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MB facing highest out-migration rates

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Manitoba Labour and Immigration Minister Malaya Marcelino at the launch of Immigrate Parkland initiative in Dauphin, Manitoba. Photo credit Tracey Goncalves

Manitoba has welcomed thousands of newcomers and their families to the province through the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program (MPNP) since it was launched in 1998.

And although many consider the MPNP an easier pathway than the federal stream to live and work in Canada, Manitoba Labour and Immigration Minister Malaya Marcelino says the province is facing the highest out-migration rates that we’ve seen in two decades.

Pilipino Express’ Lucille Nolasco-Garrido (PE) recently interviewed Minister Marcelino about the MPNP and the Labour Market Impact Assessment or LMIA.

PE: Many people say that the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program is a somewhat easier pathway to immigrate to Canada compared to the federal pathway. Do you think they have a point there?

Minister Marcelino: I think that is true. I think the Manitoba point system is slightly lower and we certainly find that federally, there’s a lot of newcomers that go to the major centres in Canada like Vancouver and Toronto.

In Manitoba we do have to work a little harder to attract the best and the brightest from around the world. But certainly, there’s a lot of interest from folks travelling to Manitoba to visit and also to settle permanently.

So, I’m really proud there’s a lot of Filipinos here, we have a very vibrant Filipino community here. There are a hundred-thousand people strong that’s part of our Filipino community here in Manitoba. So that’s great.

PE: What are the different ways or streams through which someone can immigrate and settle here in the province or in Canada?

Minister Marcelino: Currently we have the Skilled Workers in Manitoba stream. We also have the Internationally Educated Students stream and then we have other kinds of streams like the ones based on rural communities. They can also choose folks as newcomers to Manitoba and, employers can also choose newcomers.

But the Skilled Workers Overseas Stream is something that I would like to focus on in the future. These are people coming from other countries like the Philippines, who have had some kind of post-secondary education, they had some kind of work experience that’s related to their education or skilled trade. And they have a strong Manitoba tie, they have a family connection or a very good family friend, something like that. And those are the types of people, the types of families that we are looking for to settle in Manitoba permanently. That’s the Skilled Workers Overseas stream.

PE: It was in the news recently that the next intake of applicants will give preference to people with close family ties in the province. How does that work? Or how will it affect the regular process of taking in applicants?

Minister Marcelino: So, unfortunately in the last little while, Manitoba is facing the highest out-migration rates that we’ve seen in two decades. What happens is, they come here as newcomers, they have permanent residency, and then they leave. They leave to go to British Columbia, or Alberta, or Ontario. This is a big drain to our economy, and we really need people, their skills, we really need to fill our labour shortages. And we really need these vibrant communities in Manitoba.

So, when people leave, that’s not good. And so, we must address this out-migration that we’re seeing.

One of the things that we are doing as NDP government, as for me as the Labour and Immigration Minister, is to focus on the tried-and-true methods that we know work for retention. And that is to make sure that we are bringing in people with the skills sets that we are looking for, but they also have a strong Manitoba tie in terms of families. And we know that evidence shows that that’s a really good way to retain these newcomers here in Manitoba.

Another thing that we need to work on though, slightly adjacent to that, is to remove unfair barriers to accreditation. For example, you are a nurse in the Philippines, and you try to be a nurse here, but you can’t.

PE: Because they go through a lot of requirements?

Minister Marcelino: Yes, we are not a good jurisdiction currently for getting their accreditation. So, they move to another area in Canada where they can do this. So, as a government, we need to address these unfair barriers to get their accreditation to practice their profession so that we can also retain people.

So those are the two top priorities for me, as Immigration Minister.

PE: You mentioned people from Manitoba moving to other provinces … I have long heard about a concern that if you get nominated by Manitoba to immigrate to Canada, you cannot leave the province within 10 years because you are somehow obligated to stay? Is there any truth to this?

Minister Marcelino: No, that’s not true. In the Canadian constitution, you have freedom of mobility across Canada. That is a guaranteed charter right. There are, however, some exceptions, like when you must sign a waiver, pay a bond, if for example, you were recruited to be a rural physician and you sign a contract to stay in the province for a certain amount of time. That’s different.

