should not be forgotten in the face of even justified criticism.
Bill 22 is a fact of life for immigration to the province. Its intention to protect immigrant applicants from abuse is praiseworthy but its impact has not been fully realized. The proposed pilot project may prove successful but MPNP may change as a result. It is hoped, however, that applications streams such as the family support stream will not be cut or changed drastically. Family support stream applications are “economic” and like all MPNP nominations, enhance the economic well being of Manitoba.
Michael Scott BA (Hon), MA, is a 30-year veteran of Canada Immigration and the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program who works as an immigration associate with R.B. Global Immigration Consultants Ltd. He can be reached at 838 Ellice Avenue in Winnipeg, (204) 783-7326 or (204) 227-0292. E-mail: email@example.com