Premiers meet to discuss immigration
by Michael Scott
On July 7, 2022, British Columbia hosted a meeting between the Canadian premiers. The conference covered a broad range of topics from health care, Pharmacare, interprovincial trade barriers, energy and immigration.
Provincial premiers such as Saskatchewan’s Scott Moe and newly re-elected Doug Ford spoke about “historic labour shortages.” Canada’s unemployment rate stands at a historically low 4.9 per cent. The country is facing a serious labour shortage. Canada has an aging population and low birth rate, so immigration becomes a viable option for all provincial and territorial leaders. All recognize that immigration is a shared responsibility with the federal government and every province and territory, except Nunavut, has a bilateral agreement with IRCC on responsibilities they share with the federal government. All have some input, and if they work together their voices are even stronger.
The premiers are in favour of having more say in selecting immigrants for their provinces. Ontario’s Doug Ford spoke openly about having a system like Quebec’s, which selects 90 per cent of its economic class immigrants. The premiers regularly meet at least once a year to go over issues that affect them all. There is strength in the 10 provinces and three territories meeting as a group to make representation to their federal counterparts.
Some of the issues covered this year under immigration included increasing support for the retention of international students. The students are a valuable resource to combat the labour shortage and bring Canada the best and brightest applicants from around the world. It is one thing to attract such applicants, but it is equally important to have a system in place to retain them. The provincial leaders urged the federal government to remove barriers that hinder international students from accessing federal employment support programs and obtaining their permanent residence status. The provincial leaders support an extension of the Post-Graduate Work Permit. Their goal is to help foreign students to meet local workforce needs and offer a more efficient transition to permanent residency.
The provinces also want to rework existing agreements with the federal government in the selection of skilled foreign workers. This is done through the provincial nominee programs (PNPs), which allow the provinces to have a say in the selection of skilled workers who they feel are best suited to the economic needs of the province. The provinces want the IRCC Immigration Levels Plan to increase the allocation of spaces for skilled immigrant applicants with potential for nomination. One suggestion is to have more collaboration between federal and provincial authorities to ensure that multi-year plans are in place to ensure they include provincial labour needs and priorities.
The provinces are all concerned with existing backlogs and processing delays. They argue that processing delays remain a significant hurtle to attracting and retaining global talent. As a group they want the federal immigration authorities to improve existing processes and reduce the backlogs. The federal authorities are aware of this problem and last month the prime minister announced the creation of a new task force to identify processing system problems and create short term and long-term plans to rectify processing delays.
An additional area of general concern for the provinces was to improve credential recognition to ensure that new arrivals to Canada can transition to their professional areas with a minimum of delays. The provinces see the solution in working collaboratively with their federal counterparts and regulatory bodies to streamline the system. The solution is to improve the efficiency of the transition, not to abandon standards.
In all areas the provincial leaders see the need for collaboration and open communication with federal authorities. The provinces play and important role in the selection of skilled worker applicants and their settlement in Canada. The country, as a whole, can benefit from the working collaboration between all partners to ensure that the country gas the skilled workers it requires to move ahead in the twenty first century. It is best to work together with the federal authorities rather than to see immigration as a conflict between a centralized or de-centralized system.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.