There was a time before when someone “sponsored” you and that person guaranteed you. That person would have a little bit of a black mark on the application if that person has sponsored somebody and that person left the province. So, there was something like a “flag” on that person.

But that was then. Now, I will be looking at different options on how to retain people. Obviously, we want to retain people who want to be here in Manitoba and make this a welcoming community so that people would love to live here for a very long time.

PE: But currently there’s no stopping them from leaving? Like for example, they arrived here last night, then in the next two days they leave for Vancouver or Toronto or Calgary … so there’s no issue with that?

Minister Marcelino: Not that I know of. You have the right to live wherever you want in Canada. That’s part of our freedom and rights.

PE: Going back to the process of the MPNP, how many times in a year does the government accept applications?

Minister Marcelino: Well, your application is good for one year. And the province of Manitoba gets a federal allocation once a year. We find out how many nominees we can approve. The federal government determines that number. This is the jurisdiction of the federal government. However, in 1998, we did start this program for Manitoba, and we were allowed by the federal government, through this agreement, to have this Provincial Nominee Program if it focuses on the economic needs of Manitoba.

PE: Do other provinces have Nominee Programs too?

Minister Marcelino: Yes, the Maritimes do, Saskatchewan. But Manitoba was a pioneer and we helped start this Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program.

And there was a big boom in the 2000s under Premier Gary Doer. There were so many provincial nominees at that time. And the numbers were again doubled under Premier Greg Selinger. But over the last years, those numbers started to go down as I mentioned. But under new Premier Kinew, the mandate under this Premier is to again increase those immigration numbers and to have a special focus on family reunification. And for me as Minister, I would like to eventually look overseas to places like the Philippines to get most of our nominees just like we did in the 2000s where you had a very, very successful Provincial Nominee Program, and very high retention rates. And that was due to the family connection component.

PE: A labour issue I would like to ask about is the LMIA or Labour Market Impact Assessment. I know this is a federal program, but how is Manitoba faring in regard to this, as compared with other provinces?

Minister Marcelino: The federal government can allow people into the country as tourists, international students, as temporary foreign workers, as refugees, as well as economic migrants.

When people come as tourists, they’re not guaranteed that they will be able to get permanent residence. [But] sometimes, because we have people like recruiters, consultants who will try to sell that concept, and that’s actually fraud. They are not supposed to do that. So that’s not good for the tourist, and that is not how it’s supposed to work.

PE: Sadly, a lot of people hoped or assumed that when the government opened the idea of coming to Canada as tourists and being able to work while in the country. They thought it’s that easy, but it is not.

Minister Marcelino: No, it’s not that easy. And what we’re seeing is there’s a lot of vulnerable workers. They’re going to come here, some people will be paying tens of thousands of dollars to try to get an LMIA and become a temporary worker, hoping that one day they will become a permanent resident…but that is not the route. It is not a good route.

We’re seeing a lot of disappointed people. There’s a lot of fraud. It doesn’t have to be this way. There is a front door. There is an open door. Manitoba needs newcomers and we are working very hard. It’s just been a little over 100 days since I became Labour and Immigration minister, to try to formulate a policy that would make it somehow similar to back in the 2000s where you can come as an international student, as an economic migrant, so you and your family will have access to immigrate. As long as you have the skills and experience that Manitoba is looking for, you have the education, and a family connection to Manitoba.

We’re getting federal allocations of about 9,000 and up per year, so there is a good chance that if you fit that kind of description …that’s where we are heading towards.

PE: Does the government have a website where you can find all the needed information about the MPNP?

Minister Marcelino: Certainly, it’s immigratemanitoba.com. If you have a relative who you think can apply, then you can pass that along and it doesn’t have to cost any money. There is a regular application process and there is an application fee, but you don’t have to necessarily go to consultants where you end up paying thousands of dollars. Even your local MLA’s office can help you with some of those applications too.

PE: Thank you, Minister Marcelino.

By Lucille Nolasco-Garrido.

For more information about the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program, please visit immigratemanitoba.com.