The Winnipeg Real Estate Board as a lobbyist for the MPNP
The debate about federal and provincial roles in immigration that flared up in April of this year has not gone away. It is still very much alive but often not in the public eye. There has been little to report in terms of federal and provincial discussions on this matter and this is not necessarily a bad thing. We are reminded of the sage advice of our elders that sometimes “no news is good news.”
For all of us who see the value in immigration, it is important that discussions – even private ones – continue. Even though the two governments have been largely silent on changes since the April bombshell was dropped on us, other commentators have not. I was pleasantly surprised to find a feature article on the front page of the Winnipeg Real Estate News that waded into the controversy and reminded us all that immigration is important not only for émigré communities such as the Filipinos of Winnipeg, but also for business groups within the province.
In the article entitled, “Don’t mess with success is message to feds from provincial immigration minister,” (May 11, 2012), the staff writer presents many of the arguments raised by both provincial defenders of the nominee program and detractors of the Manitoba-type model, such as the federal immigration minister. The article provides a good deal of information on the MPNP and traces the development of our provincial program from the June 1998 federal provincial agreement and early test pilot. The writer references the Winkler Pilot under which 50 families arrived to settle in the Pembina Triangle of Steinbach, Winkler, Morden, Carman and Altona. The immigrants, who were primarily from Russia of German extraction, were recruited to fill job vacancies in the local manufacturing sector. The Winkler Chamber of Commerce specifically asked for help and the response was immediate and significant with 300 immigrants, 200 of which were children settling in the province.
Since the early beginnings with the Winkler Pilot the nominee program has grown steadily from 200 nominations per year to the 5,000 figure we have today. It has provided thousands of necessary workers and consumers for both rural and urban (Winnipeg) areas.
The success of the program is presented in the words of Minister Melnick, “They could have gone anywhere in the world, but they chose us… We’ve grown up.” In a meeting of the Manitoba Real Estate Association, she said, “we’re now a world class city and we wouldn’t have done it without attracting 100,000 people (since the PNP) came into effect.” The many newcomers we see nightly arriving from the Philippines at the Winnipeg International Airport underlines the success of the program. The Philippines continues to be the number-one recruitment area for the MPNP. But not everyone is gladdened to see the numbers disembarking from the planes to start new lives in Manitoba.
The current federal government is not on the same page and, as I indicated in a number of articles in the spring, it will assume full control of our provincial settlement services by the spring of 2013. This is not because they are ineffective – Manitoba-provided services are actually amongst the best.
At least our provincial nominee program is safe, right? We have the assurance of the federal conservative Members of Parliament that the MPNP would remain but they never said, “unchanged.” The reader should not forget that the public dispute on immigration about settlement programs in Manitoba was a small change when compared to the major overhaul of the Saskatchewan provincial nominee program. SINP was changed drastically from a model based upon our MPNP to something akin to the employer direct stream alone, for persons on work permits in the province etc. Could this happen to Manitoba? It is difficult to say with certainty because I am not a confidant of Minister Jason Kenny and certainly not on his Christmas invitation list.
The federal immigration Minister actually showed what his intentions are. At the beginning of July 2012 federal immigration imposed a minimum English (or French) proficiency level on economic immigrants, which includes all provincial nominees. In a speech in Halifax, Minister Kenny referenced provincial programs (without focusing on Manitoba by name) who “have been nominating people with no official language proficiency” and, in his opinion, setting applicants up for disappointment. “Those people,” he said, “in the long run, are probably set for failure in our economy.”
The immediate effect is felt by applicants who come from non-English or French speaking countries who enter because they have work permits, such as those recruited for major employers like Maple Leaf meats in Brandon or from smaller manufacturers in the highly successful Pembina triangle. Immigrants have not been a burden to Manitoba’s economy but a blessing.
The federal opposition and efforts to control provincial nominations have been contested by many as unfair and contrary to the economic growth of the province. The evidence does not support the need for any change. The Real Estate News supports Manitoba immigration the way it is now because they understand that immigration plays a significant role in house prices and economic activity. Peter Squire, a market analyst for Winnipeg Realtors said that immigration is a “big driver of existing and new home sales.” The article goes on to cite provincial statistics that show 85% of newly arrived Manitoba provincial nominees are working within three months, and most end up working within their chosen or professional fields with three to six years. “You have to look at the whole picture” said one realtor, “The bottom line is that it is not as simple as handing back the cheque to the federal government.” And they quote Minister Melnick who said that the Manitoba run approach is the best: “This is about how we continue to build the province. We have a tremendous success story, and we want our success to continue.” MREA offers its support to lobby the government to let things remain. Contrary to Minister Kenny’s attempt to limit Canadian immigration to English or French speakers only, there is a wealth of evidence to dispute his conclusions and actions. Thanks to the Winnipeg Real Estate News for adding it’s voice in support of an unchanged MPNP and making their wider readership aware of the issue and the impact.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org